Video Must Become More Social

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Make no mistake about it, you can do many social things with online video, but we have to change our mindset about it first.

I was excited to be asked to give the luncheon keynote presentation at this past week’s DigiDay: On Video in New York City. While I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about online video and the future of video, it’s still one of those areas within the digital platforms that puzzles me. While there are many new and interesting companies experimenting with ways to make video more social, the bulk of presenters, speakers and case studies were showing amazing and different types of online video campaigns, but they were using very traditional and very mass media-like analytics and metrics to validate either the success or failure of the campaigns.

It’s still about the eyeballs.

One of the distinct parts of the Web is how it enables and empowers brands to not focus on "how many" people are connecting and following them, but to "who" they are connected to. And, in a world of micro-content and micro-niches of interest, you would think that the metrics have to look somewhat different from GRPs, total views, and the ability to put a commercial in at the front, middle or end of the video. Is it just me, or does that sound boring and uninspired from a Marketing perspective?

Where is the innovation in making videos more social?

It’s a tall order. Video – in and of itself – is a passive action. You click the button and then you sit back and watch. You consume it. That’s sort of true, but not really. YouTube – arguably the defacto brand when you think of online video – is also known to be the second largest search engine on the Internet. When people look for information about anything, they’re looking to see if there’s a video about it. YouTube  announced this week that over 35 hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube every sixty seconds (and that’s just YouTube). The consumer’s appetite for online video is voracious – both in the watching and creation of it. And, while it is still not comparable to that of television, you can look at the speed of adoption, and quickly extrapolate that as soon as we can get video to stream the way television broadcasting does, the game could change in a blink of the eye. What YouTube also proves is that adding in social functionality makes a huge difference. Google bought YouTube for $1.68 billion dollars in 2006 not because they didn’t have any video technology (Google Video was doing just fine). They bought YouTube because they had a community.

Social features are just the beginning.

If you take a look at any YouTube video, you’ll note that you can rate it, comment on it, share it (by email, on your favorite online social network, etc…), embed it (on any other website) and you can see information about it (views, likes, etc…) which does make a person consider if they’ll spend time with it. While these functionalities have evolved over the years, the actual content (the video itself) is still a very traditional broadcast. The odds of someone figuring out how to make the actual video more "social media-like" is challenging. I’ve seen videos that allow people to drop comments in it or links within the video to others videos where people are responding to the comments, but those have not received a ton of traction from the mass audience.

There are two paths we go down…

The first path is accepting that online video is (and will be) just like any other type of video format. If that is the case, we have to use the exact same forms of measurement and analytics, and sell advertising in a similar fashion (which is kind of where we’re at today). The second path is to see online video (and let’s lump in videos you’re dragging down on your smartphones and tablets in this lot) as something different. It’s not a mass broadcast, they have social-like features built into them and they don’t bend to the same types of rules and regulations as traditional video, movies and TV broadcasts do. We can also make a bolder statement that online video will evolve. It will become more social as more people create, respond and engage with one another in this medium. It will become less of a passive media and much more active and creational. If we agree that path number two seems more interesting and likely, we now have a huge challenge ahead of us. We can no longer use the traditional measurement and advertising platforms as an indicator of success. We now need new models and a new vision for this new media.

In essence, I’m looking at you and wondering: what do you think online video can/should look like? And, can we ever move away from the pre-rolls and post-rolls?


  1. As it pertains to what online video should ‘look’ like, I feel it is going to require shorter more targeted efforts. Full integration with mobile and almost ‘one touch’ sharing to your various social media platforms. Integration is key because as we have more and more distractions on our phone, the amount of time we are willing to designate to ‘share’ a file is beginning to dwindle. So if a video maker wants their video to be showcased, they are going to need to make it easier for the user to share. Another things about how online video will look…. options. Those looking to view the video on their mobile was as fast video with littler buffering required. But those viewing the video on their laptop or desktop want high resolution video. Users need to have options to suit their specific demands. Advertisers need to understand that and provide viable options as a result

  2. I have not seen it. Do you find that people can engage in that much content from you? Meaning, a Blog and then video, etc… I still feel that people struggle with my Blog and the one audio Podcast every week.

