Marketing’s Next Big Thing?

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Brands are finding increasing success with social media videos

By Matthew Schwartz
Marketers are feeling increasing pressure from the C-suite to prove their value, and branded social media videos may provide it. Created to tell an interesting story and cultivate a brand’s overall reputation, these quick-hit videos are playing an increasingly vital role in driving consumer engagement, loyalty, and sales.

Consider a 2016 study by Brightcove titled “The Science of Social Video: Turning Views Into Value.” Forty-six percent of the 5,500 consumers surveyed said they have made a purchase as a result of watching a branded video on social media, while another 32 percent have considered doing so. Of those who made a purchase, 57 percent said the videos offered the right level of information on the brand or product and 54 percent said the videos were relevant to their interests.

Such sentiment has been found to be true with the 15-second pre-roll ads for Gatorade Fuel Bars that have been running on YouTube since January. One spot shows various athletes chomping on the brand’s protein bars juxtaposed with them excelling on the playing field. The ads close with a display of Fuel Bars, accompanied by the tagline “BUY NOW.” Through late April, the video had garnered more than 2.5 million views.”This is a product campaign featuring our high ROI media,” says Kenny Mitchell, head of consumer engagement at Gatorade. “Part of our digital strategy is to look at short-form to drive sales lift, awareness, and product.”

In addition to YouTube, the Gatorade Fuel Bar videos have appeared on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, all of which cater to what Mitchell calls “marketing in the moment.” Twitter, which has seen video tweets spike more than 50 percent since early 2016, and Snapchat, borne of “ephemeral” messaging, encourage short, punchy videos. Instagram carries still photography and stop-motion video, which are also good for delivering brief and pointed messages.

To drive purchases using social media videos, Mitchell recommends that marketers wed the message to the specific channel, and use appropriate KPIs. “You need to create bespoke content based on the social platform and have to be mindful of where you want the video to go,” Mitchell says, adding that Gatorade’s social media video effort is starting to command more marketing dollars. “If you combine the target with the creative and bespoke to the respective [social] channel, you can drive efficiencies and effectiveness.”

Southwest Gets a Lift
Brands are also relying on consumer-generated social media videos to build product awareness and stimulate sales. Take Southwest Airlines’ reboot of the humorous “#WannaGetAway” campaign which features folks looking for a quick getaway (and low fares) following an embarrassing moment. To promote the campaign, Southwest created an online video contest asking consumers to share their own “Wanna Get Away” moments on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. The contest garnered thousands of entries, and the five winners were awarded a free February vacation to a private island in Belize.

“It’s not just about clicks, but about having a conversation that leads to a conversion,” says Bethany Evans, manager of customer communications strategy at Southwest Airlines, who adds that the company is expected to increase the number of social media videos centered on lead generation.

Evans stresses that social media videos designed to generate revenue must get the message across immediately. “You have to be clear from the very beginning of the video: What’s the sale/price point and what’s the call to action?” she says. “If nothing else, [consumers] get the relevant information.”

More Online Video Vehicles
The various social media channels are scrambling to develop new marketing vehicles for brands to deliver their video content more efficiently and in multiple formats. For example, Snapchat is reportedly pitching bundled video ads to advertisers (i.e., traditional 30-second spots that are sliced and diced into narratives that can draw better outcomes). YouTube, which now serves a billion hours of video daily, announced in February that it would scrap its 30-second ad format in 2018 to concentrate on marketing offerings using shorter content.

“When you think about using social media video to get people into the sales funnel, you have to remember that these channels are a place to interact with your friends and family,” says Mallorie Rosenbluth, senior manager of social media at Grubhub. “Friends build relationships. As a brand, we do that over time with content and storytelling. The sale comes later.”

The online and mobile food-ordering company estimates that roughly 25 percent of its social media content consists of video, with plans to rapidly increase that percentage this year. Rosenbluth shares three ways for marketers to better align social media videos with lead-generation efforts:

  1. Experiment to learn what works best for the brand. Focus on a specific goal (e.g., awareness, sales conversions). Try different formats, optimize, and push out across channels.
  2. View video as part of the sales-and-marketing mix. Creating video content should be a tactic to drive purchasing patterns, not a strategy in and of itself. Develop the right video for the right stage of the user journey, whether it’s for the upper funnel or customer loyalty.
  3. Don’t obsess with perfection. There’s a time and place for highly produced video, as well as for video content of smartphone quality. Being scrappy is important to keep up with the demands of social media and the increased volume of video content needed to engage users and convert sales.

Optimize the Channel
Grubhub’s latest ad campaign provides a sense of the direction brands are headed when it comes to using social media video to drive both lead generation and branding. Launched earlier this year, the campaign features 15- and 30-second ads, currently running on YouTube, Facebook, and broadcast TV. One YouTube video stars a group of Austin, Texas-based friends (not actors) hanging out and ordering their favorite food from local restaurants via Grubhub. Shorter “Day in the Life” videos of the same friends were posted to Grubhub’s Instagram Stories page for 24 hours, before disappearing. The videos help the company’s social channels feed off one another.

Social media video that’s “optimized for the channel, and aligned with a cohesive brand marketing message,” Rosenbluth says, “leads to greater immediate engagements, long-term conversion, and loyalty.”

Matthew Schwartz
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