The art of engagement in the moment
By Kishore Jethanandani
Short and snappy web videos grab a moment and engage while the emotional
iron is still hot. They have carved out a niche in branded content within less than
a year of the launch of the first of them, Vine from Twitter.
The appeal of short-form videos waxes and wanes, fleetingly, with the waves of
emotions, cravings and seeking. Canny brands make their presence felt by
pitching entertainment, information and suggestions with each surge of waves.
Branded content has been quick to embrace short-form video—it has touched the
attention nerve. The share of branded content in the top 100 Vines, tracked by
Unruly Media, was 4 percent. This is in contrast to 1 percent in the top 100 of all
online videos. The Unruly Media study of branded video content concluded that
for Vine, “contagious content which elicits powerful emotional responses is the
Urban Outfitters is one brand that hitched on the Vine bandwagon the day it
launched. It has 40,000 plus followers on Vine and keeps its audience agog with a
stream of content ranging from music events in its stores to newly launched
products, contests and trivia.
Lowe’s customers are receptive to Vine videos when they find themselves
stressed over niggling chores that drain their energy. The harried customers are
relieved when a six second video visually demonstrates a tip to solve the problem.
Lowes’s can have their attention in countless such situations.
GoPro, the manufacturer of head-worn cameras for extreme sports enthusiasts, is
in a space where users don’t need to be motivated to produce short videos of
their adventures. When prompted, they are too willing to share the footage and
keep refreshing it in the community maintained by GoPro. The interest is
sustained with contests and gifts of GoPro products.
Vine’s success attracted competition from Instagram which added features for the
production and sharing of 15 second videos in June of 2013. At launch time,
Instagram seemed to have overtaken Vine with a larger number of the top 100
brands engaging and vastly more sharing. Vine responded with channels of
content such as music, adventure and more as well as a version for Android. The
strategy has worked as its users boomed from 13 million in June to 40 million in
The founders of YouTube added a new twist in August with the launch of Mixbit
for iOS which allows users to capture videos of any duration and string them
together for up to a length of an hour. This is not dissimilar to applications in the
music industry where fans enjoy mixing music of their favorite artists and engage
with them. Mixbit will likely be useful for video content creation by customers
who engage with the communities created by brands.
In its brief existence as a media form, short-form video has gained currency at an
astonishingly rapid pace. Short-form videos are proving that lasting impressions
are possible even with fleeting engagements. The key is to strike a chord enough
for it to jingle and echo into social media circles. Lasting impressions are etched
when the tune changes several times with the rhythm of life and registers each
Brands dance to the tune of Digital Music
By Kishore Jethanandani
Digital music has evolved into a media channel distinct from digital video. Brands
are learning that music lets them connect with the emotions of fans. They can
engage with fans by being on beat with their favorite bands, and online they are
more likely to be indie groups. Digital music sites like Soundcloud have developed
the platforms for especially indie artists to reach out to fans on social media sites.
Soundcloud experienced a breakout year in 2012 beating all other social media
sites in terms of growth of fans. The monthly average number of fans engaging
with each artist on Soundcloud more than tripled in 2012. The only other channel
that experienced growth was YouTube which was less than half the growth of
Soundcloud achieved albeit on a much higher base.
The brand choices of digital music consumers are influenced by their online social
behavior and their virtual relationships with their favorite artists. According to a
survey by Nielsen, those streaming music are 96 percent more likely than an
average US internet user to follow a celebrity on a social network, 76 percent
more likely to follow a brand and 90 percent more likely to be heavy spenders on
digital music. They are also 55 percent more likely to follow news feeds of artists
and purchase rates for brands increase 28 percent when they sponsor an artist.
Independent artists and brands find it mutually beneficial to have an online
business relationship. The well-known labels zealously protect their copyrights
and participate on online channels only conditionally. Indie artists, by contrast,
are more willing to partner with brands when their values match. It does not hurt
that sponsorships have proved to be a major boost to fledgling artists. The payoff
for brands is high when they back an artist with the potential to be a rising star. A
talented artist quickly goes viral online especially with help from applications
available on digital music channels.
Lowe’s clientele was largely among the baby-boomers and for growth it needed
to be raise awareness among the millennial generation who are going to be the
new home buyers. The millennial generation also avidly searches for new artists
online. Lowe’s reached out to them with music videos produced by indie artists.
Soundcloud has developed a platform for linking applications for music
production, community outreach, fan engagement and brand promotion. Sound
tracks can be uploaded and downloaded from artists’ websites by clicking
widgets. Tabletop is a music production application for iPad and Soundcloud
powers the application that helps share tracks with fans on social media
communities. Flipboard has now added Soundcloud to let users browse their
media choices just as they do it for publications. Soundcloud initiated the Pro
Partners program that lets brands promote the music videos or jingles that
feature their products or engage a larger audience with the performances they
sponsor. Premium members also receive analytics services to learn about the
demographics and media consumption behavior of their fans.
Digital music sites like Soundcloud have been able to carve out their own media
channel by cultivating an entire ecology of producers, consumers and promoters
of online music. The old models of monetization by labels are crumbling. Brand
sponsorship is the new way to pay for performances and online communities to
engage with their audience. Talent counts more in this world where digital music
channels have become the springboard for indie artists to thrive.
Info-graphics drive the upward growth curve in Pinterest
By Kishore Jethanandani
There is a method in the wild growth of Pinterest over the last two years. Curated
info-graphics attract swarms of customer segments that compulsively spread the
word on their own boards.
