How to Create Awesome Video Content with 'Reel' Video Marketer - Margaret Laney [Interview]

When I asked the powers that be at Tubular for people they have worked with who could share some great insights with the ReelSEO audience, Margaret Laney was on the top of that list. If you haven’t heard of her before, she was most recently the CMO of AwesomenessTV, helping lead their charge in the digital revolution. Margaret was an absolute delight to talk to and hopefully her tips and experiences can help shed some light on the way you’ve been approaching video marketing.

ReelSEO: Based on your experience at Awesomeness TV, what does it really take to succeed in online video?

margaret laneyMargaret Laney: You have to start smack dab in the middle of your phone or screen, which is the content itself. YouTube is a platform to entertain, captivate, surprise and delight people. People go to YouTube to search for something so having a consistent voice and making good content goes a long way.

It’s such a crowded space so if you’re a small business you need to think about your mission and what the story is you want to tell. Then think of the simplest way you can do that through video. Keep it to one objective for what you want your video strategy to be and then be as consistent as possible but be open to change. I’m a big fan of experimentation on the platform, but if you’re going to test things out, make sure you’re measuring them.

Let’s say somebody has that great content, what’s next?

ML: Have a regular schedule, but that’s a no-brainer thing. Optimize your thumbnail and your content for search. How you tag and title your video is very important. It can really help to go into the Google AdWords tool and putz around in there and really see what is competitive, what searches are happening around what terms and try and pick things you can rank on.

The YouTube algorithm currently favors more recent content, so use that to help drive views through SEO in smaller less competitive categories that make sense for the overall video goals you have in your strategy.

I was always a stickler on the design of the thumbnail and how that content was represented in the actual video. If the color or branding of my channel is green, how can I include that in the thumbnail? Don’t overwhelm the thumbnail with text, but you still have to have something that pops off the screen and be a thumbnail that makes me want to click on it. Take the time in Photoshop to make a beautiful thumbnail, then size it down to see what it looks like on a small screen and do that a lot. That’s your billboard, but it could be one of the most important aspects to getting more views. Take a least an hour to play around with and experiment with different thumbnails. Get opinions from your friends and fans on how they feel about your thumbnail and let that be part of your branding.

What was it like to be a part of the launch of AwesomenessTV and see how it has impacted the industry?

ML: It was and is amazing. I feel incredibly thankful to be a part of what feels like the beginning of this video revolution. Brian Robbins really was the guy who single-handedly began to bridge the gap between digital media, traditional YouTube influencer creators and that happened back in 2007-08 with the Fred Figglehorn movie. He saw a vision for how old and new media was woven together.

In terms of the YouTube revolution, the way that we thought about our network and grow our network as a supportive network of content creators really helped us achieve escape velocity very early. It was an incredibly powerful experience but no matter what Brian really understood, and this is the culture at AwesomenessTV, that the buck stops with the talent. You aren’t going to make great content without great talent to put in it.

My background as an actor, I’ve always really connected with YouTube talent. I was fortunate to work with Freddiew, Dane Boedigheimer, iJustine, and Meghan and Liz and the artistic process for a YouTuber, which is, in essence, running a small business in addition to being artistic. I think Brian always got that and I always got that, because we shared that acting background and an entrepreneurial background. I think that was really lovely to be able to start a company where the mission statement was to really put talent first.

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I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it, the company just continues to grow with Dreamworks and we’ve taken this thing off of the ground, it’s thrilling.

With all of the content you’ve helped produce, is viral content something you can manufacture or is that even a goal at all?

ML: In the earlier days when YouTube had a home page and you could drive content on to the home page there was a certainly a methodology to it, but I think in today’s YouTube platform it really is content is king. If something goes viral it is surprising and delighting and that can be negative even, but it will still capture your attention in a way. It is a little bit like lightning in a bottle because it’s a crowded space, but there is only room at the top for the cream.

I don’t think you can really engineer viral content in the same way anymore. Part of the reason I moved away from YouTube was the repetitiveness of mid-tier YouTube content, but I now look at the quality of content being infused into YouTube and it’s very exciting.

"In the next 5 years I expect YouTube to really increase in the amount of premium content and I think that’s great".

Along those lines, what trends do you think will help in that growth in the next 5 years that video marketers could leverage?

