I sat in a difficult meeting this morning at work. My day job is as digital media manager for a great healthcare organization that includes hospitals, physician practices, rehab centers, wellness centers and much more.

The meeting began as my director shuffled through some printouts showing that our corporate YouTube videos were only getting marginal traffic. Here was a video with 53 views, another with 300, another with 87, and so forth.  “What can we do to get more views?” he bemoaned. “We’re spending so much money and time on production” (not exactly true). “What’s our return on investment? What can we change to get more shares? Do we need to rethink our strategy?”

Various members of our marketing team (fine professionals – but not altogether savvy about video production and promotion) chimed in opinions while I sat and tried to find a spot to insert my hopefully pertinent thoughts.

Eventually I was able to share these points about our efforts in healthcare video marketing – points that are largely true with any corporate video marketing really. They are not exhaustive, but they reflect the essence of what I’ve learned from over 12 years of video production and promotion in the healthcare and other corporate arenas (via my freelance work with other large corporations).

1) Are we asking the right core question about healthcare and corporate video marketing? The great question is, are we making these videos to get bunches of views – or are we making these videos to communicate with a target audience that cares about the subject matter?

We can produce a compelling video about an inspiring cancer survivor, or a physician who knows the latest whiz-bang surgical procedure, etc. – but do the people who boost a video to viral status care? The answer is no. The people who will watch are the people who are facing the healthcare dilemma. In the corporate world, we may make a video about the advantages of the latest cable connector – but only the folks in the market for our product are likely to search out our videos.

2) Are we taking the necessary time to aggressively promote our videos to the people who DO CARE? I personally work, work, work, on my video projects – then upload and move on to the next project, before I’ve had time to promote through social media, blogging, news releases, word of mouth, print ads and other internet based channels. If you want to really get views from a focused audience you can’t just upload and hope the viewers will flock to your product. It takes constant promotion, altering keywords, changing up descriptions, shuffling playlists – and that’s just the beginning.

Now once we decide whether we want hits or effective communication, then we can look at what can be done to strike a balance between both commodities. That’s the holy grail in my estimation – as many views as possible from people who really care about what you’re saying.

Now we come to why people watch or don’t watch – or more importantly, why they share or don’t share your videos – because sharing is what yields exposure. So here’s what I’ve learned about why people watch and share – and this doesn’t come from my experience with healthcare or corporate video production – it’s from monkeying around with my own personal (and fairly successful) YouTube channel. It’s my formula for success or failure of a video, as it relates to traffic. It comes from repeated analysis of success and failure as I try to build a YouTube following.

Formula for Minimal Views and Limited Sharing

Ask these questions:

  1. Is it an advertisement? People don’t want to just watch your commercial or promotional ad, no matter how cleverly you veil it in narrative and touchy-feely-ness. The only exception is if your ad is so striking or funny that people can’t not watch it – and that kind of advertising seldom flies in healthcare.
  2. Is it boring? Let’s face it – the latest MRI or widget technology or success story may be awesome news in your industry, but it may equal snooze time to the general public.
  3. Is it overly corporate? By this I mean is it full of business jargon, Jedi-mind tricks that aim to convince of excellence, clichés, slick & polished gloss screaming that you spent a bunch of money on production at the expense of your clients or patients? This may seem cool to the big shots behind the desks – but few people will like it or share it.
  4. Has it already been done? This one is HUGE with healthcare marketing. To play it safe, healthcare marketers stay firmly entrenched in a tight little box – thinking, hoping, praying that their new clever angle can convince people to choose them over another competitor – but never really willing to convey a message that is truly original.  I’ve seen hundreds of such ads over the years and they still just boil down to the basest of image pieces. It takes great courage to try to communicate with people in a totally new way, so most conservative marketers (far too many out there in the real world) just hatch stylish but non-substantive ways to play it safe.
  5. Is it narrow in scope? If your service or product only benefits a narrow audience, then you’ll get precious few views and shares. This is simple of course – but it’s amazing how many videos I’m paid to produce that will only interest  the thinnest slice of the populace.
  6. Is it inane? Most corporate and healthcare videos are plagued by what I call the “La-Tee-Da” factor. They are safe, careful, too nice, predictable, over-planned, over-analyzed, over-executed and stodgy. These videos promote an ideal that people see right through. The viewer will likely say “Yeah, right,” and move on.

Formula for Maximum Views and Increased Sharing

  1.  Is it useful? Is there substance here that people really care to know? Is it revolutionary and life changing? Is the product or service something that will make my life or understanding of life better?
  2. Is it interesting? Is the subject matter presented in an exciting and compelling way? Is the delivery genuine? Is it true to life? Does the message flow logically and the story build to a satisfying climax? In the end, am I glad to have spent my time learning this material?
  3. Is it fun? Even boring or technical information becomes far more viewable and sharable if it’s presented with humor, satire, irony or other tried and true story-telling conventions. If the doctor or manufacturer is engaging – if the product or service is featured in a novel setting – then people will chuckle or at least be amused and perhaps re-watch or share.
  4. Is it educational? If I don’t watch this video, will I not be “in the know?” Will I fall behind the pack? Successful educational videos on YouTube and other social media sites have attention grabbing titles – and attention-retaining content early in the video, followed up with solid fact-based story-telling that hopefully continues to expand our intellect as we move toward an enlightening conclusion. They require diligent research and the inclusion of surprising facts and challenging concepts that make the viewer feel they have grown by watching.
  5. Is it original? There’s much to be said for being formulaic, or else there wouldn’t be so many movie sequels – but still, the sequels usually keep coming because someone first conceived an original message or story-line. It’s sometimes necessary to beg, borrow and steal from other sources – but you should mix it all together and come up with a soup that’s all your own.
  6. Is it broad in scope? You want lots of views and engagement? Determine what the masses want and give it to them. End of story.
  7. Is it edgy and real? People like reality (duh – that’s all you see on TV). Don’t be afraid to give it to them. Show your services, products, people and places in true light. Give the audience something gripping, urgent, unbridled and intriguing. It’s OK to polish it a bit as long as it’s not overdone. Set the tripod, crane and dolly aside once in a while and go hand-held. It makes the viewer feel like they are part of the action and story. If done right the content seems more important and memorable.

Of course these are questions that imply strategies. Ask the questions, then make hard decisions about whether or not you have the gumption and creative juice to produce videos that will cause a positive stir.

There are finer points I could share,  but these are what I’ve learned in my hard-knock trial and error efforts. Am I following my own advice? On my own YouTube channel I can say, tentatively yes. There’s a bunch of content I’ve put out there that will never succeed because it’s just the same-ole-same-ole – stuff that was easy and fast to generate. But little by little I’m gaining ground by moving to the more creative and relevant approaches. Sadly, in my day job endeavors it’s pretty much a no-go.

In my meeting this morning I raised some eyebrows and garnered some amens – but it takes guts, imagination, and a healthy sense of adventure and humor to move your video productions to the viral realm. I’m smart enough to know the boat has to be rocked slowly. I know where my bread is buttered – but I’m willing to take chances to get the fat applied to both sides of the toast!

Below is a playlist with samples of corporate videos I’ve produced. They certainly don’t meet the ideal I’ve set forth above – but hopefully I’ll add new ones soon that nudge in that direction.