These are truly exciting times for marketers. With 4 billion connected consumers willing to share branded content, there has never been a better time for a brand to invest in creating and distributing content that causes people to laugh out loud, tingle with anticipation or feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand on end.

Social video advertising campaigns generated more than 8 billion user-initiated views in 2011. This figure is set to double in 2012 as more brands invest larger shares of budget in a format that delivers engaged audiences, starts authentic conversations and creates opportunities for advocacy and earned media.

However, as with any relatively new and innovative form of marketing, there are many questions to be answered and many myths to be dispelled. Here we separate the facts from the fiction.

Myth #1: Social Video is a Fad

Think social video is just the latest, shiny new thing that will be tossed away as soon as the next ‘big thing’ arrives? Think brands are better off sticking to the same tried-and-trusted marketing methods? Think again

Social video is fundamentally changing the rules of advertising. Long gone are the days when all an advertiser would need to do is buy the airtime, create the spot and blast it out to a captive audience. Today consumers pick and choose what they watch with a nonchalant flick of their DVR remote.

Advertising has changed from a 30-second slot you avoid on TV to a piece of video content which you’re willing to share with your friends online.

And share they are – in their millions. According to data collected by Unruly’s Viral Video Chart, shares of video ads over the last 12 months have increased ninefold to a staggering 1.1 billion – a rise which far exceeds the increases in Twitter and Facebook users.

People’s attitudes to advertising has changed forever. Far from passive, consumers now actively search for content to post and discuss with their peers.

Myth #2: Predicting Social Video Success is Impossible

Recent research has found the number of shares a video attracts – commercial or not – is linked to the strength of emotion it elicits from its viewers. The stronger the emotion, the more likely it is going to be shared.

So by measuring the level of emotions people feel while watching an advert, and comparing it to the number of shares it attracted, we can predict a video’s shareability before it is even launched.

At Unruly, we have come up with the Social Video Meter, which ranks a video from 1-10. The higher the ranking, the more likely it will become a success. The average score is 5, so brands still have a lot of work to do to get their ranking higher. And it is worth it. For every point, there is a 39% increase in the possibility of the video being shared.

Myth #3: Keep Branding Discreet

Research carried out by a University in Australia found that the number of times a brand appears visually or verbally in a commercial has little or no impact on its popularity online.

The study, led by Dr Karen Nelson-Field and her team at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, used data from Unruly’s Viral Video Chart and compared non-branded content 400 of the most shared commercial videos of all time.

The result? People share commercial videos with their friends for the same reasons they share non-commercial clips.

Myth #4: Surprise but Don’t Shock

Advertising videos are nearly always keyed towards positive messages but some of the most powerful branded videos can harness the power of negative emotions such as shock and anger.

Public bodies and charities can use these emotions to great effect – think about public safety videos such as Embrace Life and Dear 16-Year-Old Me, designed to shock people into wearing seat-belts or using sun cream.

Shocking videos are sharable and the right brand, targeting the right audience, can harness this power.

Myth #5: Social Video Doesn’t Deliver ROI

So your video has over a million shares, so what? Well, a recent study by research company Decipher and Unruly found that viewers are far more likely to recall a brand name and engage with an ad’s message if it has been recommended to them.

In fact, brand favorability and brand association rose by 57% for consumers who had viewed the ad after receiving it from a peer.

There was also a 14% increase in the number of people who said they enjoyed the video following a recommendation versus those who had discovered it by browsing. Those who enjoyed a video were 109% more likely to purchase the product featured in the video.

You only need to look at the top of the Viral Video Chart to see how success can impact sales. Nike’s Write The Future (15th) resulted in a 7% global sales increase when it was launched in 2010, while Volkswagen’s The Force saw sales of the new Passat increase by 116%.

EXTRA Myth #6: TV has it covered

The advertising landscape has changed. According to research carried out by Unruly and Decipher, trust in traditional media channels is waning, while social networks, blogs and friend’s recommendations are now the key influences when it comes to purchasing decisions.

It is something advertisers are starting to pick up on. A study carried out this year by research company Advertiser Perceptions found that almost three-quarters of brands and agencies plan to migrate some of their TV ad budgets across to digital video over the next 12 months.

It proves social video advertising is no longer the nerdy TV sidekick, but one worthy of equal billing.