Five Content Marketing Lessons for Video

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Vanessa Pappas, Global Head of Audience Development for YouTube
Vanessa Pappas, Global Head of Audience Development for YouTube

Creating content on YouTube can seem a lot like playing the lottery. It's something many people do, yet few hit it big—a.k.a. virality. However, as Vanessa Pappas knows, producing online video doesn't have to be a gamble, nor does virality have to be the sole winning metric.  

“You're not looking to build one-off virality,” says Pappas, global head of audience development for YouTube. “You want people to come back and subscribe to your content.”

According to Pappas and YouTube's recent Creator Playbook--released at the end of March--an effective YouTube strategy includes content that is authentic, programmatic, and sharable. And when done correctly, this content can drive brand engagement and loyalty. Here are five ways marketers can integrate these video elements, along with a few others, into their content marketing strategies to drive rich results.

Take a good look at yourself

When creating a content marketing strategy, marketers should start by identifying their brand's value proposition, how they differ from their competitors, and who their target audience is, Pappas says. These initial steps will help marketers focus their messaging when producing content, she explains.

Be authentic

Unlike television or film, YouTube provides a platform on which brands can interact with consumers to drive engagement and loyalty. The best way to generate interaction, according to Pappas, is through authentic dialogue, such as in the form of comments or creative.

“People want to connect with something. It's a personal medium,” she says. “You're sitting in front of your computer, mobile [device], or tablet device, you're watching something, and you're having a conversation with it.”

Dove is one brand that exemplifies this authenticity, Pappas notes. The personal care brand's video “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” not only drove close to 62.7 million views, but it also evoked an emotional response that generated discussion, she says. “People realized that authenticity and wanted to share it with their friends and family and build that into the conversation,” Pappas says. “It became a piece of conversational media. It wasn't just an ad anymore.”

Brands should also be willing to interact with each other through collaborations, she notes. Cross-promoting with companies that share similar audiences can help brands expand their reach. 

Be programmatic

When it comes to YouTube, marketers should think like a broadcast network and have an “always-on” approach, Pappas advises. Posting a random video with the hopes of it going viral won't keep people coming back for more content, she says. But uploading content regularly will drive more views in the long run. So, Pappas recommends creating a production schedule that features three types of content: hero, hygiene, and hub.

Hero: Big brand pushes like campaign or product launches are what Pappas refers to as “hero” content. Red Bull Stratos's free fall—a video that generated more than eight million concurrent live streams on YouTube—is a classic example. Instead of simply posting the video the day of the event, marketers must build momentum and upload content leading up to the launch, Pappas says. In Red Bull's case, the brand uploaded content throughout the entire free-fall training process, including interviews with base jumper Felix Baumgartner, clips of his other top falls, and videos of test jumps.

Hygiene: Hygiene content, according to Pappas, consists of videos used to drive discoverability. Given that YouTube is one of the Internet's top search engines, marketers should design their hygiene content to be educational and to answer specific search inquiries. Samsung videos demonstrating a new phone's capabilities—such as “Introducing Samsung GALAXY S4,” which generated about 17.7 million views—are prime examples, Pappas says. Videos on how to tie a tie or makeup tutorials are also good models.

Hub: Hub content is what Pappas describes as “episodic” content. This type of content is scheduled regularly, she says, and conveys more of a narrative. These videos provide insight into a brand's personality and give viewers a reason to subscribe to its channels, according to the playbook. For instance, car company Land Rover USA launched a YouTube series that documents travel filmmaker Peter Bragiel's road trip, while portraying the capabilities of the Land Rover LR4. The first episode has close to 73,000 views.

“If you're putting out a new commercial or ad for a specific launch, you're not going to want to do that as a one-off,” Pappas says. “You want to do it as building on top of the channel base that you've already spent time [on] and invested into.”

Be sharable

Consumers like brands that are in-the-know. So producing videos that capitalize on topical or pop-culture trends can be an effective way to drive subscribers and get consumers to return to a brand's channel, Pappas says. For example, Sesame Street's did its own take of “Call Me Maybe” in July 2012 by producing a video in which Cookie Monster sings “Share it Maybe.” The video has generated about 16.3 million views to date.

Measure more than just views

Having a video go viral is every marketer's dream. However, Pappas says that there's more to measure than just views. The number of subscribers and the number of viewers that marketers are able to convert to subscribers are also important metrics, she says. In addition, measuring audience retention rate during a video can help marketers pinpoint where consumers drop off, she says, and ultimately, help adjust their marketing. 

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