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A Personal Video Engagement

  |  March 14, 2008   |  Comments

Will social networks become the next video frontier or a big miss?

If you've spent time on any social networking site, you'll know there are numerous rich applications. Some people call them ads rather than applications. In fact, how they're used is like a cheap direct marketing trick. But I digress.

As marketers use their tried-and-true tactic of following -- not leading -- consumers into the next interactive trend, we risk video making a large play into their personal/public space.

Some smart marketers are thinking ahead of the curve. Not in terms of developing groundbreaking social applications, but in terms of a smart, simple interactive idea that catches on.

Once again, something rich isn't considered to be something good. Just because you can play with someone's brand doesn't mean you'll buy the product. Social media sites may be the new frontier of the consumer universe, but that doesn't mean consumers will be in the mood to buy anything.

Enter online video. A veteran marketer can relate to that: image, story arc, and payoff. Sounds like a TV spot. When most marketers look at online video and think of consumers, they think of entertaining them. Don't get me wrong. We all like a good laugh now and then.

When you're an online publisher, you think about entertainment, too. But most online publishers think a little more about the user experience when it comes to delivering video. A lot goes into finding a way to make video good on the usability end of the spectrum as well as relevance.

The next level of video proliferation is where the masses come in. Our lovely flea market of encoded motion with a few ideas and some reruns mixed in for fun is an indicator of many behaviors and acts of self-expression. But is it possible to think of a marriage between YouTube and Facebook?

Where does online video live in terms of how people connect through networks? Is passing videos through their FunWall or Super Wall really the beginning of something new and amazing with online video?

Before you get that twinge of excitement, think about this: it's a stretch to rationalize social exhibitionism (YouTube) with social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) in one go.

Here's one theory why. The kind of person who puts her own videos online isn't the same as someone who likes to build a network of friends, acquaintances, or casual encounters through social networking. Video exhibitionists are solitary folks who like to entertain. In contrast, social networkers find entertainment in the masses and being connected to them in some way. Think class clown versus class president.

What does that have to do with marketers? For one, there are many trees in the online forest and these two aren't ones you should bark up any time soon. Today, there's still a flurry of self-discovery and self-expression out there. When the dust settles, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. The online community will evolve. More profound levels of refinement will come to both video and social networks in the next year or so.

Video and rich applications are great, but this experiment is still going on. As user behavior matures, people will become more passionate about things that really interest them. Video and better applications will have a deeper role in elevating the user to the masses they wish to impress and connect with.

We must work from what we know. Making a video, TV spot, or rich ad is a long, laborious, and costly exercise. Even if you're a YouTuber. And especially if you're a marketer.

Connecting with your social network is cheap, easy, and a thrill that for now hasn't a lot of room in it, apart from Scrabulous and a few other neat-o applications. All meant to trick you into thinking you've got friends who like knowing you and into forwarding something to them unknowingly.

Yes, and I can mea culpa to that.

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Dorian Sweet

Dorian Sweet is the vice president and executive creative director of GSI Interactive who leads strategic development and innovation in online advertising, Web development, e-commerce, and customer relationship management programs. His work has brought award-winning online solutions to such clients as Clorox, Miller Brewing Company, GE, Visa, eBay, British Airways, Wells Fargo, Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, Sears, 20th Century Fox, and others.

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