What makes online content good? What gets mad hits in the world of social media?
I think I’ve found the answer. It’s one word: Authenticity.
I’ll try to prove my point with the example of online video.
Why did this get over 3.4 million hits:
While a lot of these madly tank?
The BBC is a global media titan. By most accounts, they’re good at making video. BBC audience research says that about a third of all people watching TV in the UK at any given time are watching BBC content – not bad in a multi-hundred channel universe. What’s more, BBC brands have spread around the world through Doctor Who and others.
. . . so why does that expertise not translate into success in the world of online video?
Admittedly, the BBC’s YouTube channel has 39,156 subscribers as I write this. Not bad. But the channel isn’t exactly a nonstop fount of viral hits. The most-viewed BBC YouTube video is this one about panacea81, also known by her legal name, Laren Luke:
1,860,599 views as I write this. Not bad, by any account.
Why was that video so successful? Luke’s own YouTube channel has 114,117 subscribers as I write this – that‘s why. This video made a splash not because it was intrinsically good, but because it was embedded in the profile of one girl from middle England with a hard-core fanbase of people interested in makeup. Lauren Luke outdid the whole BBC, twice over, and then some.
So, what’s she got?
Authenticity = WIN
Let’s go back to the Large Hadron Rap I embedded above. It’s got low production values – no special lighting, no grading, no professional dancers – just a handful of geeks gettin’ jiggy next to a particle accellerator.
And the rap is functional: in a geeky sort of way it tells you a lot about particle physics. It conveys its message with authenticity.
That’s why it works.
Ditto with Lauren Luke. She’s an ordinary girl with a webcam in her study. There’s no special lighting – just enough natural light to make her clearly visible. The shelves behind her are a little messy – kind of like your own study, maybe? Family Guy is playing in the background in her most popular video.
She’s authentic. Shared online video is an intimate medium that feeds on authenticity, not spectacle. That’s why things like Charlie Bit Me and Sneezing Panda really work. They’re casual, they’re authentic, and they convey the message efficiently.
Roo had an interesting post recently on Britney Spears’ Twitter Feed. At first, it was nothing but a series of press announcements, with low traction. But once the lameness of this was pointed out to the people running it, Britney’s PR people changed the character of it and became much more authentic, and successful. I reccommend Roo’s post for the full details.