TechBytes with Will Federman, Executive Editor, The Tylt

TechBytes with Will Federman, Executive Editor at The Tylt
Will Federman, Executive Editor at The Tylt

Will Federman
Executive Editor, The Tylt

Video content truly helps build intimate, long-lasting brand-focused relationships. As the dynamic of mobile-only marketing technology changes, CMOs could well look out for video marketing technologies that increase audience reach and conversion. Will Federman, Executive Editor at The Tylt, provides critical insights on how brands could maximize their ROI from video technologies.

Tell us about your journey into technology and the team you lead?

As executive editor, I oversee content production and editorial strategy at The Tylt, the largest and fastest growing social polling and opinion platform amongst millennials. We’ve been fortunate that innovation has been key to what we do since day one. Everything we do is tied to our underlying tech, which enables our human storytellers to frame online opinions and our platform to visualize online opinions in real-time. But none of that exists in a vacuum and was a big reason why I initially came from Time Inc., to explore opportunities in a startup environment and build a team that could interact with online communities in new, exciting ways.

In just two short years, the editorial team has grown to 13 full-time employees, now seated in our brand-new offices in Chelsea. Everything we’ve done has been iterative; we try to test a hypothesis and if the end result corroborates an editorial hunch, we start to invest more resources—and that includes technology, as well as human capital. Now, we are leveraging our editorial insights with Tylt Beacon, our new platform for partners and clients, which was developed from scratch by our technology team.

There are no silos in our office environment; content editors and developers eat lunch together, and I’m always amazed how knowledgeable our developers are about the media business. It’s a collaborative, team-oriented environment that marries technology and editorial know-how, and I consider myself lucky to be part of it.

How would you define “Video Marketing” in the present context of mobile screens?

It’s about developing an intimate relationship, with video content streamed directly to a user’s personal device, that can provide a positive feedback loop. It’s not just purely a transactional relationship anymore. You can’t think of yourself as a one-way broadcaster. You have to be prepared to receive feedback, iterate on that feedback and provide content that resonates with your audience in meaningful ways.

The easiest way to hurt your brand value is to devalue your brand on mobile screens; this is personal real estate and the stakes are high. It’s not like an ad on television that can be consumed passively or ignored outright. You’re sharing space with people’s photos, emails, and intimate thoughts. Challenge yourself to market content that feels at home in that space and not alien.

Why is the Facebook Watch a video content game-changer that brands should leverage?

It’s a game-changer for two reasons. First, it’s a wholly different, prioritized format on the largest social media platform in the mobile landscape, and that’s always going to attract eyeballs and provide opportunities for brands. You would be crazy not to at least explore the medium, especially while Facebook prioritizes Watch in user feeds. Second, as Facebook continues to roll out platform-specific tools, like interactive show features, it’ll provide brands completely new ways to engage with users and that’s usually the best way to build lasting relationships with your audience. Those are the people that become key to conversion metrics and long-term brand building.

How should brands maximize their ROI from video technologies?

I think brands really need to think about the audience they want to target, the bandwidth they have internally, and go from there. Don’t go chasing new platforms if your audience is not there. We’re big fans of Snapchat, but we know we have better market opportunities elsewhere, with fewer technology and bandwidth hurdles, with the audience we want to attract. That informs how we prioritize media production, the type of media, branding, etc.

Like most brands, we are not starting out with an unlimited media budget. So once you define your target audience, the platforms they live on, then next thing a brand should consider is whether or not media production can travel on other platforms. Define what success looks like for you on those platforms: are you looking for just straightforward engagement, follower growth, etc.?

Also, if you don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing platform-specific content, finding templates or models to develop videos, that can travel to other platforms, is key to determining ROI from production. We try to build content that can live and breathe on the social web, and we aim to make it as portable as possible. But we also know that certain topics perform better on certain platforms. That allows us to determine whether it’s worth it to produce content that might do gangbusters on a specific platform, or lean into a topic that might perform above-average across multiple platforms. Our production team is pretty good about picking their shots.

To what extent would Live Streaming opportunities help drive customer engagement?

Live-streaming presents the clearest way to develop a positive feedback loop with customers. It allows you to create a transparent, two-way communication channel. You control the outgoing signal, which is fantastic from a brand-building perspective. But it’s how you react to the incoming signals that can create lasting relationships. If someone feels *heard*, something that’s key to what we do at The Tylt, and their opinion is validated, it strengths brand loyalty.

Live-streaming also provides a controlled venue to put a face to a brand, something that millennials respond really well to. Just look at Scott Rogowsky from HQ Trivia. He’s as core to that brand as the brand or the tech. People feel like they’re having a relationship with a real human being and not a faceless company. I have personally de-escalated heated debates on The Tylt by responding to users directly from my personal account and not our brand account. We see that time and time again, including when we manage community conversations around “Hash It Out,” our Facebook Watch show. A little bit of civility is restored if people think they’re talking to people. And it’s a big reason why we’re excited to put our editorial team in front of the camera this year by launching two new Facebook Watch verticals with our editors as hosts and make the newsroom more forward-facing to the audience. We want to have those conversations with our audience not just as a brand, but with folks who are ambassadors for the brand.

