The Secret to Making Your Video Content Pop Off

Opinion: Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t underestimate your audience

How can your videos get reactions like this? AntonioGuillem/iStock

Anyone who’s hung out on the internet lately won’t be surprised that digital video has become the bedrock of modern media companies. Content creators, distributors and platforms are thriving in this space, and tech companies have upped the ante by investing in premium original programming as they look to compete with TV and streaming players. Brands and marketers are similarly flocking to video.

In fact, video was the fastest-growing ad format in the second quarter of 2017, with spending up 142 percent from the first quarter, according to Smaato.

Whether a media or tech company, creator or brand, there’s one common goal for all: to ensure that videos are compelling enough to warrant sharing among fast-growing—and very fickle—millennial and Generation Z audiences.

The internet waits for no one. To create content that will move the needle for your brand and resonate with your audience, it’s important to zero in on your voice, experiment within your lane and have a deep understanding of what content will flourish where.

Below are some hard-learned philosophies that have served various brands well in the mercurial digital video landscape.

Brand above all

From inception, the best media brands have established identities that transcend the clutter permeating the online world—a way of walking, talking and moving that’s undoubtedly them. Voice and values matter.

How are these achieved? Through clear vision and an understanding of your audience’s digital behavior and preferences. The most essential brands lead audiences where they need to go; they just might not know it yet.

Bleacher Report, for example, has proven itself as the expert on sports culture. From narrative-based content to parody videos, the news site goes beyond analysis and game coverage to engage its primarily millennial male base—one that was craving more than just straight-forward sports commentary.

It’s paramount to figure out your tone as a brand, understand what makes your audience tick (e.g., a nuanced curiosity about sports) and sprout new video content from there. Uncover your expertise and own it.

Make a plan, experiment and perfect

Nothing in digital is ever done and dusted; experimentation is a brand’s lifeblood. Every video is an opportunity to tweak, see how the audience responds and learn something new. Entire franchises have been seeded during successful experiments.

Create distribution plans that are supported by audience data about what, where and for how long they like to consume. Play with different formats and lengths.

The Dodo, beloved Facebook publisher and wellspring of cute animal videos, constantly tests content of various lengths, finding that live video best supports spontaneous clips, while storytelling is best suited as long-form content.

Don’t be afraid to switch the style up when working within tried and true frameworks. Introducing a new editing technique or sound cue doesn’t go unnoticed by your hardcore viewers; they appreciate flashes of life and ingenuity.

Finally, brace yourself and read the comments. For every throwaway remark, there’s a well-observed gem that you can use when putting together the next video. Feedback is a gift, but it’s also fuel.

Follow the people

Brands face a certain amount of risk, and a healthy dose of FOMO (fear of missing out), when deciding which platforms to prioritize. However, cultivating an audience on the right platform is the best focus group you could ever hope for. Genius has seen tremendous growth on YouTube thanks to our Verified and Deconstructed series.

In order to maximize impact, brands have to understand how and where target audiences are consuming content. Creators like beauty vlogger Patricia Bright flourish on YouTube with their intimate “how to” tutorials and one-to-one relationships with viewers, while big players like BuzzFeed go for mass appeal with its Tasty series outfitted for Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.

The 2017 video arms race, as dizzying as it is, presents an opportunity to succeed in everyday social media marketing. More than ever, brands must learn when it’s appropriate to join conversations or create entirely new ones. Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t underestimate your audience. Meet them where they are and keep them on their toes. They won’t hesitate to show you when it’s working.

Brendan Frederick is chief content officer at music-focused digital media company Genius.