Some 181.4 million US Internet users watched 39.4 billion online videos in August, according to the latest comScore data. Clearly, online video—whether the latest viral video or a professional development course—is hot.

It's easy to see why. Online video can engage an audience, help viewers retain information, and—for businesses—assist customers in remembering a brand. But how can you go one step further... and make your videos social?

Social video actively engages the users by soliciting comments, questions, and feedback; it creates conversations that take your videos to the next level.

Consider these six suggestions to help you do just that.

1. Upload and distribute using the right platform

You may think you have only a few options for video distribution. However, ask yourself whether those platforms have the social features your videos need to create a conversation, such as commenting capabilities.

If the platform does not encourage your viewers to be social, they probably won't be. So do your research and make sure you find the right platform that matches your needs, including socially enhancing the viewing experience for your audience.

2. Use discussion features

As noted, enabling a discussion feature allows your viewers to talk about the video, ask questions, give comments, and request additional information from the content creator.

My company's video solution, for example, allows you to include threaded discussions—questions, answers, comments, and additional information you may wish to provide—associated with precise moments in the video play time.

Such features grant audience participation to your viewers (customers, prospects, etc.) wherever they may be while watching, and they create an opportunity for dialogue between you and them.

Look at it from another perspective: if you don't open up the gates for discussion, what is the point of your video? We live in a social world and many of us expect our content to have social aspects.

If the content doesn't encourage your viewers to be social, its usefulness will have been reduced.

3. Embed links and content within the video

Want to give your audience additional information that complements the video? Try embedding links or including documents with the video. Providing your audience with more gives them the option to engage with a variety of content without compromising the viewership of your video.

But be careful that links and additional forms of content aren't seen as "spam" from the users' point of view. They should complement the video, and they should directly correlate to the topic.

This isn't a place to promote your company or product unless the video is explicitly about those topics.

4. Add quizzes and polls

If you really want your audience to be more social, give them something to interact with. Quizzes and polls can be used as accompanying materials to your video, not only helping with viewer engagement but also giving you more insight into those viewing your content: what they're looking for and how you can cater your videos to them more efficiently in the future.

Quizzes and polls don't have to be long or complicated. Just a few questions can add a social layer to your video. Just remember: Simple is key. Don't overwhelm your audience with a survey that's unnecessary.

5. Discuss timely topics

When something major happens in any industry, many turn to social platforms for the latest information. Creating a video that discusses timely topics can increase your viewership, because people will be searching for content on that topic. You should also include social networking sharing options so your video can be easily passed along to others.

For example, if a CEO shakeup occurs in your industry, creating a quick video that discusses the matter not only makes you a thought leader in the eyes of your audience but also increases the chance your video will be viewed because of its timeliness.

Just be sure to include a relevant headline, tags, and a description so your video is easy to find.

6. Repurpose the content

Your video doesn't have to end when you hit stop. The content can be repurposed into blog posts, e-books, webinars, etc. Doing so gives your content a longer shelf-life and allows it to reach a different and larger audience in a variety of ways.

It's like recycling: each piece of content has the same background, but the format is changed so it's new and different. This approach can revitalize a video into something different that stands out on its own; essentially, your content expands without much work on your end, which benefits all concerned.

* * *

Video is a great way to reach a mass audience without having to allocate a ton of resources, time, or money. In addition, by implementing the suggestions in this article, you'll be able to take your video strategy to the next level by changing the way your viewers communicate and collaborate around your content. Social video is now key to acquiring and retaining users.

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image of Jeff Fissel

Jeff Fissel is the co-founder and VP of solutions at KZO Innovations, a video software company that provides an on-demand video platform for small to large enterprises and government customers. Contact him at jeff@kzoinnovation. Also connect with Jeff and KZO Innovations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.