Welcome to Part 5 of our ongoing Social Video Blueprint series. In the last three installments, we’ve looked at how social video differs from traditional video advertising campaigns. Content is valued over ads, views are valued over impressions, and shares carry more weight than clicks. Now that we’ve set forth a definition of what social video campaigns are all about, it’s time to take a look at some case studies and examples where brands have made the most of the social and sharing opportunities online video can afford. After all, you can’t get where you want to go with social video marketing unless you take a look at those who have gone before you. 

sharethrough social video advertisingThis post was made possible by Sharethrough, the social video distribution platform that offers guaranteed viewership and maximized sharing for branded video content. Sharethrough distributes brand videos in user-initiated content placements across the social web and & optimizes brand video performance against social engagements, including Likes, Shares, Comments and more. Click here to learn more about their distribution platform and see past campaigns.

Multiple Paths To Social Video Success

There are a number of ways to succeed with social video. The goal with any such campaign is to engage the audience in a more long-term and meaningful way, and to get the audience involved in sharing the message of the campaign through various social media outlets.

Motivating video viewers to share a clip–whether we’re talking about a branded video ad or a simple cute-cat video–is all about giving them the right psychological share motivation. That’s really just a fancy way to say you have to give the viewer an emotional experience with your video if you have any hope of seeing them spread the word.

Users have proven that a video’s creator has little impact on their willingness to share. They don’t care if it comes from Pepsi or from an amateur YouTube star. Audiences just want to laugh… to cry… to be shocked… or to be otherwise entertained.

Because online video is so diverse and powerful, there are countless ways to do this. Today we’ll take a look at several successful branded social video campaigns from recent months and attempt to determine what they did right and how they achieved that psychological share motivation with viewers.

Social Video Success With Interactive Video

Interactive video is the next big frontier for social video marketing, because it allows direct interaction between the consumer and the ad. This is typically done in the form of either a custom YouTube page–where the entire page is actually a customized Flash animation–or with annotations the viewer can click to impact the story.

New Zealand’s pizza chain, Hell Pizza, scored a major marketing coup with their “Interactive Zombie Adventure – Deliver Me To Hell,” where viewers were able to impact the apocalyptic story line like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. (WARNING: It’s about zombies… so there’s a little violence and gore involved):

The video has over 4 million views and 133,528 shares.

Google scored a social video hit with their custom YouTube video game created to promote the Nexus S phone. Instead of asking viewers to watch a boring mobile device commercial, they created a working (and challenging) puzzle-based video game on YouTube. It was far more memorable and far more buzz-worthy with the fans.

You can play the game here.

Social Video Success With Video Techniques

One great way to get attention with an online video is to use one of the many popular film techniques besides live-action. There are several techniques that are extremely popular with viewers because of their unique visual flair. Savvy brands are beginning to move beyond live-action video campaigns, instead creating content that is eye-catching and even downright mesmerizing.

Like Lego, who took advantage of stop-motion techniques to create the Lego Brick Thief video:


That video has 1.2 million views, and 38,424 shares (according to the Viral Video Chart at Unruly Media)

TPS Film Studio in Europe scored a huge social video hit with their “Kitten in Slow Motion” video. The concept is about as simple as it gets: film a cat playing, but do it using one of the highest quality high-speed cameras available. Then… slow down the footage:


Music festival, Coachella, made use of two camera techniques in one when they created “Coachella 2010.” Combining the tilt-shift effect with a time-lapse treatment, the result was a gripping and very entertaining glimpse at the festival’s size and scope.

Social Video Success With Hoaxes

Some brands are faking it to make it. An emerging trend in social video marketing is the use of fake or staged footage. Typically, these kinds of videos show off some kind of unbelievable act or sight. This leads to controversy among viewers who wonder if what they’ve just seen is real or fake. Which, of course, only leads them to share the clip with friends so they can get their opinion on the video’s authenticity.

Gillette also went the fake-out route, making Roger Federer appear even more accurate with a tennis ball than we thought (scoring 8 million views and 546,031 shares):

It’s not just huge brands getting in on the hoax action. Even a smaller company can find social video success with this approach, as evidenced by Head Blade’s “The Shaving Helmet” hoax. It grabbed over a million views:

Social Video Success With Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity endorsements have been a staple of traditional advertising for years. Advertisers love luring new customers by utilizing the presence of a major popular star. And while social video is all about moving away from traditional commercials toward more original entertainment content, celebrities are still a huge part of the mix.

Of course, this is not your average celebrity endorsement, where the actress simply states how much she likes the product. Smart Water also made sure to increase their video’s share potential by making reference to several previous viral sensations. They even included guest appearances from YouTube stars like lip-sync phenom Kennan Cahill and the Double Rainbow guy.

In the end, viewers helped propel this video to 10 million views on YouTube alone. Unruly Media’s Viral Video Chart shows that the ad garnered over 150,000 shares. Here’s the breakdown of social activity around the video:

  • 131,348 Facebook shares
  • 17,627 tweets
  • 1,215 blog posts

Compare that to a video Smart Water put on YouTube a year ago, which uses product placement for the brand in the background of a workout-related video:

That video has around 20,000 views–which many companies would kill for. But you can clearly see that Smart Water is evolving their online video ad strategies, moving more toward content that entertains first and sells second.

Social Video Success With Custom Videos

I can’t publish an article on social video case studies without talking about Old Spice. The company has been in the spotlight of online video advertising since last summer, when they used pitchman Isaiah Mustafa to create a series of wacky (and manly) commercials. Then, in June of 2010, they used the popularity of the original ads to drive huge brand awareness with a day of custom-made videos.

Mustafa spent an entire day creating videos for individuals and companies on the web. He made a custom video for Perez Hilton. He made several for the Reddit community. He even proposed marriage for one commenter who requested it. In the end, the brand owned the day… the week… and the entire 2010 calendar year in online video marketing.

And they did it by inverting the traditional advertising approach, which says you create one message that can speak to as many viewers as possible. Rather than stick to that method, Old Spice went the opposite route, creating many videos that speak to a handful of viewers.

Here’s the custom-made video for Perez Hilton, which grabbed over 2 million views:

And here’s the proposal video, which ended up with 1.5 million views:

Old Spice is a brand that’s demonstrated a willingness to think outside the box for years. You might remember this Bruce Campbell ad from four years ago, which was already displaying the company’s penchant for the bizarre:

If you still need proof that Old Spice is the king of social video campaigns, check out this search results page from the Viral Video Chart and see how many different campaigns the brand has had with massive sharing activity:


For your video campaign to have social success, it’s got to move the audience… motivating them to share through an emotional involvement. Thankfully for brands, there are thousands of ways to do this. The chief thing to keep in mind is that audiences are rewarding the brands that do less traditional selling and more original content.

You can make them laugh or cry. You can make them angry or happy. Just make them feel something. When you do, the chances for sharing behavior increase dramatically, putting your brand on the path to social video success.

Join us next week for Part 6, when our topic will be Social Video Strategies, where we’ll look at some of the distribution and marketing techniques and tricks that brands are using to help propel social video campaigns to greater success.

If you’ve missed any articles in our Social Video Blueprint series, you can catch up below: