In her role as digital consultant at BBC World Service, Esra Doğramaci has been working with a team of journalists to decipher how to use video on social platforms to reach audiences across all the geographical areas the broadcaster operates in.
Having analysed a wide range of data and experimented with different formats on a variety of social platforms, the team at BBC World Service saw a tremendous 315 per cent growth on watch time for its YouTube videos between 2014 and 2015, and a 485 per cent subscriber growth in the same period.
According to research conducted by Cisco, video will be 80 per cent of all internet traffic by 2019, up from 64 per cent in 2014 – a figure that Doğramaci explained all publishers should be aware of as they look to the future.
"The growth in video surpasses any kind of growth of any other media or platform right now, and although the recent RISJ report found that text is still very important, nothing is matching the growth of video," she told delegates at the Digital Media World 2016 conference in Vienna today (11 October).
So what do publishers need to keep in mind when developing a social video strategy?
Here are Doğramaci's top 10 tips, which she has gathered throughout her years of studying the behaviour of audiences and the performance of video on social media.
1. It's not TV
"You can't take TV video people and apply the same methods to online platforms, because it is a very different kind of expertise," she said.
"Instead, you need to have a team that lives and breathes social – the people who are passionate about Snapchat or Facebook and testing these things out, because they have the intelligence around [these platforms].
2. Remember that if you're site-based, it's going to be difficult to convince people that social really matters
"Social media has always been used to bring back traffic to the website, and the social audience has been called 'really promiscuous' – people coming to you from these platforms, watching one thing and then leaving without an onward journey."
Doğramaci explained that as digital audiences made up of women and 18-35 year olds are hard to reach in the digital space, publishers need to include diverse groups of people in the decision-making process in order to become more effective at targeting these demographics.
"Recruit people who really want to be there and are as interested in your videos as you hope the audience will be."
The BBC established an initiative in which 20 people under the age of 30 came into the organisation and provided honest feedback on how the broadcaster should be engaging with these age groups, which the team found really useful when moulding a strategy.
3. Don't follow the crowd
"If everyone is doing it, that doesn't mean you should too – in other words, don't try to be BuzzFeed.
"BuzzFeed became successful producing listicles because it was something different and new, and now they are going to invest into BuzzFeed Studios and BuzzFeed News as well."
She recommended steering clear of copying formats that have been successful for other organisations, and rather than trying to be the best at something that already exists, publishers should try to be original.
4. Skip the obvious
"An editor on my team, Carol Olona, said, 'unless you're cooking drugs or something exciting, don't do it'."
Instead, Doğramaci suggested news outlets should focus their energy on what they are already good at, and excelling at it, instead of trying to be like everybody else.
5. Give your videos love
"It is not enough just to publish videos – every video needs to be optimised for each platform.
The team's guidance was to publish no more than 2 videos a day on YouTube, but they wanted to limit this further and publish one a week, which they hoped was guaranteed to perform well and engage audiences, encouraging them to subscribe.
Doğramaci explained that every video needs to be tailored for the individual platform – news organisations need to ensure they produce videos of the correct length, style and format for the social media site they are publishing on.
"You can't just publish one video on one platform and then just expect it to grow and do well, because your audiences are different on each of those platforms."
Doğramaci even encouraged a Google-inspired 'Creative Friday', to allow the team to go away and try out new apps and tools and find technologies that work for them, which actually improved their workflow and enthusiasm.
6. There's still a lot of fear
"People have a fearful mindset around social media skills – they don't want to download new apps, learn new technology and experiment.
"There is a culture of resistance where people are afraid of breaking the rules and making mistakes."
She explained that some journalists don't want to discuss strategies with their competitors, but her YouTube team talked to other publishers such as Al Jazeera and the Guardian as much as it can, because "you are not necessarily competing one-on-one with each other, and there is always something to learn from them".
7. Always experiment
"Digital is changing so fast that you can't automate this. Some newsrooms work on formula, but this is an area that you've constantly go to be moving forward in."
Publishers need to come up with original ideas that are going to engage audiences, she pointed out, which can only be done through being brave and experimenting.
"In the digital world, people rely on authenticity, and if they see you trying to be something that you're not, they are going to be turning somewhere else."
8. Data still matters, and it always will
Doğramaci said data is "wonderful" because the media can turn around analytics in a matter of days – enough time to try something, see if it works, and present a proof of concept.
"When I started working on YouTube, I was told by a senior BBC staff member that nobody watches anything long on YouTube.
"But my data showed that of the top ten videos on the platform, two were 24-hour live streams, and the remainder were 20 minutes long or more."
9. There is no magic number
"We've found that 60 to 90-second-long videos work on Facebook, but it ties into the same thing we find with text – thinking that people would only consume short, sharp articles online, but we have discovered that if you have a good story, people will read the entire thing on mobile – it's the same thing with video," she added.
10. Video is still journalism
"Video is no different – you just need to refine your journalism skills. It is not this scary territory, it's just a different format.
You can check out Esra Doğramaci's slides from her presentation at the Digital Media World 2016 conference in Vienna here.
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