No Take-Backs: Five Rules for Creating Engaging Social Videos

Javi Zubizarreta is a Production Associate with Ogilvy Public Relations in Chicago.

The lights go down and the screen flashes to life. As you sweat bullets hoping the audience likes your work, you realize something that makes you freeze– it’s not your movie anymore. It’s theirs.

I remember being struck by this idea of the ‘audience transaction’ when I premiered my first feature, Zuretzako. The audience had generously given me their eyes and ears, and I was (hopefully) giving them a movie that was worth their time.

When it comes to successful social video, this same transaction has to take place. Social video is, simply put, a video that people willingly watch and share. It’s not a TV or Web commercial. It’s something fans and followers watch because they want to and because it adds value to their lives. So as we seek to create more engaging content, I’d offer an update to that famous Ogilvyism: “The consumer isn’t your wife, they’re your live audience.”

What goes into creating engaging social video? Recognize this audience transaction for what it is—a good old-fashioned value exchange. Nobody is getting strong-armed into watching it. They’re entering the social theater by their own volition. And remember, they’ve already paid their entrance. Whether they’ve stumbled across your page or are a dedicated follower, it’s your turn to deliver.

Here are my five rules for creating engaging social video:

  1. Social video isn’t a commercial. It’s a short film from your brand.
  2. Social video is for your fans. What do they want to watch?
  3. Social video demands creative daring. What will truly surprise your audience?
  4. Social video should show, not tell. Don’t give a hard pitch, show an engaging narrative.
  5. Social video can be informative – what can you teach an audience that they’ll appreciate?

Two recent examples come to mind when I think of great social video that exemplifies the audience transaction (full disclosure, they also happen to be Ogilvy clients). The first, Pinnacle Vodka recently created a series of recipe videos. Upfront, the videos offer a recipe that fans can use to make on their own, but the video fun and spirit of Pinnacle. They offer the audience both excitement and utility.

Second is IBM’s “A Boy and his Atom” video. Here, IBM offers audiences an innovative look at its trademark engineering. Watching single atoms dance across the screen, you can’t help but exclaim, “I can’t believe they did that!” Even if you’re not moving atoms, it’s something to aspire to with your brand’s social video. Show your audience something amazing from your brand. Don’t just tell them how amazing your brand is.

Both of these examples have this simple idea of transaction at the heart of the video. It’s clear that content is thought through with the consumer in mind. Social video has the potential to forge profound relationships between a brand and its audience, but it requires a fair transaction – you have to deliver content that is surprising, entertaining, and informative.