YouTube has changed the face of online video as we know it, giving voice and freedom to anyone with access to a video camera and a computer. If you have been thinking that there must be a way to grab those eyeballs and market to them, you are not alone.
But how does one go about making the most of the wealth of new marketing opportunities online, gain traction in the social media networks, and turn the effort into increased awareness and drive revenue for your brand?
For this article, we have put together a 10 step approach for anyone looking to leverage online video and social networks as part of a social media marketing plan. One thing is certain; it has never been easier to get your own video content in front of an audience. The trick is distinguishing your efforts from others’ in a Web awash in video.
Two real world examples exemplify the power of the online video phenomenon:
The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments
Since its posting on YouTube on June 3rd 2006, and as of this writing, the Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment has recorded 2,910,893 views on YouTube alone. This 2 minute, 57 second online masterpiece of viral video has racked up countless millions of views on other video sites like Blip.TV, Metacafe and Revver.
It spawned an online and offline eruption of press, a sequel and the stars of the video, and even scored an appearance on David Letterman. Diet Coke earned a tremendous amount of free publicity and even joined in on the fun. Sales for Coca-Cola soared, marketers noticed.
This success, although unprecedented, marked the beginning of a new era for advertisers. Create something with a high entertainment quotient with subtle marketing messages and unleash it to the world. If it catches fire, you are looking at something money simply can’t buy; public adoption and 3rd party endorsement.
The Heinz ‘Top This TV Challenge’
Taking a cue from the Coke + Mentos phenomenon, Heinz marketers felt they could leverage UGC (User Generated Content) and their household name and turn it into red gold. The hook: offer a $57,000 prize, a chance of having your commercial shown on national television, then host the videos in a branded channel on YouTube.
Nearly 4,000 video submissions, each one garnering 2,500 views, has tapped into the very social fabric of their consumer. People love the product and have created a number of very impressive video ads for Heinz. Heinz was so impressed that they have recently announced “Heinz Top This TV Challenge Take Two.”
Heinz is not alone in tapping into the UGC arena for community-created video ads. Other companies with dedicated followers are following this untapped wealth of ideas, as it comes off as more genuine than a targeted marketing pitch from a savvy ad agency. While some of the UGC videos have been unwatchable, surprising amounts have been clever, fun, highly watchable and professional looking.
More importantly, they have become viral in the online media circles creating millions of impressions that ultimately drive revenue for the brand.
So now that we have examined two examples of online video, how do you go about creating your own online video masterpiece?
Step by Step
Know your target audience and locate where they hang out online. This first step is critical. Identifying who you are trying to reach will dictate the sites and methods you build the campaign on.
If you have a youth oriented product or are trying to reach the 20-30 year old demographic, there will be no shortage of online social networks and video sites to post videos on. YouTube is a given, MySpace a must and now FaceBook has ways to expose your message to over 30 million users. If your market is more targeted or niche oriented you will need to identify the online social networks devoted to that demographic. Don’t worry, there is something for everybody.
Create Cool Content
Be as creative as you can. Funny sells. If you have commercials that have been created, perhaps re-cut them or create a mash-up that when cut together turns into a new storyline from old material. Humorous outtakes, parody, and just plain weird plays very well online.
Keep it short. Attention spans online can measured in seconds, not minutes. A video that is too long could get someone in hot water if they are caught goofing off at their desk. If creating something new, keep it loose. Roughness adds a sense of authenticity. But use your judgment, some products will not benefit from this treatment.
Alternatively, you can use a utility like Magnify.net or VeZoom which lets you find, filter, and share videos from across the Web that compliment your brand. Once you have created your video, you need to start getting it online.
Be sure to watermark your content either at the beginning, the end, or overlaying the video in a non-intrusive manner. The watermark is the name of your brand, a Web URL or other identifier.
The idea here is to brand the content and give the viewer an opportunity to register the fact that they can find more videos like this one at that address. This technique drives traffic to the site you want people to find. Think of it as an extension of your own Web site. It is in fact another storefront for your brand.
A Great Title and Keyword List
Remember the goal here is to become viral. A funny title or one that suggests something a little naughty could score big in the viral video marketplace. If your video has a celebrity in it, use the celebrity’s name in the title, as that becomes an important keyword that someone could enter as a search query. For example, using a video search engine like Google or VeZoom turns up 146,984 videos on Britney Spears. (More on video search engines later.)
