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Why We Started Tracking (And Optimizing For) Total Time Watched

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Here at Wistia, we recently began tracking and optimizing for brand interactions — and it’s changed the way we think about our entire marketing and promotional strategy.

The concept is simple — the more someone interacts with the Wistia brand, the more likely they’ll be interested in trying our software or becoming a brand advocate. And because we use a ton of video in our marketing efforts, over time it became clear that looking to the “Total Time Watched” metric to understand success in this department was key.

For those who aren’t familiar, Total Time Watched is defined as the total amount of time an individual viewer has spent watching your content.

This indicator helped us quantify an otherwise somewhat ambiguous measure, making it super easy for us to spend more time optimizing for that metric and less time guessing about what’s working and what’s not.

But, things weren’t always this simple.

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We’ve always believed that building a strong brand experience would help Wistia grow, whether it’s on our website, social channels, or even in the emails we sent to our customers.

Conceptually, of course, this makes sense. But it isn’t just a hunch — we’ve seen this confirmed from a quantitative perspective time and time again. In fact, after doing extensive analysis to understand our highest quality traffic, we found that Wistia website visitors who visited more pages are more likely to become a Wistia customer, and the same was even true for social interactions and email engagement.

“We’ve always believed that building a strong brand experience would help Wistia grow, whether it’s on our website, social channels, or even in the emails we sent to our customers.”

At the end of the day, we uncovered that the tipping point for conversion was actually a total of nine page visits. If a website visitor views more than nine pages, they’re twice as likely to become a Wistia user than those who have visited less than nine. Pretty interesting, right?

So naturally, we started tracking what we called “high potential visitors” (aka people who visited more than nine pages). At one point, the Wistia Growth Team even ran a series of experiments with the goal of generating more of them. We tried different website designs and user flows to get website visitors to view more pages. We tried providing nine-pages-worth of value on one page. We tried page designs with nine “sliders.” But none of those ideas really worked — not super shocking.

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The truth is, these tactics were gimmicky. We were trying to shortcut the process of providing value versus just investing in it. We went back to our roots and started re-investing in our brand, creating more amazing content, and building slick software. But as marketers, we couldn’t help but still be intrigued by the idea of tracking, measuring, and iterating on our work. And that’s where the idea of measuring brand interactions came into the picture. We found our new best friend in one simple metric: Total Time Watched.

It’s one thing to just talk about reinvesting in our brand, and it’s another thing to invest $111,000 in it. This past year, we released our first-ever original series, One, Ten, One Hundred. And as part of the promotional planning process, we had several meetings to chat about which metrics to track that would be the biggest indicators of success. After all, we invested a ton of time, effort, and resources into creating this content and didn’t want to waste a single day optimizing for the wrong metric.

“After all, we invested a ton of time, effort, and resources into creating this content and didn’t want to waste a single day optimizing for the wrong metric.”

After all the chatter, we decided to plan the entire marketing campaign around maximizing for the “Total Time Watched” metric. Now, this was a first for most of the marketers on our team. Sure, we were used to promoting digital content, but we typically followed a more traditional playbook that went something like this:

  • User visits a landing page
  • User fills out a form
  • User gets redirected to a “Thank You” page with the content

When it came to promoting a video series, however, we needed a slightly different playbook. We wanted to reduce friction for the viewer, provide more content up front, and ultimately, promote our brand. That’s part of the reason why we decided to design a page that put the emphasis on showcasing the video content itself, rather than hiding it behind a form.

We researched design choices from companies who also optimize for play time, like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, and took notes on how to make the experience on our own website just as good.

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With our design team focused on creating an incredible experience that would showcase our brand and optimize for that “Total Time Watched” metric, our marketing efforts shifted gears to executing on the promotional plan.

Up until now, we’ve talked a lot about the paid promotional plan for Soapbox on the blog, but we haven’t shared as much about the series promotion itself and how surprised our advertising partners were when we shared that we weren’t optimizing for lead generation. Let’s dig in.

Dialing in our optimizations

After committing to optimizing for Total Time Watched, we started thinking about how to drive the most views to our content. We decided to meet viewers where they are by sharing the trailer for the series on our social channels in full rather than trying to drive users back to our website. We also researched other places where people tend to consume a lot of videos and eventually syndicated the full series on Amazon Prime.

