Does social video really fit in your marketing plan?

If you have been following me in this blog or on social platforms, you will have noticed that I’m slightly critical about video as a marketing tool. The future may prove me wrong, but before you jump on the video bandwagon, you might want to read this “second opinion” to Hootsuite’s April 2016 blog post A Guide to Social Video, and Where It Fits in Your Marketing Plan.

What works for others may or may not work for you

Right after the opening sentence comes the moment when you should stop for the first time to do some thinking.

“Your customers are watching a ton of social video.” Are you sure this talks about YOUR customers? What kind of videos are they watching? Even if the whole world watched funny animal videos or music videos, it won’t help you a bit if you’re trying to promote accounts payable software or machine tool maintenance.

A little further down, we encounter the subheading “Why social video is key to your marketing goals”. Key? The chapter gives five reasons, so let’s dissect them one by one.

1. More social networks are rolling out native video, demonstrating its growing value.

The social networks are keen on video sharing because it gives them an opportunity to grow their user base, which equals selling more advertising. They don’t give a damn about your objectives. Think hard about the “demonstrating its growing value” – value to whom?

2. Social video owns the all-important 18 to 33 year-old demographic.

If you’re trying to move electronics, online games or hamburgers, this age bracket might be all-important to you, too. If not, think twice. An 18-year-old probably doesn’t earn much, lives with his or her parents and goes to school, whereas a 33-year-old probably has his or her own apartment or house, has obtained a formal education and works a day job with significantly better income. Focusing on age alone is a wrong metric.

The article also states that “By 2030, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce, making it hard to ignore video platforms that resonate so well with this key audience.” If you can commit to 14 years of producing compelling video content to have your audience eat out of your hand in 2030, by all means do so. I’m expecting results a lot sooner.

3. Video is unique in its ability to connect with viewers.

While there’s a lot of truth in this, the argumentation isn’t convincing. For example, “On Twitter you can respond to a customer inquiry with 140 characters of text, or you can take a few minutes and record them a 30-second video message. They’ll appreciate the extra effort.” Sure they will, but as someone running a business you must also look at the “extra effort” part from the cost standpoint. Plus, which do you think the customer will appreciate more, a text-based solution to his problem within 15 minutes, or the 30-second video your team will have time to put together next week?

4. Your competitors are already leveraging social video.

Totally irrelevant. Get your strategists together and determine the odds of YOUR business benefiting from video content. Simple old-fashioned direct mail that is 100% measurable might well outdo the competitor’s results from their video experiments.

5. Social media videos can deliver impressive ROI.

Now let’s tread carefully in this mire. As the article rightly points out, “this is probably the only point your boss cares about”, which is why you should know what you’re doing. The article gives a long list of arguments as hyperlinks purportedly supporting the “impressive ROI” claim. Instead of boring you to death with the entire list, I’ll just focus on a few points.

“72 percent of businesses who use video say it has increased website conversion rates”. Following the link takes you to a Web Video Marketing Council webpage that starts with these words: “When it comes to video marketing, there’s an accepted belief that using video is growing quickly. Statistics abound regarding online marketing video’s effectiveness, but many of these video marketing statistics are old and new research is surprisingly thin”. Need we go on?

“74 percent of all internet traffic in 2017 is projected to come from video”. You may also have read similar percentages about spam’s share of net traffic, so take this with a pinch of salt. Unless they’re talking about the same thing.

There are also figures about how much video Facebook, Periscope and Snapchat users watch. If you know your customers are on Facebook, Periscope and Snapchat, go ahead and serve them. Do you actually know where they hang out?

What outcome do you expect from your input?

Next we’re getting into really deep waters. The article states that the most obvious marketing objective of social media video is “building brand awareness or telling your brand’s story”. It also mentions employer branding.

The Coca-Colas and MacDonalds of this world may have enough money to spend on branding, but the smaller your business, the less you want to sink your money into just getting your name out there. It’s akin to paying your customer for him to let you participate in a bid. I don’t know about you, but personally I would rather put my money on something with much more predictability and precision.

The encouragement to “try using social videos for lead generation” is another huge potential pitfall. True, often “people see a lengthy piece of content and decide it’s not worth their time to fill out the form to download a document they may never read”, but if you’re gating your lead magnets, you’re doing it wrong in the first place.

The first step in lead generation is findability. If your lead-generating gems are hidden as video or audio content, there’s no power in the world that displays them in search engine results.

When the article talks about using social video as a customer engagement and support strategy, it is slowly starting to make sense. As an alternative way of providing a FAQ section on your website, it works. A caveat, though: do you know your customers prefer video to text? And another: do you want or need to put your FAQ on a social platform?

Then, finally, the article strikes gold. “How-to videos are among the most popular search queries on YouTube, and a great way to offer value to customers.” Showing how to do something is where video excels.


Don’t fall into the trap that if others are doing something, you should do the same. Get to know your customers and their social habits, only then decide what are the best channels to reach them.

If what you’re planning to do won’t contribute to your bottom line, reconsider doing it.

Branding in itself is a money sink. The smaller your business, the less you can afford it. Your brand will be built by what you do and how you do it, without a special “branding” effort.

Treat all media equally until you find which one or ones work best for YOUR business. There are no silver bullets, and shiny new things lead you astray more often than towards your goals.

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