"Earned media," loosely defined as messages passed along by consumers as the result of ad exposure, is perhaps the most coveted and sought-after online media action. It is a demonstration of creative success, a validation of strategy, and, most importantly, it's free.
Earned media, however, is inconsistent and famously difficult to value. This disparity has given rise to a new type of advertising, known as social video. Social video ad campaigns enable people to opt-in, rather than interrupting them. Viewers select the videos on their own in return for virtual goods or currency, and advertisers pay for views on a performance basis.
Social video campaigns don't need to "go viral" in order to succeed. They deliver tangible, consistent earned media value on their own in the form of sharing, Facebook page visits, etc.
To put a value on this activity, my company recently completed a study that analyzed over 7.9 million social video views for brands across a number of vertical categories, such as CPG, health and beauty, sports, technology, and luxury goods.
The videos themselves were nothing special, just standard ads that ranged from 15 seconds to three minutes-long. But serving them in a non-interruptive social environment made a tremendous difference.
According to the study, the average social video campaign delivered an astounding 30.1 percent of additional media value above-and-beyond the media spend. In other words, clients that spent $100,000 on a social video campaign in 2011 received over $130,000 of value on average.
To arrive at these figures, we analyzed a series of earned media actions, including Facebook page visits, brand website visits, store locator usage, coupon and recipe downloads, Tweets, e-mail shares, replays, and clicks to watch more videos. Importantly, all of this activity measured by the study was generated after users received their virtual rewards.
We then placed a monetary value on each action based on conservative industry data. A visit to a brand's Facebook page for instance, was valued at $1.00 in the study, which is on the low end of pricing for cost-per-click advertising.
Facebook page visits were by far the most popular earned media action, representing 62 percent of all post-view activity. Brand-specific actions, such as store locator usage, brand page visits, etc., were the next most popular actions, accounting for 15 percent of the post-view activity. Surprisingly, Tweets were the least popular action, representing approximately one percent of the post-view activity.
There is no mystery about how these results were achieved. In fact, it's rather intuitive. When you treat people respectfully and you don't interrupt them, they reward you with high completion rates (95 percent of social video viewers watch 30-second videos to completion) and brisk earned media activity.
Now, not every social video practitioner views the space the way that we do. Some companies still believe in the viral model, and they rely on relationships with Twitter superstars or bloggers for their distribution. To us, however, social video is paid media, plain and simple. You don't need bleeding-edge creative to gain an audience, and the onus is on the distributor to produce results, every time. This isn't about viral explosions or social fire; it's about mass reach, pinpoint targeting, and consistent, measureable ROI.
Following are the key elements that comprise a successful social video campaign.
Running on sites that over-index against a certain demographic is not targeting. The latest technology identifies each viewer by age, gender, and geography and then serves content that's relevant to them.
Videos that are placed on the wrong sites will not drive results. Advertisers absolutely have the right to see where their views are coming from, and they should demand site-level reporting every time they run video.
Virtual goods and currency are a vital part of the social media experience for hundreds of millions of people. Enabling people to earn virtual points in exchange for spending time with a brand engenders positive interactions for the advertiser and the viewer.
Advanced sharing tools make it easy for viewers to take action. Having the right toolset in place is key to driving earned media results.
Earned media is no longer a viral fantasy; it's now a viable paid-media strategy that consistently delivers measurable value. Social video picks-up where the viral video dream left off, and when it's done correctly, the medium enables everyday brands to enjoy the benefits of earned media in a transparent and tangible way.
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"Social media, communication in the global computer networks" image via Shutterstock.