The calendar is filled with a number of special events that get people excited: Halloween, Christmas, the Super Bowl, and those aren't nearly the only ones. When it comes to online video, releasing content that capitalizes on the buzz surrounding those events can also mean a boost in your viewership. And you don't have to do just the major ones. You can find special events almost every week and capitalize on them if you plan accordingly. Take a look at a calendar and start finding the events that create buzz, and have a video out during the days or weeks leading up to those events.
Here's the YouTube Creator Playbook overview:
Strategy: Create and release content themed around tent-pole events.
Why It Works: Tent-pole events drive search trends, editorial opportunities, and advertiser campaigns.
How To Do It: Create and publish content according to a programming calendar.
The Most Obvious Tent-pole Event: The Holiday
Take a look at the calendar and you will find those easy holidays like New Year's, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Then there's Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day. But you can do literally any special day and capitalize even on the slightest buzz that those days create.
So now it's time to make a video with a theme surrounding that event. 5 years ago, a tremendous amount of views were generated surrounding Halloween, a re-release of the popular The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a Marilyn Manson cover of the opening song in the movie:
That video currently sits at over 16 million views. And there's no doubt it gets some renewed interest every year. Notice the release date, as well: October 12. That's 19 days before Halloween.
Obvious Tent-pole Events That Aren't Holidays
The biggest event of the year that doesn't revolve around a holiday is the Super Bowl. There's also the Oscars and other awards shows. There's Oktoberfest. Really, any big event that people care about can be a reason to release a video.
Major advertisers spend the whole year trying to plan out next year's Super Bowl ad, and it comes as no surprise that those are the most popular Super Bowl-related videos on YouTube, but many YouTube channel owners create theme videos for their shows, and see a bump in viewers.
So here's a video from the whacked-out cartoony-oversized comedy cooking show Epic Meal Time capitalizing on not only the Super Bowl but the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger:
That show hit nearly 7 million views, about twice as many as it usually gets.
Not-So-Obvious Tent-pole Events
The release of a big movie, premiere of a popular TV show, or chart-topping album can be reason to make a new video. For instance, you can take a look at any release schedule on a popular site like Box Office Mojo, Entertainment Weekly, or Rolling Stone and see what is supposed to come out and when. This is where you make entertainment out of the buzz from other entertainment.
For instance, Evil Iguana Production released a parody trailer of Twilight a couple of months before the first movie's release back in 2008:
It got over 10 million views.
What is important is that you release the video well before the day. People get excited about Halloween pretty much on October 1 and maybe sooner. Releasing your video on the special date will miss out on a lot of the excitement and interest that builds during the entire month. Plus, your video will still be there when it comes around. You can still get a significant amount of views by releasing a video on the very day, but you lose all the steam it generates leading up to it. The important thing to remember is that web video works differently from TV special episodes and movies, which try to plan their release dates right around the special day. Web video has a longer life to grow an audience and be relevant.
Special Anniversaries or Milestones
Special episodes can be made for any reason. For instance, you might be making your 100th episode, and you'd like to do something involving that. You might want to give the viewers a blooper reel, answer mail, and/or give the 100 greatest moments in the show's history, like good ol' Film Riot:
Reviewing the Playbook: Tent-pole Programming
Why does Discovery Channel have "Shark Week" every year? Why do a lot of sitcoms have a Halloween-themed episode at the end of October? Why does the Today Show have relationship experts on the week before Valentine's Day? The answer to these questions is: "Tent-pole programming."
Tent-pole events are the cultural events that promotion, sponsors/advertisers, and viewing trends orbit around throughout the year. Big movie releases, sports, holidays, and niche events should act as guides for the content you produce. This strategy applies to any partners. Any channel can create or participate in tent-pole events to be relevant to their specific audience. For example, a partner with a food show can create a video about football party snacks that is tied to a big sporting event and is still relevant to a food audience.
Program Your Content
- Create a programming calendar and identify the "tent-pole" events that are relevant to your show and audience.
- Package and produce videos around events to take advantage of promotional or revenue opportunities, and capitalize on audience and search trends. Tip: Titles and tags can help rebrand a video for tent-pole events. Make use of your archives, where it is relevant.
Get Ahead of the Buzz
- Release tent-pole related content at least several days prior to the event. Online video is different than television and film because a video posted online has a "long-tail." The weeks leading up to the event, the "pre-buzz," is just as important as the actual date of the event, maybe more important. The video will still be there when the event arrives and afterward, but it would have more momentum if it was released early.
Getting Active: Making Calendars, Releasing Videos, and Reaching Out to Others
Releasing tent-pole programming requires planning. If you've started a channel and you want to increase views on any particular episode using special events, you need to know when those events happen and start production on them as soon as you can to capture the audience.
For instance, you want to do a Christmas episode for the beginning or middle of December. Maybe you want to do your regularly-scheduled episodes too. How long is it going to take you to do all of that? Better figure out well in advance of your hopeful release date.
Also, we tend to focus a lot on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social networks to bring awareness to our show. But what about aggregated news sites like Digg, Reddit, and FARK? Sure, many of these sites are shielded by "preferred members," but it wouldn't hurt to either A.) find someone with an "in" to those sites or B.) just submit it and hope it gathers attention.
Also, don't underestimate blogs. Send the video or a link to the video to every site that is relevant to the content of your show. Maybe a few (or a lot) will post your video or post the link. The chances are good at least one of them will want to spread the news, so send it to every blog you can name.
Spreading awareness means telling others about your video. Don't post something expecting it to be picked up by all the major news and blog sites. Be proactive. And when your video is relevant to what is going on with special events, their site benefits from the extra attention, too. Your video and their site begin to create a whirlwind of activity for all parties. Everyone wins.
Reviewing the Playbook: How-To Steps
Create A Programming Calendar
- Create a programming calendar for upcoming months. Identify the key tent-pole events that are relevant to your show and meaningful to your audience.
- Identify (or invent your own) tent-pole events where you may want to dedicate more resources, time, or content.
Release Tent-pole Related Videos
- Create videos for the tent-pole events and be strategic about when to publish your tent-pole related videos.
- Devote blocks of time to celebrate or produce special content around milestones or "signature" events that you can invent for your channel and audience. Make show anniversaries into special events or assign certain weeks (or months) special programming.
Perform Blog Outreach
- Send your tent-pole videos to relevant blogs, sites, and online communities offering them content for your readers.
- Provide short descriptions of the content and why it would be a great fit with the sites' readers. Include easy links and and embed codes in your outreach e-mails.
Using Insight For Tent-pole Events
Just about every section of the YouTube Creator Playbook ends with a tip about Insight. Since there are so many tent-pole events every year around which you can program videos, this is something with which you can keep getting better by looking at the graphs and charts specific to the tent-pole episodes:
Track changes in viewership as a result of programming your content by using the viewership data available in Insight. Use Discovery information to track views coming from search, featured video, or blogs for the videos you've made based on tent-pole events.
Every week we will be taking a look at a new section of the Playbook. Here are the links to previous articles: