From Cave Walls to Facebook Walls: Social Is As Social Does

As CEO of a digital media company that creates and distributes online video content, I'm always being asked to explain the difference between online video, viral video and social video -- and, frankly, the question is starting to irritate me a little.  Don't get me wrong; I'm thrilled that marketers want to incorporate online video into their social media strategies. I just don't understand where, when and how the line drawing began.

 I mean, isn't all online video social?  YouTube is, after all, the original social media site.  Since its inception, YouTube has been a vehicle for making friends, having conversations, creating communities and sharing ideas and information, with online video as the catalyst for all that social activity.  

People have been sharing ideas and information ever since they could write on cave walls, and online video is nothing more than a modernized form of that kind of communication.  Of course, some cave drawings undoubtedly captured more interest and drew more visitors than others. So when brands ask me what makes online video social, I think what they're really trying to find out is what makes it compelling enough to draw an audience and foster community.  The answer is simple whether you're talking cave drawings or online video or weekend cocktail parties:  Add something valuable to the conversations that your audience is engaging in.



Unlike Neanderthals, today's marketer's have multiple, rich resources from which they can glean this critical information.  A recent research project of ours, for example, looked at the "conversations" generating the most participation and engagement on Facebook walls. The findings, mundane as they might seem at first glance, could be spun into pure marketing gold by the right brand, taking the right approach. 

Over the three-day period we surveyed, the top three discussion topics, in order, were:  1) how to care for a new puppy; 2) what to think about school immunizations; and 3) what to make for dinner.  These findings might not offer deep insight into the evolution of the human psyche, but they do provide certain brands -- pet retailers, pharmaceuticals and food companies -- with the information they need to create a powerful, effective means of advancing their social media strategies.  Developing content that addresses those questions, putting that content on video, and uploading it to sites where people will find and use it is a surefire way that your branded informational videos can become popular on social media sites. 

In other words, it's all about tying search and social together: using search to look for the conversations that are happening, and then identifying the questions that brands can answer in order to enter those conversations.  In the work that we do for brands, we lean heavily on search data. YOU should be doing the same. Rather than guessing what people will share, find out what people are searching for. Sustained success for online video distribution most often executes a search strategy over a sharing strategy. As search becomes inherently more social, the most successful approaches will lead with search and allow the sharing to follow.

2 comments about "From Cave Walls to Facebook Walls: Social Is As Social Does".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from, September 1, 2011 at 4:31 p.m.

    I hope the non-profit and cause marketing folks out there hear this message, finding precedes engaging, and send a copy of Alison's article to their fellow staff members, executives, and board members. The part about using search to look for conversations cannot be over emphasized. If there is a "how to" issue then start using consultants who are well rounded in marketing, not just social media, not just SEO, not just Facebook.

  2. Grant Crowell from, September 3, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.

    I appreciate this article, but I would disagree with the notion that all online video is social, just because it's online. Good examples of non-social online video is repurposed television commercials, and anything else that's a one way form of communication.

    Of course you could argue that putting it on a social channel like YouTube, or anything that gives a person the ability to share it with others, makes it social. But I draw the distinction between capability and activity.

    Another level is where someone may want to seed interesting video content and expect others to talk about them, but they don't participate in the conversation themselves.

    Here's more on that perspective:

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