Content and Word-of-Mouth Advertising: A Diarchy in the Making

In the video marketing industry (among others), there’s a saying that goes, “content is king.” More often than not, this line is followed by an introduction to “content’s” queen.  For example, recently BuzzFeed has been pushing the line, “content is king, distribution is queen.” But what if the marketing world’s hypothetical government isn’t a simple monarchy? We assert that the video advertising industry is, in fact, ruled by a diarchy, a government with joint rulers: content and word-of-mouth advertising.

These diarchs rule over the video marketing realm together. It’s difficult to have one without the other—great content fuels word-of-mouth advertising and people will only recommend content they believe is great. According to Harvard Business School professor Thales Teixeira, people have two basic motivations for sharing a video ad. The first is altruistic motivation: if I like a video, I’m going to send it to a friend because I think they’ll enjoy it too. However, most sharing happens through self-interested motivation— people share ads because they want to gain social capital by impressing friends with new, interesting material.

At the most basic level, each motivation starts with the content itself. Above all else, viewers have to enjoy watching the ad. Only then will they decide to share it on a social network or recommend it to friends and family—obviously, viewers won’t share content they dislike or they believe others will dislike. It’s really all about value exchange; people will share ads that make them look good. This is why brands should strive for advertising symbiosis, which is what occurs when the advertiser and consumer mutually benefit from the act of viewing and sharing an ad.

As you’ll notice, the last couple paragraphs focused mainly on sharing, or word-of-mouth advertising. This is because word-of-mouth recommendations are just as important as the content itself. You could have the best, most emotional, share worthy video, but if no one shares it, there is no hope of it reaching audiences outside of your brand’s existing networks.

However, if your content is good enough to receive recommendations via word-of-mouth, you’ll see increases in both reach and viewership for your online video—according to a new IAB study, 51% of respondents confirm that they have watched a video, an online TV show, or an amateur video because it was recommended to them.

Word-of-mouth is incredibly effective at driving additional viewership and engagement with online video, but to earn these valuable recommendations, the video content itself must be good enough to elicit a share. Great content and word-of-mouth advertising work in tandem and are rarely mutually exclusive, which is why we propose that they rule equally over the video marketing world.

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