Bit Rebels, an online newspaper that specializes in serving news in the form of
info-graphics, measured the precise impact info-graphics have on engagement. It
compared linking activity for 500 of its info-graphic posts on social media sites
with equivalent activity for its traditional posts with text and images. The impact
on engagement was measured by the number of times the posts were linked on
social media sites. They found the difference between info-graphics and the
traditional posts was a whopping 500 percent!
Curiously, the difference in the impact between info-graphics and traditional
posts was zilch on Pinterest itself. Similarly, when measured in page views,
Pinterest came in last among the social media sites compared. The dynamics are
different on Pinterest where pinners create boards with a common theme that
interests a peer group. The assorted posts compared by BitRebels did not meet
While low in sheer volume of traffic, Pinterest performs better on some of the key
performance measures. According to research conducted by analyst firm,
BloomReach, based on over 46 million site visits on social media sites in the last
quarter of 2012, the conversion rates on Pinterest were 22 percent higher than
on Facebook, the money spent by Pinterest traffic was 60 percent higher and the
visitors viewed more pages—1.6 pages on Facebook and 2.9 pages--on Pinterest
according to numbers presented by Readwrite.com.
Pinterest’s architecture emerged from an old habit of one of its founders, Ben
Silbermann, an Iowa native, had from his childhood days. In an interview to
Fastcodesign, he revealed that he was fond of collecting insects and pin them to
cardboards. When one of his earlier businesses was not gaining traction, he
changed course and decided to create a platform for digital collections of info-
Digital boards on Pinterest tend to attract smaller clusters of visitors with shared
interests when the theme of a board resonates with them. Jason Miles,
Marketing Director at his wife’s firm Liberty Jane Clothing Company,
serendipitously discovered the high referral rates from swarms of visitors on their
In an interview to Trafficjamcast, Mr. Miles revealed that Pinterest is very
effective for niche markets; Liberty Jane is all about fabrics, patterns and clothing.
Their Pinterest boards touch on themes related to sewing with Liberty Jane’s own
showing up more prominently and includes a referral link to their web-site. These
boards go viral very quickly as they are repinned in the community with the same
shared interest. Mr. Miles found that the referral traffic from Pinterest was ten
times more than from their YouTube channel and five to six times more fan pages
Social media is all about human creativity and much less about financial firepower
for advertising. Pinboard costs a lot less both in terms of media purchase and
human effort to create visuals. Info-graphics inform and captivate and are more
compelling without even the razzle-dazzle of high quality videos or flashy images.
YouTube competes with commercial TV
By Kishore Jethanandani
Youtube’s harum-scarum expansion of goofy user-generated content is giving
way to first steps towards professional content on premium TV channels. Sports
content is the linchpin for commercial TV and will likely light the blaze of the trail
to its long anticipated disruption by online social TV.
Youtube’s spending on premium channels has more than doubled in 2013 over
2012. The “grants” received by producers of content for premium channels
increased from $100 million dollars in 2012 to $250 dollars in 2013 according to
the numbers cited by a Needham Insights report. Content producers set aside all
their revenues up to the amount of the grant to payback YouTube.
YouTube has not yet purchased broadcasting rights from mainstream sports
clubs but it is able to gain the rights for broadcasting niche sports or a geography
outside the main centers of the game. Skydiving is largely unknown outside
small groups of hobbyists but found an audience of 8 million on Youtube when
Felix Baumgartner did a sound barrier breaking jump. Professional Bull Riders
Association (PBR), a game known to few people, saw an advantage in an all-
digital strategy, in collaboration with YouTube, in order to expand its reach.
Major League Baseball streams games on Youtube outside of the USA, NBA
streams its minor league sports and the London Olympics expanded its reach to
The future of broadcasting rights for major league games is caught in a limbo as
conflicting forces drive them in opposite directions. Cable companies need
exclusive broadcasting rights to retain their customers and they are bidding at a
higher rate to keep them. On the other hand, the hold of cable companies on
broadcasting rights is tenuous as the audience shifts online to access content on
mobile devices or any device. The number of households without any television
jumped to 5 million in 2012 compared to 2 million in 2007.
Meanwhile, Youtube is able to cater to the demand by sports clubs to keep fans
engaged with highlights of the game, interviews with sports men and women
and peeks into the backrooms. One such Youtube channel is Love Football that
has snippets of the game with captivating content like the footage on the goals
scored, moments of suspense and moments of skillful maneuvering and reviews
of the news.
Some of the more successful and competitive sports broadcasters supplement
their live programming with partnerships with Youtube. ESPN, the leading sports
broadcaster, has 1.2 million subscribers to its Youtube channel. Fox Sports, the
upcoming challenger, has over 69,000 subscribers and sees their growth as a
priority. They are looking to gain an edge with the interaction of fans with the
The demand for streaming media will only grow as 30 percent of cable
subscribers have expressed their willingness to switch to streaming media.
Youtube will be able to tip the balance of forces in the broadcasting industry in
its favor when a high speed broadband network like the one Google is making
available in Kansas is more widely available across the USA for superior quality
Youtube’s premium channels will bring some of the benefits of commercial TV,
such as ease of discovery, while keeping the fun of personalization of the
Internet world. Not all of the freewheeling ways of the Internet world will be lost
as fans will still be able to contribute their content in conversations, within the
communities created by sports clubs, with the added benefit of convenient
cataloging. A tough battle over broadcasting rights looms as the numbers of fans
participating on Internet channels rise rapidly.