Five Reasons Why the Vlog Is a Successful Marketing Tool

Special thanks to our team member Michelle Alford for writing this post.

John Green had mild success as a young adult author before he made a marketing decision that boosted his popularity and drove his third novel onto the New York Times best-seller list he created a vlog.

In an October 2008 video, John describes the publication of his second novel. According to him, “On the day it came out, [my wife] and I went to a bookstore and there were no copies. And then I went home and we had some soup. Then we watched CSI and went to bed.”

Compare this to the immediate and explosive success of his third novel, Paper Towns. It premiered at number five on the New York Times best-seller list, and John Green read samples to crowded venues on a thirteen city book tour, immediately followed by an eleven city Tour de Nerdfighting for his vlog followers.

Started on January 1, 2007, by John and his brother Hank, the vlog has grown to have over 116,000 subscribers and almost 4.5 million channel views.

Five reasons why this vlog is a successful marketing tool.

1) It focuses on entertainment value rather than on selling a product or service. The brothers are quirky as they discuss amusing life stories, write and perform original songs, declare challenges, and suffer punishments chosen by their followers.

How this applies to YOU: When creating a video, consider whether you would want to watch it. Then consider whether anyone else would. While the video doesn’t need to be funny, it does need to entertain whether it’s a safari travel agency showing videos of exotic animals or an environmental activist demonstrating new, environmentally friendly technology. If the subject could work as well in writing, then it might be best to write it as a blog.

2) It regards its audience as friends rather than as customers. The followers are called “nerdfighters” and are treated like part of an exclusive club. While John’s third book has been mentioned often in the vlog, it’s done as a friend giving progress reports, often in a humorous manner. In an early vlog, John said, “So, I may have to extend my deadline by a couple of days, which is particularly humiliating considering I shared it in public on our video blog, but I think I will definitely be done by Wednesday. Definitely by Wednesday! Definitely by Wednesday! Definitely by Wednesday! Next Friday by the very latest.”

How this applies to YOU: Talk to your viewers as you would to your friends. Be pleasant and open. Though your ideal manner depends upon your profession and brand image (a lawyer needs to keep a more professional appearance than a fisherman), universally people will respond to your videos better if you seem likeable and trustworthy and treat them as equals.

3) It knows its audience. John writes young adult books with smarter or nerdier main characters (the main character in Looking for Alaska memorizes famous people’s last words and the main character of An Abundance of Katherines is a washed-up child prodigy). The vlog appeals to teenagers’ sense of humor with punishments that include eating a blenderized happy meal and waxing leg hair, but the brothers also treat teenagers like adults, discussing current world issues and how nerdfighters can help to decrease levels of world suck.

How this applies to YOU: Consider your audience thoroughly before beginning to post videos. What do they want from you? What will they find interesting and intriguing? Releasing a video that receives over a million hits cannot be considered a success if the viewers are not also people who would purchase your products / services. You also need to consider your brand image and be certain that nothing in the video makes you unappealing to your target customer.

4) It’s interactive and regularly gets its audience involved asking non rhetorical questions to be answered in comments, answering nerdfighter questions in regular videos, and enlisting nerdfighters to help with secret projects. One such project, called the Project for Awesome, asked nerdfighters to make a video promoting a charity of their choice, each using the same thumbnail so they’d be easily recognizable, and then to comment on as many other Project for Awesome videos as they could. On the day they were released, all but one video on the YouTube Most Discussed page were for Project for Awesome.

How this applies to YOU: Get your viewers involved. Ask them questions, respond to their comments and questions in videos, and hold contests. Consider your subject area and how you can further promote audience participation. For example, if you are a chef, in addition to videotaping yourself cooking recipes, you can ask viewers to submit videos of themselves making family recipes and select a few favorites to showcase in your next video.

5) It’s sincere. Though much of the videos is certainly scripted, they never sound fake. John advocates doing things because you enjoy doing them, not because you’re expecting a certain result don’t write a book because you want to have published a best-seller, write the book because you want to write a book. He sounds genuine when he thanks nerdfighters for helping his book to succeed and clearly enjoys making his videos.

How this applies to you: While creating regular videos is a great marketing tool, don’t do it because you expect immediate results. Even if you do everything perfectly, it takes time and real commitment to gather a loyal following. In addition, if you consider making videos to be a chore, this will probably be apparent to potential viewers, making them less likely to watch.

By creating a community of like-minded viewers, John and Hank Green have been able to promote their products without overtly advertising them. Because their followers feel like part of something, they’re happy to devote their time and money much as if a close friend had a project they’d like help with or had recently published a book. Videos can help you connect with potential customers on a personal level, providing them with a look, voice, and personality to associate with your name and also increasing their interest in your products and making them more invested in your success.

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Tags: getting vlog followers, John Green, nerdfighters, video blogging, vlog case study, vlogging, web content writer Charleston

One Response to “Five Reasons Why the Vlog Is a Successful Marketing Tool”

  1. Isobel Jones Says:

    Great blog. Do you know of any relevant forums or discussion groups?

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