This is something we would have never done before had we been focused on optimizing for a metric like product conversions. Behind the scenes, every single decision we made was focused on driving our audience to watch the content.

“We decided to meet viewers where they are by sharing the trailer for the series on our social channels in full rather than trying to drive users back to our website.”

When we took a look at the initial results of the campaign, our team was super excited — Total Time Watched was through the roof. The design team had created a page that clearly encouraged binge-watching the series — 98% of the page visitors watched our content! Plus, those who watched the content, watched a lot of it, and that helped us validate just how high-quality the content really was.

It was looking pretty clear to us that our decision to optimize for Total Time Watched was the right one. The average viewer watched around 50 minutes of our video content, which ultimately added up to thousands of hours of video watched on our website and social channels, with thousands more on Amazon Prime.

It was a huge risk to not put a lead generation goal on our campaign, but it seemed like our gamble paid off. We saw tons of positive feedback everywhere we looked from forums cropping up on Reddit and discussions on Quora, to social threads that were full of chatter and positive vibes — all signs pointed to success.

Focusing on Total Time Watched as our key success metric challenged the way our team thought about promoting content. It impacted our design decisions, changed some of our promotional tactics, and made us question what success really meant.

If you’re like me — a data-driven marketer who’s starting to realize that not everything is about direct revenue attribution or conversion data — you’re probably wondering how we actually know this is a good metric to optimize for. To help validate our original hypothesis, we tracked three things:

  1. The correlation of someone watching a video and then trying our software.
  2. The correlation of someone watching a video and then downloading other content.
  3. The number of mentions and shares of the project on social media, direct emails to our team, questions during our live Q&A, and our ratings on Amazon Prime.

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The data shared an interesting story. Tons of people who watched the content were already in our database, which was great, but we were thrilled to see that 1.7% of visitors that weren’t had created a free Wistia account since the series launched. Plus, another 2.3% of visitors had gone on to download other content on our website.

We had a bit of difficulty gathering a concrete number for total mentions and shares across platforms, but we have seen hundreds of comments across social media, tons of emails to our team, dozens of questions during our Q&A, and (at the time of this post being published) we have a 4.7 star rating on Amazon Prime. All of these factors combined are pretty powerful, and that helps us validate Total Time Watched as a metric we’re interested in tracking more in the future.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that this is just one campaign — the data is still maturing as I write this very post. But, we’re confident that this metric can help put a more meaningful number to the goal of increasing brand interactions. Not only that, but optimizing for Total Time Watched challenges us to think differently about our overall promotion strategy, which is always a win.

Here at Wistia, we’ve even invested in developing an entirely new feature in our product that will dramatically change the way marketers showcase their brand and optimize for that Total Time Watched goal. We’ll share more details on that in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we’d love to hear how you’re tracking this metric and how it’s been working for you!



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Video Marketing

3 Key Characteristics of Successful Brand Videos

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Video isn’t a hot new trend anymore; it’s now a major part of marketing for all kinds of businesses. For many successful companies, video is a way of expressing what they care most about. In a way, brand videos don’t support the brand — they create it.

Building a brand with video doesn’t take a lucky break or a viral hit; as they say, the devil’s in the details. Each video you create is a puzzle piece making up a larger picture that contains clues about what your brand is about and the story you want to tell your audience. And while every business is unique, there are a few common traits that all successful brand videos share:

  • They contain visual elements that clue viewers in to what the video is about and why they should watch in the first place.
  • They possess a unique aesthetic that helps give viewers an idea of how they should feel about your content while also making your content instantly recognizable.
  • They are focused on a very specific audience which makes it easier to attract viewers that will hopefully dive deep on a topic.

Over time, these traits work together to form a cohesive, creative, and engaging expression of your brand. Now, let’s take a look at each one of these traits and how you can use them to your advantage in your own video content!

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When it comes to video, first impressions really matter — you’ve got to make a lasting one, and fast. Even if someone is already on your site, you want to give them a reason to click “play” on your video. Just like a catchy blog post title can attract link clicks on social media, a compelling video title can encourage plays.

