For Brands In Social Video, Iteration IS Innovation

There’s a new generation of high-performing social content that’s raising eyebrows. Social videos from creators like the Hydraulic Press Channel, have grown exponentially over the last year. Without fail, their weekly videos, gains hundreds of thousands, or even millions of views.

As a brand, it’s easy to look at these simple videos, then look at your own resources, multiple agencies, vendors, and seven-figure budgets and think “We can make our content this successful! How could we possibly fail?"

Brands go through the whole costly process of developing a social video series, getting it approved internally, and then producing it. It goes live, and then...nothing. No one watches it, much less cares. If you’re like most brands and agencies, this isn’t a big deal, just throw a bunch of money at it, and pay for a ton of views to make it appear successful. But how can a series of cooking videos, which cost almost nothing to create, be more successful than a global brand with access to millions of dollars and top creative talent?

The reality is, many of these ‘sudden’ successes you see on your news-feeds aren’t sudden at all. Those Tasty videos you see your mother-in-law sharing on Facebook? Those were the result of years of tinkering. No matter what type of online content creator you are, you have to invest a lot of time to make successful content.

How can you get eyeballs on your brand’s video content and generate real interest online? Many brands struggle with this. In fact, a recent study found that 48% of marketers are“only moderately confident in the ability of their organizations’ core touch points to reach and engage with the customer.”  Brands often carry traditional advertising over to social, and it doesn’t (usually) work. A great TV commercial often looks suspiciously out of place and over-produced next to family photos and memes in a social newsfeed.

There’s too much content competing for our attention - porn, friends, and puppy videos are just a click away. Facebook alone generates over 100 million hours of videos watched each day. The total number of people using ad blocking software is expected to climb from 15% of all internet users to above 26% by 2017. Consumers don’t want to watch commercials.

There are a few simple things that can be done to generate real, growing interest in your content online. The most effective of which is adopting a social content framework such as Hero, Hub, and Help.  To understand what that is, it’s best to look at examples such as Nintendo or Riot Games’ League of Legends channel.

The Hero, Hub, Help framework.
The Hero, Hub, Help framework.

In this framework, Hero content is focused on major brand initiatives. For example, this Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild announcement at this year’s E3. As of writing, this E3 announcement video has 1.2MM views, and the game’s actual trailer has over 8MM+ views. Hero content is meant to drive awareness to major  initiatives like new product launches.

Many brands focus solely on Hero content and think every video is supposed to go ‘viral’. However, not every piece of content is going to be a hit. To build an engaged community, you also need Hub and Help content. Hub content, like the League of Legends’ Champion Spotlight series, is meant to be made consistently to keep the brand’s community coming back week after week. Released about once a month, the Champion Spotlight is a ten-minute spotlight on the abilities and optimal strategies of various characters in League Of Legends. The hugely successful series has been running for nearly 6 years - because it appears consistently. Fans know to tune in each month for a new episode.

Hub series have the added benefit of providing a platform for brands to learn about what resonates with their audience. Insights generated from the top performing hub content can be used to create more effective advertising down the line. For example, League of Legends’ popular login screen videos were created in response to fans’ and players’ nostalgia for old login screens.

Help content is created around topics related to your brand that have high search volume or trending topics - oftentimes these come in the form of ‘how to’ videos. Help content is effective in bringing in new audience members via search. A great example of this would be League of Legends’ soundtrack playlists. Riot Games noticed the search volume and help topics asking about finding the music, and realized fans were looking for a way to hear the game’s soundtrack while out of the game. They created a series of playlists of music from the game that generates millions of views, but are also monetizable. 

League Of Legends fans' have been searching for the game's music since 2010.
League Of Legends fans' have been searching for the game's music since 2010.
Riot Games optimized their League of Legends music playslists for search traffic. This way shows up on both YouTube and Google search results.
Riot Games optimized their League of Legends music playslists for search traffic. This way shows up on both YouTube and Google search results.

In addition to adopting the Hero, Hub, Help content strategy - it is critical to ensure paid media is actually giving you real results. Brands should approach paid social as a test bed for content types and audience targeting. In practical terms, this means throwing a lot of content types and variations out there and see what performs across different targeting. YouTube even has case studies talking about the effectiveness of promoting different versions of the same content.

Next time you’re producing a piece of digital content, consider using some of these targeting tactics and putting smaller groups of media spend across them. For example, instead of spending your entire media against one asset try a number of targeting tactics against a number of iterations of your social content - publishers leveraging this tactic have been shown to grow their subscriber base 2.3x faster than those that don’t. Over time you can get to a point where views on your highest performing videos cost a fraction of your old views but perform 2-3x better than your original non-optimized content.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to constantly innovate, instead remember that you’ll achieve true mastery through iteration over time via the lessons learned from Hub and Help content. In conclusion, it will take you years to build an effective digital strategy and will fail often along the way. However, you must stick to it: it’s the only way to stay relevant in an increasingly crowded, noisy space.