I had the pleasure of chairing a lively panel including The Distillery’s MD (Master Distiller) Steve Wheen recently at the Production Theatre of BVE at ExCel in London’s Docklands. It’s a huge annual TV/media event which includes a rich mix of talks, panels and presentations, this year featuring the likes of Amma Asante (Belle, A United Kingdom), Louis Theroux (My Scientology Movie, Weird Weekends), Jason Flemyng (X-Men, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) and Mark Kermode (Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review).
Steve joined Alex Connock, MD of Endemol Shine North, and Eline van der Velden, actress/presenter/writer/director at Particle6 Productions. Alex has recently also been serving as Head of Video at The LADbible and Eline has just delivered a new comedy series to BBC3 so they both had plenty of experience and insights to add to an energetic conversation about social video and the relative merits of the various available digital platforms, with a particular emphasis on YouTube vs Facebook in the light of the aggressive expansion of video activity on the latter.
Alex drew attention to some of the contrasting characteristics of these two platforms, having spent much time during his stint at LADbible refining the art of Facebook virals. He likes the implicit recommendation built into much Facebook activity. YouTube he appreciates for its discoverability. He is very much a horses-for-courses merchant – match the platform to the objectives of the project and where multiple platforms are the order of the day, make sure to customise the content to play to the strengths of the particular platform. No “Hey guys!” openings for Facebook.
Steve took up the baton in this regard, a stickler for devising and refining the content specifically for each platform. No cheap and dirty shoving of one bit of content wherever it will go. He too emphasised the important distinction between ‘searchability’ and ‘shareability’, and strongly advocated having content strategy which is platform-specific.
Steve also argued resolutely for the use of considered metrics and the taking into account of oft changing algorithms in how you create content. The insights into user behaviour offered by these platforms are truly valuable not only in distribution but also in production.
Eline was able to show us the view from the creator/vlogger perspective. She experienced the primacy of titles and thumbnails to win in the attention economy. Ultimately, however, she found the content hungriness of the YouTube partner machine unsustainable. Now she’s working out of her own indie for the likes of BBC3 she’s feeling in a better position to maintain quality control and be an undiluted creative (rather than a part-time marketeer and distributor).
What came through strongly as the three online video specialists traded insights and tips was the magical mix of art, science, numbers and luck which makes it such a compelling area in which to work. Alex gave an example of a LADbible video that did no business when first released but when uploaded again (by mistake) same time, same place the following week it hit the jackpot in the millions. It’s a complex mix of factors at play but creating online video in the context of a social strategy with proper use of data insights boosts your chances of succeeding with it massively.