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The impact of a “viral” YouTube video can be great for a brand, but is it a sustainable strategy for continued growth? I spoke with Brian Gallivan, the star of the wildly successful Sassy Gay Friend videos, about the short- and long-term effects of his YouTube reign (27 million views and counting since 2010).

Let me warn you before we move on. Brian* will not reveal the magic formula to make a viral video. Why? Because he created these videos without ever intending them to go viral.

Instead, he had a rather pragmatic reason for getting “sassy” on YouTube. Brian was a struggling actor/writer in Los Angeles who had just hired a new manager. The manager wanted to showcase samples of Brian’s writing. Brian thought of a few sketches he’d written and performed nine years earlier on The (super prestigious) Second City mainstage, massaged the scripts, and began shooting them for video.

The mix of classic literature, an opinionated best friend, and a sequined scarf created a hilarious trifecta for YouTube viewers. Brian’s interpretations of Romeo and Juliet and Othello got him nods in The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and The New York Times. To meet the demand for more Sassy Gay Friend appearances, Brian and his cast created more Shakespeare-with-a-gay-BFF videos as well as ones based on non-Bard works like The Giving Tree, The Bible (Eve), and Black Swan.

With this demand came the question that good brand marketers would ask: How do we monetize the success of Sassy Gay Friend? The Second City, the YouTube channel that hosted the SGF videos, began running ads before each video began. And then there was the MiO sponsorship.

The “liquid water enhancer” wanted in on the Sassy excitement and asked Brian to create a series of videos for it, with the product called out in each video. With the opportunity to fill his fridge and pay his rent in the same month, Brian agreed.

SGF fans did not take well to the overt product placement in these new, sponsored videos. “I wish I had done the videos without the placements,” he admitted. However, Brian dealt with the hand he was given, working with MiO to insert sly remarks about his endorsement in a few videos — accented by cash register “ding!” sound effects. In all, he made 10 videos for the drink mix before moving on to a writing gig for NBC’s Are You There, Chelsea?

Sassy Gay Friend adds MiO product placement to this spoof of The Odyssey.

That’s right. He moved on. Let me say it again. He moved on. Even at the height of SGF mania, Brian was hard at work writing original scripts for television. Remember: his agent had asked for these videos to get Brian TV writing jobs, not to earn him YouTube star status. After Chelsea, Brian joined the writing staff of ABC’s Happy Endings during its final season. He’s currently revising an original pilot about a Boston family for CBS that will star Joey McIntyre (New Kids on the Block, Wicked).

For businesses and artists looking to do “something awesome on YouTube,” let’s recap what we learned from Sassy Gay Friend:

  • Make a video like you’re trying to get a job with it, not to get “viral” with it. Showcase your best stuff to keep them coming back for more.
  • Once you have traction, try to monetize in a way that will resonate well with your target demographic.
  • Don’t quit your day job.

*I’ve known Brian Gallivan for nearly twenty years. It feels too strange to refer to him as “Gallivan.”  I’ll save it for the volleyball court– not here on my blog.

Headline Cover Photo: Canva

 


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Is YouTube just a place to upload your videos – or is it a genuine social network? If you believe the latter (like I do), it’s essential to incorporate transcriptions (closed captions) into all of your YouTube videos. Let me tell you why.

Transcriptions add instant accessibility to your videos.
By providing closed captions for your videos, you enable the deaf and hard of hearing community to enjoy your videos. Transcriptions also allow your videos to be consumed by others with structural hearing challenges — think of gyms that broadcast talk shows and newscasts on flatscreens by turning on closed captioning. TV shows extend their reach through transcriptions, and your videos should too.

Since 2010, YouTube has gone to bat for the hearing challenged community by automatically creating closed captions for videos. But its transcriptions remain far from perfect. Here’s an example for you. Last week I used captions to watch this video about the YouTube One channel. In the video, Tim from Video Creators said, “Is there any algorithm differences between the old channel [design]?”

And here’s how YouTube transcribed it:

A wee bit different, don’t you think?

Transcriptions improve your videos’ chances of being seen by those who search for them.

YouTube best practices emphasize using keyword rich video titles and descriptions to curry favor with YouTube and Google search. But your videos most likely have great keywords that aren’t being picked up by Google spiders. A well-crafted transcription, however, can provide those keywords to boost your search engine optimization (SEO).

The transcription can be repurposed on other online platforms.

What I like about creating my own transcriptions is that I feel as if I’m writing a little blog post about a topic that’s important to my target audience. And who’s to say that I can’t adapt that transcription for a blog post, podcast, or formal presentation? (That’s right — no one.)

Transcriptions may sound boring — but they’re one of the most social things you can do to your videos.

By creating and uploading proper transcriptions, you’re not simply using YouTube as a storage closet for your videos. Your customized transcriptions tell YouTube’s 1 *billion* active monthly viewers that you’ve created your videos for them to use, engage with, and share.

