Ahhh, what a difference a year makes. Last year, “You” won Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, user-generated content was king, and everyone wanted to create a viral video.
This week, there has been a lot of discussion of online video. The magicians are telling their secrets. And as the magic wears off, it seems many times the Emperor is actually wearing no clothes. Today, we’ll take a look at what the last year has taught us about online video and try to find ways we can make it a conversation.
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
This week, two articles came out, both promising to provide readers with tips on viral video making. Let’s take a look at some of the tips and see if they are fully utilizing social media to engage the consumer
The first, a post on TechCrunch by Dan Ackerman Greenberg, felt like I was reading something dirty. He does outline several good specs on the video itself, but it’s the more outreach oriented tips that pose dangerous:
- “We reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs and actually pay them to post our embedded videos.”
- “…kickstarting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users.”
- “We get a few people in our office to log in throughout the day and post heated comments back and forth (you can definitely have a lot of fun with this).”
- “Also, we aren’t afraid to delete comments…We can’t let one user’s negativity taint everyone else’s opinions.”
Sounds like old-school, one-sided, totally opaque marketing to me. This is truly pushing content at the consumer without caring what they have to say. In fact, it reminds me of a modern day laugh track; the consumer is fooled into believing that others have thought about, commented, and enjoyed the video.
The second article comes from Kevin Nalts in a guest piece for Advertising Age. He offers several of the same specs (keep it short, quality doesn’t matter, proper tags, etc.) but gives brands suggestions that seem more community-focused.
- “We’ll watch your advertising and even spread it for you — unless you promote gratuitously, insult us or, worse yet, bore us.”
- “The smarter play is to sponsor popular video creators to create entertainment with product placement. This requires brands to let go of overt marketing messages and trust the instincts of creators to please their audiences.”
- “Some brands fear running a contest because they don’t want to be ridiculed. But brands will be bashed by disgruntled consumers via online video whether or not their companies dabble in the space. Quietly watching from the sidelines is no insurance policy and certainly won’t grow revenue.”
I think Kevin’s piece gets closer to the idea that social media should engage a community. Considering the user-base and realizing the conversation is already in progress are great suggestions, but can we take it deeper? How can we better engage our audiences?
Turn That Pumpkin into a Carriage
In a NewTeeVee post yesterday from Craig Rubens, the question is asked: “Online Video: Is It Really Interactive?” Although specifically about online entertainment series, what he says can be applied to marketing and PR video campaigns:
Although the online video experience would appear to be this mythical, multilateral, interactive video utopia, the reality is, in fact, quite different. Because while it’s certainly possible for a network of collaborative video artists to work together, online, to piece together a long-term video mosaic of participatory brilliance, the reality has often been more of an ad hoc, trivial mess of mediocrity.
As we awaken from the spell of online video, we have to take it to the next level. I know online videos are entertaining ways to convey messages, but can we use the medium more effectively? It may be a Utopian dream, but we have to incorporate all the features and beauty of social media into our online video campaigns. What can we do?
Contests seem to be the most common approach to getting the consumer involved. Most companies simply have users generate commercial content for the company. But is this really two-sided?
In order to converse with users in their community, we have to learn how those communities work. On YouTube, most people post videos which are then replied to in either video or text form through comments. Full threads sprout and conversations go back and forth.
With that in mind, here are some tips:
- You’ve got a blog, great! What about a weekly video series?
- You can create a company channel on YouTube and then embed into your blog.
- It’s Really easy to set-up. Just buy a digital point-and-shoot camera. I recommend the Canon SD-series.
- Don’t spam. Offer tips or tricks. Or Industry trend commentary.
- Make the content valuable, not just forgettable. Give people a reason to share the video and return to your channel.
- Check out this great channel from California Cosmetics, an enterprising make-up artist.
- Post casual conversations and interviews.
- Mini press conferences, these can inform your community or be re-purposed by vertical blogs.
- Live videocasts of press conferences, company events or trade shows.
- Set-up a Ustream.tv account and do
- A spokesperson can be a newscaster interviewing other top execs.
Hopefully this infuse some creativity into the use of online videos. What other ways can we jumpstart our video campaigns to engage our audiences and actually communicate with them instead of just pushing content? Or is everything cool in YouTube-land?
Oh, and if you think consumers aren’t creating their own dialog with your “viral video” campaigns, check out this mash-up created by a guy who realized that Dove and Axe are both owned by the same company. Both have viral videos with conflicting messages. Take a look: