Sponsored content is a form of advertising media intended to educate, entertain, and engage consumers by delivering an intentional message about a brand’s product or services. But what’s the secret sauce for increasing engagement on your sponsored video content?

Brands That Get the Views and the Engagement on Sponsored Video Content

Is it even possible to get high views and high engagement on a video ad campaign or promoted video content? Let’s look at the numbers to find out.

According to Tubular Intelligence, there are 181 videos from 91 brands that have more than 1 million engagements as well as 5 million views. Okay, that thins the herd. And one of the top ones is “Shell | Best Day Of My Life,” which has 164 million views and 2.9 million engagements. It features superstars Jennifer Hudson, Luan Santana, Pixie Lott, Yemi Alade, Steve Aoki & #TanWeiWei, so this an example of “trackvertising,” so maybe that’s not the example that you were looking for.

So, check out “This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop,” which was created by the Harmon Brothers. The Facebook version has 139 million views and 2.5 million engagements. Oh, and the YouTube version has another 32.4 million views and 821,000 engagements.

“This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop” also generated more that lots of likes, comments, and shares. The campaign also increased online sales of Squatty Potty by more than 600% and retail sales of the toilet stool by over 400% helping the company to sell more than 4 million products in the U.S. to date. So, maybe your objective should be high engagement/high sales.

So that’s a quick look at video ads, but what about sponsored content?” Well, it’s true. Sponsored content is a form of advertising media intended to educate, entertain, and engage consumers by delivering an intentional message about a brand’s product or services.

So, let’s look at sponsored videos with more than 5 million views and 1 million engagements. There are 26 of them from 16 accounts. Now, let’s sort them using ER30, which measures a video or publisher’s engagement rate benchmarked across all content.

“FIFA 18 | FUELED BY RONALDO,” which has 10.5 million views, 1 million engagements, and is sponsored by EA SPORTS FIFA on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Facebook page, has and ER30 of 4.0x, which means it is 4 times more engaging than average. The YouTube version, which isn’t sponsored but is on the EA SPORTS FIFA channel, has an additional 7.8 million views, 185,000 engagements, and an ER30 of 2.2x.

So, according to data that is independent, impartial, and unbiased, video ads, branded videos, and sponsored videos can get high views, high engagement, and even a high engagement rate. But, they are as rare as hens’ teeth.

However, as I pointed out in my column on Red Bull quietly changing its video marketing strategy, trying to create monster tent-pole event like “Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k” is so five years ago. The new-new strategy is to create scores of small tent-peg events that are held throughout the year.

Find the Right Partner to Work With

Or, the latest trend in the digital video business is to identify a large portfolio of micro influencers who can give you more bang for you buck. If you need an example, check out “9 Things You NEED To Know Before College!” from Mikey Murphy. It’s one of four sponsored videos created by three partners for Bed Bath & Beyond. Now, it’s only got 149,00 views, but it also has 17,700 engagements. That gives it an ER30 of 9.6x. And another sponsored video, “BACK TO SCHOOL ADVICE” from Andrew Lowe, only has 89,900 views, but it also has 9,341 engagements. That gives it an ER30 of 10.0x. Get it? Got it? Good.

Strategic Insights for Raising Engagement

Based on the critical data above, here are 3 strategic insights:

#1 Most video marketers are focused on telling a story visually, but the sound track can also have a huge impact on engagement. In fact, viewers discover, watch, and share a ton of music videos and lots of savvy marketers have created some very successful “trackvertising” to tap into this phenomenon. So, use your ears as well as your eyes with creating and editing video advertising.

#2 It’s also worth noting that “This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop” is 2:53, “FUELED BY RONALDO” is 0:49, and “BACK TO SCHOOL ADVICE” is 8:58. So, maybe we’ve identified a hidden barrier to your success. If your pre-conceived notion of “video ad campaigns” is repurposed “30-second commercials,” then maybe you shouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of your paid video campaigns have high views/low engagement. “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

#3 If your goal is to get lots of views, then you can run a massive campaign for an extended period of time and bludgeon viewers into watching your video ad for more than 3 second on Facebook or 30 seconds on YouTube (or the duration if it’s shorter than 30 seconds). But if your goal is also to get high engagement, then your content needs to draw “a high-arousal positive emotional response,” as Karen Nelson-Field observed in Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing.

3 Key Steps to Boosting Engagement on Paid Video Campaigns

So, what can you do to boost engagement on paid video campaigns?

#1 First, make great video content. That’s right, stop thinking that you’re producing are ads. Focus instead on making videos worth watching. And then use data and insights when creating content worth sharing. Why? Because you are competing directly or indirectly with 17.1 million other videos that were uploaded during the past week, according to Tubular Insights. So, paid video campaigns – even ones backed by big budgets – aren’t going to get lots of engagement or high engagement rates if you’ve got run-of-the-mill video content.

