January 18, 2016

How to make social video that *works* – Part 1: ‘I can’t believe that line got signed off’

Our stuff works. We make brand films for the internet that people love, rather than tolerate. Our videos earn fantastic engagement from target audiences, consistently impressive sharing rates and, yes, even the odd award. When we work on a social video campaign, viewers get to have a good time, we get to make things we believe in and you get amazing value for money. Win-win-win.

We started doing this 14 years ago, before there even was a YouTube(!) Back then, online branded content was often seen as a weird quirk, a tiny niche. Since then, it’s of course become far, far more common – because people are getting the hang of the fact that social video is not something you want to overlook. For the right brand, the right audience, the right campaign, it can deliver amazing results.

Screenshot of YouTube video count showing 3 views

Not a happy sight

But that’s by no means guaranteed. If you’ve been in advertising for more than about 3 hours, chances are you can still remember a campaign you worked on that just sat on YouTube, unseen by man or beast or even Google spidering robot. That’s sad. Or the time you really went big on the media buy, racking up hundreds of thousands of views (for tens of thousands of pounds) but suspiciously little in the way of actual engagement. Funny how that can happen (not ‘funny haha’, obviously)…

Social video can be great but it’s certainly not the case that you can just stick a GoPro on something, grab some ‘authentic’ footage, shove it online and wait for the views to come rolling in. (‘Build it and they will come’ might be OK for imaginary baseball games but it definitely doesn’t cut it in a world where hundreds of hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube every minute.) Nor is it the case that you can simply buy your way to success. (For one thing, not everyone has that sort of budget to burn through). Lots of zeroes at the end of a view count might be good for your ego but, on its own, that’s no indication it’s good for your brand.

So what makes the difference? What makes our stuff work? A lot of this is more art than science, more experience and intuition than hard-and-fast formula – but here are some of the things that make us feel confident that a project’s ‘got it’.

Part 1. ‘I can’t believe that line got signed off’

That was our (happy) reaction when we were drafting the ‘Bodyform Responds’ film for Carat and the script came back without any red pen through this sentence:

…and, yes, Richard, the blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide.

The line’s funny, which always helps, of course – but that’s not why it staying in was so significant. One of the things that made the Bodyform advert such a stupendous success* was that it displayed an honesty – a vulnerability, perhaps – that is rarely seen from brands. That openness added to the unexpectedness of the film and helped elevate it from ‘watchable’, past ‘shareable’ and into the territory we always shoot for: ‘remarkable’.

*5.6m views; 136,000 shares, all of them earned rather than bought; and a 40:1 share-to-view ratio (meaning one person out of every 40 who watched the film went on to share it – that’s significantly better than the industry average which hovers somewhere around 200 or 300:1). And all on a film turned around within a week… 

You want to get to the point where viewers feel more than just diverted or entertained – where they feel compelled to talk about the story or joke or idea they just saw. Where your film can be their conversation (that’s the ‘social’ bit of social video).

Embracing things you’d usually expect to get filtered out by jittery PR departments – like opportunities to play on a sort of brutal, deliberately ‘unspun’, honesty – can be one of the things that makes the difference between a run-of-the-mill video campaign and one that really works. It’s not easy because the default tendency is to drift towards risk-aversion. Fortunately, we’ve got enough of a track record now that we can often earn a level of trust with the decision-makers to get those moments signed-off – and, in turn, give audiences more to talk about.

Want to figure out how to make a remarkable social video for your brand or agency – one that works? You can always call us.