What the Most Popular Social Videos of 2017 Can Teach Us

What the Most Popular Social Videos of 2017 Can Teach Us

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: three video marketers walk into a bar. All three of them have uploaded social videos to YouTube and Facebook. But, one makes video ads. The second creates branded content. And the third builds sponsored video campaigns. The bartender looks at them and asks, “Is this some kind of joke?”

Seriously, video marketers have a range of options these days – and they require a lot more critical data to choose the best one for their companies or their clients. They can make video advertising, branded video, or sponsored content. (They can also choose a little from Column A, and a little from Column B.) So, let’s compare and contrast some of the most popular social videos of 2017 to see if we can find some strategic insights, tactical advice, or trends in the digital video marketing business.

The Top Video Ad on YouTube in 2017

According to the YouTube Ads Leaderboard, the top video ad that users watched and shared in 2017 was “Samsung India Service (SVC) – We’ll take care of you, wherever you are. #SamsungService.”

This video ad tells the story of Amit, a young Samsung Engineer, who is undaunted by rough terrain and responds to a customer complaint in a remote hilly area. His efforts help bring smiles to the faces of a group of children, who couldn’t celebrate their special moment without their Samsung Television.

According to Tubular Video Ratings, this 4-minute long video ad got 71.6 million views in the first 30 days, but had an engagement rate of <0.1x. In other words, the top ad which YouTubers watched and shared in 2017 is less than one-tenth as engaging as the average video benchmarked across all content.

Now, the video ad went on to accumulate 101 million views in the first 90 days and had a total of 173 million views and 308,000 engagements as of this past weekend. But, that was probably driven more by the size of Samsung’s ad budget than it was by the engaging content of the video ad. Hey, all three of the video marketers who walked into the bar in the first paragraph of this column know that the more money you put behind promoting your content, the more views and engagements it will accumulate.

Video Publishing Lessons for Short-form Video

But, how do you know if your video ad was successful when “views” and “engagements” are outputs, not outcomes? And, what lessons can video marketers learn from one of the most popular social videos of 2017 that got high views, but low engagement?

Well, maybe after downing a few pints, one of the video marketers in the bar might jump to the conclusion that Samsung’s video ad was simply too long. And it’s true that it takes four whole minutes to tell this particular story. The two very dedicated Samsung servicemen in one of Samsung’s 535 customer service (SVC) vans encounter a fallen tree at the 0:35 mark and a flock of Chandu’s sheep at the 1:08 mark. And Amit doesn’t discover that the customer is blind until the 1:44 mark of this video ad. So, it’s logical to assume that a shorter video ad might have gotten a higher engagement rate. Yes, it’s a logical assumption if you’ve had a few beers, but it isn’t supported by the facts.

For example, Samsung Mobile India uploaded “Samsung cares for a Safe India” about six months later. This video ad was only 0:35 long and it got 85 million views in the first 30 days. But, its engagement rate was also <0.1x.

But wait, there’s more! During 2017, Samsung India uploaded:

All three of these video ads got engagement rates which were <0.1x – which means that all of them were less than one-tenth as engaging as the average video benchmarked across all content. So, the length of video ads doesn’t seem to move the needle on engagement rate, does it?

The Top Branded Video on Facebook in 2017

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, journalists created content and agencies created advertising. But in the social video era, brands can publish content, too. And out of all the most popular social videos of 2017, the top branded content on Facebook last year was “Door in the Sky.”

This branded content shows two wingsuit flyers BASE jump into a plane in mid-air. Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet, two BASE-jumping experts from France known as the Soul Flyers, launch themselves off the summit of the Jungfrau mountain in the Bernese Alps before landing in the tiny cabin of a Pilatus Porter light aircraft in mid-air.

According to Tubular Video Ratings, this 1-minute-and-39-seconds-long Facebook video got 160 million views in the first 30 days, and had an engagement rate of 0.9x. In other words, the top ad which Facebook users watched and shared in 2017 is almost as engaging as the average video benchmarked across all content.

