Cracking social video


Our Creative Director recently walked into a room at his mother in law’s house where his two ‘tweenage’ boys were snuggled up on the sofa under the duvet; one with a tablet and one with a laptop.

‘What are you doing?’ he said, by way of greeting.

‘Watching telly’, they grunted in an unexpected reply.

The audiences of tomorrow don’t differentiate by platform and social is completely integrated into the viewing experience; social activity is now absolutely driven by video both in terms of engagement and algorithm. Therefore any video content has the potential to be social video, an ambition that we think many brands would do well to pursue.

Even platforms that were originally conceived to be text-based are not only jumping on the video bandwagon but also driving it forwards. Twitter’s recent purchase of Periscope, for example shows the extent to which they believe video will be the driver of their platform.

At Red Bee we’ve worked with broadcasters through the transition from ‘box in the corner of the front room’ to telly’s role at the heart of a multidimensional, multi-platform entertainment landscape. Along the way we’ve picked up a few pointers on how to maximise the opportunity presented by social video. 

So here they are. Our seven lessons for cracking social video:

1. Know your audience

Social media gives us the opportunity to get to know our audience so much better. With detailed analytics provided by so many of the platforms, we’re now able to tell where our audience lives, how old they are and what resonates with them. This data backdrop gives us a great starting point to be able to create content tailored just for them.

And if the analytics show that you’re struggling to reach your audience, then hunt them out and start talking to them in their language, whether that’s English, Mandarin or Emoji. Channel 4 has launched a brilliant new Tumblr, which aims to repackage online news in a format more appealing to teens and young adults by presenting daily headlines from around the world as GIFs. And irrespective of demographics, who could resist clicking on a headline that reads ‘MANKINI BAN CUTS CRIME IN NEWQUAY’?

2. Harness superfans

Off the back of knowing your audience through each platform’s analytics, you can start to realise the importance of the most influential followers and sharers… superfans.

Now it’s rare for many brands to have fans as committed as those of Apple or Ferrari, for example, but other brands can make associations with events or celebrities and borrow superfans to do the legwork of sharing.

3. Be entertaining or useful

In very simple terms, you can divide the content audiences want and need into two buckets - useful or entertaining. Ideally both, but at least one or the other. If your content is neither of these things, there is no reason for anyone to watch it. So please don’t make it.

An example of a brand creating social video purely to generate social discovery through humour is Halfords. They wanted to be discovered by a cycling public a little further from the lycra of hardcore MAMILS (Middle Aged Men In Lycra if you didn’t know). So for them we created The Bike Whisperer - a new brand ambassador with some unconventional methods for getting bikes back on the road.

4. Build a compelling storyworld

The term ‘storyworld’ is being used increasingly in both academic and broadcasting circles to describe the fictional universe in which a transmedia narrative takes place. It encompasses mythology, characters, settings, events and backstories. Each medium within the multi-platform world contributes to the overall narrative or builds the environment in which that narrative takes place.

Brands can borrow techniques from broadcasters’ development of storyworlds such as creating immersive experiences and developing rich multi dimensional characters to entice audiences to watch and create social video.

5. Keep the story alive between series/campaigns

Social is an important glue to connect ‘tent pole’ content moments and build audience engagement between these releases. In this way you can grow an increasingly engaged audience from a higher base rather than starting from scratch each time.

6. Be topically relevant and timely

To create any content that people will choose to watch it is important not just to think about your brand’s objectives, but to start with your audience. But when it comes to social media there is a third hugely important consideration which is around real time relevance. 

Broadcasters have long delivered the gold standard in reacting to events quickly through 24 hour news studios and a legion of staff. Some big brands have sought to replicate their success through the use of newsrooms and permanent infrastructure of their own and it is this approach which has led to some famous social media coups such as Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet, an example that needs no further explanation from us.

Such high profile marketing success stories have led many brands to think that to play in this arena they too need 24 hour newsroom set ups. But that is not the case. The more cost effective way is to PLAN your SPONTANEOUSLY REACTIVE newsroom to be ready at times most relevant to your audience.

This is the approach we took for BBC Two’s popular returning series of The Choir with Gareth Malone. We wanted to amplify the excitement and sense of anticipation around the show. So while everyone was settling down to watch the first episode, we assembled a group of BBC singers; and as people took to Twitter to discuss the show, we were ready to join in the conversation, chorally.

7. Play to your platform 

It is important to flex your approach to content by platform in terms of both how people use the platforms as well as its peculiarities in terms of time lengths, navigation and audio. 

On Facebook, for example, about half of people watch video with the sound off while the other half watch it with the sound on. While on YouTube, audiences can click away after five seconds, so really you have about three seconds to hook them in enough to stop them skipping your film.

With our work for Hyundai, which was going to appear on Facebook and YouTube, we needed to grab people’s attention very quickly and visually. We did that by creating narrative dissonance, a gap in the story that audiences are compelled to fill…by watching on.  The very first frame of one of the films shows a man flat out on the floor with the line ‘You’re going to prison’, raising all sorts of questions that our brains want answered.

So there you have it. Social video. Cracked.

Kath Hipwell, Head of Content Strategy, Creative