ML: Transactional will continue in the sense that people will be willing to pay for content, whether that’s on YouTube or not. YouTube really has been on an amazing run, but now it is getting attacked. The platform is being attacked from all angles whether that is Vessel, Facebook, Snapchat or Vimeo there are so many players the search giant is having to grapple with and as people gravitate towards premium content and as huge influencers who aren’t monetizing in the way they want to on YouTube discover that there are other platforms that will help them monetize more, I predict that there will be a diversification of talent across all platforms. YouTube will still be the great place where talent rises, but there are a lot of other video platforms that are vying for eyeballs so it is great healthy competition.

So video marketers should think about YouTube, think about the influencers there, but really think holistically about how video strategy on whatever platform you’re working on helps you to achieve your objective. The video marketers who understand how to blend platforms together employ influencers that fit brands and content that’s the real artistry of video marketers, agencies and chief marketing officers. IT really is how are you thinking about multiple platforms and objectives and how are you weaving a marketing tapestry of what your campaign looks like.

"I also expect Snapchat to have explosive growth in the next 5 years, so that’s a platform people should be paying attention to".

So given that prediction, do marketers really need a home base on YouTube is it is time to branch out into other platforms?

ML: That all depends on where they are starting. If you are making video content, YouTube is a great place to start if you are a brand. But if you are a small business, YouTube is really the entertainment space, so be prepared to be competitive doing that.

You can start small before committing to YouTube. Gaining traction on YouTube takes a lot of dedication and effort. So I think people looking to get into video content can now do things like get into short form Instagram that really blends video and photo together in one feed. If you can master a video syndication strategy on Instagram then you can graduate to YouTube and then repurpose that content either on YouTube or another site and see what performs the best. Let your platform distribution strategy be malleable enough so as the content shifts and grows your platform distribution schedule can also be altered.

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Start small, be consistent and let it naturally grow. Commit to it and if you’re not getting any traction, change the strategy and then be consistent again. Just keep doing it, keep pushing, be honest with yourself and seek feedback. Fans like it when you are humble and when people don’t like something, take that feedback and be bold with your strategies. When you are small, audiences are much more forgiving.

I think now more than ever, you can slice and dice data, like with Tubular on YouTube and you can find and target your audiences easier than ever before. A lot of companies now have data scientists that really help give them the best information about what they are trying to achieve. If you use the tools and study the analytics you can get the best insights so don’t be afraid to use some of your budget to try out different platforms to help you capture those analytics.

Aside from making great content, what’s the biggest tip you have for maintaining your audience?

ML: Cross promote yourself to other similar audiences. You have to be humble and treat your audience with respect but continue to evolve and that requires change. Keep pushing on and staying in front of the crashing wave that is this incredible digital revolution.

"Above all else be authentic and if you can identify one or two things that are causing your growth, double and triple down on doing those things".

What are you currently working on?

ML: I’m currently working on a startup called mytable. It’s a marketplace and delivery service for home cooked meals. Instead of ordering from an on-demand delivery service that brings food from restaurants to one’s house, we are building a service where a private chef can cook whatever they want to out of their home kitchen and people can buy what they are offering.

Are you using YouTube at all to help promote the new startup?

ML: Absolutely. We’re doing a series based on the idea that every meal has a story. So far we’ve shot 4 videos that will end up being around 1-2 minute profiles on our Chefs. The chef we just interviewed yesterday taught himself to cook working his way up the restaurant chain in D.C. He’s from the inner city in D.C. and was given these amazing opportunities to become a chef. He was on season 1 of Top Chef, he’s a true rags to riches story.

We’re also focusing on another of our vegan chefs, we have stay at home moms that learned to cook from home from the Food Network so we’re really highlighting our chefs, almost like YouTube stars in a sense, and give them the tools to market themselves and build a content strategy around them. I think what’s so powerful about this platform is that you’re keeping your money within the community and you support a local chef who lives down the street rather than a bigger chain restaurant like McDonald's. And then there will be video within the app itself, so you can play one of these chefs’ videos. So it’s a huge part of this startup strategy, especially because we’re in LA and my background is in content strategy. When you’re selling emotion, which is ultimately what you’re doing when you’re selling a home cooked meal made from the heart, I think it’s very synergistic having video content being a massive driver to point of purchase.

For our new series for My Table, we have a format in mind, it’s short and snappy with a call to action at the end that the entire video builds up to and we think people are going to respond. It’s really important to engage with your viewers and let the content naturally evolve. When you’re first starting out this is the most important part of YouTube because your audience will guide you.

We'd like to thank Margaret for her awesome insights into the industry.

LA based ReelSEO readers are invited to attend an exclusive private beta for mytable.  Send an e-mail to Margaret at [email protected] for a private download link.