Successful videos often have titles that are descriptive, funny, or thought-provoking. In tandem with that, an enticing thumbnail should work together with the title to catch viewers’ eyes with bright colors, an expressive face, or a combination of the two. All of these factors give the viewer an idea of what they can expect from your video before they hit play.

Will Barron, the creator of the Salesman Podcast, uses attention-grabbing, bold titles for his videos that often hint at exclusive knowledge or advice. He also maintains a consistent look and feel across all of his thumbnails and titles, which creates a more cohesive brand experience. Here are some examples of his titles:

  • How to Use Humour to Get Prospects’ Attention
  • The 4 Customer Personality Types
  • Why “Customer Success” Will Earn You More Money
  • Stop Faffing Around – Effective Social Selling Explained

Apart from the distinctly British “humour,” a lot of these titles follow common headline best practices that marketers and journalists have been using for ages. In particular, the use of numbers, “how to,” and direct challenges to the viewer pique curiosity and entice them to find out more.

What you can do:

  • Determine what your audience is searching for and tailor your title to specific keywords
  • Follow traditional best-headline practices when writing your title
  • Test out different title styles to find what resonates with your audience

Good design is a shortcut to emotion, and luckily, you can employ a number of traditional design techniques throughout your videos to make an emotional connection with viewers. For brand videos, design elements can be as simple as maintaining a consistent player color or typeface for the title card and credits. Other aesthetic factors could include the framing of the video, the set, lighting, background, and even the clothes people wear on camera.

It may sound like a lot to think about, but it’s worth it, we promise! Monet had impressionist landscapes, Van Gogh had portraits in pointillism, and you have the few signature touches you can apply across all of your brand videos. By using consistent visual cues, your audience will recognize your videos right away, no matter where they’re shown. These consistent design elements will tie your videos together and help you create a body of work with a distinct visual style that lasts decades.

“Monet had impressionist landscapes, Van Gogh had portraits in pointillism, and you have the few signature touches you can apply across all of your brand videos.”

One business that has been using design to their advantage is Drift, a conversational marketing platform. From their use of colors like royal blue and electric yellow, to the talking-head cutouts present in every thumbnail on their site, to the Drift logo in the frame (and on people’s T-shirts), you can’t miss a Drift video.

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Drift’s visual style is a bit “loud” but for a good reason. They want people to get excited about marketing, especially in the B2B world, and are using bright colors and unique visuals to attract attention. It doesn’t hurt that they’re able to maintain a similar high-energy aesthetic throughout their videos as well.

What you can do:

  • Use expressive colors that are consistent with your overall brand, and that evoke particular emotions, whether that’s happiness (yellow), anger (red), or trustworthiness (green). This color wheel of emotions can help get your wheels turning — though it’s not the final word!
  • Collaborate on a video style guide that includes fonts, visual treatments, and other guidelines with your design team and use it as a template for your brand videos moving forward.
  • Host regular meetings between writers, producers, and editors to keep everyone on the same page when it comes to scripting and creating videos.

As you build your brand, you’ll realize there are a few things you want to be known for, as well as key themes you’ll want to cover in the content you create. Just think about your blog — what topics do you write about there? What are some subjects you could explore even deeper? Chances are, there are quite a few areas related to your industry that you or some of your teammates are already incredibly well-versed on, and that’s a great place to start.

Businesses that are creating successful brand videos use their expertise in conjunction with enticing visuals and a consistent style to attract niche audiences that are interested in consuming a number of videos on a specific topic. Find a topic you can get really nerdy about (or better yet, talk about for hours on end) and use that content to attract your target audience.

“Find a topic you can get really nerdy about (or better yet, talk about for hours on end) and use that content to attract your target audience.”

InVision, a digital product design platform, does this particularly well with their “Design Systems” series. With a handful of videos, this ambitious prototyping software company is able to establish themselves as an authority on all things design systems.

This series moves InVision out of the realm of “product people” and into the realm of “design thought leaders.” Because of this series, they have a unique space to bring people together and discuss the important issues and ideas impacting the design community today.