  3. Resolution, speed and access are going to be critical. Let’s face it, TV and movies have spoiled us. We’re used to things being big, bright, fast and readily available. Once we overcome that hurdle, I think the quality of the content will also begin to rise at a dramatic rate.

  4. The concept of video itself might be static in time, but what revolves around it is where the game will be played. Nowadays, more and more people have in their pockets the means to shoot HD videos and to upload them on services like Youtube on the fly. This is the very first social change that’s going on around online videos.
    I really don’t know what kind of change the medium can go through per se, but everything around it is progressively gonna be aimed to put each of us at its center.

  5. Watching videos is really time consuming. What could really help is having the ability to scan through the video to figure out if it’s interesting and maybe crank up the speed a little bit. I find tidbits of interesting information in those WebCOM or TED conferences, but how many 45 minutes vidéos can you watch in a day. Watching at double speed or having a menu to skip inside the video could be very nice.
    As for making it more social, I’m all for it. The Boone Oakley video ( was nice because it’s a website inside youtube videos, but you still cannot link to external website yet. If someone designed another, more social, layer for videos, that could work well. As for anwering one another on video, would you have watched me making this comment ? Yeah, me neither.

  6. Re: “that much content” – video, Blog, Podcast
    I think they’re three different formats. I read you blog somewhat regularly. I download all your podcasts but only listen to 20% of them. I’d watch video if you produced it.
    Produced weekly, they could all be on the same theme or concept, but provided in different forms for different consumption.
    Re: the question overall, part one – video is inherently linear – starts, runs, ends. Comments, text overlays, mash-ups, sharing and everything else help make it more social, but your question imagines something much different than video as it’s produced and posted now. I don’t know what that is.
    Re: the question overall, part two – not in the near future. The premium content producers are in this financially challenging place as the eyeballs move from cable/broadcast/theaters to online viewing. They know they have to do it, but they have a traditional approach to revenue generation and overall cost structure.
    A whole new model to produce and monetize premium content (by premium, I mean something like “The Wire” > ShaneDawson) must be created and demonstrated for the more traditionally-based studios and distributors to follow … ’cause they’re not going to see it for themselves.

  7. Hey, Video isn’t passive.
    Will it become more social? You bet. Great question by the way.
    The next wave of video will (in my opinion) shift from being passive and about “viral” to being interactive and about communication.
    Video can listen. Video can start conversations. Video can engage you in a dialog.
    The trick is to move from being focussed on a single linear video. The trick is to pass control to the user – that’s what the conversational web did.
    Text was a stop gap. Pictures a 2nd step. Video is the full engaging human experience. It’s a multi-sensory as it gets. The metaphor of choice for the web is Conversation.
    Conversational Video is a natural progression.
    I’d call the next wave “Video Apps” – The packaging of multiple short clips to deliver an engaging experience.
    The next shift is moving from distracting with hotspots and ads to engaging, sharing, social video. It’s about respect and making leveraging video to make the web more human.
    Great topic. Got my mind running on a Saturday morning.
    Anyhow. Isn’t this a conversation?
    And my dog needs a real run.

  8. You should check out Wistia, their analytics do something akin to what your are describing for fast forwarding and finding hotspots in a video.
    I loved the Boone Oakley example. It’s as you say, they have put the website in the video vs video a website. Inversion is always a cool way to innovate. It did leave me wanting more, but it was very innovative at the time.

  9. Why not integrate gaming into the story and allow the viewer to use voice commands as well. What if we allow the user though gaming to influence the plot line? What if we allow them to embed audio comments? We are hung up on getting input though a device that requires fingers. Watching is passive, interaction should behave in a similar way.

  10. I’m trying a little experiment with video lately. For a few years now I’ve developed a decent sized email list for our group of restaurants, just over 40K emails now. Two months ago I changed the format to a video newsletter. I cover much of the same material as always, but now invite a bit more interaction and find a significant change in the one on one feedback I get from my customers when I “show up in their email”.
    Interesting experiment so far.

  11. There’s a european ad (philips ‘carousel’) which brings to life the future possibility of video in an interactive experience for me…

    I have since seen experimental film/videoart constructed as a fragmented narrative, with multiple perspectives, storylines – where the audience is given control of how it unfolds. To me, this is one possible next step for use of video in creating brand experiences… storytelling offering sustained engagement, likely resulting in social currency.
    This is the director’s cut without it embedded into the brand-sell (which was a cinema-experience TV screen).

