Consumers spend more of their time online engaging with social media than with any other digital activity. That time has been increasing year over year, but online video has been making similar gains. ComScore Video Metrix found that Americans viewed more than 39 billion online videos in March of this year. The audience for these videos was comprised of over 84 percent of the U.S. Internet population.
They've begun working in tandem, online video and social - a dynamic duo of visual content and word-of-mouth. More than a quarter of online video viewers aged 18 and older are learning about online TV through social sites, the IAB says, while video technology company Unruly reports that five Vine videos are shared on Twitter every second.
It's a partnership that makes sense. We're all immersed in a culture of online sharing, and we respond to visual content - hence, we share online videos through social sites. But as we continue to devote more time to digital media, the value of social video is going up. Social video isn't so different from the online video we've known for years, but it does have two defining characteristics: it gets people talking - on Twitter, on Facebook, and everywhere else it's shared - and it's easy to pass along to friends. Combined, these two features make social video a powerful force online.
This explains why we've been seeing an uptick in social video offerings in recent months. In April, video service Pixorial launched a free location-based mobile app called Krowds Video, which allows users to crowdsource and share videos from events such as concerts and weddings. Krowds follows in the footsteps of Vyclone, which launched an iPhone app for syncing and editing videos from multiple devices and angles last summer and recently added a web editing tool and app version for Android.
Brands are taking notice of social video, too. U.K. newspaper company MailOnline conducted a study in which it asked ad agencies to rank a series of marketing channels based on their ability to meet the agencies' branding objectives. Video was rated first, followed closely by branded content and social media.
But a high level of interest in both video and social media doesn't guarantee social video success, and there's a sizeable gap between the brands that have managed to make their videos viral and those still struggling to locate the elusive marketing cipher. Consider the alcohol and spirits category. Unruly's recent white paper exploring social video advertising among alcohol brands found that they generated more than 4.8 million social media shares of online video in the first quarter of this year.
While this is a dramatic increase from last year's Q4 shares of 143,000, the majority of this activity and related video buzz can be tracked back to just four brands: Budweiser, Neft, Carlsberg, and Heineken. Four ads from these brands accounted for over 97 percent of all category video shares.
Why aren't more brands finding success with social video? What did those four ads have that others don't? In a word: emotion. Budweiser's "Brotherhood" Clydesdale ad, which first aired during the Super Bowl, told a story that Unruly data shows evoked feelings of "warmth" and "happiness" among viewers. Meanwhile, Heineken's narrative-based "The Candidate" - which demonstrated what can happen when a job interview isn't what the candidates expect - incited a psychological response that combined "hilarity" and "surprise."
We already know that social media is about making connections, and connections can be an intimate thing. Consumers might share an infographic with work contacts through LinkedIn or a business article with colleagues and clients through Twitter, and that content might not appear to evoke an emotional response. But it was shared for a reason. It resonated with the social site user in some way. If brands want their video efforts to do the same, they have to start thinking of them not as TV-like content, but as content for social sites.
It's through social media that branded video content will spread. The buzz and the chatter will all play out online. It's already begun. Knowing this may require brands to adopt a different approach to creating great branded videos that also ask to be shared.
After all, this is a team effort.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
March 19, 2014