What you can do:

  • Come up with a list of topics you want to explore and see how those overlap with your customers’ interests
  • Release videos on a regular basis (such as every Tuesday at 2pm) so your audience knows when to expect them
  • Reach out to other experts in the field to conduct interviews and build a strong network within your niche

Incorporating all of these traits into your brand videos is easy once you have a long-term strategy in place. After all, the best content (and this is true of blogging and social media, too!) is created when you have a goal and mind a specific story to share. Setting your intentions early on will make it easier to execute more and more ambitious brand videos over time, too.

If you start with a unique visual style and a niche you know well, you can grow your brand quickly and learn fast from what you put out into the world. You’ll start to see what works best and can actively add those winning traits into future videos you create, making your brand recognizable by your customers and beyond. Once you have more videos under your belt, you’ll be able to dig more deeply into specific themes and take even bigger creative risks.



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Video Marketing

Can Video Drive More Search Traffic to Your Site?

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This is a question we hear a lot from customers and prospects alike here at Wistia. The short answer? Yes, having videos on your website absolutely can drive more traffic from search.

However, the impact will differ for every business, depending on your size and niche. In this post, we cover how you can discover the impact video is having on your SEO, the ways in which videos can drive more search traffic, and what we’ve learned from running tests on our own website.

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The new Google Search Console is the best source of truth for data on how much traffic videos are bringing to your website from search. This tool helps you measure your site’s search performance, fix crawling issues, and upload sitemaps.

Once you’ve got it set up with your site, click into the Performance menu, and then segment the search type by Web, Image, and Video.

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This view allows you to see how much traffic you’re getting from video search and which queries are driving the most traffic to your videos, and then compare performance over time.

You can also see which pages are bringing in video search traffic, and compare those numbers over different periods of time as well.

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This report is great if you want to get a quick look at which videos are acquiring the most traffic, and the relative difference between impressions and clicks will give you a good indication of whether your title and video thumbnail are appealing to searchers. However, it doesn’t tell the full story of the positive impact video is having on your search performance.

Having a video on the page not only helps you get traffic from video-specific search, but it can also increase your relevancy for certain queries, and therefore increase rankings and visibility in universal search, too.

“Having a video on the page not only helps you get traffic from video-specific search, but it can also increase your relevancy for certain queries, and therefore increase rankings and visibility in universal search, too.”

For example, consider the video results for the query: “How do you record your screen”

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Here we see the top ranking result in video search is from Digitaltrends.com.

If we look at the universal search results under the “All” tab, we see that the same page is ranking 2nd, after an answer box and a “people also ask” box, but this time, as a straight webpage result, rather than a link with a video snippet.

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It’s a reasonable assumption here that for queries like this, having a video indexed on this page positively impacts the organic rankings for the universal query, even though the video snippet is not displayed — as the surrounding results are all from stronger domains.

Last year, we migrated our blog content over to new a platform and CMS. During this process, we accidentally launched with a bug that prevented Google from crawling our embedded video content, meaning that most of our videos dropped out of the index — let’s call it an “unplanned experiment.”

This was a significant mistake for a company so reliant on using video in our marketing, for sure, but luckily, we were able to move quickly to rectify the error. This fix then gave us an indication of how much traffic our videos were directly accounting for, by comparing the weeks directly before and after the videos were reindexed.

Video Search Traffic

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Overall Search Traffic

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Having our videos indexed accounted for 1,387 direct clicks from video search, but an overall increase of 6,100 clicks from all search.

So, for our website in September of last year, having our videos indexed increased organic search traffic by 10.6%. Obviously, your mileage may vary. Wistia.com is mid-sized SaaS website with a lot of videos and a lot of queries which relate explicitly to video.

“So, for our website in September of last year, having our videos indexed increased organic search traffic by 10.6%.”

Nevertheless, it’s highly likely that you’ll also see a positive impact on traffic by including indexable video content throughout your website. And, thankfully, the new Google Search Console gives you the means by which to test this for yourself.

While video can clearly help drive more traffic to your website — this begs the question, are all videos created equal? Do Wistia videos drive more traffic to than YouTube videos?

The answer? Usually, yes. This is because embedded Wistia videos are indexed for pages on your website, whereas embedded YouTube videos are indexed for youtube.com. But (as with everything in search), this is not a universal truth, and some sites will see different results.

