The secrets of igniting online video sharing

What pushes an online video past the tipping point in terms of sharing and reach? What separates those with genuine momentum and sustained influence from those that generate a brief flare of interest before fading away? Initial momentum driven by established social media influencers, who can spread content far and fast, certainly has a role to play. However, it’s what happens after this initial round of sharing that often makes the difference – and defines the most shared online videos.

The vast majority of these videos succeed because they are able to inspire a second wave of sharing, with influencers and their networks continuing to re-watch videos, comment on them and retweet them. These on-going, often spontaneous conversations are a key driver of long-term influence, reach and virality. However, only a select group of videos achieve this vital second-phase engagement.

When TNS partnered with Twitter and Ogilvy to study the patterns of sharing created by videos online, only one in five of the videos tested succeeded in generating this sustained engagement in the second phase of sharing. However 92 per cent of these videos proved successful in terms of the total reach and involvement that they generated. The challenge for marketers is to maximise the chances of their videos making it into this group.

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To do so, they must tackle the question of what motivates sharing’s second wave. Fortunately, we can identify clear and common characteristics amongst the videos that succeed in triggering it – and using these characteristics, we can develop a framework for success in the crucial second phase of the online video life-cycle:

Target ‘right here, right now’ moments

Videos that take place in a very specific moment in time significantly outperform the rest. Only one in five of the online videos tested in the study refer to specific moments in this way, but almost all of these (nine in every ten) are amongst the best performers in terms of sustained reach and engagement.

These ‘time-stamped’ moments include high-profile awards ceremonies (as with Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez celebrating backstage at the Grammy’s ) but also common experiences created by the weather ( a Panda playing in the snow at the zoo – or the perfectly timed ‘Snow Day’ commercial for Nike ).



Their success results from the sense of immediacy and relevance that a specific moment in time produces, and the consequent motivation to retweet/share and comment.

Engage the right emotion

Emotion is central to the effectiveness of any marketing. However, not all emotions are equal. Deeper analysis of the sharing patterns created by online video, reveals subtle but important distinctions between the roles of different emotions.

Humour delivers instant engagement, producing an enthusiastic first wave of sharing and eager viewing. However, humour alone struggles to deliver longevity in terms of interest and engagement; for that you require deeper, more intimate and more complex emotional connections. Videos that succeed in generating powerful emotions like hope or pride (an uplifting film revealing how all races, religions and degrees of disability look the same under the skin , for example) are twice as likely to be top-performers in terms of sustained conversation and sharing.

There’s an interesting parallel here with the role of different emotions in driving long-term brand benefits for TV advertising. TNS’s analysis of Super Bowl ads over the last two years shows that, whilst humorous ads generated an immediate impact – and produced a powerful first wave of sharing on social media – they failed to drive organic social conversations or establish the personal relevance that is key to long-term brand benefits. Ads that were able to align with deeper emotions had far greater success in both of these areas.

Aim to generate comments – not just shares

Commenting is contagious in a way that simple sharing can’t quite match – and this makes the level of involvement that second-wave influencers have with a video central to its overall success. Videos with a higher ratio of comments with retweets/shares achieve far more sustained sharing and commenting going forward. Providing viewers with the motive and opportunity to express themselves should therefore be a priority for brands.

In all, 60 per cent of those who retweet/share online video give the opportunity to express their own point of view as a reason for doing so. The opportunity for emotional self-expression