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Creating Online Videos That Engage Viewers

Book Description

The Holy Grail of modern online marketing is video content that “goes viral,” meaning that it captures an enormous number of views and leads audiences to share, comment or click that they “like” a video. Various experts have ventured theories about what kind of content makes for a hit. The advice varies widely and is even contradictory. Depending on the expert, success is thought more likely if a video is humorous, shocking, dramatic, topical, warm, arousing, angry, scary, socially beneficial, cute, violent, sexy, uplifting, intriguing, quirky, interesting, authoritative, tear-jerking, educational, controversial or baby- and animal-filled. One of the reasons for the various views is that researchers have often looked at only popular videos and did not compare the popular clips with the content almost no one saw. To see if they could clarify some of the contradictions, the authors examined a mix of popular and unpopular videos, then systematically coded and empirically tested the effect of each element on some relatively objective and observational measures of viewer engagement. The authors assigned a team of research assistants to watch 750 videos and to independently score each on a range of attributes. Did the video feature babies, attempt to be funny or use sexually suggestive content? How would watching the video make the typical viewer feel? They collected information on dozens of different video elements and correlated these with three measures of engagement: the number of times people left comments on the video, the overall “liking” index for each video (calculated by subtracting the number of “dislikes” from “likes”) and the number of views. The authors’ key finding? Emotionally surprising videos generated liking and views more than any kind of specific content element they studied. The authors also looked at novel and incongruous content and found that both were associated with feelings of surprise, which increased views and liking. To get viewers’ attention by surprising them, marketers have two good choices: Show viewers something they have never seen before, or show them two things they are familiar with but in an original, juxtaposed way.