Spoke at an event last month, just before winning the Content Marketer of the Year award (Woohoo!) About all things content – mobile strategy, breakthrough growth hacks, trends about WhatsApp, Instagram and the all mighty Facebook. I’ve added the video below. Q&A in comments :)
This is the story of a content experiment which grew so big, it smashed our benchmarks and created a whole new level of ‘Crazy’. It was early January and from the trends predicted for 2016, we knew this year belonged to videos. Videos are raining everywhere, from Facebook news-feeds to family groups on WhatsApp. More than 50% of mobile traffic is already dominated by videos, coupled with sky-rocketing mobile users in the country, it’s not just about videos but videos made for mobile. This is the story of how we took an innocent little content post and packaged it into a short and crisp video which hit 50 million views in under 3 weeks! (Learnings from experiment below)
Are You Kidding Me?
The challenge was to take a listicle with interesting content and fascinating pictures and convert it into a video. It had to move fast and engage and not look like a slide show (hate those lousy slideshows with cheesy animations). The strategy for a video listicle was born. Little did we know that this little experiment done on near zero budget, will catapult our reach, engagement and conversions to mount everest.
The Results – Beach Please!
We know from experience if something has viral potential, the numbers snow-ball, shares and views accelerate by the hour. The video hit a million views in ten hours, and on Day 3 the views were accelerating at a staggering 11,000 views per minute! Here’s the video
In One Week:
- The video hit 40 million views
- Shared by a million users
- Received 300,000 comments
- Reached 150 million news-feeds on Facebook
- Added 200,000 new fans to our Facebook page
- Made ixigo Facebook page the fastest growing in the country on that day
- Got 20,000+ additional app installs for ixigo apps
“A travel video that broke the internet”
“ixigo proves Facebook (not YouTube) is the place for video marketing”
“ixigo lists world’s most unusual beaches”
All In One Week – Look Closely!
“The power of content marketing is the fact that a near zero budget video can compete with a TV Ad and beat it with numbers!”
Learnings – From The Trenches
- First 3-6 seconds are the most crucial: News-feeds are getting chaotic, human attention spans are dropping. First impression is crucial (thumbnail image), but the ‘second first impression’ is the first 3-6 seconds, we need to move fast, engage and get them to hit ‘share’, the magical metric for viral content.
- Sound elevates: Even though Facebook auto-plays the video, music/sound plays a big role. Bad quality video I’ll watch but bad sound is a deal breaker. The sound / music must elevate the visuals.
- Move fast: Nothing must be static even for one frame: we panned pictures, added fast moving globe transitions. Videos are called moving pictures for a reason ;)
- Square videos: The vertical/square videos which vine/instagram started work well for mobile audiences, since the format is native to mobiles. You don’t have to tilt the screen and they take up more real estate on the phone. And it’s no rocket science to know that mobile traffic is killing desktop in India!
- Facebook video: Facebook has sharing in it’s DNA, not so much on YouTube. Facebook videos work when they are short, fast moving and tell the story in moving picture more than dialogues. You can use call to action buttons on videos and most importantly Facebook provides kick-ass distribution for video content compared to YouTube.
- Keep Experimenting: We replicated the practices into a Republic Day video, which hit a decent million in 3 days. Operate like a movie studio, do ten experiment, two will work :)
One More Thing, Seriously!
In the last two years it has been a roller coaster ride in producing, distributing and decoding viral content. I’m compiling it all into a non-nonsense book. It has the stories of learnings from the content marketing trenches, of how experiments became best practices for multi million views viral videos. About creating viral-worthy content, the art of news-jacking, earning users’ trust and coming up with topics for the next game changer. Join the mailing list and I will update you when it comes out :)
Oh BTW Here’s The Video
And This One Hit a Million in 3 Days, Same Learnings, On India’s Republic Day (News-Jack)
A Million in 10 hours! This is a whole new level of craziness! India Rising! :) Here’s the video
An amazing year comes to an end, complete with videos going viral, algorithms throwing us curve balls and news-feeds getting chaotic. If content marketing is your game, 2016 would be the year it gets crazy competitive, and a lot more exciting! This is my list of trends and focus areas for 2016, something I’ll be pasting on the wall, and if I forget by the end of it.. Happy New Year :)
1. Videos will continue to dominate
It’s raining videos everywhere, from Facebook news-feeds to family groups on WhatsApp. 2016 will be the year of videos, more than 50% mobile traffic is already dominated by videos. Also, with 4G expected to become mainstream in ’16, Facebook will start injecting more videos in news-feeds (as it does in other countries). Videos are easy to digest, engages users, and is more likely to be shared.
