U.K.-based media agency The 7th Chamber doesn’t make videos. Instead, it specializes in what it calls “social video seeding,” making sure its clients’ branded videos get seen at high-traffic sites including YouTube, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and popular blogs. The company’s goal is to get videos in front of specifically targeted audiences not through traditional media buys but by seeding them in the right places at the right times.
“Put the right content in front of the right people, and you’ll have viral success,” says Christian Pimsner, The 7th Chamber’s New York-based senior vice president of sales and marketing. Pimsner’s job is to take the luck out of the viral video equation, or at least to make luck happen through careful strategizing. Any video content creator can use his tips to get videos in front of a bigger audience.
Embed Your Content Organically
Pimsner acknowledges that there’s a lot of confusion about what video seeding is, but at its most basic, “Seeding is about distributing content through mainstream social networking platforms and developing target lists of blogs and publishers that will be relevant to the campaign we’re working on.”
If, for example, his client Agent Provocateur has a hot new video of the dangerously wardrobe-challenged Paz de la Huerta to share, he will alert powerful fashion bloggers and encourage them to write about it and link to it from within their blogs.
“We take branded content and elevate and amplify it within social media where it competes with user-generated content and becomes more discoverable,” says Pimsner. “We hope the right type of person will watch it, like it, share it, and comment on it,” all necessary steps if a video is to go viral.
Use YouTube as Your Infrastructure
Pimsner’s next suggestion is technological. The 7th Chamber is totally YouTube-centric.
“We work within the YouTube video player whether we’re distributing the content directly in YouTube or outside of YouTube with the YouTube embedded player.”
Why is that a smart strategy? “We do it for the transparency it provides to our clients about where the views are coming from, and we also like the impact the YouTube embedded player has on overall video optimization and search.” Half of all video content is consumed within YouTube and Facebook, Pimsner notes. It makes sense to start out where the crowds are.
Above All Else, Engage
So what’s the secret sauce that makes a video go viral? Even an expert like Pimsner acknowledges that it’s difficult to define that one special attribute that makes any single video go viral.
“Sometimes we’re as surprised as everyone else by which videos go viral,” Pimsner says. Nevertheless there are a couple of useful guidelines. “Make sure your content is funny or appropriately engaging for the target audience,” Pimsner says, “Above all else, you have to tell a story.” That means that if you’re talking to moms, you tell a heartwarming story. Teens will respond to slapstick comedy. Young adults will want a touch of snark and irony. (And just about everyone will like Paz de la Huerta.)
Interactivity can also help increase engagement by making the viewing experience more compelling. For example, The 7th Chamber helped seed an anti-violence video for the London Metropolitan Police that let viewers choose how the story would end. The intense storyline coupled with the interactive element earned the video attention in several London newspapers.
Judging whether a video has indeed “gone viral” is also not a definitive science because it’s about more than the view count.
“It’s a question we ask our clients,” says Pimsner. “How do you measure viral success?” It could be the number of views; the number of shares, likes, and comments; the percentage of viewers who take some kind of follow-up action or visit the client’s Web site; or even the appearance of the video on a national news show. “Every company we work with has a different idea about what it means for their video to go viral,” Pimsner says.
Brands can also squeeze more value out of a traditional 30-second TV commercial by using it online, perhaps by recutting it or adding some kind of interactivity.
“I saw one study that showed that if TV and online are used together, there’s 35 percent uplift in awareness’” Pimsner says. “When people watch a commercial in the online environment, we know they’ve made an active choice to watch and interact with it, and that’s valuable.”
Embrace Affordable Celebrities
One obvious way to get a lot of views for a video quickly and easily is to ride along with an online celebrity with a large number of subscribers.
“We look at famous YouTubers all the time,” says Pimsner. “They definitely bring something to the table, but they’re just one piece of the puzzle and they’ve becoming harder and more expensive to work with as they start to realize their value as marketers.” The good thing, he adds, is that online celebrity influencers tend to have credibility because they know if their audience feels they’re being insincere or hyping a brand they don’t truly connect with, they’ll be labeled as sellouts and vilified.
Measure and Learn
Pimsner points out that you’ll have more viral video success the second time around if you study what happened the first time. That’s why measurement and analysis are so important. By using the YouTube platform, Pimsner’s clients have access to YouTube Insight, the site’s built-in analytics tool that reports, among other things, how people navigated to the video and what search terms they used. The 7th Chamber also does its own analysis in order to fine-tune its seeding strategies. By identifying where your video pops and where it flops, you can revise your own seeding strategy, sending the next one out into the world more accurately and effectively.