Keywords are used to describe the subject matter of the content. Select the most relevant keywords so that the search engines can locate your video and deliver it to user. Missing strong keywords that best match the content can hurt you since no one can guess how to find your content. Using misleading keywords just to get hits is bad policy and only disappoints the user making the search query. The rule here is to be honest and accurate.
Search Engine Optimization
Like keywords, a strong description is also crawled by search engines, so the more descriptive the better. Seeding keywords in the description scores higher in search-results ranking. This technique is known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
You score points on search engine relevancy if the title, description, and keywords all reflect relevancy to the content. The search engine rewards you by listing you higher up in the search results. It is worth the effort, the goal here is to be found.
This is the fun part. If you have made it this far, you are now ready to unleash your video to the online video channels. Start by selecting the top video sites with the largest share of eyeballs. This is an excellent top down strategy since a popular video on YouTube will end up on other networks as users start to claim it as a favorite, write comments about it, vote for it, and add it to their favorites or playlist. Consider Blip.tv, Metacafe, Revver and MySpaceTV.
Strategically, you will want to create a channel named after your brand, offer links back to your site and create graphics to customize the site. MySpace allows you to create an entire look and feel that is completely immersive. This is your online video network. If you have products to sell, you can even place them online next to your video content. Sell t-shirts, music, anything that can extend your brand.
Leverage Social Networks
Online video is an extension of your brand. Be careful not to alienate your core audience or the online video could turn into negative publicity. Be strategic and make sure that the flavor of the content is in keeping with the overall spirit of your brand. Be aware that you are making this content available to others to not only share, but play with.
You may find others copying the video, re-editing the video, creating video mash-ups, placing it on blogs, posting it on their profiles, e-mailing it to their friends, and embedding it on Web pages. This is a good thing, just be prepared to expect the unexpected. By the way, congratulations, you have just gone viral.
Join the Conversation
Web 2.0 is all about communication. Where Web 1.0 was one-way, today’s Web is a community where conversation and engagement goes two ways. In order to achieve your goal of getting the community to play with your brand, you need to contribute to forums, comment on blogs and start or join existing groups on Yahoo, MySpace, and Google.
Create your Brand Blog
In social media and Web 2.0, nothing is more viral than a blog. Blogs are crawled frequently and since they usually link to popular sites that rank high in search results, you can achieve greater penetration and visibility on the Web with them than thru any other method. Use lots of keywords and be sure to name drop the brand and URL.
But you have to be relevant and add value to the conversation, and do not spam, or you will lose credibility and trust. Use proper blog etiquette.
Submit RSS Feeds
Beyond the video channels themselves, video has exploded online and can be found almost anywhere. How do you find the videos you want? Where do you begin? The good news here is just as Google has defined online searching for text, they are now developing new methods for searching video.
Offering video RSS feeds makes it easy for the video search engines to syndicate your content, so let them know you provide them. Among the top video search engines out there are Blinkx, VeZoom, and Pixsy. So if you create online video, these engines are sure to find you.
Now that you have extended your brand and built your video channels, just like any network executive, you have to keep coming up with new content. The more videos you have, the more it gets into the ether of the Internet.
Create themes and organize your videos by genre or topic. Offer viewers the chance to create a video for your company’s product like Heinz, or play with your product in unique fun ways like Coke and Mentos. The sky is the limit and so is the Internet.
TJ Modi has over 20 years of combined experience in executive management, information technology, and entrepreneurship. Prior to establishing Monetize Media Inc., TJ was the Co-Founder and CEO of InterBase Corporation, a information technology and services company that he helped to grow from start-up to a global company with multi-million dollars in annual revenues. In addition to giving vision and direction of the company, TJ was involved in acquiring deals with major clients such as Cisco Systems, Boeing Company, Black & Decker, and the Los Angeles County MTA. TJ also trained the firm’s sales and marketing staff and managed the finances funding activities. Before that, he was among the first 10 employees at Strategic Information Group, where he assessed and expanded markets, developed and managed client relationships, and played an instrumental role in growing the company. TJ has a Masters in Computer Science and Bachelors in Electronics from Gujarat University in India.