Viral videos don’t happen by chance or accident — behind the scenes of almost every brilliant campaign is an even more brilliant marketing strategist. These masterminds are responsible for the success of today’s most innovative campaigns.
More so than ever before, the media landscape is flooded. Almost anyone can produce a video, set up a YouTube account, and run a PPC campaign to drive traffic. Thanks to the fact that technology is getting more and more accessible, small forces of nature — with $5,000 marketing budgets — are in a position to compete with multi-million dollar budgets.
But simply being present — and putting content out there — won’t be enough. Your company needs to combine its left and right brains to build a high-performing marketing framework. In addition to producing an awesome video, you need to invest in your distribution strategy. Here are 7 steps to guide you.
A powerful parallel that you’ve likely come across is your own website development and blogging process. If you build ‘it,’ audiences won’t necessarily come. You can have the best content (in written or video form), but if you don’t put a little legwork into promoting it, your time and investment will be wasted.
Step 1: Recognize that Virality Is a Myth
If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve probably heard the expression — ‘get it to go viral’ — more times than you can count. But you’ve thrown enough darts in the dark; however, to realize that there’s something wrong with this perspective.
Your gut instinct is spot-on — virality isn’t a marketing strategy. Even the most amazing content needs a clear plan for driving visibility. That’s because there are so many great videos out there already. Yours could become a ‘Hollywood’ success, but most likely, it won’t.
Before you even produce your video, you need a clear plan for how you’re going to reach your audience. This approach will most likely involve a mix of paid and organic traffic sources through AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other platforms.
Regardless of whether you’re investing resources on advertising — or optimizing free channels — you need to focus your strategy around one key audience acquisition concept: earned media.
This term describes extra traffic that marketers are able to generate per unit of traffic acquisition effort. You can also think of this traffic as the ‘echo effect’ from social media shares, direct website visits, and PR buzz that happens as a result of your video production and distribution efforts.
If you’re optimizing earned media, you need to follow a system — regardless of whether you’re investing in free or paid channels. One B2C example to note is Karen X. Cheng’s ‘Girl Learns to Dance in a Year’ video, which took off and generated millions of views on YouTube.
Just like her experience learning to dance, Karen made her viral success look easy. But the truth is that there was much more happening behind the scenes — a series of steps that she describes in this article for her blog:
- Never ever think you’re too good to spend time on marketing.
- Study patterns of things you see going viral online.
- Release on certain days of the week.
- Team up with companies that have something to gain from promoting your video.
- Optimize titles.
- Keep forging ahead.
The same holds true, especially, for B2B brands where ‘Hollywood’ success stories are even fewer. For B2B videos, it is critical for marketers to develop a deep connection with their audiences and laser focus their efforts on that target group. Distribution numbers are likely to be lower than they would be for a B2C campaign, which has much broader general appeal. For instance, take a look at Crazy Egg’s explainer video — created for the purpose of explaining the value of the company’s website heat mapping tool. The video has helped Crazy Egg generate an additional $21K in monthly revenue — and virality has little to do with the equation.
Every business has a unique set of growth levers — focus on optimizing these important touchpoints instead of chasing virality.
Step 2: Study What Your Audience Actually Wants
It’s tempting for marketers to jump in and start investing resources on traffic acquisition. But this — ‘let’s get to it’ — approach can cause your video strategy to fall flat. Even worse, you’ll potentially burn through valuable advertising dollars by marketing to audiences that don’t convert, for instance.
No matter your company size, you need to develop a consistent feedback loop for your audience — that means listening both before you launch and while your campaign is running. For a relatively new company, this feedback loop will likely be face-to-face or phone-based interviews to determine what video content you should generate. For a larger company, you’ll likely invest in social media listening systems to understand your audience’s behavior at scale.
For instance, GoPro — a leading technology company for personal sports cameras — has integrated a process of active listening into its social media and video strategy. The company monitors brand mentions and responds to thousands of YouTube comments to stay connected with its audience. This strategy has helped GoPro become the fifth biggest brand on YouTube — a distinction that is notable since only 2% of the top 5,000 YouTube channels are brands.
The same idea holds true for B2B brands. By understanding what your audiences want, care about, and need, you can engage them on a genuine and emotional level. That’s where humor can play a significant role. For inspiration, check out the IT-Man video from technology company Panorama9. It’s hilarious — all thanks to a deep affinity between the company and its customer base.
A process of listening and learning will help you stay connected to your audience — you’ll be better positioned to develop your messaging, content, and marketing plan around your viewers’ goals.
Step 3: Know How to Measure Success
Many marketers will save the ‘analytics and tracking’ part of their marketing plans for last, but the reality is that you need to focus on measurement before you even launch your campaign. Top-of-funnel metrics like views and vanity metrics like shares and tweets seem, at face value, extremely appealing.
The reality; however, is that these numbers may not capture the value that you’re trying to drive. If you are looking to create an explainer video, for instance, view counts will matter much less than conversion goals like sign-ups, purchases, ‘wishlist’ clicks.