Now, this branded content has gone on to accumulate 173 million views and 3.8 million engagements as of this writing, which makes it Red Bull’s top video in views and engagements of all time. And that’s pretty impressive for a video which was uploaded less than 60 days ago.

But, why isn’t the engagement rate above average? Did Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from the edge of space back in 2012 make the unbelievable stunt by the Soul Flyers seem routine by comparison? Did Red Bull boost “Door in the Sky” with a relatively small promotion budget to a relatively niche target audience? Or, is there a regression to the mean when you measure the engagement rate of branded content that gets 168 million views? I don’t quite know – it seems to be a mystery.

But, strangely enough, it all turned out well. And the top branded content on Facebook in 2017 got 123% more views in the first 30 days and an engagement rate that was more than 9 times greater than the top video ad on YouTube last year. I know, I’m comparing apples to oranges. A “view” on YouTube can be 10 times longer than a “view” on Facebook. But, an “engagement” is a “share,” “comment,” or “like” on both platforms. So, what else should video marketers put into a basket of fruit?

Top Sponsored Videos from 2017

In the social video era, brands can sponsor content, too. And one of the top sponsored videos from last year was “Ping Pong Trick Shots 3 | Dude Perfect.”

How do I know that this 2017 sequel to “Ping Pong Trick Shots 2 | Dude Perfect,” which was uploaded in 2015, and the original “Ping Pong Trick Shots | Dude Perfect,” which was uploaded in 2014, is a sponsored video? Well, in the description of “Ping Pong Trick Shots 3 | Dude Perfect,” it says, “We take Ping Pong Trick Shots to the next level! Sponsored advertising by Oreo Cookies.” So, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what category the latest version of this social video belongs in.

And according to Tubular Video Ratings, “Ping Pong Trick Shots 3” got 40.5 million in the first 30 days and – wait for it – its engagement rate was 5.4x! By comparison, “Ping Pong Trick Shots 2” got 3.9 million views in the first 30 days and had an engagement rate of 2.6x. So, the five best friends and a panda probably provided Oreo with more views and a higher engagement rate than the brand expected.

How do I know that Oreo was probably pleasantly surprised? It’s a scientific-ish guess. For reference’s sake, compare the aforementioned results to those from “Real Life Trick Shots | Dude Perfect.”

The description says, “Trick shots should be an everyday thing! Thanks to Kingsford for sponsoring this video!” And according to Tubular Video Ratings, this sponsored video got 25.9 million views in the first 30 days and had an engagement rate of 3.3x. So, the five best friends and a panda know what they’re doing, but Dude Perfect appears to be leveraging the loyalty of their 25.6 million YouTube subscribers instead of promoting their content with paid media.

3 Things Video Publishers Should Do in 2018

So, what should we do in 2018? At some point, video marketers will need to walk out of that bar and choose to make video advertising, create branded video, or sponsor content for their companies or their clients. (As I mentioned above, they can also mix and match these different types of social video.) Here are a few ways to ensure success in any of these areas this year, based off what we saw above from the popular social videos of 2017:

# 1Make great videos

Whichever option you choose, you need to continue making great videos. When brands, agencies, sponsors, or partners are coming up with video concepts, they should all use what YouTube calls the ABCDs of effective creative: Attract attention from the start, Brand naturally and meaningfully, Connect with your audience through emotion and storytelling, and Direct viewers with clear calls-to-action.

#2 Engage your audience

Video marketers who rely only on demographics to reach consumers risk having low engagement rates. Why? Because demographics rarely tell the whole story. Understanding consumer intent is much more likely to help you understand what you really need to know – what consumers are looking for in an exact moment or where they are looking to find it.

#3 Choose key performance indicators wisely

Finally, you need to choose key performance indicators that make sense for your objectives. It’s important to measure campaign success across the entire consumer journey, and not rely on view counts alone. Then, apply the right metrics to measure your results. Finally, use tracking tools to measure your progress and adjust your strategy. In short, all of us need to remain sober-minded, because none of us wants to be the punchline to a joke that starts, “Three video marketers walk into a bar…”

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