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June 29, 2009
Viral Video Marketing - Planning For Measurable Outcomes
 
Viral video is such a dynamic player on the web. Surely nothing could sound so compelling to the decision makers who hold the purse strings. "Our message will be repeated hundreds and thousands of times as people excitedly share our video among their friends who then share it with their friends. The traffic to our website increases on a steady curve and then we see the hockey stick of exponential growth as it goes viral!" You can probably picture the look on their face as they listen to this pitch - and then they pull open the purse strings and unleash a small avalanche of money on the project.
 
I am going to talk about planning for measurable outcomes in viral video, but first I thought I might set the stage with some related thoughts. As dynamic and unpredictable as video viewer ship of video on the web is, it amazes me how people throw around the concept of viral as if it is just something that simply destined to happen when you put your video on the web. It has been said that viral is a result, not a strategy. I think that there is some good understanding behind this statement.
 
Setting Expectations
 
It is important to help everyone involved to have realistic expectations about the video and how it is likely to spread. This is one of the scariest things about the wave of new social media experts - so many of them refuse to heed this advice. It's fairly easy to get a new client by offering them the world - this is especially the case with regard to viral video because the buzz, the experience, and the track record seems to support the idea that this medium results in a flood of traffic time after time. You can't be certain that your concept will go viral, this is one of the reasons why it can be a good idea to have a secondary idea that can be developed on the same platform in case the first attempt fizzles. You can create content and intelligently support it in hopes that it catches on. While you support the video you can also generate incoming links to your website from dofollow video sharing sites which can be very beneficial to your online footprint. The preparatory and supporting factors are very important.
 
Setting Goals And Objectives
 
Before the audience assessment and demographics, the concepting and creative aspects, before the technical needs and the user experience is mapped out, there must be desired outcomes associated with the video. What do you want people to do as a result of viewing this video? There must be goals, and these goals must be tied to business needs. Common examples include increased visits to your website, constituents joining your email list, and people sharing the video. This might be the synthetic side of organic growth and I can already hear someone saying that this is the best way to ruin the experience, as if tying it to business needs and measuring everything can somehow turn the video into a sterile experience. I would say that rather measuring the user behavior surrounding the video makes it possible to improve every aspect of the experience and ensure that the next one will be even better.
 
 
Tracking Video Performance
 
After you have defined expectations for measurable user behavior as you explored the idea of using viral, it will be possible to quantify the impact of the video and compare it to other aspects of your marketing mix as well as improve the video and the overall approach. It can be highly relevant to measure the number of people who watched the entire video vs. those that only watched part of it. You can measure the increase in email list and registered users that resulted from the campaign.
 
It can be quite simple to measure views of the video. For example, as you can see in this case study, the Moveon Viral Video was viewed over 21 million times. Taking measurement to the next level however, will require some tools. If you use web analytics tools such as Google Analytics you can tag your links which will allow you to tell exactly which people arrived as a result of the original email seeding vs. the sharing. You can also determine what percentage of users drilled deeper into your website after seeing the video. You can determine what part of the country they came from, how long they spent on your website as well as whether or not they completed a desired action like filling out a contact form. It can be useful to set up Google Alerts to keep an eye out for mentions on the web and to use Social Mention to watch the spread on social media sites. Finally you might also include a voting functionality so that people who view the video can provide feedback for how well they liked it.
 
Tracking this type of information will help you to understand which components of the video are successful and which leave something to be desired. It will allow you to accurately compare the number of leads generated with the video to the performance of your other marketing initiatives. Determining brand exposure is much harder, although tracking mentions on the web, social media sites, and microblogs is a big step in the right direction.

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Eric Werner is an interactive marketing consultant specializing in Web Analytics, Organic Search Engine Optimization, and Pay-Per-Click Management. A results-driven Google Certified Adwords professional, Eric has engaged in Adwords Management for NRDC.org while at Northridge Interactive. He currently manages a Google Grant for Youthaids.org, and leads an ongoing SEO engagement with FAMM.org. Follow him on Twitter or read his Adwords Marketing Blog.
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