VidCon 2019: Content that places purpose before targets

VidCon 2019: Content that places purpose before targets

Ten years since its inaugural event, VidCon is a fixture in the world of digital content, branding, and marketing. Here are some takeaways on content creation, straight from the stage.

The event is about democratizing creativity: celebrating the voice of the creator, enabling them to build their community, and opening up new avenues of distribution.

Influence has disseminated from consumer brands to creators who are brands in their own right. The amount – and type – of content you find out there has boomed. Today, there are over 3,000 minutes of content for each minute of a human life; that means for every minute of content we watch, there are 2,999 minutes we won’t see. And from live streaming to 15 second music videos, storytelling continues to transform every year.

Here are some takeaways on storytelling in the age of influence:

1. Buying impressions isn’t the same as making an impression.

It can be all too easy to get caught up in data and statistics about how your audience reacts to your content—clicks, likes, followers, mentions—and not think about the fact that all of those interactions come from living, breathing people. “I’ve seen the hacking algorithms presentation 1,000 times,” said Cassie Roma, Head of Content at The Warehouse Group, during her VidCon panel “Influence, Shminfluence” on Thursday. “We forget that actual human being on the other side of the story that’s being told.”

So rather than trying to please the impersonal algorithm by getting more clicks, content producers and marketers should focus more on targeting the feelings of the people making those clicks—which will likely result in more of them. You don’t have over engineer in order to get to the heart of the matter. Oftentimes, your audience is already telling you what you need to know.

“The comments people make on YouTube inform our video decisions...Once you put something out there, you share ownership with your audience; they do have a say. They’ll inform you of what’s working and it’s important to respect that,” said Matt Levin, Founder and CEO of Donut Media, during his panel “Niche is the New Normal: Building a Global Brand Begins with a Highly Focused Community and a Singular Passion Point.”

2. Authenticity isn’t just in algorithms or audience statistics.

According to Domo, last year, nearly 50,000 Instagram posts and 500,000 tweets, were shared every minute. But on the other side of the spectrum, in just 60 seconds, users around the world streamed a collective 100,000 hours of movies on Netflix and watched over 4 million YouTube videos. In other words, despite the staggering amount of content and information being shared, we still seek out more content to consume.

Roma put it this way: “We don’t have 30 seconds to be interrupted, but we have 30 minutes to hear a great story.” And marketers have been catching on: In recent years, it’s become more common for brands to tell stories about how people use their product, for instance, or insert themselves into a greater cultural or political narrative with purpose-led campaigns, such as Nike’s partnership with athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick, or Schick’s TV spot with a message against toxic masculinity.

The most powerful resource in storytelling is shared narratives, but when working with cultural trends, it’s important to think through the tonality–build off of that qualitative customer feedback and find the stories that will resonate across your audiences.

3. Your story doesn’t start and end with a piece of content.

The power of a story relies on how much the storyteller or brand exemplifies the message, and carries it through in their other actions. We’ve talked about the importance of listening to your audience and incorporating their response to your broader strategy. It’s also important to note that your response, as a creator or a brand, is in itself a touchpoint. Your tone, your actions–nothing is outside the purview of your brand identity.

Brands are waking up. It’s become increasingly common for companies to include morality clauses in contracts with influencers or creators because they understand that the story doesn’t stop after the cameras do.

“If you buy a big reach placement or work with somebody because they have 15M followers and get a sweet fix in sales, what’s the long term?” said Roma. “With great budget comes great responsibility.”

4. Transparency doesn't just gain audience trust.

Be transparent about your business model. It communicates to your audience that you trust them to understand your business. For instance, Matt Levin of Donut Media is open with his audience about working with advertisers, and emphasizes that branded sponsorship allows them to enjoy the content for free. “‘We couldn’t afford to make this cool video for you guys if Kira or whoever hadn’t participated in it’…We’re very explicit in presenting it that way,” he said during the “Niche is the New Normal” panel. “Our audiences appreciate that. [They understand] that ads pay for the videos, more than they ever have before.”

It all serves as a reminder that storytelling should be done with a purpose, not simply a target.

As Roma put it: “Every piece of content that goes out in the world on your dime must be something that lifts us, it has to be something that makes us come together. If you are just schlepping your products, if you’re not having a value exchange from a storytelling perspective, you’re going to be one of those 2,999 minutes that don’t get seen.”

Sign up for Airtable for free
More for the record