There’s been a lot of talk about the growth of the digital content industry, particularly in online video. Marketers now have a wide range of opportunities available at scale, from original Web series to content platforms. This sea change in the perception and power of online content has opened the door for digital content upfronts* to make a meaningful impact on the advertising dollars that are normally squirreled away in traditional media buys. But the deals transacted during these digital upfronts will be more than just media buys –- they’ll include original content and social activations that drive considerable earned media.
These earned media enhanced deals are possible because the heart of online video’s success is social. Not only has the growth of both social and video happened concurrently, but the futures of both social and online video are highly intertwined.
The fact of the matter is that content needs social, and social needs content. Social allows for the discovery and sharing of content, whereas video gives people something to share and discover through their social graphs. Considering the fact that almost an hour of new video is uploaded to YouTube every second, it’s pretty much impossible for people to find new content easily without social sharing and conversation.
With that in mind, there are several things that marketers should consider when evaluating original online content.
For starters, just as with traditional media, talent plays a big role; the social influence and impact of talent is more predictable and important than ever. Working with talent (which includes not just onscreen talent but writers and producers as well) who can activate their social networks will often make the difference between a successful online content investment and one that falls flat.
The good news is that we’re seeing more and more brands work with socially networked talent. The downside is that many brands consistently make the mistake of simply casting their talent in commercial content and not actually leveraging their networks. Marketers need to look for content opportunities that leverage more than just paid media. Is the content creator big on YouTube? Does the star have a large Twitter following? Leverage your talent’s owned media channels to maximize the chances for success.
Another factor that marketers need to consider is audience scale. There are tremendous opportunities in Web video to reach specific online communities, particularly when you’re leveraging other social channels. The impact of content and social activations within clearly identified communities, be it gamers or moms, will always be greater than just simply reaching adults 25-54.
Lastly, marketers need to look for content opportunities that are ongoing, with clearly defined publishing schedules and extensions. A one-time-campaign-focused approach to content doesn’t give marketers the most bang for their buck. Instead, the most successful online video content is on-demand and lives longer than the brand's one-time campaign. Take advantage of the social opportunities out there –- your owned media -- to build a powerful brand content platform that can support all of your campaigns.
The network TV upfronts are still thought of having celebrities, scale and great sushi. But the native digital content industry will show the scale, the quality and the stars of the social screens. And the food will be awesome!
*Disclosure: Digitas is a founding partner of a series of digital upfronts taking place this spring.