A Coke machine that keeps on giving. A pair of ultra-masculine hunks in towels pushing deodorant. A baby, too wise for his own good, concerned about his financial portfolio.
Taking the cue from those who have found success on YouTube, brands have likewise sought the seemingly attainable goal of going viral. But for every Coke, Old Spice or eTrade, there are many more brands whose videos never become hits. The truth is going viral is a crapshoot. There’s no tried-and-true formula to create that level of success. Sometimes content gets decent traction, sometimes a little less. Instead of aiming to go viral, brands should focus on another ‘v’ word: visibility.
Achieving visibility requires creating quality content. Brands have the capabilities and know how to create great content—after all, they are the experts. It’s up to them to figure out what purpose their videos should have and how that should be conveyed. It’s hard work, but there’s no shortcut around it.
Once the content side of the equation is figured, the focus can be shifted to creating content discovery through SEO, by optimizing your keyword set and video metadata. When viewers get a hold of the goods, they can do what they do best: sharing. Facebook’s highly engaged user base makes it an obvious platform to target.
The social network has seen a remarkably fast climb in the video world, rising in comScore’s rankings to the No. 5 U.S. video content provider in September 2011, when two years earlier it didn’t even make comScore’s list. Facebook’s recent debut of new social actions—buttons such as “watched” and “listened,” accompanying the infamous “like” button—opens new doors to increased visibility for online videos. Research has shown younger users to be especially hesitant to use the “like” button because of implied endorsement. But these new buttons allow people to share without necessarily endorsing the content.
This more-neutral approach could result in even more sharing. A September report found more than 65 million links have been “liked” on Facebook since the button’s launch. That breaks down to a roughly 8 percent rate of sharing among 800 million active users. For GetGlue, a social network that allows sharing via neutral actions, the rate is even higher. When users “check in” to the entertainment-focused social platform, they share using an array of terms: “thinking about,” “watching,” “reading” in addition to the endorsement “liked.” GetGlue’s user base is about 1.5 million, and in August it saw 11.5 million “check ins,” a sharing rate of more than 700 percent. Imagine that level of impact with the addition of neutral actions on Facebook.
Online video is not just about YouTube anymore. Facebook’s new sharing features have the potential to become an even more powerful medium to engage viewers. So much so that in October Sheryl Sandberg told the audience at an Association of National Advertisers convention that Facebook should be a part of everything marketers do. While ads “only talk one way,” she said, Facebook offers “real identity, real relationships, real personalization,” AdAge reported. Even without endorsement, such sharing creates higher visibility, encouraging others to watch. The outcome may not necessarily be viral, but it’s important nonetheless.
So to recap: de-emphasize going viral as a goal, be authentic, create great branded videos, and enjoy the views.