Students on Laptop

Customer Story: 2 Key Lessons for Engaging Students with Video Content

Thu Apr 5, 2018

More than any other social media channel, video–specifically YouTube–is the one most affiliated with the word “viral.” Tweets can certainly go viral, but often there is a negative stigma attached to its “viralness,” like making racist comments about AIDS. YouTube, on the other hand, is growing like a weed and a great opportunity for brands to create sharable content that effectively communicates their message.

With 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, it is difficult to create something that will go viral with all the cute kittens and “Call Me Maybe” parodies out there. There is no prescription for success but if I could proffer an opinion I’d say:

  1. Be brief.
  2. Be funny.

Sure, there are exceptions, like the 30 minute Kony 2012 video about the Ugandan warlord, but for the most part, people share videos that bring a smile and clock in at fewer than 2 minutes. Therein lies the challenge, how do you communicate your brand in such a brief time while making it enjoyable? Surely it must require hours of additional work and copious funds for an outside company to make a slick looking piece, right?

Hands Off

Here is what I’ve learned from working in higher education: if you want sharable social media content, the less of a hand you have in its creation, the better. Current students are your social media mouthpieces. Flatten your corn field for them and watch them play ball.

Our most viewed video was a student flash mob in the cafeteria (scroll down to watch).

You see a run-of-the mill, hand held camera; no audio equipment; no lighting; no editing; no creative direction. One of the students told us about the flash mob and we just showed up in time and pointed the camera in the right direction. The students put a lot of work into the project and we simply made available the opportunity for them to share it.

At the Speed of Viral

A few hours after posting the video, I received a text from my sister asking if I was in the flash mob. I wrote back “no.” Then, “wait, how do you even know about it?” My sister was in college in Decatur, GA, more than 1,000 miles away. It turns out she went to high school with one of our students (not even one of the students in the video) who had shared the video on Facebook. In effect, the video had traveled 1,000 miles.

Of course there aren’t always flash mobs to film, but the point is that we enabled students to create sharable content and it worked. It also communicates a positive message about Elms College (look how fun it is here; synchronized dancing in the cafeteria! It’s like Grease without the leather jackets!).

Off Script

Our second-most viewed video was done by an outside vendor. We asked them to put together a 30 second commercial of students talking about what they like about Elms College. The video was uploaded to the YouTube page and garnered a fair amount of views, but it was the gag reel from that same filming session that exploded. The commercial was professionally produced, but it was the unscripted moments of candor we had no hand in (stuttering, laughing, and even a bleeped swear) that the students viewed and shared.

Certainly professional promotional videos have their place. But if you want your constituents to share your content on social media it should look like the content they already share. That means less of you and more of them.

This is a guest post from Percussion customer Elms College, a Catholic coeducational liberal arts college in Chicopee, MA.

Doug Scanlon
Doug Scanlon
Assistant Director of Institutional Marketing, Elms College

Doug Scanlon is the assistant director of institutional marketing at Elms College. He edits the alumni magazine, manages all social media channels, designs publications, assigns stories, writes stories, edits stories, bends objects with his mind, and only made up one of those items. He has eight years of experience working for non profits and loves the creative freedom he gets to create content for the college's many constituents. Doug has also worked as a freelance writer, graphic designer, and marketing and social media consultant. He loves high-brow literature, low-brow television shows, playing guitar and working on that novel he's going to finish one of these days.