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Social video is in flux—and growing. New apps, new channels, new vlogs... With over 72 hours of video content being uploaded every minute, the days of creating a video, posting it on YouTube, and assuming viewers will find it... are a thing of the past—especially when you are up against the Harlem Shake craze du jour.

How do you break through the clutter and succeed in sharing your message?

Follow the Golden Rule of Online Content: It's not what we want, it's what our audience wants.

That concept is the opposite of traditional marketing techniques, which assumed a broad, captive audience that was pretty much forced to sit through whatever it was brands wanted to put in front of them. Think TV commercials pre-Tivo/DVR.

Online media has forced traditional marketing's hand. There's no shortage of content competing for your audience's attention: It is way too easy for viewers to simply click and move on. Some recent statistics make that shift crystal clear:

According to YouTube* data...

  • Over 4 billion videos are viewed every day: a 50% increase since 2010.
  • The 72 hours per minute of uploaded video that we just talked about is a 37% increase over the previous six months alone.
  • YouTube is the most shared content on Facebook with 30 million views per month.

According to SundaySky** data...

  • Online video consumption continues to surge, and it has most recently outpaced TV consumption.
  • The average text email open rate is 11-22%, but when you add "video" to the subject line of marketing-related emails, open rates rise up to 30%.
  • Viewers spend 2.5 times more time watching personally relevant short-form videos.

To cut through the clutter and connect with viewers, brands must step back and put what they want to say through the filter of what their audience will want to hear.

How to start?

Follow the following Three Commandments.

Commandment No. 1: Clearly define thy marketing objectives in advance

Never, ever skip this step—no matter what five-alarm deadline you face.

Clearly defined objectives, finalized before content is created, are the cornerstone of successful strategies.

For example, what are the objectives of the Pepsi Max Drive video? To have fun? To encourage people to talk about Jeff Gordon? The brand was so far in the background—which isn't always a bad thing, but in this case it was—leaving it easy for viewers to talk about Gordon and not Pepsi after the spot finished. Did it sell Pepsi? Did it encourage more talk and stronger relationships with the brand?

Be as specific as possible so you have a goal that is measurable—and obtain input from all stakeholders. Doing so paves the way for a smoother development process. An added benefit of collecting and considering input: the "How come we spent money on this?" conversation is headed off down the road. Everyone is clear, before they get to that point.

Commandment No. 2: Know thy target audiences

A huge benefit of online content is the ability to tailor it to very specific audiences. However, you can't do that if you don't know whom you want to reach. The content needs to appeal to your specific audience if you hope to engage with them.

Think about those stats: 2.5 times more likely to view if it is personally relevant.

You may find you have multiple audiences that require multiple content approaches. In developing online video content for Kmart, the common focus was fashion. The variants were the age groups of the different customers. Think Selena Gomez vs. Sofia Vergara. What was compelling to one did not automatically translate to the other. Different points in their lives, different looks, same interest in fashion.

Adjust as necessary. One size does not necessarily fit all.

Commandment No. 3: Don't let the "killer Idea" destroy all that is good

Video is "it," and everyone thinks they have the idea for the next viral sensation. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Stop, assess that "killer idea," and revisit the first two Commandments: Will it help you achieve your defined objective? Will it appeal to your target audience?

If the idea doesn't pass both tests, it's not a killer idea. It's an idea that needs to be killed.

Just like the original Ten Commandments, write them down. Capture your decisions about marketing objectives and target audiences in an official document (Stone Tablet optional).

As you move into the fun part of the process—crafting actual content—it will prove an invaluable guide. And, if you have it in writing, you can accomplish two things:

  1. Measure your success. Did the video content accomplish what you had hoped? Was the content the correct fit? How do the results shape future development concepts?
  2. Avoid revisionist history. Nothing stops second-guessing in its tracks like a recap document that everyone agreed to in the beginning.

So as you navigate those frantic, cluttered waters of social video, give the Golden Rule and Three Commandments a try. If you take the time to follow the steps outlined in this article, you might find the whole process a bit easier—or, at the very least, calmer.

*YouTube statistics:

**SundaySky statistics: http://info.sundaysky.com/2012-state-of-online-video-research-report

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Denise Roberts McKee

Denise Roberts McKee is the COO of About Face Media, a video agency that brings brand communications goals to life by telling stories via documentary videos.

Twitter: @drmckee

LinkedIn: Denise Roberts McKee