Is there a science to sharing? Making branded online video content people want to share

This week, Unruly Media have launched their 2014 Science of Sharing report – exploring the trends behind the rise in sharing of branded video content online by consumers. This has increased 22% in the last 12 months and continues to grow. The report is worth a read to understand the trends that they see from their analysis of branded content that can be shared, but is it really science?

Well no, but the report does help brands to understand the conditions in which online video can be more successful than others. At FreshMinds we work a lot with brands to help them to bring data into the creative process – understanding consumer behaviours and also understanding the conditions that are common when branded videos are shared.

What will make a particular branded video be shared by your target audience will depend on a lot of factors – your brand, the audience, their perception of you, timing, topic and others (including, of course, media spend). But brands can start to understand better the correlations that exist between content their audience is likely to share and any of these factors. That provides data and information to help creative teams make informed decisions about the content they want to produce.

The Unruly report highlights a number of factors that we see when we work with clients on content marketing strategies, notably:

  1. The importance of emotion: Across multiple audience types, there is a strong correlation between them reporting a strong emotive impact from a video online and their likelihood to share it. This makes logical sense – if something has an impact on you, you might think it could have a similar impact on your friends and contacts.
  2. The power (and limitations) of social incentives: People share videos with their contacts and friends for many reasons – from a feeling of being ‘in the know’ to the act of sharing giving them a greater chance of winning a prize. Social incentives can be an effective way for brands to encourage people to share online video content – but it comes with limitations. You risk getting lots of sharing for the sake of sharing, rather than people consuming and changing their behaviours based on the content.
  3. Celebrities are not (always) the answer: Paying to put a celebrity in your video is not necessarily a recipe for instant sharing success – people share videos based on the content, the emotion it inspires and how the sharing reflects on them. Putting a celebrity in your video will not necessarily make a bad video a good one. Conversely, many brands manage to build ‘celebrity’ profiles for their own staff by including them in videos that do make that emotional impact.

But overall, these are just guidelines to understand the conditions that make video content likely to be shared. For each individual brand and for each audience type, the exact nature of content that will be shared will be different – understanding your own audiences and your own content marketing strategy is the critical factor for success.