What Makes for Social Video and Do Creative Agencies Get It?

What Makes for Social Video and Do Creative Agencies Get It?

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What do companies mean exactly when they say they do “social video?” Is it just about creating a video that’s creative and entertaining, and placing your video on social networks? Or do you need to be doing a lot more? I explore some of the arguments being made about what makes a video for business truly “social,” and throw my own strong opinions into the pot.

Are Agencies Wrong to Treat “Social Video” Like Movie Ads?

Last week I read an article on MediaPost’s Video Insider column, “Getting The Most From Your Social Video.” The article’s author is Corey Weiner, Media Director of Jun Group, which refers to themselves as a “social video company.” Corey started off his article by saying his company has run hundreds of social video campaigns for major brands over the past five years.

Here are some of his statements on doing social video that I found myself in general agreement with:

  • “A successful social video strategy… must consider the creative, the placement, and the distribution simultaneously. Where and how the video is displayed says as much about the brand as the video itself.”
  • “The goal is viewer engagement, not just ad impressions.”
  • “Speak to your audience, not just yourself.”
  • “Openly promote the brand, but respect the culture… we feel the brand should be prominently placed;” and the brand “can be the hero without being an interruption.”
  • “The approach should be: entertain first, advertise second… the viewer should feel rewarded for his or her selection.”

Then he compared social video to movie theater ads:

  • “The medium is closer to movie theatre ads, where the audience is looking forward to a laugh, or to seeing a big star, or special effects.”
  • “Leverage stars, celebs, and big names if you got them… just be sure the star is current, and that he or she is popular with the consumers that you want to reach” and “its important to provide a script that your talent can pull off.”
  • “Use special effects… anything that creates a ‘wow’ factor will help generate interest.”
  • “Made it edgy, dramatic, shocking, or otherwise memorable… if it’s brand-appropriate, edgy content usually has a strong appeal.”

But can you really argue that all you need is a creative, entertaining video on a social platform and network like YouTube, and you can then say you do “social video?” There are other issues I have as well with Corey’s article:

  • He only goes into the creative aspect, and only on the enterprise/big-brand level. Nothing appears to be offered as something obtainable for SMBs to achieve. (We already know that that big differences in budgets and resources require a clear differentiation in strategies. How helpful really are your social video tips if you’re leaving out over 99% of the business doing it, or want to do it?)
  • He only pays lip service to the placement aspect, without talking about how to get involved in the social networking (i.e., distribution) part. He infers that all you need to do is simply create a video that’s really entertaining, people will want to share it everywhere and with everyone. (In other words, just expect them to do all of that for you.)
  • He doesn’t provide any actual examples of “viewer engagement;” isn’t that supposed to be the hallmark of what make for a social video?

Now I do understand that many agencies like the Jun Group target medium-to-big brand clientele. But to define social video for everyone based solely on what you do with big brand ad campaigns and not make any distinction with all other businesses really misses the point of what social video should be about – real engagement with real people. (You can check out the article for our back-and-forth in the comments section for more on that.)

Corey’s article is symptomatic of how social video is being perceived by a lot of agencies and big brands around what they still seem to want to relate to – tired, traditional marketing around ads. I got news for you guys: Don Draper is Dead.

Are Agencies Wrong to Treat Social Video Like TV Commercials?

Was I too harsh with my response? I decided it would only be fair that I talk with another creative agency, one who’s CEO gets social media, and who’s own client list also includes many big brands. David Murdico is the Executive Creative Director & Partner for Supercool Creative, and a guest contributor to ReelSEO. Supercool defines themselves as a creative agency specializing in online video creative and production, viral marketing, video seeding, integrated social media campaigns, viral videos, branded entertainment and webisodes. Their own tagline is “Online Video + Social Media Marketing.”

Below is an example of their work on T-Mobile’s Valentine’s Day Promotion featuring Khloe Kardashian. They worked with T-Mobile’s PR agency and the T-Mobile marketing team to plan and develop the creative, do the shooting, and the post-production work for the final video.

I was informed by David that Khloe contributed a great deal to the social aspects of the campaign through Facebook posts, Tweets and appearing on several morning TV shows to discuss the T-Mobile promotion. She also posted the video on her own blog. She also mentioned the video on Facebook, Twitter and lots of people commented on Facebook and retweeted.

Now I first should qualify myself: I am not the targeted demographic for this campaign. I realize that this is meant to appeal to teenage girls, and not someone like myself who finds watching Khloe Kardashian to be an unpleasant experience.

So does this make for a better social video campaign? Here’s my take: It’s good that Khloe was active in promoting and sharing her video to her fans on her social networking profiles (although it’s unclear if she was under contract to do so). But I actually think the video itself is not a social video. Here’s why:

  • They tried to make the video seem like a real-life situation, but it’s was clearly faked.
  • Klhoe’s preview video announcement is just a 10-second announcement and promo (for this same video ad).

So what does the audience watching the video have to say about it? You can read for yourself the highest rated comments and all on the YouTube video – many people there are dissing on it. (Ironically, the ad campaign seems to have backfired somewhat with complaints from customers who had paid for a phone from T-Mobile before this special). I’m not saying this campaign won’t be successful. I’m just saying that these elements are too negative for me to call this a “social video.”

David was courteous in acknowledging my point about Corey Weiner’s article. Here’s part of what he said:

Calling a video a ‘social video’ does beg more information regarding what exactly makes that video social as opposed to any other viral or marketing video. Is there a certain call to action that sparks Facebook conversation or a specific interactive element that encourages sharing?

