Value Breeds Virality, and More “Secrets” of Booming Branded Content
First Media’s Head of Digital, Yuval Rechter, discusses how to gain ‘super fans’ that drive viral video success.
First Media is responsible for three of Facebook’s ten most widely shared pieces of branded content in 2017. Even in light of the recent algorithm change, Head of Digital Yuval Rechter remains confident in the value of creative and usable branded content. In fact, we got to see those effects onstage relatively early, during a viewing of the groundbreaking Always “Like a Girl” ad.
“It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I still almost cry every time,” Rechter admitted to the crowd in his session “Secrets to Creating Breakthrough Branded Content,” a fact likely not helped by his sister’s presence in the room. And yet, it’s an ideal example of content that was unequivocally associated with a brand- that provided the value to get it shared and watched seismically (65 million views on YouTube!) in the days surrounding the Super Bowl.
First Media owns the online properties Blossom, a lifestyle channel catering to millennial women, and So Yummy, a channel dedicated to desserts. The latter underwent a few transformations en route to its position as a destination for fascinated foodies. Rechter shares how So Yummy started as a more general food channel but picked up steam when it pivoted to showing exclusively desserts. It picked up still more steam when they focused on “extreme desserts,” including the famed unicorn cake video and a highly viewed clip of elaborate lattice crusts for pies.
The natural question when looking at their record (roughly one thousand viral videos, with 91% getting 1 million views in their first 24 hours) is “how did they do it?” But Rechter posed a few more instructive questions during his session that might better guide firms hoping to similarly light up the Internet with their branded content.
What Makes Your Audience Tick?
It’s fully acceptable to have a lane and stay in it. In fact, brands and agencies alike who can operate with focus and operate in that lane will have more success than those who get, as Rechter puts it, “trigger happy.” “We see people post a little too fast,” he remarked, placing more value on their own experimentation than on consumer reactions. This can cause problems. Why? Because when something looks out of place, customers or viewers notice. And that incongruity creates confusion- sometimes damagingly so. “It’ll hurt the current campaign and others; the algorithm is smart.”
The solution here? Pay attention to what performs well and distill what makes it work. What do your people want? And yes, the choice to say “people” is intentional. “We don’t say users at First Media,” Rechter revealed. “We say ‘fans,’ ‘people.’ Because if you think that way, you understand that you’re creating content people are consuming, that your fans are consuming. And that makes it harder to just throw any post out there.”
What Makes Your Fans Share: Resonation or Value?
Speaking of throwing any post out there, Rechter believes it’s essential to know ahead of time what you’ll want people to do with it. You may want them to comment meaningfully- the Facebook algorithm rewards comments that are greater than five words long. You may want them to like it. Or, you may want them to share it. If that last goal is the one you’re eyeing, know that fans will share for one of two reasons: resonation or value.
The first, resonation, largely serves to align the sharer with a set of values. The Women’s March was used as an example; content from or about the Women’s March garners huge shares, even from people unable or unwilling to attend. Why? Because they wanted to align themselves with the values that the organizers and demonstrators espoused. Content can achieve virality when people find value in the messages shared and want to show their agreement.
Second, value, comes from wanting to be a resource to friends, family, and followers. This inclination is agnostic to a lot of factors- including, in one interesting instance, gender. Among the most shared videos on Facebook ever is a Blossom post that shows how to better organize underwear and socks at home. Although Blossom as a channel attracts primarily women, the overall share statistics for this video boasts a 60/40 breakdown of shares, women to men. The takeaway? The content provides value. Content that does this consistently gets more meaningful engagement than content that doesn’t. So be it blogs, infographics, audio or (in the case of FirstMedia) video, it should fit the brief in one of two ways.
What’s Going to Define Success, At the End of the Day?
Branded content, in its very nature, requires the combined energy and understanding of a brand and an agency or its creative team. Successful breakthrough branded content means coming to a mutual understanding of what that success looks like. The most common hurdle here, according to Rechter, is the perception that a commercial is a realistic end result. It isn’t. “Commercials and influencer marketing are different.” This means that a brand will have to partner with an agency that is adeptly targeting their desired market, and agencies will have to be honest about who they can and can’t reach. Honestly on both sides is essential. Does each side get the other?
An example of a McDonald’s commercial from the eighties, which mentioned the associated brands at a frequency that managed to feel obsessive in only thirty seconds, was invoked to demonstrate the difference. In contrast, a widely shared Blossom partnership with Bed, Bath, and Beyond sported only a logo in the bottom right during a product demonstration…and it drove sales increases of the product (slow cookers) by leaps and bounds.
A lot of numbers surfaced over the course of Rechter’s talk; and rightfully so, for people want to see that these strategies work. But ultimately, the metric for success is simple: “if you want to get people to share your branded content, you must give huge value.”
First Media is a multi-platform, content publisher dedicated to the do-it-all millennial woman.
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