And the transcription process is not as tedious as it sounds. Watch my (transcribed) tutorial to learn how you can take advantage of closed captioning for your next video.

Headline Photo Credit: sierratierra / Flickr CC


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Are you optimizing each of your Facebook fan page posts for length, timing, and relevance — yet still aren’t seeing the results you want? Let Facebook advertising give you a hand.

Here’s how Facebook advertising works. It takes all the information that its 1 billion active members say about themselves and categorizes it. Let’s take all of Facebook’s data about its users’ favorite musical artists, for example.

Favorite Musical Artists of People on Facebook

If you’re a singer-songwriter with catchy hooks like Taylor Swift who wants to win a Grammy by 2015, Facebook ads let you go big and serve an ad to all of the network’s Taylor Swift fans.

Conversely, you can zero in on a subset of fans most likely to do business with you.  If you run a cat rescue organization which will soon table at Swift’s concert in Boston, you can use Facebook to appear in front of the following Facebook users:

Much easier than leafletting outside of the Boston Garden screaming, “Do you like cats?” — don’t you think? If you’ve been struggling to get new fans to your page, making a small investment in the targeting power of Facebook advertising can make a big difference.

Facebook advertising is not just to get new fans. Using Facebook ads can also help your posts get seen by more of your existing fans. Here’s a sad fact: Facebook does not release your posts to all of your fans. Truth! Typically only 16% of your fan page fans see each of your posts — having a totally relevant post sent at the most optimized time does very little to improve this woefully low percentage .

That’s where Facebook advertising comes in. By spending a few bucks to promote your posts, you are able to open Facebook’s gates to promote your posts to more of your fans.  Similar to the Taylor Swift wannabe example mentioned earlier, you can use Facebook to reach all of those who have “liked” your page. Or you can use the targeting power to send a “promoted post” to a particular demographic of your fan base.

You can also take full advantage of the mobile world in which, you, me, and billions of other Facebook users currently live. With a little tweaking, you can direct Facebook to send your ads solely to mobile devices or to send your ad to a user of a particular device (iOS, Android). If you’re a mobile app producer, you can create an ad with an “Install” button that, upon a click, sends a user to your app’s download page on the Google Play or Apple store.

The “custom audience” function of Facebook ads allows you to keep in better contact with those on your email list. Facebook can match your email addresses with their respective Facebook profiles and send an ad or promoted post just to them. Let’s face it: as important as email marketing is, Facebook users spend way more time on Facebook than they do on email. So catch them where you can!

Facebook advertising should not be used in lieu of a consistent fan page posting schedule with messages that resonate with your target audience. Instead, ads on Facebook should be used to extend the reach of your posts and to attract new, qualified fans to your posts (and by proxy, to your business).

Headline photo credit: iStockphoto


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Trying to figure out if Pinterest is a worthwhile platform for your B2B company? Chew on these tips from me and a few very special guests.

1. See if you’re already on Pinterest

Even if you don’t yet have a Pinterest account, images from your Website might already appear on Pinterest. Really! Use the following URL to see which of your images pinners have shared with their followers.

In my case, I replace the “yourdomain.com” in the URL with “sierratierra.com.” What do you see when you personalize that URL with your Website? Have others already put your images on Pinterest?

2. Search for your marketplace

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ll want to make sure that others in your marketplace are there as well. Does your business, say, provide equipment or services to hospitals? Use Pinterest’s search box and look for “hospital” under the “pinners” category. Here’s a small sampling I found using this search method.

At this point, you’ve uncovered what Pinterest users have shared from your Website. You also have a better sense of how much of your marketplace uses Pinterest. Take a moment to think: Based on what you now know, does it make sense for you to move forward with Pinterest? If so, let me share my tips interspersed with real-world practices from the following B2B marketers on Pinterest.

3. Add the “Pin It” plugin to your WordPress blog

My blog uses the “Pin it” plugin to encourage pinning of my blog’s images. You can test my plugin right now. Take your cursor and hover over one of the images in this post  – the blackboard, the hospital boards. See how a “Pin It” button appears in the upper left corner? It serves as a nice prod to interested readers to share the image on Pinterest.

Other marketing blogs also make good use of the plugin. At Marketo, visual content has become a huge part of its content strategy, Carra Manahan remarked. Incorporating “Pin It” has ensured that all of Marketo’s blog readers could easily share the blog’s visuals on their own Pinterest boards.

Ian Cleary added this simple plugin to razorsocial.com three months ago and has witnessed a doubling of his blog’s images being pinned by others.

This plugin not only gets your images shared with pinners, but also holds great potential for traffic to your Website. According to a Shareaholic study published this week, Pinterest drives more traffic to Websites than Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Google+ combined.

