I’m not sure what my favourite statistic is about YouTube. It could be, as we learnt today, that two billion videos are viewed every day. Or maybe it is the fact that this means that every minute we collectively upload 24 hours worth of video content to the site. Or that these videos mean that every 60 days more content is created on YouTube than has been aired in 60 years of programming on the main three US TV networks. Or maybe it’s the fact that 3 million people are sharing videos automatically through other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and that each time a video is shared seven new people see it.
All of these statistics tell us one thing clearly. In the five years since YouTube launched we have all become used to creating, sharing, viewing, commenting on and rating videos online. Video is a great way of conveying information, ideas and emotions and can be a very engaging medium. It can be the best way off expressing a complex idea and helps effective engagement, establishing a connection between the people on the video and the people viewing it. Production quality matters less than content and passion. And perhaps of most importance is the ability to share the content.
Video is one of the most versatile of all social media tools and enhances any online community. And with the increased penetration of handheld cameras that will easily upload content online we will see even more content created.
If these statistics are impressive (and they are) they will only get more so. As the video below shows, a lot has happened in the first five years of YouTube. The next five years promise to be just as exciting. And I suspect my favourite statistic is yet to come.
Whether it’s a sneezing panda, Charlie biting that finger, or just Rick Astley, everybody loves a good online video. It doesn’t have to be amusing either, some of the most popular videos online are factual and we see great use of video in online communities to engage people in a way that articles and text often can’t. Whatever the balance is of serious to amusing (and I would guess it was weighted towards the latter) a report out today from Nielsen Online tells us what most employers have always suspected. That most of us are watching videos at work.
Their VideoCensus of US internet users showed that 65% of all people who watch online video do so during 9am and 5pm on weekdays – when they’re at work. By contrast on only 51% of them are viewing videos during the day at weekends. There are probably some reasons that help to explain this – broadband penetration, whilst high across the US, is higher for corporates than for individuals and so viewing videos may be easier for some at work than at home. However, I suspect the real reasons are that videos make up many of the popular virals that are sent to work email addresses, and that videos are distracting and engage people in a way that is different to other material they see during working hours.
Whatever the reasoning behind this survey, it is true that video engages. It’s a really powerful tool and one that is worth perfecting if you’re in the business of using social media or running online communities. At FreshNetworks we make a lot of use of video in the communities that we run and anybody who joins the team very quickly gets used to picking up a camera, interviewing some people and editing it down to a short clip for one of the communities. Recently I was sent a copy of a new book from O’Reilly Media (YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts) and whilst I was initially skeptical about this, it’s much more use than the title suggests – and we now use it as a textbook of how to make good video for online.
In our communities, we find that community members respond better in some circumstances to video than they do to articles, and that the completed view rate is often higher than I suspect the completed read rate is for longer articles. Finally, we find that providing video is a great way to stimulate activity on the communities themselves. Not only do people interact around the content, they are also much more likely to upload their own videos after we have uploaded some.
So whether we watch them too much at work or not, videos are really good engagement tools online and can help to boost activity on an online community.
We’ve written in the past about how to measure ROI in online communities. It’s a subject we return to often with our clients at FreshNetworks. The online communities that we build for them all tie into over-riding business aims, and so measuring the impact is important. We can, of course, measure specific insights that they get from the community, the benefit of the qualitative information internally, the benefit that support communities have or any uplift in sales from the community. But there is a holy grail in online communities and indeed across social media – measuring ROI at a granular level; identifying influential members, recognising that these may not be those who post most.
In previous posts, I’ve suggested that what we need to do is develop a weighting that could be applied to individual members showing how important and influential they are. An analysis of the quality (not quantity) of their connections and of their connections’ own connections. A difficult and time-consuming task. And one that Google may have solved.
The latest edition of Business Week reports that Google has a patent pending on technology that measures influence in social networks. It apparently measures both the direct influence people have in terms of volume of connections, but also how successful your posts and feeds depending on how many people open, read and forward them.
The new technology could track not just how many friends you have on Facebook but how many friends your friends have. Well-connected chums make you particularly influential. The tracking system also would follow how frequently people post things on each other’s sites. It could even rate how successful somebody is in getting friends to read a news story or watch a video clip, according to people familiar with the patent filing.
It will be intriguing to see how this technology develops and what Google use it for. The measurement of influence online is of critical importance to brands, marketers and advertisers alike. Brands want to know how influential people who talk about their brand are, or how influential the people in their online community are. Marketers want to find these influential people and focus on what they are saying and what brands are saying to them. Advertisers can use this information to help target ads across social networks.
Of course, there must also be a benefit for Google. Given that their attempts at running their own social networks have not had the same success in sheer numbers as the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Hi5, Google is looking for other opportunities to capitalise upon this growing trend. They’re doing what they’ve done to the web – they don’t provide all the content they just offer a great way to search and prioritise it. So Google could become the Google of social media.
The written word is great. You can express ideas in many ways, you can enter into an exchange with people, you can tell them what you think and hear what they say. But online, video is just more engaging. You just have to look at the power and reach of YouTube and growth of the Flickr community to understand the demand and use of media-sharing functions online.
We try to include media as much as possible in the online communities that we build and manage at FreshNetworks. We find that different community members will want to engage and express themselves in different ways, and so allowing them to do this will maximise participation. It’s also a great way to build engagement between the brand and the community – letting them see inside an organisation; video can break down the barriers between brand and customer. It’s an effective way of conveying content as it often encourages more personal and more efficient presentation of ideas. Finally, video can be easily shared and so has a great viral effect.
Somebody who we think has got the use of video right online is Gary Vaynerchuk and his daily wine blog: Wine Library TV. Gary’s enthusiasm is palpable, his knowledge about wine is significantly greater than mine, and his ideas are easy for me to take away. But what really makes his site work is that every day I can watch a short clip and learn something. Rather than read some text describing which wines go with oysters, I can just watch and learn. The videos are easy to pass on to friends and they make me feel like I am really engaging with Gary. I can see him, hear him, watch and learn his mannerisms and habits. I get to know him better than I suspect I might be able to just reading text. So, his ideas are great, the content informative and this information useful. But I suspect it is the fact that he delivers this by video that really makes Gary’s site a success.
So what can we learn about this when we are planning and building online communities? The answer is simple – use video, include video, interact with video.
If you haven’t seen Gary in action, then take a look at this video below of him in action at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York.
FreshNetworks is a social media agency. We help global brands, including Telefonica, Jimmy Choo and American Express, use social media to achieve their key business goals. Latest news and press information