Video hosting service Wistia has put together a comprehensive list of video marketing metrics by conversion funnel stage, which you can browse here. Here are some metrics that they recommend tracking:
- View counts to quantify reach
- Play rates to quantify relevance
- Social shares to capture popularity
- Conversations to monitor ‘word of mouth’ presence
- Percentage of a video watched to measure relevance and quality
- Sign-ups, subscriptions, and purchases to measure conversion and persuasion
Keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach to your video metrics won’t necessarily work. Brands need to be closely aligned to their unique goals — which will vary dramatically between B2B and B2C brands, especially. Make sure that you choose the metrics that best align with your business model and reach the right audiences with the right messages at exactly the right moments in their buying journeys. The metrics you choose will help you stay focused in pursuing your goals.
Step 4: Choose the Right Platforms
A video crafted for your website — and YouTube — audience can be used across multiple channels including Facebook ads, television, tradeshows and pre-roll slots across video ad networks. You need to choose the right platforms ahead of time — a process that begins with making sure that you’ve selected the right video host to support the integration opportunities that you’re most interested (you can read a guide to choosing your video host here).
In some cases, these opportunities for cross channel distribution will be as simple as plugging into different networks. You can start out by measuring viewer experiences on an inexpensive, web-based channel. After measuring whether your video is popular, you can commit to a higher spend by promoting it on other channels — on television or at a special event, for instance.
For inspiration, take a look at the Dollar Shave Club viral video that you probably already know and love:
Dollar Shave Club, years after launching its immensely popular launch video, repackaged it — the exact same promo — as a television commercial. What Dollar Shave Club discovered was that they were able to find more cost effective ad buys on TV.
Often, marketers feel that they need to create multiple videos for the various distribution channels they’re using. One-size-fits-all approaches like Dollar Shave Club’s are rarely successful. That’s why marketers will often focus on just one distribution opportunity.
But videos are more versatile than you may assume.
Step 5: Never Stop Testing
The marketing landscape is evolving quickly. And tech companies are constantly looking for new ways to bring new opportunities for brands to reach their target audiences. That’s why it’s important to cast your net wide and always keep your eye out for new channels that specialize in connecting brands with your desired customer base.
This process goes hand-in-hand with the experience of creating a testing culture within your marketing team. In other words, you should always be running a handful of small, low-budget experiments. You never know what you’ll find.
You can prospect for new opportunities on ad network directory websites like the following, where you can quickly learn about new video seeding and distribution channels.
The beauty of these channels is that you can likely get started with a minimal, low-commitment advertising budget. You can ramp up comfortably — committing to higher spend levels when you find high-converting opportunities.
As Chris Kilbourn of Fit Marketing puts it — ‘fail fast.’ In otherwise, as soon as you figure out what isn’t working, re-prioritize your efforts around what does.
You should also make sure to cast your net wide, finding organic opportunities to drive distribution. You can read this blog post for tactics and ideas to make the most out of every organic or paid marketing opportunity. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make sure it’s front and center on your website – keep it above the fold so your visitors don’t have to scroll down to find it.
- Do you send out a weekly, monthly, or quarterly newsletter? Put your video in it.
- Share your video with all of your friends and followers via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or with strangers on the street.
- Add a link to your email signature.
- Upload your video to the world’s second largest search engine: YouTube.
- Blog about it. Tell readers why you needed a video, what you hope to accomplish with it, or even the results you’ve seen since it was completed.
- Use a free tool like HelloBar to let your website visitors know you have a new video treat for them to enjoy.
- If people really like your video, they’ll want to share it. So make it super simple for them to do by including share links right next to the player.
- Bring it along to conferences, trade shows, and meetings and play it anywhere you can find an audience willing to watch.
Step 6: Have a Clear Call to Action
Traffic acquisition is only part of the marketing equation. In addition to bringing people to your video, you need to be clear about what action you’d like them to take. Would you like audiences to sign up for your email list or product? Would you like them to share your video via social media? Whatever your goal, you need to make your intentions clear, using the insights from your research processes in steps 3 and 4.
When determining your positioning, messaging, and conversion goals, it’s important to pay attention to the needs of your specific audience. One example to consider is UpWorthy, a video curation site that relies on social media shares to drive growth.
UpWorthy, to build a traffic stream and awareness, positions its social media and email sign-up forms as front-and-center.
If you’re running a brand-focused campaign, you may decide to choose calls-to-action (CTAs) around the opportunity to learn more or make a purchase. For inspiration, check out Dollar Shave Club’s homepage. Their CTA?
Learn what your audiences want, and present them with a value proposition that they can’t resist. Your video will be a crucial part of this conversion process — make sure that your viewers know what you’d like them to do next.
The best frameworks are open ended — ones that allow you to discover new opportunities, experiment, and stay creative. Video distribution is a process that will require patience, trial, and error. Identify your brand’s unique growth levers, and always find ways to reach new audiences as efficiently as possible.