A recent YouTube video study showed that the world’s Top 100 brands have invested more than $4.3 billion in creating video assets — yet, more than 50 percent of these videos have fewer than 1,000 views. With 12 years of video content being uploaded to YouTube daily, it is not surprising that flashy music videos, fan-made TV and movie parodies, and grumpy cats are drowning out corporate video content.
Rob Ciampa, the Executive Vice President of Pixability (the company that conducted the study), may have the answer to why brands don’t hit the mark with their videos. He says they’re burning their budgets in video production when they should be investing equally as much in video content marketing.
Enter Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA), a free, interactive video production tool that lets you host live video conferences with 10 participants, while other viewers can watch, message questions, and comment in real time. Broadcasts get automatically uploaded to your brand’s YouTube page, and can even be streamed live directly on your site or blog using a simple embed code. Did I mention that it’s free?
What you can expect from a well-executed Hangouts On Air strategy:
- A way to empower your customers and gain passionate subscribers to your brand
- A way to increase authorship rank and exposure
- A fruitful channel for generating new content ideas
- A clear-cut method for understanding your audience’s sentiments about your brand, products, and services
- A way to build authenticity and transparency into your brand and message
For example, MarketingSherpa saw its client’s website receive 200 to 300 percent more monthly unique visitors after they started regularly posting videos. Moreover, people spent an average of 3 minutes on pages with videos (compared to the 30 second bounce rate on pages sans video).
Imagine the exponential reach you can achieve by tacking Hangouts to your product demos, customer testimonials, and other video content marketing initiatives.
How brands are using HOA
Since its launch, the possibilities of content marketing through Hangouts have taken some exciting turns, with brands using it to record interviews, Q&As, live performances, instructional videos, tutorials, and even chocolate-tastings.
Below are some other fantastic examples of branded content efforts created through HOA, along with a discussion of the specific content marketing goals that can be achieved.
Goal 1. Empowering customers and gaining passionate subscribers
The Black Eyed Peas: “Everybody in Cyberspace Meet Everybody in New York City,” hollered Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am. in a Hangout On Air that amassed fans in cyberspace — and 60,000 fans in New York City for a free Central Park concert. The band called it the “Backstage Hangout,” which aimed to “redefine backstage interaction with fans.”
Many artists are tuning in to Hangouts as a way for people to discover their music. For example, Artists In The Plus has an active community of over 1 million followers, and its Hangouts page is a hub where independent musicians can showcase their talents.
The Taylor Swift effect: One of the most remarkable success stories with Hangouts On Air is that of musician Taylor Swift. She used the platform as an exclusive opportunity to announce her latest album and perform her first single. When the album was released to iTunes, it became the fastest song to hit #1 in iTunes history (in a record-breaking 50 minutes!).
Can this success be directly attributed to Hangouts? I think so.
Video content helps convey tone, body language, and facial expressions that are fundamental to effective communication. This can be an immensely powerful catalyst in the buying stage of the sales cycle. Swift launched her album using the channel her followers were on. She nurtured their sense of belonging, and made them feel like they were part of the creation process. A sense of belonging builds loyalty, and loyal fans support their favorite brands by buying their products and services.
Goal 2. Increasing authorship rank and exposure
The New York Times launches a health care discussion with the U.S. Supreme Court: The New York Times has built a loyal following for its Hangouts series by inviting readers to chat with notable personalities, including NBA stars, celebrity chefs, and political figures.
After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, The Times became the first major media outlet to discuss the topic with 10 experts via its live Hangout. In addition, participants were given a choice of channels through which to access the Hangout — the +New York Times page, its Opinions page, or YouTube.
Because of flexible functionality like this, it’s no surprise that the social media editor at The New York Times described Hangouts on Air as, “a lightweight production tool with inherent social elements.”
Enabling your community to interact face-to-face with influential sources is a high-value experience that can help differentiate your brand and foster a community built on cooperation and trust. What’s more, with search engine rankings becoming more and more of a popularity contest, Hangouts can provide a means for your brand to climb to the top of the SERPs in a more engaging, organic way.
Take a look at the latest ranking factors published by Netmark.com. As you can see in the chart below, Google’s +1s are nestled right at #5.
Google is factoring in “who you know” to gauge your authority. The more “street cred” you have with the “popular kids,” the more fans and influence you are likely to gain in the social customer life cycle.
Goal 3. Generating new content ideas
Breast Cancer Answers’ “Ask a Question, Get the Answer”: Breast Cancer Answers (BCA) is a website dedicated to providing breaking news and expert insight related to breast cancer. BCA teamed up with Wirebuzz, a digital marketing firm that uses video as a central component of its content marketing strategy for the site, including launching a social media show that uses HOA as a focal point of its initiatives.
Every one to two weeks, BCA hosts a Hangout On Air with experts from educational and government groups who answer questions submitted by the audience.
Partnering with leading experts in your field helps build high-authority relationships — which results in high-authority links that can be beneficial to your brand’s thought leadership strategy. This vote of confidence by “Google Trusted” influencers can also have a significant impact on your brand’s visibility in search engines, which leads to greater online brand awareness.