Suzie Reider, an old friend and former colleague who is now the Managing Director Brand Solutions at Google, shared this concept back in 2008 when she gave a presentation to The Ad Club in Boston that was entitled, “Marketing with Video.” Back then, she advised advertisers to “create ads that work as content.” And as an example, she showed “Amazing Ball girl catch,” a Gatorade commercial directed by Baker Smith of Harvest Films. Today, this “video content” has 6.4 million views and 19,600 engagements.

If you’re looking for more tactical advice for making compelling and effective video content, then read the “guidelines for great creative” section in the YouTube Playbook for Creative Advertising. Or, watch “Facebook Video: Data-Driven Insights & Best Practices” webinar replay, which features Carla Marshall, my editor-in-chief, and Mark Robertson, the founder of ReelSEO (now Tubular Insights).

So, where can you find data and insights on the kind of video that’s worth watching as well as the type of content that is engaging enough to generate likes, comments, and shares? Well, start with YouTube Analytics. (It’s free.) The first thing to look at is your top 10 videos as measured by watch time. I know, we normally talk about watch time when discussing video SEO. But, the watch time reports in YouTube Analytics – including relative audience retention – are the right metrics to gage if your videos are worth watching.

Next, look at your interaction reports in YouTube Analytics. These will let you know if your content is generating subscriptions, likes and dislikes, videos in playlists, comments, or sharing. If you are trying to drive traffic to your website, your interaction reports will also tell you if your content is generating clicks on annotations, cards, or end screens. These are the right metrics to use to measure engagement.

All of these YouTube Analytics metrics (watch time, likes, comments, and shares) provide a basic barometer showing how your audience is responding to your videos. However, the effectiveness of an ad campaign can also evaluated by using Google’s Brand Lift solution. Brand Lift measures the direct impact your YouTube ads on perceptions and behaviors throughout the consumer journey. Within a matter of days, Brand Lift can give you insights into how your ads are impacting metrics like lifts in brand awareness, ad recall, consideration, favorability, and purchase intent (as measured in surveys), as well as brand interest (as measured by organic search activity). This enables you to optimize your campaigns mid-flight, if necessary.

In addition to YouTube Analytics and Google’s Brand Lift solution, you can also use Tubular Intelligence to track over 3 billion videos and analyze the viewing habits of more than 400 million consumers across multiple social platforms.

#2 Find the right partners to build more engaging campaigns.

If you really want to boost the engagement of your paid video campaigns, then maybe it’s time to replace your traditional ad agency (which doesn’t have a clue why its repurposed 30-second commercial isn’t highly engaging) with a new generation of video content creators who know how to help brands develop content strategies that will resonate with 21st-century consumers.

Okay, maybe you don’t really need to fire your traditional ad agency. Maybe you just need tell them to refocus on TV advertising, where they still know what they’re doing. At the same time, you can let them know that you’re giving video advertising to someone who knows what they’re doing and will also allocate a portion of the digital video ad budget to sponsored video. And your old ad agency can find out later that the budget for TV advertising is falling through the floor, while the budget for video advertising is going through the roof.

Come on, the “Mad Men” era is over. As I mentioned back in April in the column entitled, “It’s Not YouTube’s Fault: Blame the ‘Magazine Format’ for the State of Video Advertising,” Sylvester Laflin “Pat” Weaver, Jr. came up with the idea of selling 60-second commercials in NBC-produced shows instead of 30-minute blocks of time that the advertiser controlled in the 1950s.

Before then, during radio’s Golden Age in the 1930s, the world of content creation was ruled by a system of advertiser-sponsored and agency-produced programming, which typified by that ever-popular program format, the soap opera. This system continued through most of the 1950s, typified by shows such as “The Hallmark Hall of Fame,” “The Colgate Comedy Hour”, and “Kraft Television Theater.”

Well, maybe we need to go “back to the future.” If brands want to create video content that has high engagement, then they need to find the right content partner to reach the right audience, build successful sponsored video campaigns with them, and get more engagement for less spend.

And, Tubular’s DealMaker can help them do that. Consider this: DealMaker’s data is independent, impartial, and unbiased. I’ve used it since June, and have learned that what Tubular’s website says about it actually understates what you can find.

Seriously. The website says DealMaker is tracking “140k sponsored videos, 30k campaigns 15k brand sponsors, and 15k content partners.” Well, I double-checked over the weekend and DealMaker has tracked 202k sponsored videos, 101k campaigns 41.4k brand sponsors, and 36.4k content partners across 24 industries, 21 genres, and 173 countries. And sponsored video content has tallied 38.9 billion views and 888 million engagements to date.

#3 Rethink your advertising formats and targeting.

