The genesis of a successful social video

While much of the Cannes coverage in the past few days have been overshadowed by the boycott of Publicis Groupe next year, there were actually quite an overwhelmed theme amongst the speakers, the celebrities in attendance, as well as the creative directors, on the best approach in making a successful online video.

Nowadays, with our addiction to social media channels, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or YouTube, we are all becoming content creators at the same time. With the explosion of online videos, we have also created many online influencers and key opinion leaders, which are unheard of before. Now, even celebrities are able to directly interact with their fans and social media followers, without the need to go through traditional media and news outlets.

Brands have always been working with celebrities. Hollywood actress and director, Lauren Dern, highlighted in her talk at the event that the world of advertising had always been supportive of films. Advertisers allowed actors to work independently on the films due to the advertising support. What has changed is that from the old days of being unreachable and untouchable, celebrities nowadays are able to build their own brands through their own social media channels.

Advertisers, obviously, have flocked to this new found opportunity to reach audience by partnering with many influencers and celebrities, to develop online content that are only distributed through social media channels. However, as you can see the backfire from many recent campaigns in China and US, advertisers can no longer follow the traditional formula of selecting a celebrity that they want and control his/her to sell his product. Gone are the days of this one-way communication strategy. We can no longer simply rely on an influencer or a celebrity’s popularity to create any content and hope that it will become viral and create a resonance to boost product sales and image.

American YouTube celebrity, Grace Helbig, pointed out in her session with Hollywood actress/director, Laura Dern that to make a brand partnership work, she needed to be in fully transparent to their audience. It is very critical for content creators to develop trust with their social media followers, which in turn, require them to be very careful in brand selection. She used the phrase ‘Dance with the one that rocks you’ to describe her special relationship with her brand partners.

We have seen many brands with big celebrities or online influences as the spokespersons but ended up wasting all the budget in content that are not in line with their personality. For a social video to work, brands must trust the influencers and provide them with autonomy in creating content that shows a genuine connection.

It works best if the creative idea is created by the influencer, rather than directing his/her to do what the brand wants. It works the best when a blank canvas is given to the content creator and allow him/her to start shaping the video content. By allowing the brand and the influencer to brainstorm together, each side can feel how he/she perceives and imagine the campaign to be together. In short, being flexible in content creation is one of the key to success.

Matt Donovan from Microsoft and Sam Saunders, US chief creation office, We Are Social, highlighted a successful social video needs to create an experience that is meaningful. The video itself needs to ignite a conversation. Here are some interesting takeaways:

  • People have a less attention span than a goldfish has on social media. The video needs to keep engaging people with a rolling 3-second time frame. If you lose someone’s attention in 3 seconds, the person is gone.
  • Brands should not create and push the same social video across all social media platforms. People come to each social media platform for a different purpose. The video itself needs to be in sync with the nature of the platforms.
  • All content should be viewer led rather than brand led. Brands need to be telling stories but not running ads in their social videos.
  • A good idea is to start tracking back in video shooting, rather than zooming in. This allows new information to be shown on each video frame and keep the audience engage.
  • Whenever people post about your brand online, whether it’s negative or positive, you should acknowledge and engage with them swiftly.
  • Create multiple videos and posts. Scale up the social video hook based on organic performance, before deciding to put paid media to further amplify it.

Another inspiring talk by the actress Halle Berry and Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard, reinforced the concept of letting viewer lead the story making, rather than treating brands as storytellers.

According to Dr. Per Sederberg, associate professor at the department of psychology at Ohio State University, allowing consumers to be part of the story marking process will significantly increase the memorability of the content. By having consumer’s emotions involved in the cognitive mapping process, it makes the stories to be a lot more memorable.

Unfortunately, even nowadays, I have seen plenty of my clients engaging with influencers or celebrities simply because of their popularity and they leverage them to do a one-side storytelling, pushing the same promotional content or so-called social video across all social media platforms. Then they inject hundreds of thousands of paid media budget behind it to make it ‘viral’ by boosting up the number of views, likes, and engagements. This self-fulfilling prophecy never creates a genuine connection of their target audience, which results in subpar or yo-yo fashion in business performance.

It’s high time for us to relook how we create memorable social video and how we collaborate with influencers, to go beyond the paid views and engagements and drive real business results.

The writer is Antony Yiu, head of digital, North Asia and search & performance, APAC at MEC.

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