David also added that creative agencies like the Jun Group say they’re doing “social video” because they’re including a social media platform (like YouTube or Facebook) for their distribution. “However, placement can be done with any video, even repurposed TV ads.” He says.

By that standard, wouldn’t then any television commercial put up on YouTube have to be treated as “social video?”  I think some agencies like the Jun Group are distorting what it means to be social with video; they giving too much emphasis on looking pretty and falling back on old advertising methods, because they’re trying to appeal to the old mentality of big brand clients than the new, healthier way of thinking that social media provides equally to all businesses.

I should stress that I really do respect the role of creative agencies, and what they are able accomplish for their clients. There is a very important role for creative types in social media and social video for business. Creative types use the information and insights delivered to them and build creative video around what industry and online audiences are searching for and discussing.

My problem is with agencies that treat social video around just the creative and placement, and then thinking that’s all you need for an intended “social outcome;” versus creating and actually participating in a bona-fide social activity with their customers, client prospects, and the general community. Without giving at least equal attention to the participation part, I don’t think its appropriate for any company to market themselves as doing “social video.”

The Social Media Marketer’s Perspective on Social Video

I thought what this article would need was the perspective of a thought leader in the social media marketing industry. Fortunately, this past week I had the opportunity to see Amber Naslund, VP of Social Strategy for Radian6, and co-author of “The NOW Revolution.” Amber was speaking at an event held for her by the Social Media Club Chicago chapter, and is an original member of that organization. You can listen to my Q&A with Amber on this topic in the audio link on this post, which I can summarize for you here: Creative agencies like the Jun Group really aren’t doing “social video,” because “social” isn’t just about the creative, or where you place a video, or what reactions you’re trying to get out of others – it’s about being.

Here is some of what Amber had to say:

is going to take time. Some companies are already there. Others are really far behind. But what will happen is the people who want those companies to truly BE social; and not just do social, are going to insist on it; and they’re going to start calling them out on it. Like, this isn’t social – we want to talk to you! We don’t want to talk to Christine Aguillera (especially after how she sang the national anthem)… That kind of swell is going to come from the consumers themselves. If that business and their consumer base is ready for that, they will push them in that direction – slowly but surely.”

Will The Tag “Social Video” Last? Or is it a Marketing Gimmick?

Amber says that “the moniker of ‘social’ is going to go away over time; because it’s just going to be part of the way that we naturally do things without having to make a point of thinking about it. We’ve kind of pigeon-holed it now, because it’s new and tiny. But eventually, the idea of ‘being social’ is just going to be wired into the way that we do business.”

My Definition of What Makes a Business Video a “Social Video”

Let me first define what I think it should mean to be “social” in business:

  • It’s not about acting; it’s about being real.
  • It’s not about advertising, it’s about engaging.
  • It’s about real conversations with people – with consumers, with customers, with colleagues – with all the people you’re trying to reach.
  • It’s about having an authentic message; and sharing your philosophy and values that lets others relate to you.
  • It’s about being open and inviting.
  • It’s about building positive experiences and relationships.
  • It’s not just an outcome; it’s about participation – yours.
  • It’s not about hierarchy; it’s about treating everyone as equals
  • It’s more than just what you say; it’s about who you are and what you do.
  • It’s not just about commerce, it’s about your culture; a culture you create, share, and let others build on and contribute to.
  • You make customers feel like they’re not just buying something, but that they’re part of something.

What “social video” should be:

  • Social video is about using video to design a real, authentic social experience between you and your audience. It should feel real to them.
  • Social video shouldn’t be equated with doing entertaining video advertisements. An ad creates a wall between the company and the consumer. Social video should include having a real dialog with your audience, utilizing social networks, getting feedback, or letting others participate in and around your video (and your video campaigns).
  • Social video should integrate the creative, placement, distribution, and conversation right from the start.  It shouldn’t treat these components separately or after-the-fact.
  • Social video should involve paying attention to, and responding to, people who are engaging with your video. It should serve as a conduit for showing you’re paying attention to your customers, showing that you’re listening to what they’re saying, and letting you talk to each other – not just business-to-customer, but customer-to-customer.
  • Social video isn’t about the number of views you get; it’s about the quality and enthusiasm of the feedback you get.
  • Social video is not about talking at people, it’s about talking with people. You use it to engage with your audience on a direct, equal level with no corporate barrier.
  • And finally, social video is using video as the medium for building a participatory audience, culture, and community that’s good for both business and consumers.

Just Having a Celebrity In your Ad Doesn’t Make it a “Social Video”

Now I’m not at all against using celebrities in your marketing videos. Companies, especially big brands, do it because that’s how a lot of people can easily see a celebrity as a quick reflection of how a company wants to project its image. But that’s just an initial image. Wouldn’t also showcasing people who actually work and volunteer for your company be just as good of a reflection, and one that audiences can perhaps relate to better?

A social video to isn’t about using celebrities to read off scripts and do acting roles to get your attention. It’s about real people. I particularly like how Amber stated in in her book: “The most important thing you can do for your company is not to create individual superstars, but to create a superstar mentality and infuse it into everyone you can.”

Social Video is All About Being Real

Social video is about real people having real conversations, sharing real situations, and getting and giving real value. All businesses looking to do or benefit from social video need to remember it’s not about the top brass at your company, working with a big ad agency, or hiring a celebrity or actors to stage something. It’s about using the multimedia tool and platform of video to reach out to new audiences, and empower your own employees and ambassadors to connect with these people in new and exciting ways for sustainable growth – not just for business, but also for your culture. Social video deserves to thrive, and the way that will happen is when we learn to treat it s more than just a sales tool – but as an important part of who we are.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto®, ©chrisgramly #1063768; ©artpuppy #8232380

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