What separates a social media star from the crowd? A panel of experts revealed three key traits the most successful social brands all share.
I had the privilege of moderating a panel entitled The New Content Ecosystem: Social Video and its Implications for TV at the TV of Tomorrow Show in NYC on December 4th, 2018. The four industry insiders that participated in the discussion revealed three essential traits of successful social media brands.
Social video is changing rapidly. Platforms rise and fall, algorithms change, and creators produce more and more content. With such a dynamic environment, a fundamental rule for gaining a big audience appears to be timing. According to Allison Stern, co-founder of Tubular Labs a social video analytics group, being first is crucial:
“Looking at the data, there’s a huge advantage to being first to a platform… Like on Facebook, probably early 2017 was the time to do it. If you look now, some of them are generating billions of views. If you started now, you could not do that.” – Allison Stern
Pewdiepie, (Felix Kjellberg,) the owner of YouTube’s most popular channel, is a great example of what Ms. Stern was saying. At first glance, the Swedish gamer doesn’t seem like a good candidate for being the most popular. He began posting videos in 2010, more than five years after the creation of YouTube. By then, there were hundreds of stars uploading content and the leader at the time was Smosh, a sketch comedy duo.
However, PewDiePie was one of the first YouTubers to begin uploading comedic gaming content to the platform. The genre became one of the most popular on YouTube and propelled Pewdiepie to the top of YouTube in just three years.
Don’t focus on ‘Premium’
Recently, YouTube elected to move all its ‘Premium’ original shows from behind the YouTube Red paywall to the ad-supported area. The move marked an unsurprising departure from big budget productions. While Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu seem to be doing well in these areas, YouTube seems to be floundering. David Tochterman, founder of Canvas Media Studios, and Brandie Tucker, Head of TV Fine Bros Entertainment, think they know why. Mr. Tochterman says:
“You’re talking about two completely different businesses. Social video is not the same as the premium content business. Social video is not designed for that…they each have different challenges. Starting any premium video business is hard.” – David Tochterman, founder of Canvas Media Studios
Many of the social video platforms, including YouTube, found out just how hard it is to create bigger budget content. Moreover, it appears they now realize social video may, as Mr. Tochterman said, not be premium. The question remains why the platforms went into this area in the first place. Ms. Tucker had this to say about it:
“They have such valuable data that traditional TV doesn’t but rather than really digging into it, many platforms focused on a more traditional programming approach and underestimated the challenge of changing audience behavior. YouTube’s audience expects to click a link and watch content for free and the majority weren’t convinced to change their behavior and shell out money for it, no matter how premium the content. Understand your platform and listen to your audience.” Brandie Tucker, Head of TV Fine Bros Entertainment
Look at the data
YouTube certainly has tons of data on user behavior. Moreover, it can be used to target consumers strategically for advertisements. According to Oz Etzioni, co-founder of Clinch, this information is even superior to those obtained from connected TVs and other OTT platforms:
“The data is just unmatched, what is available in social media. In connected TV and OTT, they are trying to get there, but it is not quite there yet… You can actually pinpoint a specific <kind of> person using social media data” – Oz Etzioni, co-founder of Clinch
The ability to match a specific person might sound like a superpower to any brand looking to market themselves. However, there are challenges. As Ms. Tucker foreshadowed in the previous section, many of the older brands are reluctant to utilize this data.
Traditional companies tend to want to create ads as if they were intended for linear television. However, it is crucial to consider the features of each social platform and act fast for a social campaign to be successful. Unfortunately, brands often take too long to create the content and think of the social platforms as interchangeable. As a consequence, they make mistakes, much like YouTube did when it went into premium video.
Although the panelists did not agree on everything, they did agree that: Those that enter a platform first, don’t focus on premium, and listen to the data are much more likely to be successful.