Go Slow With Video Ads in Social Media

Television networks took a while to leave behind their traditional ways and adapt to the online space. Now that they’ve realized that online viewership won’t likely cannibalize their ratings, networks are leaders in the online video advertising space. This is made possible by two very important traits unique to broadcasters: they have a reserve of content that would make any online publisher’s mouth water, and TV viewers are accustomed to advertising. This second point is what I want to focus on here because general acceptance of advertisements — or lack thereof — is what impedes online networks and communities from truly capitalizing on online video marketing.

YouTube proves that online video and social media are a match made in marketing heaven. Arguably the first hot spot for user-generated content, YouTube showed advertisers that the Internet could be a viable distribution avenue for video ads. For a while, online video marketers were able to place their ads on social media outlets without much user resistance. Then Facebook released Beacon, which, in users’ eyes, unleashed advertisements where they weren’t welcome. From this point on, social community managers viewed marketing more apprehensively. After all, what good are ads if no one is around to see them?

It’s slightly ironic that social media, one of the most cutting-edge platforms we have, isn’t able to capitalize on video marketing, but it’s for good reason. On one hand, social media outlets are an ideal channel for video advertising. On the other, users won’t take kindly to their community’s equilibrium being disrupted by ads. But as these communities continue to become a part of everyday life, the potential to generate marketing revenue will increase and it will become harder for community managers to ignore it.

What does this mean for social media and online video ads? Marketers need to take it slow.

In the early days of TV advertising, hour-long programs were sponsored by one company that would literally do a marketing song and dance about its product. That was it. Translated into social media, users need to warm up to ads, and one way to do that is to start out small. This can mean having in-banner video advertisements, using pre-roll ads on user-generated video content, or allowing advertisers to sponsor entire shows or channels. Hulu has adopted a similar mentality by providing content via sponsorships. Its model involves small commercial breaks, usually by one brand, then viewers get straight back to the show. Veoh currently runs in-page advertisements without placing messaging within the actual video player, and neither Seismic nor 12seconds have advertising at all.

People are always slow to warm up to ads when they first surface in unexpected places. It stems back to the slippery slope theory: people believe if ads start showing up in grocery stores or gas station pumps, it’s only a matter of time before they are everywhere. However, since social media leads the online space in so many capacities, I doubt it will be too long before social media networks devise a way to unobtrusively integrate advertising into their communities.

Advertisers have to keep in mind that the user should be central to marketing efforts and that individuality is all that matters in social media. Communities are where users go to connect, learn, vent, and — in several respects — just be, so overt advertising could definitely have an adverse effect on this. If I learned one thing during social media’s emergence it’s that the medium is just as important as the message. Video marketers are smart to be cautious about how and where they use advertising. Until then, they should follow the TV advertisers’ lead and phase in various video marketing avenues.

Take it slow out there.

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