How do you measure the Sentiment Quotient of a video content? Which parameters/metrics would benefit video marketing teams?

We tend to look at sentiment in terms of how users are sharing our content and adopting our CTAs. If they’re interacting with the content the way we want them to, there is a strong likelihood that it’s resonating in the way we want. We track hashtag usage and can see that in content that performs above average.

I think video teams, and brands in general, need to deprioritize video views as a KPI that translates to success or positive sentiment. That’s not necessarily the case, and it’s a metric that’s often in dispute across platforms. Internally, we prioritize the share. It’s one of the most active actions a user can take; clicking something and determining it is worth sharing to their own networks. Other metrics often trail the share. If it’s shared in high volume, it’s watched in high volume, watched for longer periods of time and draws more engagement.

The other thing marketing teams need to look at is engagement—is your content driving user comments and feedback? This is something that Facebook’s algorithm also looks at; content with high user engagement often translates into more impressions and views. Also, is it quality feedback? Any decent community manager or social media editor can tell if you’re getting hate-watched or not. Quality feedback cannot only help you better frame content in the future, it can provide future content and help identify if you’re connecting with your intended audience in a positive, meaningful way.

How to leverage and repurpose video content for your own brand’s channel when you’re a startup on a tight budget or work at a small company?

This pretty much describes The Tylt to a T. On Wed, 9/19, we’re debuting our brand new production studio, which helps us build up our media production arm to provide more content in-house. Ironically enough, this began as an experiment with limited bandwidth. We started by looking at our back catalog of video content we already produced on Facebook, and then re-purposed our highest performing video content for Facebook Watch. The results were extraordinary.

For example, we posted a funny, but shareable video clip on President Trump’s hair on our Facebook page months ago. It has gone on to record over 23 million video views for the whole year. When we repurposed the same video for Facebook Watch, it was viewed over 22 million times and shared over 184,000 times.

By essentially using our page to A/B test older content and determining which pieces of video to re-package, we saw a direct correlation on Watch. Video stories that performed well, historically, on our Facebook page saw explosive growth on Watch. Similarly, the Watch videos that drove the most engagement, in terms of comments, saw incredible share velocity through the Facebook ecosystem.

We also took stock of our video library and began to develop a catalog of content that could be repurposed for other platforms. The cool thing about this is that you can make modest tweaks, like inserting different CTAs, to drive the results you want. There’s no reason why you can’t use content on one platform to drive your audience to another platform you’re developing.

How do you see AI/ML and AR/VR technologies further disrupting Video ecosystem?

AI and Machine Learning are going to make it easier, and cheaper, for brands to scale media production. We’re already seeing it with companies like Lumen5, which we’ve been using internally, that use AI to help automate video creation for multiple platforms. It has the benefit of allowing small teams with a limited budget punch above their weight in terms of media production. You can do more with less.

AR/VR are very exciting, but capital-heavy investments with limited ROI right now. Down the line, I could see AR being essential for brands, especially capturing the customer at the point-of-sale. There are so many opportunities to not only showcase the value of a brand with AR, but provide geographic context to the end consumer. I’m also bullish on VR, but I see that as a more personal, immersive experience that will benefit marquee brands with deep pockets. That can change as the technology is widely adopted, but I’m not sure it’ll disrupt the video ecosystem the same way mobile video has, or AR will in the future.

Does click-baity content resonate with millennials?

Millennials are a very discerning, knowledgeable demographic that has grown tired of how many brands define click-bait: which is mining the curiosity gap to essentially trick users into reading or watching content they might not have otherwise. I think brands need to reverse-engineer that formula or risk long-term erosion of their audience.

The key is to look at the content and find stories that resonate with your target audience, then frame it in a way that’s compelling and promotes shareability. That should exist at the intersection of what you do best and the audience you’re targeting. For example, we know how to mobilize what we refer to as “fan armies,” groups of zealous fans who develop online communities around an artist or piece of work. Our content is framed toward that group and encourages them to share. Or, in the case of our Facebook Watch piece on Donald Trump’s hair, we’re able to target content that reaches across multiple groups. There was one of the few examples of political content where everyone feels like they’re in on the joke, and they want to share it to their individual communities (on both sides of the aisle) continue that joke.

The last piece of the puzzle is authenticity. Millennials are not an isolated example, but it’s a generation that prizes authenticity above all else. If you’re not genuinely excited about your content, they won’t be either.

How to grow your following organically, without paid spend?

Define, test, and follow through—repeatedly. Define your audience. Consistently build and deploy new hypotheses, develop a decent sample size, and cater your content strategy around the results. You will be surprised to see, in just a short period of time, that you can find meaningful, actionable takeaways from a data set if you control the parameters of the experiment. It’s not just about throwing stuff at the wall; it’s about taking risks and defining success, then following up on those successes.

Thanks for chatting with us, Will.

Stay tuned for more insights on marketing technologies. To participate in our Tech Bytes program, email us at news@martechseries.com

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