I’ll be experimenting a lot with videos which engage users in 3-6 seconds, and get over within 30 seconds.
Also experiment with what I call ‘square’ videos (remember vine?). They are native to mobiles, no tilting, expectation is short and have been shared crazy. If you’re eager to get in the game: Start experimenting with video, hire a filmmaker, get better at telling stories in motion. Think story-telling not high production value. Startups have been doing zero-budget videos and killing it.
2. User attention span will continue to fall
Human attention span is at the all time lowest of 8 seconds, Gold fish is 9 seconds. Gold Fish! Heck I have twenty apps in my phone which shout for my attention all day. With millions getting on the smartphone bandwagon in India, and millions already consuming content on it, the real challenge would be to pierce through the content density and stay remarkable with your content.
Create content which gets to the point quickly and engages. If it is videos: engage in the first few seconds, keep everything front and centre (like a selfie); if it’s images: drop the collages (Facebook doesn’t like them either), make them crisp and clean, and for text: make it easy to consume.. listicles :)
3. Quality will beat quantity, hands down
News-feeds are already chaotic, organic reach on social platforms is non-existent, so the focus must be on share-worthy content and beat Facebook at its game. Competition is growing with low barriers to entry (everyone and their brother can create a meme today). Quality content rises to the top eventually, even Facebook now loves to bring back old ‘good quality’ content in News-feeds. Instead of creating a lot of content, focus on the kick-ass ones, which engage and deliver value to users. Remember the 80-20 rule?
4. Rise of Instagram + WhatsApp for content distribution
I’m placing my bets on Instagram and WhatsApp for video/visual content distribution. A lot of your content may already be going viral on WhatsApp, those annoying alumni, extended family and friends groups, hopefully we get analytics for WhatsApp in 2016. I’ll be experimenting a lot with creating native content for Instagram and WhatsApp and build them as an alternate content distribution platforms.
5. Rise of branded content
No one likes Ads, ads have been shoved into our experiences everywhere. Ads by nature are self promotional, and users today can smell the BS miles away. 2016 will see rise of branded content, not ads masquerading as content but genuine content which is useful, relevant and adds value to users’ lives. Also, with Ad blockers becoming popular, content must earn the eye-balls. And the best way to earn eye-balls is to focus on the heart, not the eye-balls ;) That’s where ‘shares’ come from. Brands must become a conduit for change.
6. Not visual, but virtual content
With Facebook and Google experimenting with 360 degrees videos and Virtual technologies, this could be an area to experiment with. Get a 360 degree camera, and shoot some fun behind the scene content. The second half of 2016 should see the rise of virtual content and with Facebook acquiring Oculus Rift, virtual reality could eventually become mainstream.
7. Think big but execute for tiny screens
When you’re reviewing any creative or video, the first questions to ask before any creative or story-telling logic: How would it work on that tiny screen? Mobile numbers are skyrocketing, desktop traffic has been on the decline, 2016 will see the mobile curve go way north. Think big, but execute for small screen size. For example.. Infographics won’t work, break them into easy to consume slide-decks, for small screens.
8. Multi-skilled storytellers in every team
The content marketing teams will need skilled story-tellers on the teams in 2016. With rapidly evolving platforms and to experiment in the untested areas, we’d need filmmakers to double up as designer, writers to pickup design skills, and filmmakers to learn how to write headlines. Above all, brainstorming must become a culture.
9. Keep Experimenting
I’ve always believed in operating like a movie studio, make ten movies hoping two become crazy successful. Let 2016 be the year of crazy experiments: try new formats, new features, get obsessed with your users’ lives and add value in every content piece.
Happy Content Marketing in 2016 :)
Published first here
Sometimes, just sometimes a content piece comes along which gets into the sweet spot: with the users and with Facebook’s ongoing experiments. A meme which was born out of the collective frustration of the team in planning a group trip, went crazy viral smashing all our previous image post benchmarks.
The Results – First Week
The meme was part of our experiment on Facebook, an innocent little 3pm post on a Tuesday, had gathered more than 110,000 comments by Friday.
