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If You Post It, They Still Might Not Come

Show some love to forgotten web videos to maximize their impact

March 8, 2016
 

Some of the loneliest inhabitants on the Internet tend to be higher education videos. (Somebody had to say it.) We all have our rock stars…that time that Michelle Obama or Stephen Colbert gave the commencement speech, or maybe it was a quirky flash mob video or Haarlem Shuffle setup that you launched at just the right time. But the videos that receive the most sweat and planning often seem to languish near the bottom when you sort your university channel by hits. But I’m here to assure you that all is not lost. It’s never too late to resurrect your languishing videos. Here are a few ways you can let them know that you still love them:

Spend a little money – Sometimes viral video can be manufactured and sometimes you’ll get lucky, but most of the time you’ll check back a few months after uploading to see that it’s only received 70 clicks. I’ve worked on projects with budgets of thousands of dollars that earn only a few hundred views within the first year of launch. But if you’re willing to spend a little on digital advertising, you could gather thousands of clicks.

We recently invested in a video on ocean acidification using YouTube in-stream ads and we earned 20,000 views in only a few days for a small investment.

I always recommend investing at least 25% of the cost of production in web and social advertising. Spending money on your videos is an easy way to tell your videos that you still love them. Who says that you can’t buy affection?

Give your video a new thumbnail – YouTube, Vimeo and other video delivery systems have a magic formula that invariably selects the worst frame of a video to use as the default thumbnail. Usually it’s an image of folks with their mouths hanging or wearing painful expressions. That’s why they offer you the option of selecting a different frame or even uploading a new thumbnail. Have a designer create a custom image. Vimeo’s Staff Picks channel features great examples of video thumbnails, and the best among them look like movie posters. By adding text you can easily turn a video into a display ad, no clicks required to get your message or call to action across. Your videos will appreciate it if you help them look their best.

Write your video a lovely description – Browse through any college YouTube channel and you’re bound to find a few videos that have poorly written or even nonexistent descriptions. Descriptions are vital for search engine optimization, and they also offer the opportunity for messaging and links. Communication is the key to any great relationship, so writing a new or more complete description for your videos is a sure way to let them know that you still care.

If you’re even more ambitious, you can build an entire website around your videos. When we placed our most recent broadcast commercial online, we created a website that shared all of the extra outtakes and told the larger story behind its productions and all of the real people featured in the shots. 

Host a party for them – Who doesn’t like a good party? A well-crafted video can be a cinematic experience when viewed in public. Audiences have electricity. We’ve entered videos produced for our colleges and departments into film festivals and even held premiere events for our longer projects at locations like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s IMAX theater. You can pair videos with Q&A sessions with the faculty and students featured in the film. Hosting an event for your video may not add to the Internet views, but it gives folks a reason to engage with your brand face to face. Launch parties, even if they’re just for the office or team that produced the film, are strong tactics for building energy and momentum, giving you a reason to talk about them on social networks.

Recycle, reuse and repurpose – Videos aren’t really individual entities. When you think about it, they’re more like ecosystems of different species, each film made up of countless shots, songs, sound effects, graphics and transitions. One way to make sure your favorite shots don’t get lonely is to re-assemble them into compilation videos. The University of Washington always does a great job with this type of video, as their #BestofUW 2015 video demonstrates.  A “year in review” or other themed compilation is a great way to help old, neglected footage make new friends, and you’ll get a new video out of it with only a fraction of the cost of budgeting for a brand new project.

Online video is gaining in popularity. You don’t have to look far to find brand video heralded as a game changer when it comes to marketing. In 2015, video ads surpassed photo ads for the first time on Facebook. Cisco expects 80% of all traffic to be streaming video content by the end of the decade.

With that in mind, there’s no reason to allow the quality videos we’ve already produced fade into obscurity. If we give them just a little more attention, we can keep the relationships fresh and help them find the audiences they deserve.

David Baker is a writer and media producer who works in interactive communications at Oregon State University. His latest novel is Vintage (Simon & Schuster). 

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