ADOTAS – One of the most encouraging aspects of being an online content creator can also be one of the most discouraging: Anyone can create web content, but getting it seen is another story. Even in a time when content production far outpaces our collective capacity to consume it, however, there’s actually a way content producers and marketers can harness the tools of this seemingly noisy environment to set themselves apart from the pack. By knowing how best to position your content, you can actually let the intimidating vastness of the web do a lot of your heavy lifting for you.
This is the second half of a two-part series. For the first half, published yesterday, click here.
YouTube: Home of the Video Star
As I mentioned earlier, there are about 60 hours worth of content uploaded to YouTube every minute. According to YouTube director of product management Hunter Walk, more video is uploaded to the service in one month than the three major U.S. television broadcast networks produced in their first 60 years. So, in a sense, YouTube is like its own democratized supernetwork, with content creators wearing many hats, like producer, director, on-camera talent, etc. YouTube even has its own network-like stable of stars, with performers from Justin Bieber to Tay “Chocolate Rain” Zonday having gotten their start on the online video channel.
If your content skews more toward original video production, YouTube remains your best bet online, even after all these years. Not only is the site easily accessible, but its video can be embedded virtually anywhere with no playback problems, allowing for easy sharing on all the other online platforms I’ve outlined. YouTube also mimics the way content is discovered and highlighted through these other outlets, with hashtags like #LOL, #FTW, #OMG, and #FAIL used to search for videos. If you can tailor your content to take advantage of both YouTube and Twitter’s hashtags, you’ll double the chances of having your content discovered.
If You Can, Pay to Play
Let’s say you’ve got a little bit of an online marketing budget and you’re starting to get some good traction on your video, but you’re not quite yet seeing the viral explosion you’d like to. Following social media platforms in the sequence of distribution is paid distribution. Some companies that work in paid distribution include GIANT Media and Unruly Media. These “curators for hire” use professional techniques and other tricks to make sure that a content creator’s work is strategically distributed in a way that it can better stand out.
GIANT Media is one such content distributor, focusing on social video. They use VideoStat technology to get in touch with the content’s target audience by adding customizable sharing features to the person’s video, and real-time analytics are employed to allow the video’s creator to track their viral progress. Other distributors, such as Unruly Media, not only seed content on social media platforms, but also selectively place it on influential blogs, mobile apps and other quality publishing outlets. Unruly does this by using MEME (Media Engagement Measurement Engine) to locate where conversations are lacking and positioning relevant client content in that gap.
A perfect example of paid distribution at its best would have to be the amusing “Dollar Shave Club” video. (FYI: That video contains approximately one bleeped-out F-bomb. -Ed.) With the assistance of the aforementioned GIANT, “Dollar Shave Club” managed to get 220,891 shares and 4,576,969 views — it is one of the 20 most-viewed ads already this year, and it also certainly one of its most-discussed. That’s a huge ROI for what is a modest investment. If you have some financial wherewithal for the marketing of your video, paid distribution is a particularly efficient option to consider.
Media Is Part of Your Message…
It’s not just small companies like Dollar Shave Club producing content that captures the attention of the online masses.
In the case of The Hunger Games, film studio Lionsgate and ad agency Ignition utilized Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and multiple other online channels to build anticipation for the film. They made casting announcements on Facebook, created an interactive Twitter puzzle game, urged fans to upload self-made videos, and created a blog that highlighted the film’s unique costumes for interested fashionistas. This kind of synergistic campaign helped build anticipation for the film across the board based on the most appealing aspects of the film to specific niche verticals (e.g. the series’ hardcore group of young fans on Facebook), helping the film gross an impressive $396,022,168 in the U.S. alone.
This was a very high-level campaign conducted by a very large film company and its interactive ad agency, but it offers a good model to which every content producer should aspire. Find the parts of your content that might appeal to different audiences, and find out where that audience is most likely to already exist or congregate to, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or a standalone blog.
… But Content Is Still King
In 1996, during the early dawn of the web, Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates coined a phrase that is still relevant to content producers and marketers today: “Content is king.” Though not often thought of as a visionary on par with Steve Jobs, it might be the most important statement ever made about the web. In that short summation, Gates knew that the then-mostly undiscovered Wild Web would live or die on whether it had the content to attract and keep an audience, and it foretold a future of iTunes, YouTube, Facebook, ebooks and cord cutters (and maybe even perhaps the SOPA-like tension between Silicon Valley’s content hosts and Hollywood’s own content creators).
For our purposes, Gates’ statement applies in this regard: No matter how much you game the current models of content distribution, you still have to have good content. Content is king.
Yes, “Dollar Shave Club” used paid distribution, but it also had some exceptionally engaging and funny content. You can’t beat a telegenic co-founder spouting pearls of wisdom like, “Do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back-scratcher and 10 blades? Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade… and polio.” Or a bear with a machete. There’s a reason it won a viral video award. No matter how well you position your content across online platforms, if the content sucks, consumers won’t engage and no matter how many initial views you get, your content will be stuck in neutral. Conversely, really great content sometimes finds a way to its audience through purely organic methods.
At my own company, VIRURL, we are trying to marry the best tools of viral promotion with the kind of branded content that is most likely to hit that sweet spot of consumer engagement and interest. No one has figured out the perfect recipe for viral video success (it probably involves some combination of cats, Nicholas Cage, lip dubs and bears with machetes), but VIRURL and other companies like it are getting closer to making viral video promotion less of an uncertain alchemy and more of a precise science that can provide from measurable ROI.
The bottom line is that you owe it to your content and the hard work it took to produce it to give it the best chance to succeed, and it won’t have that if your distribution and promotion doesn’t account for all of these many new engagement platforms in a way that still highlights the best features of the actual content.