A Viral Audience Can Only Happen With the Right Marketing Bait

Posting a video in just one place can be a waste

I was channel surfing the other night and landed on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. As I watched the series’ Alaskan fishermen tossing giant steel pots overboard in the hopes of catching the elusive king crab, it occurred to me that there are some interesting parallels with online video.

Posting a video in just one location on the Internet is the equivalent of dropping a single crab trap in the Bering Sea—ineffective at best, a huge waste of money at worst.

Just like fishing keys on selecting the right tide and bait, the right type of content, combined with a comprehensive distribution strategy, can lead to the two-way conversation with consumers that brands are looking for.

To be clear, content creators should always think twice before investing in original video. If you don’t have the means to effectively market and distribute the piece, it’s probably not worth producing in the first place. But if you’re prepared to support your content by maximizing every available option, then read on.

Before you choose a distribution plan, you’ll need to decide which type of video best aligns with your brand. An insurance company, for example, will have different needs than a food company, and the created content should reflect not only who you are as a business but also what resonates with your core audience. Next, you’ll need to decide whether your video will be a utility for consumers or serve to entertain, thus driving brand recognition through association. Very few brands are capable of being both.

And there are plenty of options for your paid media strategy. Content networks are an interesting option for advertisers seeking an end-to-end solution, as these companies combine in-house video production teams with a first point of distribution. Since they don’t rely on a technology middleman, content networks enable brands to reach fragmented consumers across many different editorial properties.

If you’re a niche brand with a well-defined audience, you should consider working directly with a single property. For example, a high-end fashion brand targeting urban women might find that a site like Refinery29 meets its needs. As with content networks, the ad sales team is often tightly integrated with editorial, providing brands with direct insight about how to effectively reach their audiences.

While independent technology platforms lack both the same direct insight into the end publisher’s audience and in-house video creation capabilities, they can be a good option for supplemental distribution. Since data and analytics are rooted in their DNA, these platforms can provide advertisers with insights that will meet their objectives.

The last step is generating earned and shared views so that your content lives on organically. Since these two types of media are a function of paid media, you’ll need to get the video out on the Web first to truly be able to reap the benefits of both.

While everyone hopes his video goes viral, very few actually draw hundreds of millions of views. But you can generate more views and watch your video live on provided that it has mass appeal and is placed somewhere that facilitates active sharing among already-engaged users. You may also want to consider integrated or sponsored content, as they usually see more light of day and can live on long after initial distribution.

A final option is utilizing a content discovery platform like Outbrain or Taboola to generate clicks. These recommendation engines appear on premium publisher sites, linking to the video content itself or to third-party earned media, and are a great way to drive more traffic. By working with companies that provide these services, you’ll save both time and money.

The key to any video-distribution strategy is utilizing every available option, and you’ll need to make key decisions around how to do so. As new media players are constantly entering the market, it becomes even more imperative to choose wisely when selecting who you’ll partner with on video production and distribution, as well as social media promotion and content discovery. Companies that offer all-in-one solutions will emerge as the best option, though only the usual suspects are capable of the scale that you’ll likely need.

In other words, just as a fisherman will tell you, it is vital to use every trick in the book when fishing for crabs—or views.

Charles Gabriel is vp of U.S. sales, video, AOL.

Illustration: Adrià Fruitós