How to Earn 'Engagement Capital' on YouTube

Sure, Your Video Went 'Viral,' but Did Anyone Truly Interact With It?

By Published on .

Josh Warner
Josh Warner
It's common knowledge social media has changed the way brands and consumers interact. But what about social video or it's more popular, yet misleading, stage name, viral video? What lessons can brand marketers take from social media and apply to social-video marketing?

Our answer? Marketers need to pay close attention to engagement capital -- what it is, how it's created, where it's spent -- before they reap the full marketing potential of social video. Engagement capital is the means by which a marketer exchanges entertaining content for support or action by a user. As a marketer, the type of brand video you create affects the level of engagement capital you build with your viewer.

If your goal is to get wide reach for your branded video across the social web, you must create a sufficiently entertaining video to build the necessary engagement capital with your viewer. Your viewer feels like you've done something for them -- created an entertaining video -- so they're more likely to do something for you -- share, comment, rate your video. This is the essential quid pro quo of social video.

As a marketer you get a double benefit from this approach. Not only do you get a great return on your capital (people sharing your video) but you're getting it from the right people (social media influencers). On YouTube, one of the most popular platforms for branded video content, one out of 10 users manage a blog or website. Four out of 10 YouTube users are active on other social media platforms.

The New Economy of Viral Video and Why Engagement Matters
The New Economy of Viral Video and Why Engagement Matters
But even with an entertaining video, you can fritter away your engagement capital by over-branding your video or asking your viewer to take a specific action (e.g. register for a contest or go to a microsite). Over-branding reduces your engagement capital because viewers feel like they've done enough for your brand by simply watching your "commercial." From our analysis of 100-plus brand video campaigns, we find users are two times less likely to engage (e.g., rate or comment) and four times less likely to share video content that's excessively branded.

A call-to-action spends even more precious engagement capital with your viewer. The viewer feels like you've asked them to do this thing for you -- the action -- and they probably don't even know you that well. Interestingly, viewers are two times less likely to engage and 10 times less likely to share brand video with a call-to-action component. Why the big reluctance to share call-to-action brand videos? We find the sharer doesn't like asking someone they know to take action on your behalf. They're using up a personal favor for your brand -- and you haven't built up sufficient capital.

So what's the big takeaway: create engagement capital and spend it wisely.

Josh Warner is president and founder of Feed Company, which promotes and distributes brand videos, including campaigns such as Levi's "Backflip," Ray-Ban's "Catch" and Activision's "Bike Hero." In three years, it's marketed more than 100 videos on the social web.
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