Point-Counterpoint: Collaborative Video Is the Next Big Thing (Or Is It?)

It's Cool and Can Feed the Content Beast -- But Do Consumers Really Want It?

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The social/mobile video space is focused on a simple premise -- easy creation and easy sharing. The big players are completely dedicated to these principles. Vine, Instagram and YouTube make it as easy as possible to create, post and share content. Marketing success on these platforms is tied to these principles as well. We measure impact entirely on views, pass-alongs and earned impressions, all of which are governed by how fast something can go viral.

But hovering on the fringes of the social/mobile-video app world is a host of innovative tools that threaten the hegemony of the current order. They introduce a level of engagement that is based not entirely on view counts. Instead, they are focused on creating engagement through collaboration. And it's a world coming faster than many in the marketing world might believe.

As part of the comprehensive monitoring of the tech-startup space my team and I do on behalf of clients, we recently identified a pattern emerging among the latest social-video apps. SwitchCam, MixBit, JumpCam and other video startups are beginning to focus on new ways to connect mobile video shot from many different cameras into a viewer-defined whole.

Take SwitchCam. At a typical concert there may be hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals shooting video. SwitchCam provides a tool that aggregates all of these feeds, time-codes the footage and allows viewers to switch from source camera to source camera to view that concert online through a range of perspectives.

One of the defining truths of social media marketing is that you need to value the individual's personal brand as much as you value your own brand. In other words, making the user or customer the star of the show is a great way to generate pass-along. When we helped one of our brand clients work with SwitchCam, that's exactly what we found to be true. SwitchCam's app provided concert-goers with something engaging to do during the live event, as well as vested interest in getting their friends at home to log onto the website and see their footage featured on a major brand's site.

Notice too in this example that the collaboration doesn't stop with the content shooters. The really interesting facet of this trend is that the viewer can often participate in the collaboration as well. That's the case with MixBit, the brainchild of YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. The platform aggregates potentially thousands of 16-second clips for viewers to edit together creations of up to an hour. JumpCam makes this process even easier, by automating the process of joining clips into a final video.

Think of it like this: The real value of Twitter is not in the individual tweet but the mosaic of impressions generated around an event or conversation topic. The same can be said of photo sharing. The reason news organizations heavily solicit user photos is not because they love the quality of low-res camera-phone shots. They do it to create a 360-degree view of an event.

When it comes to remembering an event or experiencing a story, consumers are starting to realize that they no longer have to experience it in a linear fashion. What these collaborative video-creation tools do is fill a need for perspective. They give both creators and viewers an opportunity to engage at a much deeper level with a subject.

Obviously we see huge potential for brand marketers in the space. Cute videos that get passed along and are just as quickly forgotten are a drag on internal and agency resources. To maintain awareness, you need a never-ending stream of new content at a level of quality that is near impossible to maintain. However, when you aggregate user content -- or even provide users with professional content to remix endlessly -- you create a continuing level of engagement, put a greater focus on the consumer and offer increased likelihood that some version of the content will go viral.

None of this is meant to diminish the importance of Vine's short, sharable clips or YouTube's dominance in longer-form video. The existing social-video platforms will in all likelihood continue to grow and thrive. However, collaborative-video creation is an important development within the space, and one every digital marketer should be investigating.

Bob Knorpp is Chief Analyst at Evol8tion, a company focused on connecting blue-chip brands to early-stage startups. He also hosts The BeanCast Marketing Podcast at TheBeanCast.com.

Another Day, Another Hot New Trend in Social Media

If I'm to believe my inbox of late, collaborative video is totally going to be the next huge thing.

I'm not convinced. This won't surprise anyone familiar with my typical take on social-media-marketing advancements, which can be boiled down to "You crazy kids, get off my lawn!"

But put plainly, collaborative video strikes me as another way of crowd-sourcing. But even worse.

Listen, consumers might actually like amateur video. They might even clamor for amateur video stitched together from 25 different people!

But what's in this for marketers?

This isn't really a development in terms of strategy or tactics. Should marketers be making collaborative videos? Of what? Concert footage and extreme sports? Those things already exist and, honestly, most of us would rather watch the professional stuff. And why waste the time and resources to gather this stuff up -- or make your agency hate you for forcing it to run down the rights for all that garbage footage that might end up as a mediocre TV spot or a video that never quite goes viral.

The argument can be made that marketers could advertise around collaborative video. Marketers already advertise heavily around concerts and sports events, so do they need even more coverage there?

But what about consumers getting together and mixing up their favorite shows or shooting video of a big news event? I'll give remixed-show videos about 100,000 views before copyright lawyers get them shut down. And news? Marketers get in enough trouble when their banner ads show up next to the latest disaster -- and let's be honest, that's typically the type of news that attracts the most eyeballs.

On the other hand, those marketers who have decided to get into the content game are learning something that TV, print and web publishers have long understood: The content beast is ever hungry, and it's often hard to feed it something fresh. And I can almost buy that argument.

Who knows? Collaborative video might give us a break from yet another listicle detailing "25 Things You Should Know About Introverts."

Ken Wheaton is the managing editor of Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter at @kenwheaton.
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