Video is the Ultimate Social Object

When I started blogging on ProPR in 2005, blogging was strictly a text only affair. My first post was a headline with text. That’s all that WordPress, my chosen publishing platform, could handle.

But things didn’t stand still. And there were a rapid series of improvements to blogging software that let me add pictures, audio and video to my blog. Today, I include pictures in every post on ProPR to provide quick cues about the subject matter of the post. Depending on the subject, I may include an audio clip. However, more and more of what I produce involves video.

Video is the ultimate social object. It is visceral and immersive. It conveys a sense of personality. I can hear my publishing experience extends beyond text-based posts to include audio and video.

My colleague, Mike Edgell, has answered the question of “Why video?” in a short video. I think it makes the point very effectively. Take a look at it. And if you find it helps you explain to people why video is becoming the ultimate social object, please feel free to share it. It’s on YouTube with a Creative Commons Share Alike Non-commercial license.

  • I don’t necessarily disagree with anything in the video but I don’t think it’s fair to say that it is (or is necessarily going to be) the ultimate social object.

    One of the things that’s made social technologies like blogs take off is that they leveled the playing field for content creation, publishing and distribution. Anyone can create an outwardly-looking professional publication even if the underpinnings of that publication are anything but.

    Video is much harder. This video is pretty slick, obviously (though the claim that humans react more to visuals than text is a bit of a false dichotomy – text can be visual, look how often it’s used for effect in this video) but not everyone can create something so professional looking.

    I think we’re used to seeing a certain level of polish that’s harder to fake in video than in print. The tools are becoming cheaper and easier to use, of course, but the ultimate product is harder to achieve, I think.

    I also wonder if the “ultimate social object” label can be applied to a medium that is so self contained. Another key part of the social explosion was predicated on the relative ease with which form and content could be divorced so the content could be broken down, mashed up and generally ported across various channels. Videos can be embedded, of course, and with the right level of experience one can chop them up and re-edit them, but again, not with the same level of ease as text formats.

    Online video is certainly interesting and it’s not likely to go away but the fact that the various examples cited by this particular video were from organizations and companies with the budget to create something professional should not be overlooked. For something to truly be the ultimate social object it has to be a lot more accessible.

    Video might still get there but I don’t think it’s there yet.

    • Joe, What makes video the ultimate social object in my view is my experience that it increases the engagement of posts that contain it. It also gets handed around more frequently than other content I produce.

      I agree with you about the skill level required to produce effective video. But than not everyone can write a blog. Different skills for different people.

  • Right now and in the near future it certainly is.

    People seem to love sharing and spreading great video content. For most applications, something short and snappy seems to work.

    I was helping publicize and market an industry related week-long event recent and simple video from many of the events had great response numbers in terms of views and shares and helped tell what I think was a much more compelling story than words or pictures.

    My only concern is that like everything else, the web will get saturated in poorly done video that will ruin it for everyone else. Communicators and Marketers love the bright shiny object and I think we’re at a place now where video is certainly going to be that next shiny object.

    • Danny, Mike Edgell, who produced this video, frequently makes the same point to me about the mediocre production of the videos I make. He’s always urging me to upgrade my production quality so that the amateurish appearance doesn’t get in the way of communicating my message.

  • Holy crap, Boughner. That is a fantastic comment. I couldn’t agree more. I was just having that conversation with my colleague, Lynn Crymble, today.

    Video is a great tool when done well and for the right reasons. As you say, it’s just not easy to do well. While the cost of production and distribution is way, way down, it’s still not in the grasp of most individuals and even many companies.

    And, Thornley, while it pains me to pile on…Edgell is right. Amateur video is much less forgiving than amateur writing.

    • David, You’re not piling on. I wrote this post as much as a reality check as an assertion.

      I am a proud producer of technically inferior video. And I think I can get away with that if the content is conversational or highly personal. But, yes, Mike is not going to lose any corporate video production assignments to me and my Sony consumer camera. Context and purpose will determine which approach is right in specific instances.

  • Jones, you summed it up nicely – that amateur video is much less forgiving than amateur writing. It can be like learning how to skate in an NHL game – people will notice, and your spleen will hurt.

    There is obviously room for all kinds of video (content rulz), but organizations must ask some questions. Would we serve Timbits at our AGM? Would we wear track pants to work? Would we issue a press release that was poorly written? If the answer is no, then the content should match the quality of everything else we do. This doesn’t mean every production has to be Avatar, but it should be a consideration.

    It also doesn’t void creative freedom. We can be edgy and progressive and still produce high quality content. Does anyone said “wow Mad Men would be a cool show if only it was shot with a flip cam!”

    Perphaps the most fundamental shift is that the internet will drive what’s on “all screens” including your television. In the living room there is an expecation of quality. So when the 500 million channel universe comes knocking which organizations will be armed with content that is worthy of their brand.

  • A few points that I think are important: One, I find it interesting why you still “selling” video. Clients know how important content is and how important their brands are. I think instead of selling video as a concept, you need to focus on promoting the idea of how accessable high quality video production is and how effective the results are-on time on budget, on brand. Video has a rep of being expensive, difficult to produce, requiring a lot of input. You should focus on demystifing the production process and the benefits of multi-platform publishing.

    Secondly, video is just the beginning. The accumulation of video and real time content creates the opportunity for the emergence of channels. Channels where content can be updated in real time without huge expense and resources. Channels that appear on all screens; consistently branded, highly targeted, content driven. now that’s exciting. And that’s the future of PR and marketing communications.

    • Hi Vern,
      Thank you for your comment. I think you and I may have two very different perspectives on this. As I look at the link you posted, your company’s Website and YouTube channel and your comment, it strikes me that you are focused on using video to push messages. I’m more focused on video to spark conversation – which is what the video I posted on this blog post has done. Personally, I’d prefer to spark conversation rather than to pitch the hard sell.

  • Hi Joseph,
    What we’re doing is taking video, adding real-time content, making it look and feel like a branded experience and creating communciations channels. Channels that can be published anywhere and updated easily. Our clients find it a very effective way to “playlist” video content while providing an engaging broadcast like experience. Thanks for visiting our site! And please say hello to LeeEllen Carroll, a colleague of mine from CTV.

    • Hi Vern,
      I appreciate the conversation. But I’m still in a different mindspace than you. In fact, I think the real benefit of video is promoting two way engagement with audiences. Sadly, too many marketers are simply trying to recreate the “broadcast-like experience” through social media, I think that this approach falls short of realizing the full potential of social media to engage communities in active relationships, not as passive viewers.

  • Chelsea Colette

    I think that the incorporation of video within Public Relations helps improve the communication between the organization and its publics. I think that audiences will respond better to a video about a product or news story rather than a print article. Having said that, I think it is important for organizations to include videos in their Media Kits. By doing this, the intervening publics will more effectively deliver the message. A video has the ability to show the audience the product or service while simultaneously educating them about its relevancy.