  12. I don’t think video is going to become more social. Interaction with video violates a user’s mental model of how he expects to interact. I’m going to watch a video. That’s why clicking won’t work as advertising during video. That’s why traditional commercials do. Two exceptions: live video (see Donna Maria Coles Johnson comment above) and product placement. Live video is always more interactive (think QVC). Product placement is up to the marketer: produce content for a smaller audience based on the interactions of the community (think Old Spice).

  13. Metrics: The problem of metrics is the people paying the bills like scope instead of surgical strikes with the “right” consumer. I liken it to cold calling; it only matters if you get to the right decision-maker. The ability to laser target makes “eyeballs” a deceptive metric.
    Social: Facebook has shown us that people have a voice and want to use it. As marketers and business owners, we have to find ways to give people a voice.
    Points of Engagement: Every site should use various forms of engagement that appeal to different consumer groups. Some customers enjoy video, some enjoy static reading, some podcasts. I don’t know that you can evaluate success of one medium without understanding the implications of how they all work together.
    You can also find ways to take article ideas and turn them into video presentations (and vice versa + pdf transcripts) to maximize the exposure and provide the medium various users are seeking. We have had success tracking our best articles and creating video presentations, so we hit all visitors. Those point of contact magnify the impact and amplify our efforts.

  14. We like video because we’re a little more “old school” and very much treasure 1 to 1 connections that we make with peers and potential customers. Our use of video is 1.5 minute vlogs done on Flip video that we post on our site. The positive response to this has been tremendous and we often hear “I feel like you’re talking to me.”
    I bring all of this up because as much as we celebrate everything that social media has done, it seems to us that there is a pendulum swing back to the old fashioned in person type of meeting. If we can’t meet in person, video enables that multi dimensional feel of in person meeting because it shows body language and features turn of speech, accent, cadence, warmth, etc.
    Thanks for the post!

  15. Thanks for the reply ! Wisita seems like a good tool for knowing what happened with the video, but its more as a user that I want more from the vidéo.
    By the way, I clicked on your name and saw what HuStream is about and I was quite impressed. Kudos to your team. I will follow you to find out more.

  16. Thanks. Happy to help and share what I know. Glad you like our stuff:)
    I’d loved to hear more about what you are thinking. I’ve been feeling similar.

  17. I know that the creates of CSI are working on more non-linear ways to think about video (including different formats and gaming engines as well).
    It’s going to be an interesting next few years as we evolve beyond standard video… it even seems like people are growing tired of 3D already.

  18. It’s interesting to see people thinking about add-ons to video: like chat and check-ins (a la Foursquare), but I think that type of interaction is limited to the truly rabid fans… not the everyday person.

  19. Those sort of quick video responses/comments was what Seesmic was originally all about. It gets complex quick. Like you were saying, how do you know which videos to watch, the flow is not always easy, etc…
    I can’t imagine watching a video in double-time… my brain might explode 😉 I tend to rely on what the rating is or what my social network says about it on Facebook or Twitter.

  20. I hope your dog made it 😉
    The way you describe it sounds an awful lot to me like what Loic LeMeur had in mind when he launched Seesmic. Maybe it was ahead of its time? Maybe there will be a shift away from text and reading to video recording and engagement.
    It would be interesting to see how much action Face Time is getting on the iPhones.

  21. This could well be when/how things get interesting: really pushing video through the application of gaming engines. Again, I wonder how many people would be willing to engage, but for the limited few who do out of the gates, it could well get interesting… very fast.

  22. I’m sure part of the excitement is coming from mixing it up. People are expecting the text and then, “bam!” there’s Joe’s talking to them and showing them so delicious burgers in a cool restaurant. There’s a reason we have the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

  23. Another great example – thanks for sharing. It reminds me of the very popular ideas behind something called, transmedia, where the story is told in many different ways, across many different channels with many different types of people adding/creating the content.
    Check out Henry Jenkins book, Convergence Culture, for more.

  24. This is the biggest hurdle – people sit back and watch video. When they do so, it’s hard to do anything else (like driving a car while listening to radio). It’s a big, big hurdle for video to overcome (and the reason I wrote this Blog post). It’s not going to be easy, but if something doesn’t change, we’re doomed to use the same types of measurement and marketing.

