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Online Video and Patient Engagement: Four Wise Moves

Marketers are aware that the rules of engagement with their customers have dramatically changed. Brands now need to offer content and information that is much less promotional, offering more of a shareable – and shared – experience. Online channels have driven much of the change, and the digital experience has rapidly evolved to short-form content that is easily consumed and can be shared among like-minded people and communities. Video is playing an ever-increasing role in our online experiences. It makes sense; humans react to visual stimulation very differently than they do to the written word – it’s just the way we’re wired. A short video that has free rein to use body language, facial expressions and vocal tonality to emphasize a range of emotions can be dramatically effective. When people hear information, they remember only 10% of that information three days later. But if a relevant image is paired with that information retention increases to 65%.

A number of video marketing statistics make a compelling case for developing a video strategy. Invodo reports that 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others. Forrester research shows that video in emails leads to a whopping 200-300% increase in click-through rate, and including a video on a homepage can increase conversion rates by 20% or more.

Pharma may be using video as a tactical tool, but is video’s strategic value being fully realized? As with every strategy, in order to realize the full value there are strategic pillars that mark the difference between success and failure. At first glance the strategic pillars are the same for video as they are for any other medium, but there are significant nuances that make video strategy quite different.

  1. Know the video viewers

Telling a coherent, end-to-end brand story is a thing of the past. It has been disrupted in the digital age. Video content has to be entertaining, useful and relevant or the user will quickly click away. Users pick and choose when and where they tune in – and it’s easier than ever to tune out.

An enhanced understanding of what motivates the online video viewing audience, emotionally and psychologically, is needed. An emotional punchline at the end of your messaging is useless if the viewer isn’t willing to take the journey.

Psychodynamic theory says that both conscious and unconscious forces lead to ingrained desires and beliefs. When we understand both the open and hidden motivations of a given patient population it allows us to understand the patient on a gut level that can lead to deeply personal video engagement that is both relevant and useful.

  1. Be shareworthy, be short

Creating content is different with video. From the dawn of civilization, when we see something interesting and useful we have an ingrained need to pass the experience on. It so happens that online video begs to be shared – if and when it’s compelling. In order to be shareworthy, your branded video content can’t resemble anything like a traditional advertisement that talks at you instead of with you. The viewer is only watching based on his or her personal needs. If your brand connects quickly a viewer is then willing to watch and, hopefully, share.

Poor video content creation often falls into a structural trap when a marketer’s project brief is based on what he or she thinks should be in the video – a brand’s selling points – rather than exploring content that will most efficiently effect behavioral change in this medium.

According to statistics found in AdAge’s DigitalNext column, if you have not fully engaged your audience after the first 30 seconds, you’ve likely lost 33% of your viewers. After one minute, 45% have stopped watching, and the percentages go downhill from there. A rule of thumb is to keep the video as short as possible – but a variety of mitigating factors intervene (not the least being fair balance).

So what is the optimal video length? Well, it depends on where and how the audience is viewing the video. The optimal viewing on Facebook is 30- to 45-seconds while the average video on YouTube runs 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Video primarily intended for mobile viewership should almost always be shorter than video created primarily for desktop viewing. A short video that has free rein to use body language, facial expressions, and vocal tonality can connect with your audience like no other medium.

  1. Develop a smart distribution strategy

Now that you have great video, how will you get it in front of the right viewers? Distribution management is at the core of a successful video strategy. The combination of paid, owned, and earned media can be powerful.

Paid media placement should use the most effective technologies available – such as programmatic buying that targets users at page level, allowing brands to control the relevance of the environment in which the video is viewed. Page level targeting, as opposed to tracking with cookies, is much more relevant to the viewer because he or she has algorithmically chosen the type of environment in which the content is viewed.

Owned media, where the brand controls the channel, provides an opportunity for stickiness for branded and unbranded websites and other destinations like your YouTube channel or Facebook page.

And earned media, to the extent that user-generated and collaborative content can be created, is a powerful catalyst for deep engagement. While it’s true that pharma marketers remain somewhat handcuffed when it comes to social media, if a compelling video experience is collaboratively created with and for the audience it will be shared again and again. “Build it and they will come” can better be stated as “build it right and they will share,” which is the best media placement you can get.

  1. Pay attention to real-world performance

When you publish your video, you are not even close to being finished. You have to analyze, optimize, and analyze again. Careful analysis of your video viewership is as important as the analysis of any other strategic or tactical endeavor. A key metric is the point of abandonment while viewing; aggregation of this data can quickly lead to significant optimization of the video content. You should begin to monitor the viewers’ point of abandonment as soon as your video is online. You may be able to tell within a few days if you’ve hit the mark or you need to re-edit your award-winning masterpiece. To post it and forget it leaves the job unfinished and your ROI unrealized.

Video should be a key component in the current digital marketer’s toolkit. Its effectiveness depends on the key factors mentioned above. But a coherent, well thought-out approach following these four imperatives can make the difference between successful video tactics and a lost opportunity to engage your audience.

Robert Palmer
EVP, Digital Innovation Officer at Juice Pharma Worldwide
Robert Palmer is EVP, Digital Innovation Officer at Juice Pharma Worldwide. Specializing in digital and video strategy, he has extensive DTC and HCP experience. He is on the Advisory Board of the non-profit Digital Health Coalition, and is Chairman of the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame. Bob can be reached via email at
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