01 Sep Why episodic content is the key to engaging your audience
Steven Lim piles into a car with his co-worker Andrew and their trusty sound guy, Adam. This week, the trio is going to try 3 donuts at different price points to see which one proves to be the best…and the last one just so happens to be covered in gold leaf. Next week they’ll try different buffets, and an audience of millions will be sure to watch when they see the familiar faces pop up on their feeds.
That’s the plot of Worth It, one of BuzzFeed’s several series that are raking in over 7 billion views per month. With the exception of the rise of bing-streaming online, episodic content felt like it almost had no place online until a select few publishing houses decided to write a new set of rules for digital. After cranking out viral hits, BuzzFeed is producing several series in response to audiences who want more.
Long-form content is far from dead. And now that it’s adapted for digital, it’s proving to be more powerful than ever. Here’s why media companies like BuzzFeed, Conde Nast, and YouTube are connecting with their online audiences through episodic content, and how you can do the same:
Long-form content done right
People love long-form content when it fits into their lives, and that’s exactly why YouTube Red is able to entice subscribers by offering original series from the creators they know and love.
The companies that are seeing success with this are the ones that are keeping track of how many people are watching their marketing videos and how audiences are engaging with them. Digital platforms give you access to real-time (and unfiltered!) responses so audiences can tell you what they want.
So what do they want?
Empathy and emotional connections. In an interview with Variety, BuzzFeed’s executive producer Andrew Gauthier said: “There is a desire among viewers to get attached to the characters and to follow them over a certain period of time”. Some of the most successful digital series are emotionally evocative because the characters are approachable and ordinary.
Take Vogue’s “73 Questions” series for example. An ordinary celebrity interview might be a little tough to relate to, but 73 rapid fire personal questions while Reese Witherspoon gives you a tour of her house and flips on a trampoline? That’s approachable.
Relevant content should have relatable storylines and characters because empathy is the strongest emotion you can draw from your audience. Ultimately, that emotional connection is what’s going to bring them back.
Adapting for digital
While companies are ramping up their video goals, they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to define what a digital hit series can be. There’s so much potential here that companies are creating entire brand labs to create original content.
Create the content the viewers want and optimize it for sharing. You should play to each platform’s unique qualities. Those cooking videos that seem to have taken over the Internet started as an experiment when Facebook started auto-playing videos within feeds. It’s important to experiment and tailor your content to see what works.
Keep adjusting the content
One of the biggest perks of a digital series is being able to adjust. Posting a video online isn’t anywhere near as involved as getting a show placed on the air, and that flexibility gives you room to grow. Instead of planning an entire series and committing to pre-filmed episodes, you can experiment with the content, format, and timing.
You don’t have to make an enormous commitment to get started. That distinction makes digital programming so much more accessible for brands. You have the luxury of being able to quickly change something if it doesn’t work.
Who knows, you might even get the idea for your newest installment straight from the comments section.
Set a new standard for online videos
Your video needs to have a target audience. Attempts at creating catch-all videos will result in bland content. Take a page from BuzzFeed’s playbook and create highly-targeted videos. You can make them for as many audiences as you’d like. After all, the foodie keeping track of recipes might not want to watch a prank war.
It’s not about casting a wider net, it’s about making sure everything you publish is well-executed. Whether it’s 30 seconds or 10 minutes, people will come back for more if you’re telling the stories they want to hear.
Want to impress your audience with motion content? We’ve got your back.