Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Video Insider: Designs For Social Video

Designs For Social Video

There's a lot of opportunity at the intersection of social and video, yet few marketers are effectively generating results in this space. There are clear benefits to focusing on social networks for the distribution of video. Users on social networks are already trained to operate in ways that help videos spread (posting to profiles, sending to friends, etc.).


It's been said that the Internet behemoth, YouTube, was built on the back of MySpace. The average circa-2005 MySpace user had a desire to share videos that helped express his/her likes and dislikes. These users flocked in droves to YouTube in order to mine through its growing universe of clips and use its embeddable player on their profile.

President and COO of News Corp. (which owns MySpace), Peter Chernin, said in 2006, that 60 to 70% of YouTube's traffic came from MySpace. While this is no longer true today, it's fair to deduce that YouTube's meteoric growth was tied closely to the user behavior seen on MySpace.

Users on social networks are currently already operating in a context that makes them far more likely to take a brand-friendly action, such as sharing a video. They are already in an environment where social proof matters greatly: users want to share content that will reflect well on them, and that will gain them popularity within their own social networking circles.

Today, Facebook is presenting a larger distribution opportunity than anything we saw on MySpace. Every month, 8 million videos are uploaded to Facebook which is on scale with YouTube. And every single time one of these videos is uploaded, liked, shared, or commented on, it becomes a candidate for being distributed to, on average, 120 individual news feeds. Clearly, the opportunity here is massive.

So, with the landscape so ripe, it shocks me that so few people think about how to properly engineer and design compelling video experiences on social networks. There are some great case studies, though. For one, Sprite's recent video campaign  got me thinking, and I wanted to offer here an analysis on its execution. For the record, I was in no way involved in the Sprite campaign, nor was my company. In fact, I didn't know about it until recently -- I simply liked the campaign and wanted to highlight its successes and failures.

Call-to-action: The integration of the green Facebook Connect overlay suggests a great paradigm for engagement. Overlays are very effective when correctly placed and messaged. I was a bit surprised that Sprite didn't include some context in the design of the button, though - I would have loved to see a Facebook logo integrated into the design.

Rewarding audience engagement: The star, Katie Vogel, seems to be reasonably active in chatting with her burgeoning fan base, and her status updates are integrated into the campaign. Prominent calls-to-action around friending or becoming a fan of Vogel are effective. I would have liked to see more public acknowledgement of comments.

Content: The content is light and entertaining, but it is a bit long; the best length for an entertaining video blog is 3 to 4 minutes. Like many commenters, I thought that the cheesy moves, such as her singing after the breakup, ruined the illusion. I'm hoping those will smooth out as more shows are aired.

Social proof: The integration of Facebook Connect for comments is ingenious: not only do users show their support to their Facebook friends (remember, the average user has 120), but Sprite has also solved the problem stemming from the fact that most YouTube comments come from anonymous users. YouTube comments have devolved into a haven for spam, insults, and worthless dreck. By tying one's Facebook identity to a comment, Sprite is able to get more engaging and honest feedback from fans.

However, I have one issue with the Connect integration: I question the need to divorce a person's comments from their friends' and everyone else's - The campaign isn't going to convince me the campaign is interesting if I connect and am shown a blank screen notifying me that none of my friends are there. I would have focused on making the comment widget larger, showing all comments by default, and presenting a big call-to-action in order to answer the "Why Should I Care?" question and motivate users to connect their Facebook account.

Candor: Some of the scenes are dramatized and include actors, which is not made clear from the nature of the campaign. There are several comments complaining about this in the comments section, and it does strike me as somewhat ill-fitting with the content. While I understand the desire to "raise the stakes," Katie's acting skills (and the story structure) are a little too flat to pull it off. Again, hopefully this improves with time.

Despite some of the negatives I've mentioned above, this is an awesome campaign that unfortunately doesn't seem to be generating much attention. To this point, Stafford Green, the head of Digital for Coca-Cola Europe, told Mediapost: "A 'big bang' launch doesn't make it credible and you get spike in interest that dies down. We want good organic growth." It will be interesting to revisit this in a few months to see if Green's organic-growth strategy bears fruit.

Willis, 22, is director of marketing for Involver, a technology company that helps brands distribute, track and optimize video campaigns on social networks. Willis writes about virality, engagement and monetization at and is @tylerwillis on twitter. He can be reached directly at

Video Insider for Wednesday, April 29, 2009:

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