  25. Seeing the person and watching them speak from their heart of powerful. We know that words are only a very small part of the communications picture. Maybe part of the answer is making video more human – getting rid of the slickness and highly-produced bits?

  26. The key appears to be to encourage and to apply any technology that is on the “cool” side of the Marshal McLuhan spectrum. That is, focus on technologies that encourage participation, and thus tend to spark conversations.
    For some reason, print (or rather text) becomes a cool medium online when distributed via blogs, IM, email, Twitter, etc. But video becomes a hot medium on YouTube; folks will share a viral video, but have few avenues for participation.
    Bottom line: If we want video to become cool (and thus participatory) online, we need a technology that encourages real-time participation and conversation. Think something that combines YouTube and Skype.
    Does that make sense?

  27. A couple of SEO-type people were saying to me that I should take my audio podcasts and put them on YouTube (simply show a slideshow of images while the audio plays) and watch my audience grow and grow. Admittedly, I’ve been too lazy to do that, but I tempted to try it with some of my more well-known guests just to see what happens.

  28. It is very interesting that video can be both warm but some of the highly-produced stuff can come off as being very cold. As always, it depends on how you use it, what the content is and how the audience feels about it.

  29. I agree with you almost entirely in this post Mitch. I would say there are quite a few attempts out there right now trying to make video more social like the “Hunter Shoots a Bear” Youtube video from Tipp-Ex or the interactive Youtube “video games” like the 8-Bit Twilight video (which has now been taken down by Summit Entertainment).
    I think we might be a little ways off from completely new ways of taking in video, people tend to enjoy passive involvement in certain areas of communication, but the more interactive and social activities like watching TV (ex. Roku, Google TV, etc.) become, I think the trend will head the way where video is more user-involved.

  30. Great post, Mitch. It seems like video is a hotbed of innovation in every area except monetization. Leading-edge technology, creative content, social engagement…and then the tired question “where shall we put the ads?”
    I believe eCommerce video – the use of video to aid consumers in buying what they want to buy when they’re already well down the purchase funnel – is a far more interesting use. It helps bridge the gap between an in-person and an online experience.

  31. Have you watchedChris Anderson’s Ted talk on the power of video & crowd sourced innovation.
    He says it really well. Why Video works better than text. I won’t try to paraphrase

    We each have our medium of choice.

  32. I completely agree Mitch. Advertisers are going to have to understand the demands of the casual user as well as the power user. For videos that are longer then a few minutes, advertisers are also going to have to adapt to the fact that typically users will not finish their video. So in order for the user to complete the video, they are going to have to have some semblance of ‘resuming’. Something similar to what Netflix does and what you can do on DirectTV.
    There is also the struggle with promotional items embedded in videos. While we are used to waiting to see our video while an advertisement airs, users will increasingly become impatient and this requires a higher demand on advertisers to engage quicker.

  33. Hi Mitch,
    Earlier today I learned about, which lets you create rooms where you and 49 others can watch the same YouTube and Vimeo videos simultaneously and comment on them. I think this goes a long way toward what you’re talking about here.

  34. Hi Mitch. Sorry for being so late on this issue but I have a few words to add down this page.
    1/ Video is a medium – not a message. So the medium may be social or not – the actual content of a video is still social by essence. It’s either a one-to-many message or a many-to-many one — which makes it really social.
    2/ A composite video made from clips sent by hundreds of video makers is a social creation. Example:
    3/ I am happy to plug here the “social business model” that I develop when producing a collaborative video talk show in specific events such as conferences, fairs, etc ( Isn’t that social video making?
    * The content is made by a community of folks engaged in a serial conversation about a common set of issues brought by the event.
    * It is financed by a pool of companies and individuals sponsoring the show.
    * These companies/individuals do not only have their logos displayed, they actually participate in creating the content NOT ONLY talking of themselves BUT engaging conversations with other companies/individuals.
    * Every folk involved in an interview is welcome to publish/share it within his/her own online community, making the show a multi-niche media instead of a mass media.
    * There is no copyright attached to it (Creative Commons + Youtube and Ustream licences) so anyone can grab it and use it for creating new “information mashups” in his blog, social media or website.
    Isn’t that cool ? 😉

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