The best thing to do is test it for yourself, and luckily there’s a simple way to do that:

  1. Sign up for a free Wistia Account
  2. Swap out a few YouTube embeds for Wistia Embeds
  3. Patiently wait a few weeks for the traffic to accrue
  4. Use the Video Search Report under “Performance” in Google Search Console to compare the pages in question before and after changing the embeds
  5. Check traffic to the same pages via the Web Search Report, too.
  6. Determine the percentage change in traffic for video and universal search
  7. If there is a marked difference, this is a clear indicator that moving your website videos to Wistia will result in an increase in organic traffic.
If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between Wistia Channels, our newest feature, and YouTube Channels, check out this post!

We’ve worked hard to ensure that our embed codes automatically optimize the videos on your site for search engines, as they’re designed exclusively to serve companies using video on their websites. YouTube, on the other hand, is a social media platform designed to serve content creators looking to monetize their videos or promote large-scale advertising campaigns.

Video can be a really valuable tool for driving more traffic to your website, and often small changes to your embeds, such as including structured data, can make a big difference.

Understanding the true impact of video SEO for your business will require some testing, but thankfully the new Google Search Console makes this process fairly straight forward.

Have you seen success with video in your business thus far? Has using video in blog posts or on landing pages improved your organic search performance? Share your questions, successes, and more with us in the comments!



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Video Marketing

Where to Share Your Brand’s Video Content (Besides YouTube)

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The number of social video platforms that exist seems to keep growing every year. And hey — we’re not mad about it! As marketers, we’re always looking for new ways to share our content and get our business discovered. However, that doesn’t make it easy for us to choose where to distribute the videos we’ve invested so much time and energy in creating.

In this past, YouTube was the holding ground for all things video, including long-form, short-form, informative, entertaining … the list goes on. But as our very own Phil Nottingham put it in his WistiaFest talk from 2017, these days, all social networks are video platforms. With so many options available to us, it’s hard to know what platform(s) make the most sense for our unique businesses. After all, if you’re doing it right, you aren’t just sharing the same video across all of your networks. That means investing even more time into creating unique versions of your content catered to every platform.

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In this post, we’ll look at the social video landscape as it stands today and how factors like your audience, your message, and what you measure can help inform your decisions for distributing your brand’s video content!

While YouTube is still super popular, other legacy social networks are now investing heavily in video. Plus, new video networks are popping up all the time, which means everyone can find the perfect place to share their content online.

In late 2017, both LinkedIn and Reddit launched native video, and based on its success, Reddit launched in-stream video ads a year later. In 2018, mobile video app TikTok became the most valuable startup in the world. Twitch also had a breakout year in 2018, with its gaming livestreams seeing a 21% increase in viewership (that same year, YouTube game streams were down 12%). In 2019, Twitter released a new camera feature, encouraging filming from within the app.

Video production has also gotten much easier in recent years. Whether you’re an individual or a small business, technical whiz or software newbie, anyone can make a video. This process has been brought about through increasingly high-quality smartphone cameras, fast internet connections, and products like Soapbox and free video editing software.

So, how do you decide where to distribute your brand’s video content? It all boils down to a few simple questions based on categories any video marketer should be familiar with:

  • Audience: Who are you making these videos for specifically? Where does your audience like to spend their time?
  • Brand: What do you want people to know about you through your videos? What stories are you trying to tell?
  • Engagement: What do you want people to do with your videos? How will you measure success?

The answers to these questions will make choosing the best platform for your content much easier! Let’s dig in.

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There are two types of people on every video platform: Users, who are your potential audience, and creators, who are your peers and competition. Finding your place amongst both will give your content the best chance at success.

Some platforms have existing communities for the people you’re seeking to reach. Start with some demographic info to find out if your audience hangs out on a particular platform. Below is a super-quick, general summary of audience stats for popular and emerging platforms:

  • Twitch: 55% millennial (Gen-Y), 81% male, gamers
  • Reddit: 64% between 18–29, 67% male, frequent internet users
  • Facebook Live: All ages (over 2 billion people)
  • Instagram Stories: All ages, 68% female, 80% outside U.S.
  • Snapchat: Gen-Z
  • Twitter: Gen-Y and up, urban, highly educated
  • LinkedIn: Business decision-makers, 56% male
  • Houseparty: Over 50% under-24 (Gen-Z) ^
  • TikTok: Gen-Z

^ According to Digiday, the Houseparty team has so far been silent on advertising. However, the fine print of its privacy agreement asks users to consent to adverts when they sign up, suggesting brands are coming.

