This story is about how to make social part of the video experience from A to Z. It’s about engagement. It’s about interactions. The Worldwide Partner Organization at Cisco is a pioneer when it comes to interactive videos. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Krasne (@Cisco_Channels) on the team’s highly successful video chat program. The goal of this event is to provide a place for Cisco Partners to connect live with Cisco executives and other guests regardless of their physical location. The results? As of today, the 8 video chats have collectively generated close to 50,000 live views with many replays. These are the secrets behind their success.
1. Give a cool name to a cool concept
Webcast is so…20th century. Video chat is hip and perfectly describes what it aims to accomplish: bring people into the conversation real time. The Cisco video chat pioneers call their live broadcast Channels Chat. Easy to remember, right? We’re all familiar with simulated live online events and “save your questions until the end of the presentation”-like webcasts. But that’s not video chat. Video chat encourages viewers to ask questions LIVE as the discussion progresses and enables presenters to answer them as they come in.
2. Create an exciting offer
Giving direct access to hard-to-reach experts in a live, interactive venue is without a doubt compelling. Add to that the fact that users can save money by participating in these sessions free from the comfort of their homes or offices and watch again the recording at their leisure. Luanne Tierney’s, Vice President, Worldwide Partner Marketing, show in June 2010 had about 10,000 live viewers and approximately 1,500 replays.
“Besides discussing important issues on these forums, the team feels strongly about giving something new to the audience to think about”, said Alexandra. “As much as we hope that our audience participates in the conversation, we also hope that they walk away from the video chat with new information.” So how does the team choose their topics?
3. Prep your presenters
The good thing about video chats is that they allow people to interact with each other live. The bad thing about video chats is that they allow people to interact with each other live.
“Panelists need to think quickly on their feet, therefore, they need to be trained on how to handle different and unexpected situations. You just never know what kind of questions they will get. Showing tricks and tips to them prior to the video chat will help them as well as your program become successful”, said Alexandra.
4. Deliver the experience on a social platform
Channels Chat started in April 2010 and was initially hosted on the Cisco Systems Ustream channel. Driven by the success of the first video chat, the team decided to launch its own channel. The location is a “jaw dropper” when it comes to social media integration. Ustream’s capabilities include social streaming, the feed can be embedded on Facebook or a blog, viewers can submit questions in real time via Twitter or Facebook, and the platform lets you use a hash tag so viewers can follow the conversation. These features help amplify sharing on the social web as well as enable viewers to interact with the panel.
5. Know who you’re targeting
The Channels team knows that they shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone. They carefully select their topics and audience for each show. They target their audience by their role within the Partner segment or by their segment focus. For example, the June 2010 show attracted marketing professionals from Cisco Partner accounts and this month’s broadcast put the partners serving SMBs in the spotlight.
6. Integrate social media into your topic search
The Channels team has been using Twitter creatively to help augment their topic selection process. It would be easy to simply reach out for input to those that are talking directly to the target audience and stop there, but Alexandra’s team has taken their outreach to the next level. They monitor what the Partners are saying on Twitter and what triggers the most retweets, and are using this information to come up with the framework for their discussions.
7. Be human. Be social. Be authentic
As you have probably picked up on it by now, the key driver behind a successful social video program is engagement. And when engaging, remember that we’re humans first and employees next. Just because we work in corporate America, it doesn’t mean we need to act like robots. A human tone with unscripted (or maybe just a little scripting to help get your key points across) delivery brings more color into and makes the experience more enjoyable for viewers.
The Channels team learned early on that engaging people at the beginning of the session and periodically reminding them during the event to submit their questions helps increase participant engagement. It is quite common for panelists to give a shoutout to the audience asking for their questions and thoughts. While each session has received many audience comments, the Vice President, Worldwide Partner Marketing, Luanne Tierney and Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior’s chats each generated dozens of audience questions.
8. Keep it short and sweet
Many marketers fall in the trap of doing 60-minute or even longer shows. With adult ADD and multi-tasking sky-rocketing, it is getting increasingly harder to keep people engaged. The team has found that sessions around 30 minutes work well with their audience.
9. Continue the engagement post event
The event is over, now what? “We create a summary after each show and post it to our blog, the Channels blog. Our blog is the key go-to platform before and after the show. This is where people can find information about our past and upcoming video chats along with other information, and this is also the place they can read our answers to those questions we were unable to address on Channels Chat”, said Alexandra. In other words, this team closes the loop with their audience: all questions are addressed one way or another – either during the broadcast or on the blog.
In closing, I asked Alexandra if she had any last words of wisdom for marketers. Her response was: “starting promotion too early is just as bad as starting it late. We found that starting communication a week prior to the show is good enough. People get fatigued if you start too early and keep bombarding them with information about your event.”
Intrigued by Channels Chat? Experience it for yourself. Sign up to follow this program to be alerted to new sessions and updates at ustream.tv/ciscochannels.