This is the first in a nine-part series on how brands are turning to social video to better reach and engage consumers. Throughout the next nine weeks, we'll cover social video marketing from all angles, including case studies, best practices, strategies, and more. But for this first installment, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss social video as a concept, defining it and setting the stage for the rest of the series.
Social Video Defined & Differentiated
In order to define what social video is, it's important to differentiate it from viral video, because a lot of websites use the terms interchangeably and it's easy for people to get confused.
In my view, a viral video is one that achieves a high number of views through the organic word of mouth from one viewer to another. This is where the word comes from, after all, because viral videos spread like a "virus," from person to person. Sometimes that's literally through word of mouth, like an in-person conversation, or a phone call. Other times, it's over email. And yes, very often the viral spread of a video takes place through social networks.
Where "viral video" is more of a destination ("We did it, we've gone viral!"), social video is all about intent on the part of the brand. Social media has woven itself into the fabric of our society. It's how we share good news, movie reviews, photos, or videos. It's the new front porch… the new water cooler… social media is where our communication with each other is taking place. So social video is all about an intentional brand strategy that leverages the powerful communication capabilities of social media by appealing to the emotions that cause viewers to share.
In my book, social video and viral video are not mutually exclusive. A social video can go viral, and a viral video can have social elements. Viral is the end product… a video that gets a ton of views has reached viral status. But social video is the genesis of the content… it begins with a brand saying,
"How can we interact with our customers more over video, and what kinds of video are they more likely to share and discuss with each other?"
Social video seeks more than views, it seeks shares. It seeks interaction and discussion. Most of all, social video seeks a long-term relationship with consumers over a short-term sale.
Content Versus Ads & Brands As Publishers
A good way to think about the concept of social video is to look at traditional television ads versus the kind of entertainment-based content that brands are creating more and more of. Social video is pushing brands away from the old ad conventions and into an entirely new era where brands create their own content.
This means leaving behind a heavy marketing statement. Some social video doesn't even contain the creating company's branding at all anymore. Instead, we're seeing businesses create short-form entertainment content–web series, comedy shorts, documentaries, etc.–that is compelling in its own right.
Web video audiences don't want to see traditional ads on YouTube. They want to see things that are hilarious, scary, shocking, and amazing. Beyond that, they're surprisingly unpicky about where that content comes from–brand or amateur–as long as they are entertained.
Branded Social Video Examples
Carrying that Content Vs. Ads mentality forward, let's look at a couple examples:
First let's look at a piece of social video marketing from Pretty-Social. The company sells a line of products printed with the images of your Facebook friends (like coffee mugs and the like). Now, they could easily have produced the same-old boring voice-over spot we've seen on television for decades, with a narrator simply explaining and showing off the products and services.
And while there's definitely a time and place for that kind of ad, it would never go viral. For a video to go viral–especially a branded video–it's got to do so much more than advertise. It needs to entertain, and create an emotional response in the viewer, which then spurs on that sharing behavior social video is really after.
So instead of going that route, Pretty-Social went for content creation, and produced a video of a woman getting her Facebook friends' faces tattooed on her arm. It was a hoax–the tattoo was temporary–but the video grabbed nearly 3 million views. Why? Because it was a lot more compelling. Here's the video:
Another great recent example of branded social video is Dentyne's web series, The Single Life. We've all seen a million gum commercials before in our lives, and we consumers can only be so moved by yet another pitch about long-lasting flavor. So Dentyne decided to produce their own original entertainment content–a web series called The Single Life.
Now, that video only has a few thousand views. But that might be just fine with Dentyne, because social video isn't always concerned with going viral. It's chief concern is relationship… dialogue… engagement. A viral video might make a viewer a fan for a moment, but social video might make a viewer a customer for life.
Brands that used to advertise on the best content are now creating the best content online themselves. It's a brave new world for video ads, and social video is leading the charge.
In The Next Installment: Creating Social Video Content
Next week: Content Versus Ads. We'll take a much closer look at how social video is driving the creation of original content and forcing brands beyond the comfort zone of the traditional TV commercial.
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