And these are just a few examples! No wonder it’s so hard to choose. Once you’ve settled on the best demographic fit, you can then look into audience interests and habits. Consider how and why similar audiences are using different platforms. For instance, Snapchat is largely used for private messaging, whereas TikTok videos are optimized for public viewing.

“Once you’ve settled on the best demographic fit, you can then look into audience interests and habits. Consider how and why similar audiences are using different platforms.”

Then, consider the other people on the platform — your fellow content creators. Are other brands gaining any traction? Are they creating content that interests you and your audience? A platform that encourages creator growth, as well as audience growth, will provide fertile ground for coming up with fresh ideas.

If you’re looking for more ownership over how you distribute your brand’s content, check out Wistia’s latest feature, Channels. No ads, no competition, just a collection of your videos — displayed in one easy-to-watch format!

What story are you trying to tell?

A brand that uses Twitch to stream online events will make a different first impression than one that mainly distributes content through Twitter. Every story you tell gets filtered through the lens of the platform. But still, you need a message that resonates.

Here are a few examples of how storytelling can work together:

Livestreams: Shows you’re transparent, that you want to create a global community, that you enjoy spontaneous interactions.

  • Use Facebook Live to: Stream events and interviews
  • Use Twitch to: Stream your screen and yourself
  • Use Twitter Live to: Stream newsworthy happenings

Series: Shows you’re an expert on a topic, that you want to share knowledge, that you are willing to go deep to explore a question or subject, that you want your content to last for a while (at least in internet-terms).

  • Use YouTube to: Promote trailers, behind-the-scenes clips, and monetize an existing YouTube audience
  • Use Wistia Channels to: Group and display your content on your own site, without ads, with more control and access to data

Daily Stories: Shows you want to check in with your audience every day, that you’re not afraid of off-the-cuff production, that you know how to create striking visual content.

  • Use Instagram Stories to: Capture spontaneous happenings, offer quick tips, show behind-the-scenes action, repost user-generated content, and collaborate with influencers
  • Use Snapchat to: Offer exclusive content to your most dedicated fans and partner with younger influencers

Video helps you tell your brand story in a visual, human way. The right platform helps you deliver that story in an appealing, engaging package that resonates with how your audience prefers to consume content.

“The right platform helps you deliver that story in an appealing, engaging package that resonates with how your audience prefers to consume content.”

Like any marketing initiative, trying out new video platforms should be tied to some measurable goals. Think about what you’re hoping to get out of your brand’s videos and what success looks like. A video can be deemed “successful” on social media and on your Wistia Channel — but that success will probably look a little different for each.

For instance, with social networks, you’ll probably want to measure engagement on your content within the platform using their analytics. Things like impressions, view counts, follower and subscriber counts, likes/upvotes/reactions, comments, retweets, and shares are all meaningful within those platforms and will contribute to your brand’s growth in those environments.

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On your website or Wistia Channel, you’ll want to measure your video’s performance differently. Organic traffic, time spent with your brand, and leads generated are all foolproof metrics to tie your content’s success.

For both social platforms and your own site, Time Watched is a winning metric for video. We’re big fans of Time Watched because it shows not just what’s the most eye-catching, enticing thing to click on, or what content persuades people to buy a particular product — instead it shows what people linger over and what makes them meaningfully engage. This gives you more information about what your customers truly care about and how you can connect with them more deeply and sustainably over time.

With all of these new video platforms emerging, you have tons of opportunities to interact with and win over prospective customers. And when you share your content on new, niche platforms, you can create highly specific content that’s more targeted. You can also express your brand more clearly without the constraints of traditional distribution platforms, helping you learn more about what’s working and what’s not. This way, both the medium and message go hand-in-hand — without sacrificing your brand.



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