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5 social video myths dispelled

There is a strong temptation to treat anything touted as "new and exciting" with world-weary suspicion. In the fickle world of advertising, advancements in digital technology, evolving habits of media consumption, and increasing demands from both the consumer and client mean "the next big thing" can very quickly become yesterday's news. The latest new kid on the adland block is social video.

The idea that brands can create video content designed to be consumed and shared on the social web has won itself an army of admirers. Every day more brands move past the interruptive model of pre-roll and toward a broader, more engaging strategy that includes longer clips using units with built-in sharing capabilities -- so much so that global spending on social video campaigns is expected to hit $10 billion by 2015. However, as with any relatively new and innovative form of marketing, there are many questions to answer and myths to dispel.

Myth 1: Pre-roll is just as effective as social video

Dealing with pre-roll ads has become an everyday chore for internet users. You want to see the funny video of "Shakespeare Cat," or catch up on the latest episode of your favorite TV show you missed when your boss made you stay late, so you accept the five-second, poorly edited TV commercial for toilet cleaner.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Rather than hijacking other people's content, social video advertising instead puts the emphasis on the advertiser to come up with a piece of content that consumers choose to watch and share with their networks.

The result? According to a study done by research firm MetrixLab, which tested a commercial for a well-known consumer tech brand, social video ad viewers are more likely to buy a product and recall a brand's message than those who viewed the same clip as a pre-roll, resulting in higher purchase intent.

The key findings were as follows:

  • There was an uplift of 28 percent in likelihood to purchase among social video viewers vs. those who watched the clip through pre-roll.

  • Of those who had seen pre-roll ads, 94 percent had skipped them, and 52 percent said they did so frequently.

  • More social video viewers understood the ad's three key messages vs. the pre-roll viewers (83 percent vs. 77 percent, 64 percent vs. 62 percent, and 71 percent vs. 65 percent).

  • 39 percent more respondents who watched the ad through social video were likely to share the clip than those exposed to pre-roll.

Myth 2: Mobile viewers are less engaged

With everyone leading such hectic lives, it's no wonder that connectivity on the go with smartphones and tablets is skyrocketing. But just because mobile users are moving quickly doesn't mean they aren't interested in engaging with social video advertising. A new report from Videology shows that video ads are soaring, but only 5 percent are mobile. In fact, 92 percent of ads are still served on desktops -- with only 5 percent on mobile and 3 percent on connected television.

Myth 3: Facebook and YouTube have it covered

So your brand spent years cultivating Facebook and YouTube subscribers. All you need to do now is fire out your video across these networks and watch the numbers go up. Job done, right? Well, no, actually.

For starters, with more than 72 hours of video added to YouTube every 60 seconds, trying to find your video is like the marketing equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. Also, due to Facebook's controversial algorithm, EdgeRank, only a small percentage of your Facebook fans will actually see your updates organically. Engagement rates on brand pages currently stand at just 1.4 percent.

These stats make it more apparent than ever that budget needs to be spent to get that video seen by the right audience. But which audiences do you target? Well, according to a survey carried out by Dr. Karen Nelson-Field, at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science, talking to your Facebook fans has a limited impact on sales because you are already preaching to the converted. Brand growth comes from targeting those who don't normally buy your products.

It's necessary to supplement owned media activities with earned and paid media by targeting bloggers and publications. According to a recent survey by Technorati Media, blog mentions were found to be third most influential (31 percent) for consumers when making overall purchases -- right behind retail sites (56 percent) and brand sites (34 percent).

Social video advertising uses paid distribution to ensure that content is visible and easily sharable on blogs, social networks, established websites, social hubs, and mobile apps. In other words, we're talking about native content environments, where people are already discovering, watching, and sharing video content.

Myth 4: Social video success is hard to predict

Think it's impossible to predict the next social video sensation? Discovering what drives people to share a piece of video content is not as difficult or as random as you might think. First of all, big data has given us the technological horsepower to be able to run regression analysis and benchmark social success across multiple campaigns.

And secondly, academic research has used robust and defensible methodologies to show that the social success of video content is not "black magic." It is based on identifiable and measurable metrics including social motivation, emotional arousal, and content triggers. Furthermore, advancements in biometric testing make it possible to see deeper than ever before into how people respond psychologically to video content.

Myth 5: Social video doesn't deliver ROI

We all know that the bottom line is not how many shares your video attracts but the number of sales it helps to generate.

You only need to look at the most popular viral videos produced by brands to see how social video success can have a big impact on a company's financial results. Nike's "Write The Future" (the 19th most shared ad of all time) resulted in a reported 7 percent global sales increase when it launched in 2010, while Volkswagen's "The Force" (the most shared ad of all time) saw sales of the new Passat increase by 116 percent.

Social video as a means of advertising has proven to be effective in both converting customers and spreading brand awareness. So don't believe the rumors; social video works, and it's here to stay.

David Waterhouse is head of content at Unruly.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

David Waterhouse is Head of Content at video technology company Unruly. He joined Unruly's London office three years ago and is editor of the Viral Video Chart and the Unruly blog, where he writes about current advertising trends. Before joining...

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