How do I distribute and promote my University video?

Creating your video is only the start. Without a planned distribution and promotion strategy, your video will languish unwatched and you might be tempted to write off video content as ineffective. Instead, set aside time to think through your distribution and promotion strategy.

Although the same video can be published across a number of channels, the end use will shape a lot of its characteristics, so will need to be taken into consideration early in the process. If you plan to have multiple edits (e.g. shorter ‘trailer’ versions to build excitement and anticipation on social media), knowing this before you start production will ensure you capture the footage you need so that each piece works as standalone content as well as part of the bigger piece.

This is step 4 of 6 in our video strategy guide (click here for the overview page).

Owned, paid-for and earned channels

Your distribution and promotion options can be roughly divided into owned, paid-for and earned channels.

Owned channels

There’s no charge for publishing and promoting your content through your owned channels, and you retain full control.

You can embed your video on the homepage of your website, tweet about it, link to it in a blog article, send a clickable thumbnail of it in an email, add QR links to your prospectus.

The downsides of owned channels is their limited reach – you are limited to the audience you can attract to them.

Your owned channels include:

  • University website.
  • Specific campaign website.
  • University blogs.
  • University social media accounts.
  • University internal comms channels.
  • University video platforms (including your own YouTube/Vimeo accounts).
  • University course listings.
  • University recruitment presentations and careers talks.
  • University email signatures.
  • University CRM / email database.
  • Digital screens on campus.
  • University printed collateral.
  • University promotional products (e.g. USB sticks).

Paid-for channels

These are channels that will promote your content for a fee. However, once you stop paying, you stop benefitting from the additional eyeballs.

This is in contrast to producing and hosting useful video content on your own website, which can continue bringing inbound traffic over long periods of time, acting more like an asset than an expense.

Paid-for channels include:

  • Pay-per-click/engagement adverts (e.g. on Bing, Google and YouTube).
  • Display adverts (e.g. Facebook Ads, promoted Tweets).
  • Pre-roll adverts (e.g. on YouTube).
  • Broadcast channels (e.g. TV and cinema).
  • Attendance at conferences and exhibitions where you can show your video to delegates.

While you retain full control (subject to your advert being cleared by regulatory bodies prior to any TV or cinema broadcasts), these channels can be incredibly expensive. In addition, video advertising in this way lacks the third party endorsement of earned channels and viewers are not starting from a point of interest, in the same way as those who are actively seeking out information about the University.

The pay-per-click/engagement model reduces wastage by only charging you when people actively engage, and can be targeted against many criteria including contextual, behavioral, geographical and search attributes. However, in the case of YouTube ads, an increasing proportion of viewers are installing ad blocking extensions, making it harder to achieve high levels of reach amongst your target audience on the site.

Targeted TV adverts mean you can now restrict the homes your ad is shown in by any number of demographics (with a minimum media spend of £3,000). Your video only counts as an ‘ad view’ if at least 75% of it is watched, which helps to ensure that skipped ads aren’t counted in the number of impressions you buy as part of your media spend.

Earned channels

These are the channels you can’t control. You can’t force them to publish or promote your content, you have to ‘earn’ access to their audiences, hence the name. Earned channels include:

  • Bloggers relevant to your audience.
  • Media outlets.
  • Shares of your content on social media – anyone who has a relevant audience that they can influence.

Earning access to these channels could be through creating content so useful that influencers decide it’s in their audience’s interest to see it. It could be by publishing something so powerfully emotive that people want others to experience (inspiring, moving, funny, sad or disgusting, for example). Alternatively, you could involve high profile current students – who have a big social media audience – in the video production process, so that they’ll be keen to share the final piece at the end.

The key is to not lose focus of your objective. If your objective was to ‘make a video that goes viral’, then your best bet is to publish something shocking or hilarious. This is tough for Universities to do without risking their reputations or undermining the value of their courses.

Your video may not go viral (indeed, the odds are against it), but if video content helps you to achieve more engagement, more applications or more enrolments, surely that’s more important than unpredictable, temporary fame? If millions of people see your video but who have no interest in your University or university, then you won’t gain anything (apart from impressing your digital marketing peers!).

Content length

The different platforms and channels listed above each come with different expectations about the length of video content. A video published on social media will have to be under set durations of length in order to upload successfully. On Vine, this is currently six seconds, on Instagram it’s three to 15 seconds.

Although this is not a lot of time, animations in particularly are very good at communicating a lot of information quickly and effectively.

This shorter, ‘teaser’ content can raise awareness and generate interest while guiding people who are ready to engage deeper to the longer versions or supplementary content.

Video content on people’s Facebook’s feeds is auto-played silently as they scroll through, so needs to intrigue them sufficiently in those few seconds without the benefit of audio in order to cut-through.

With regards to device used, research suggests that videos viewed on mobiles get seen for an average of 2.4 minutes, while desktop viewers click away sooner with an average attention span of two minutes.

As a guideline, think short-form for use on social, up to 30 seconds for broadcast and then up to three minutes on your own website and YouTube channels for promotional video content. Educational video content can be a little longer, but the same rules apply – it still needs to be interesting!

Attention spans

Just as you only have the length of a glance to grab someone’s attention with a print advert, so is the case with video.

Research suggests you have no more than 10 seconds to grab viewers’ attention, with at least 20% clicking away in this time. On average, 60% will abandon your video within two minutes no matter how long the video is. Bear this in mind when planning when key messages and calls to action will be communicated in your video.

Make it mobile

The number of people watching video on their smartphones keeps on increasing. Check your Google Analytics to see how many of your website visitors are using mobile devices to access your site. If you want them to be able to benefit from your videos, make them mobile-friendly by avoiding tiny, on-screen text and distant wide shots; close-up shots are much more impactful on small screens. Ensure the audio is clear but that the video is still effective if played silently. Put links in the video description so viewers can find out more and always, always test it on an iPhone and an android handset before promoting it.

After considering your distribution and promotion options, the next step is to think through the lifecycles and timings of your video content.

Next up: Video Strategy for your University / Lifecycles and Planning