YouTube introduced the TrueView family of ad formats back in 2010. Believe it or not, there were originally four ad formats, but over the years that was whittled down to two:

  • TrueView in-stream ads, aka skippable video ads, which play before the start of a YouTube video. Viewers see 5 seconds of your ad and then can choose to keep watching or skip it. You only pay a “cost-per-view” if viewers choose to watch at least 30 seconds of your ad.
  • TrueView in-display ads, aka video discovery ads, where your video appears in a special promoted section of the video search results pages on YouTube for a high-frequency query. You pay only when a viewer chooses to watch your video.

Since advertisers paid nothing if viewers skipped their in-steam ads, there wasn’t much incentive for most of them to spend a whole lot of time (because time is money) selecting relevant target audiences. Hey, who cares of if the wrong people see the first 5 to 29 seconds of your ad and decide to skip the rest? No harm, no foul, right?

Sure, but if lots and lots of viewers skipped your in-stream ads, was that because most of them weren’t the right target audience, or was it an indication that your video content wasn’t particularly engaging? We’ll never know because no video marketer in his or her right mind would survey people who abandoned their “free” ads – even if their CMO was obsessed with retargeting people who had abandoned their website’s shopping cart.

So, if you really, really want to boost your engagement as well as your views, then you might want to test different formats and spend more time on targeting – or change your approach to targeting altogether. For example, instead of using demographics, trying using topic or affinity targeting. Why? Because demographics don’t help you understand what you really need to know – consumer intent – what consumers are looking for in an exact moment they are looking to find it.

Is your audience interested in certain subjects? Topic targeting allows you to show your ad on topic-specific channels. For example, if you target the “automotive” topic, then your ad will show on YouTube to people watching videos about cars. Similarly, affinity targeting allows you to show your ad only to users with particular interests. For example, if you sell kitchen supplies, then you can target YouTube users who watch food videos.

Intent beats identity. Immediacy trumps loyalty. When someone has a want or need, they turn to their smartphone for help – whether it’s a karate newbie watching an expert do a move on YouTube or my wife, who did a search on Google three years ago for “Maytag washer leaking from bottom.” When a need arises, people turn to YouTube search to look for answers, discover new things, and make decisions. Google calls these intent-filled moments, micro-moments. And they’re the best opportunity video marketers have to connect with people at the exact moment they are looking for something.

If you plan to continue using TrueView in-stream ads, then understanding consumer intent and meeting their needs in the moment are the keys to boosting engagement as well as winning more hearts, minds, and dollars. Otherwise, you could end up targeting the wrong audience – people who are kinda, sorta relevant, so they watch more than 30 seconds of your video ad, but not especially interested at the moment, so they don’t engage with it.

For example, Groupon used a different approach to targeting in its recent YouTube ads campaign. Instead of “spray and pray” marketing – where brands blast their ads at as many people as possible and hope the right audience notices, Groupon adapted its marketing approaches to the behavior and interests of the customers they were going after.

The company did this by aligning its audience targeting segments to Groupon’s deal categories based on what people are looking up on Search and Maps. They also used YouTube’s new Consumer Patterns to target “people who frequently visit salons,” “live event enthusiasts,” and “department store shoppers.”

But, targeting isn’t the only thing you need to rethink. You also need to rethink advertising formats.

As skippable video ads became more popular (because you could save time on targeting), the budgets for the other option, video discovery ads, got smaller and smaller (because it took more and more time to do keyword research). Ironically, showing your video ads based on the keywords or phrases that someone has just typed into the YouTube search box is one of the most effective ways to respond to consumer intent.

And after someone watches a video discovery ad, they get the time to think about liking it, adding a comment, and/or sharing it with their friends, family, and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and/or LinkedIn. After they watch a skippable video ad, it zooms along to the content video that the user originally wanted to watch. That undercuts the opportunity for high engagement.

To keep in-stream ads from sucking more than 90% of your overall video advertising budget away from in-display ads, put them into separate campaigns. And expand your list of relevant keywords that you target. To do this, try using the YouTube Keyword Tool offered by Key Tools Limited. It uses YouTube autocomplete feature to generate highly relevant long-tail keywords about a particular topic.

And keep your eye on some of the newer ad formats that YouTube has been rolling out over the past couple of years. This ranges from bumper video campaigns to TrueView for shopping campaigns. These enable you to match the right ad format to a wider range of marketing objectives. So, you can stop losing sleep over low engagement and start measuring brand lift/high engagement/high sales.

There you have it: The critical data, strategic insights, and tactical advice that you’ve come to expect from Tubular Insights. But, this is just my take on the topic. If you’ve got a better way or even just another way to boost engagement on paid video campaigns, then please share your tools, tips, and techniques with your colleagues in the online video and internet marketing industries. Seriously, we’re all in the same boat.

Author: Greg Jarboe
Courtesy: www.tubularinsights.com
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