- Reached 20 million News-feeds
(that’s like reaching the entire population of Netherlands, and then some!)
- Received more than 120,000 comments
- Added 16,000 new fans to our Facebook page
- Shared by more than 100,000 users
- Smashed the previous benchmark of image post virality
- Featured by 9gag! with 200+ comments
- All organic and with-in the first week!
Content Marketing to me is like operating a movie studio, make ten movies hoping that two would be crazy successful. Some stuff works, some just dies a quick death, and what works becomes a best practice :)
The following four buckets help in planning topics for virality
- Useful: Is it providing a solution or solving a pain point?
- Inspirational: Does it inspire users to take action?
- Topical: Good old News-jacking: Breaking News + Brand DNA. Example, and another example :)
- Celebrate nuances: The little things, the stuff we don’t say, tiny part of our users’ lives
Easy to guess which bucket this meme fell into :)
“Do ten experiments, two may work, just like movie studios”
Got update from friends about the same meme being shamelessly copied and passed on as their own, on Facebook and Instagram. Re-posting the content is cool, give credit and I’ll understand, but when you erase our logo and put yours shamelessly, that is downright cheap. Our videos have been copy pasted before but not like this.
- Facebook: On Laughing Colors Facebook Page: Take a look, conveniently removed our logo and added their own, got 90k likes and 14k shares at the time of writing this.
- Instagram: On some ‘Realshit.Gyan’ account, take a look. Same shit, different account. This one had received 10k likes and 1600 comments at the time of this post
UPDATE: The said posts were removed on request :)
‘News-jacking’ is the art of injecting ideas (with your brand DNA) into news stories, creating kick-ass content and riding media coverage plus social engagement. What started on a Friday evening, came full circle with coverage on NDTV’s homepage on the D-Day! :)
Idea & Execution
We had the hindu festival of Dussehra coming up in a few days. The popular mythology around Dussehra is the victory of god Rama over the ‘ten-headed’ demon king Ravana. After countless ideas and brainstorm droppings, our hunt was to find brand DNA match to News-jack this.
So came the simple idea to turn the central character of the festival on its head! We re-imagined Ravana (the ten-headed demon king), as if he were alive today, and put him in everyday situations, creating cool graphics for a Facebook Album. There’s always an urgency of a news-room when we’re working on topical content: Move Fast and Execute! And when it’s ready, distribute like crazy. Distribution is half the game, after you’ve cracked the idea and content. From Facebook post, internal promotion to blogger outreach in the beginning.
Got a ping from a friend on WhatsApp that NDTV had picked up our post and it had made it to their homepage. Phew! Happy Dussehra!
- NDTV did a full story on the post, and embedded the images directly from the Facebook Album (good for distribution)
- They posted on their Facebook page among 5.5 million fans
- They Tweeted to their 5 million followers
- All organic :)
Spending money is easy, getting there with an idea and kick-ass execution is Startup Swag!
Few weeks back I met Rajeev Suri, who’s super energetic and vibrantly spirited about digital marketing. If you want to be in the know of the latest insights from the industry, hit subscribe on his video blog on YouTube, he interviews the game changers in the Indian digital landscape and provides a lot of learnings and insights.
It was an honour to be interviewed by him, and talk about something which has shaped my journey over last few years: Viral Videos. In quick 10 minutes, we discussed the best practices behind making viral videos, from coming up with topics to distribution. One memory from my visit to Mumbai, neatly captured in a video :)
Replace your obsession with the video going viral with your focus on the content and story you are going to tell. And for God’s sake, don’t make an ad. Social media is about activism. People are trying to make a change, and impact. focus on that.
Use the right medium to propagate. sharing or share ability is in the DNA of Facebook, not so much on youtube, which is traditionally the source of video distribution. And don’t link a youtube video on Facebook, upload directly on Facebook.
Happy Content Marketing :)
Few months back I did a webinar on the best practices in viral video marketing, the method to the madness in producing and distributing video content. Here’s a quick 5 minute video with highlights from the webinar, the longer version you can find below. Happy Content Marketing to you :)
Webinar Highlights in 5 Minutes
Content ideas are everywhere, execution is everything
Full Webinar – One Hour
Operate like movie studios, do ten experiments, two will work
This time from China! 85k shares! Check it out. Whoa!! + Yay!!