Elliot Greenberger, the Communications Manager at See3 Communications, wrote a pretty nifty blogpost a couple days ago. I was sharing it with people today at SOLO09 (Science Online London 2009), and thought this was a good time to try to explain here why I thought it was so relevant and useful.
What Elliot wrote was about how to make the most of your video. I’ve been telling folks for months (and have some video to post on the topic) about why it is so important to get your science and research videos into Youtube. It was over a year ago that I was looking for some cell division videos for my high school aged son, and found instead an astonishing number of hard core science teaching and research methodology videos. This included stuff like how to do an ELISA blot, methodologies for immunofluorescence, nano mass spec techniques, protein crystallization, all kinds of stuff. What I noticed was that some of the videos had originally been placed on the web sites of the originating research lab, but not in Youtube. I assume this was because someone felt uncomfortable releasing their content out into the wild, and thought they could control it better on their own website.
So how did these get into Youtube? Someone or several someones had been seeking them out, scraping them off the original websites, splicing out the beginning and ending credits, replacing them with an ad for their website, and adding a banner add for their website across the bottom of the video. They covered themselves by adding a notice that these videos were not their content and they did not own copyright in them. I found this, shall we say, very interesting? Especially since these esoteric and relatively uninteresting videos (uninteresting to the general public anyway) were getting thousands and hundreds of thousands of views.
Since I originally noticed this, I’ve also noticed Youtube really cracking down on this sort of activity, but it really helps if someone brings it to their attention. You need to know your videos, and check to see if they are out there wandering around. I’ve been arguing that the best way to control your content is to put it in Youtube yourself. Some folk complained that videos in Youtube aren’t very high quality. So put it in Vimeo, too, ok? And put a copy of the original on your website. Link the Youtube posting to your website.
This does a few things for you. First, if someone steals your video and tries to put it in Youtube, yours was there first, establishing precedent and already gathering link-backs, comments, embeds and views. If you see your video elsewhere in Youtube, you complain and theirs will be removed by Youtube. Second, Youtube is way up there in the rankings. If your video is in Youtube, people are more likely to find it in a Google or Yahoo search, and if they find the video, they are more likely to find your website. Third, Youtube is one of the leading places people do web searches in general. Not just video searches, but on concepts and topics! This means whatever you have to say is going to be more discoverable if it can be found easily on Youtube as well as Google and Yahoo.
OK, now all this is great for video, you say, but you are not exactly in the video business. So what does this have to do with you? Think about it a second. These same basic ideas and strategies apply to anything you have to say. This is what I liked about Elliot Greenberger’s blogpost. He was talking about how to get more views for your videos, but the same ideas and strategies can easily be applied across social media. Take a minute and go look at Elliot’s post, then come back here and I’ll explain what I mean.
Greenberger, Elliot. How to Get More Views for Your Video. Frogloop, Care2’s nonprofit online marketing blog, August 19, 2009. http://www.frogloop.com/care2blog/2009/8/19/how-to-get-more-views-for-your-video.html
EG’s #1. Optimize Your Video for the Web
This applies to text as well. Remember that there are a lot of different potential audiences on the web. If you are trying to reach multiple audiences either write your content or design your media at different levels — interested outsider, novice, expert, and all the way along the range.
In general, for consumer health and legal documents the plain language experts recommend writing anything that really needs to get out to the general public at a level of American grades 4-8. In the UK this translates in practice to roughly ages 10-14. That could be a whole post on its own, but you get the idea. This is harder to do than it sounds, but if you provide the same content at multiple levels and think of your potential audiences, you are on the right track.
Writing at different levels isn’t enough, though. To optimize your text for the web, you need to also think of how it is laid out, design features, and make sure you pay attention to the use of white space. Short paragraphs, short sentences, short words.
EG’s #2. Recruit Your Email List
What Elliot said here is really really good. Use pictures and graphics. Give color in both visuals, media and stories to engage interest. Make your message something people want to talk about, and tell them briefly what would help most — forward a message, share with friends, retweet, comment, bookmark, what do you want them to do?
EG’s #3. Get It On Your Site
In libraries there is this idea about how to protect and preserve content without having it be a huge burden on any one library. One popular way of expressing this is LOCKSS – Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe. Same idea applies here. Ultimately, your most important message is going to be on your site, not out in the social media. So make sure the important stuff is all on your site, and make sure all your social media stuff somehow sooner or later guides your audience and friends to your home.
EG’s #4. Create Relevant Tags
If you have content out in social media, there are often ways to tag it. Even if the system where you put your content doesn’t allow tagging, as long as you have an URL you can always bookmark it and tag it there. For tagging strategies, I use a couple. First, I tag it the way I think of it to ease refinding for me personally. Second, I look at how other folks are tagging similar items and throw in those terms. You would find that most items in my Delicious stream have a lot of sloppy tags. This is because I want to facilitate finding by others as well as finding by myself. So I combine a tight structured approach with a loose sloppy approach, on purpose.
EG’s #5. Don’t Stop at YouTube
This could say don’t stop at your website. Or don’t stop at your blog. Or don’t stop at Facebook. Or Flickr. Or Twitter. Or Slideshare. Or wherever. It is all a big mesh, interweaving. You don’t put everything in each place, but you do for the big stuff, and anything substantive should probably appear in three places. Where you put things will depend on what you’re putting out and who your community and audience are. If you are working with predominantly visual content you will place that content in different places than if you are working with written ideas, but both will overlap.
EG’s #6. Reach Out to Bloggers
Again, I’d extend this a bit broader. Where is your community, who cares about your content? Talk to them! First find them. Know their names/IDs, what they care about, what they’re working on. If you’ve built a history of sharing good stuff with them (not just your stuff) and really being a valued member of the community, they will do the same for you. Reciprocity. If you are doing good and doing good work, you are on the right track.
EG’s #7. Talk About it Offline
My ideal social network is a2b3. You’ll find a2b3 all over the web, but ultimately it comes back to face-to-face, those weekly lunches with a different and fascinating crowd each week. In my previous job I felt really well connected with what was going on, with regular lunches and coffee meetings, informal social situations with individuals or small groups. People complain about the inefficiency of informal communications, but when you really think about it, try taking away the informal communication paths and see just how efficient you are without them.
EG’s #8. Run Online Ads
This one applies to marketing. It is an extension of #6 and #7. It can be taken a bit broader, though. Even if you are an educator, the basic idea is that sometimes it is worth putting money into something you want said well and that it is important to have people hear. Think of going to a conference and looking at a warehouse sized floor of poster presentations. You can tell which ones are “homegrown” versus the ones where they hired a graphic artist to help with the layout. Where do you tend to spend the most time looking at the content? The ones where the content is easy on the eyes. So maybe the money you put isn’t going into an online advertisement if you are teaching or presenting research, or maybe it is if you are doing enterprise marketing. It all depends. Just don’t be afraid to put your money where your mouth is when it really matters.
EG’s #9. Link Link Link
OK, I can’t say this any better than Elliot did, or at least not significantly different. “That means putting [your link] in your email signature, posting on Facebook and Twitter, including it in your next byline, and sharing it in forums, online communities, and comments.” Yeah. What he said.