Similar to what Breast Cancer Answers has accomplished, you can repurpose the content from your own Hangouts by editing each question or discussion topic in the Hangout into its own video clip. You could even turn these assets into a new article or blog post. BCA generated 6.3 million views in 12 months through its Hangout campaign. (You can watch how Wirebuzz executed its strategy in this video.)
Goal 4. Understanding user sentiment
The social customer service approach at Dell: Dell enhances its social media functionality by hosting customer-centric Hangouts that help Dell users troubleshoot computer issues and answer any questions they have about Dell products. The brand uses the social customer service approach to connect its sales and service teams with leads who want to ask questions and give feedback, as well as with happy customers who want to share their favorable Dell experiences.
Connie Bensen, the Global Community Strategist at Dell, stresses the importance of being on all the social channels your customers are on, yet ensuring that you are delivering one message across the board: “Brands have to provide a consistent experience regardless of the channel, and multilevel support is more in demand today than ever before,” says Bensen.
Goal 5. Building authenticity and transparency
What it’s like to work at Google: What better example to follow with Hangouts, than from the maker itself. Google weaves Hangouts On Air into all of its channels — even using it to recruit talent. For example, the company hosts location-based Hangouts that give a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work at a particular regional branch of the world’s top tech company. With over 70 offices in more than 40 countries, interested prospects, as well as those curious about the company culture, can get a look at Googleyness around the globe.
Big brands aren’t the only ones baring it all. Moving Mind Studio, a comedy trio based out of Montreal, QC, Canada creates hilarious offbeat sketch videos that have attracted millions of views on YouTube. The viral video stars, having received over 1.2 million YouTube views in just over a week for their parody of “The Magic School Bus,” hung up their acting shoes to do a live Hangout on Air with their fans.
“We liked the idea of having a real conversation with people,” says MMS comedian and filmmaker, Brandon Calder. “In our videos people see us as actors. The point of a Hangout is to be who you are. If people like your personality, they’ll stick around.”
The hour-long Hangout generated 223 comments, which included direct feedback on sketches their fans loved most and content they wanted to see more of.
Tips for using Hangouts On Air effectively
Use Google Ripples to track performance and reach: Communities develop and branch out naturally on Hangouts, and you can use Google+ Ripples to see who is sharing and re-sharing your posts, what comments they’ve made, the language your content was shared in, and more. This can help you identify key influencers and follow how their communities are reacting to your content, which in turn offers insight on what content you produce is most compelling to your audience.
Use YouTube’s insights: Since Hangouts On Air can be recorded directly to a YouTube channel, there’s an insights section on the site that provides access to detailed analytics data on who’s watching and where.
Optimize your YouTube uploads: There are several ways to make your video more discoverable:
- Include rich keywords in your video title, description, tags, and file name.
- Use captions and text within your video to help you rank for keywords within YouTube search.
- In the post-production stage, time-stamp questions or key moments that happened during the session so that users can skip to parts they find most relevant (e.g., “@2:55: How to be a great Hangout On Air guest“).
- See Google’s support page to create an XML video sitemap so your video content can be indexed.
Build anticipation for your Hangout: Reach out to people in your +1 circles, LinkedIn networks and groups, your Twitter followers, and your Facebook friends. You can also create a custom invite through +Events to get people excited about attending your Hangout. Are you inviting a special guest? Are you going to teach people how to cut an onion without crying? Be sure to provide clear incentives and expectations for those who attend.
Produce a high-quality video: The most important elements are image and audio quality. It’s probably wise to invest in a good microphone over a really fancy HD web cam, as people tend to be more tolerant of a lower-quality image that has good audio than of a high-quality image that has poor sound.
Promote your Hangout before and after: Dedicate a small budget to promotion of your Hangout event. If a significant amount of your audience is on Facebook, you can give your post a Boost and get it featured on your fans’ timelines, as well as that of their friends. Estimated reach varies on how many fans you have — and how many friends each of them have. For example, if you have 3,500 friends, you can reach between 7,500 and 14,000 people for as little as $20.
Digitally speaking, video content creates the deepest possible connection to your audience, as it directly responds to the social environment of today’s marketing landscape. What is so unique about doing a Hangout as part of your content strategy is that the marketing honey continues to trickle in well after the broadcast is over.
Hangouts is a quick and easy solution for streaming and archiving events, as well as for hosting press conferences, webinars and other broad reach activities. It’s just as simple to set up a private session to hold internal meetings, work trainings, or even job interviews.
This “lightweight video production tool” is an informal and hands-on way to give your customers more information and show them you care enough to take the time to keep them informed.
Whether you’re converting or remarketing to customers, you want to make their journey through the sales cycle as smooth as possible. Smaller commitments, like a Hangout hosted on a conversion page they can watch, can make it easier to make a decision to go with your product or service.
Want more tips on how to harness the latest video content marketing and social media tools to market your brand? Don’t miss out on this year’s Content Marketing World. Register today!
Cover image by Andrew Moir