Let me illustrate this referral potential. A very kind pinner pinned an infographic from my blog article on running a successful Pinterest contest. In her pin below, you’ll see two opportunities (outlined with the longer arrows) where pinners can click to my Website for more information on Pinterest contests.

The shorter arrow points to a non-clickable mention of my URL– which was part of the original image on my blog — that gives pinners a more direct “Hey! There’s more good stuff at sierratierra.com!”

As a B2B, I’ve noticed that images from my Website that provide guidance, such as the step-by-step graphic on Pinterest contests, get pinned most often. The marketers I spoke with for this post concur: infographics and pins with informative text tend to get pinned the most from their sites too. Now, could that be why the top image of this post is made of text?

Bottom line here: If you’re a B2B, you’re probably not a cute company. So don’t try cute on Pinterest. Chances are you’re a very useful company, so create visual content on your Website that’s useful. Marketo understands this. The company has plans to launch some spectacular-but-under-wraps visual content by the year’s end, from which Carra Manahan anticipates an increase in referral traffic from Pinterest.

4. Start pinning
Once you get a sense of what resonates with your marketplace, try setting up boards on your own Pinterest account. Quick tips for smart boards include the following:

  • Give meaningful, keyword-rich titles and descriptions to your boards. (Mitt Ray)
  • Balance your boards with pins from your site as well as pins from other sites and other pinners’ boards (Team at OrganikSEO)
  • Have a rhythm to pinning. Marketo adds motivational quotes on Mondays and marketing stats on Tuesdays.
  • Consider joining group boards — that is, boards that have multiple contributors. It’s a great way to build your audience. (Team at OrganikSEO) Here’s an example of a group board I’ve joined with other alumni of Binghamton University.

 

If you align yourself with the right contributors, you might also develop relationships that turn into leads.

Still have reservations about using Pinterest for your B2B company? Sound off in the comments!


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The number of Twitter tools out there can be overwhelming for many businesses. When clients come to me in a “Which one is best? Which one should I use?” panic, I usually refer them to something they’ve overlooked: plain ol’ Twitter desktop. Here’s why.

Saved Searches

Saving (and regularly referring to) key terms relevant to your business is a great way to develop your professional skills, network with like-minded professionals, and keep abreast of current discussions in your marketplace. As you see from my Twitter saved searches, you can save both keywords and hashtags.

Twitter Saved Search Results

The searches can get pretty specific. See my last term highlighted in blue? When I select that option, it gives me people within 15 miles of Boston who have recently tweeted with the word “vegetarian.” Many third-party apps still can’t get this granular with location searches.

Once you select the search you’re interested in at the moment, you can see all the tweets on that topic presented to you in chronological order. You can even whittle down that list to just your followers’ discussion on that topic.

Pronounced Trending Topics

Stuck on what to tweet about?  Look at trends in your area to see what’s got local people all abuzz.

Trending Topics on Twitter for the Boston Area

On a rare night in Boston, baseball fans were rooting for the Atlanta Braves with the hashtag #FearTheChop. By clicking on the trending hashtag, you can witness the world’s largest peanut gallery in action during the ballgame.  If a baseball themed message would be appropriate for your business to tweet, send one out using an appropriate trending topic.

Twitter also makes it easier than most third-party tools to change the location of popular tweet topics. Are you based in Boston but have an office in Caracas, Venezuela? Click “change” on top of trending topics and discover what people there are discussing.

Advertising

Twitter is on a mission to make advertising easier for small and mid-sized businesses. They’re even advertising, as seen in this example, to get businesses familiar with the Twitter advertising platform.

Twitter ad to attract small businesses to advertise on Twitter

One useful ad type is the Promoted Tweet, which places a particular tweet of yours in the newsfeeds of those who tweet about a given topic. While Twitter’s targeting capabilities don’t yet match the granularity of what you might experience running a Facebook sponsored story or promoted post, Twitter does allow you to select users based on keyword, gender, location, and devices (laptop, iOS, Android).

If you have a Zumba app or teach an online Zumba course, do you see how getting your specific tweets in the newsfeeds in your target audience might be useful? How about if you’re hosting, say, a financial planning summit in Denver?

Analytics

Another perk of running ads on Twitter is the ability to use its detailed analytics. Want to see how many clicks, retweets, and replies your tweets are getting? Is your follower base growing at a steady rate? This is just some of the free data Twitter now provides for accounts that advertise on its platform.

I especially like that I can sort by the number of favorites my tweets receive — I have yet to see this feature on any third-party tool I use.

A snapshot of Twitter analytics
I use more Twitter tools than I care to admit — that’s part of my job of being a professional geek. But more and more these days, I am delighted by what I find and use simply by logging on to Twitter.com. Let me know if you feel the same way!

Headline photo credit: iStockphoto


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