What is the future of media entertainment? Your mind probably went right to your streaming service of choice: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon...and that would be correct. The creation of video platform services has completely revolutionized the entertainment business as a whole and had wide reaching effects elsewhere along the way. It is one of the driving forces behind the potential redefinition of Internet rights and provider laws.
Netflix, Hulu and Amazon in particular have shown the potential for video production with their huge list of smash hits from television to movies. Even comedy specials have become a common sight, featuring long time giants in the industry.
What does that mean for your brand? If you are thinking of entering the world of OTT, it could mean everything.
What Is OTT?
OTT stands for Over The Top, a type of video service that is streamed through some kind of Internet based service, either by subscription or on demand. The websites mentioned above are the most popular and far reaching examples, but they are not even close to the only ones. Some other sites you may or may not know about are Go90 and Crackle.
Of course, there are also channel specific site streams such as on MTV, HBO, Showtime, ABC, NBC and just about every other network out there. Though these often require either an extension to another service, which is a paid subscription through the site or a cable television service like Xfinity that allows you to connect online.
YouTube has been getting on the bandwagon for few years and creating original series by supporting popular channels or recording media, now offered for paid subscribers of YouTube Red.
All of these websites and services are examples of OTT in practice, though there is sometimes some controversy about what constitutes "true" OTT. For the sake of this discussion, we will use the broader definition.
OTT Content Marketing Ideas For Disruptive Brands
These days, every brand is a publisher:
Consumers now have many places to access on-demand content across paid, owned, and earned channels. Marketers recognize that this creates a demand for much more content, so they are beginning to behave more like publishers, which is a pretty big shift.
The OTT model is one of the most effective ways to turn your brand into a publisher, following the overall trend:
- OTT gives you and your customers flexibility (which is something the consumer already expects from an online publisher): They can choose where they want to access your content from, what episode to watch, when they want to engage, etc.
- OTT nurtures loyalty and keeps your customer perpetually engaged: As long as you publish more and more content, you'll see your subscribed customers regularly engaged.
- OTT creates a perfect additional conversion channel for those media that are not perfect for immediate sales (especially in some niches where purchase takes time and consideration). You wouldn't expect a Facebook user to buy a car right away but you could successfully get them join a subscription service educating them how to make a good choice, how to save on maintenance and more. Social media has created this need for the intermediate conversion funnel where you tie your potential customers to your brand first and only then try to sell them.
You may not think of your brand as specifically disruptive but because of the platform, OTT is by its nature a disruptor. That gives you a unique opportunity to establish yourself within that medium in ways that other content forms don't allow.
At the same time, the general idea behind content marketing is the same. So many of the tactics are the same as you would expect from any content, with a tweak that changes the medium.
Here is how to create your own OTT brand as well as promote it.
Set Up Your Own Channel
You may be surprised to know that creating your own OTT brand is very easy these days. You do need a bit of an investment but there's no tech knowledge needed.
There are a variety of video distribution services that can host and help you to manage your subscription channel. What you really want included in the platform is:
- Total control over how you your brand looks and feels and how your subscribers are charged
- Flexible marketing integration to run your own campaigns including email automation, third-party analytics and more
- Engagement tools: You want to stay in touch with your subscribers, gather their feedback, push-notify them of new episodes / lessons, etc.
- Multi-device support: You want your subscribers to be able to access your videos from smartphones, laptops, etc. Put simply, you want your subscribers to take your brand with them whenever they go.
- You don't want your video distribution platform to cost a fortune.
I haven't tried too many video distribution services to be honest (still getting there) but the one I am playing with is called Uscreen.tv
I like how easy it is to set things up and get them rolling.
Alternatively, you can follow these steps to create your own self-hosted and self-managed subscription channel. Additionally, there's a variety of WordPress themes that provide a sleek user learning experience.
Take Your Time to Research the Demand
You may already know what your expertise is and what you'd like to teach but is there a demand for it?
Take some time to do your homework and try the steps below:
- Search YouTube! Are there popular niche channels on the topic? What does engagement look like for them? YouTube search is tricky, so play with their filters a lot before giving up
- Research niche questions: Are there many generic and specific questions floating online for your topic?
- Research those keywords. This is a traditional way to assess both the demand and the competition. How many people search for your keyword? Is there any way to pick a better angle?
My favorite keyword research tool I already mentioned in my OMI column is Serpstat. It's more affordable than other similar solutions and incredibly feature-rich. For any keyword you type in, it will show:
- Search volume (= your estimate of the demand)
- Keyword difficulty (= your estimate of the competition)
- Special elements (= Look for video results: Google tries to match each query to user intent, so if it's showing videos, they have found that most people are interested in watching rather than reading. This is a good thing for you!)
- Keyword suggestions: More keywords for you to consider for your home page, landing pages and individual lessons / episodes:
Give Users The Control
What does user control have to do with content marketing? A lot. OTT's are giving users almost total control over how they consume media. They can choose the categories to look out for, search for specific programming, put series and movies on watchlists and rate them via internal rating systems and choose what device they want to watch it on.
It is a more indirect form of marketing, giving them the power and making it easier for them to shift through the content you provide. Many OTT services are missing this memo; while sites like Hulu go out of their way to tailor their recommendations based on user needs, other sites trying to build their brand are failing to do so with nearly the same efficiency.
You will notice by comparing different examples that this failure to market reduced the quality of user experience with the content itself, not just the website or platform.
Example: Take a look at magicstream.com to get a feel of how to do it right. Subscribers can choose from a variety of topics as well as choose which device to access the content from -
Provide Visual Previews For Content
Netflix is great at providing previews for content that is powerful, visual and attractive. They put the majority of this effort on the previews for their original content. When you visit the site, the latest releases from the Netflix network will have large banners that you can't miss. Hovering over them will play a silent preview which allows the user to enable sound.
Third party content - which remains important to the platform - has previews that are less thorough and appealing, but no less effective. The user can decide based on this glimpse of the media whether they want to watch it/add it to their watchlist and check out later.
From there, these watchlist adds or viewings give Netflix more power to recommend other content, which drives user behavior. It is a one-two punch that is very valuable. You can create the same for your brand, whether it is on your own platform, or using simpler ideas on a service like YouTube.
Example: Tmilly.tv displays their lesson previews right on the home page with the in-video call-to-action to see more:
Use Email Marketing
In spite of the way media online has changed, email remains highly relevant for marketing campaigns. According to Smart Insights, in 2018 95% of companies are still listing it as an incredibly important part of their strategies, not only for outreach and engagement, but as an entire sales funnel tactic. That is such an overwhelming majority that it would be insane to ignore it. And over at his blog, Michael Jenkins lists some important objectives behind email marketing strategy.
Newsletters with the latest content is a pretty standard way this is done for OTT. Customizing it based on user accounts is your best bet, because the expectations of users is that you are paying attention to what it is they watch and enjoy.
Let's say you have a hyper gory, violent horror series just released. Would you send an email to a user who almost exclusively watches harem anime and food documentaries an announcement about it? Probably not, because nothing they watch on your platform indicates an interest in anything it has to offer. They may just open the first email, see you don't care about what they like, then never open another email from your brand again.
OTT: The Future of Media is Within Your Grasp
Starting an OTT brand, or just utilizing an existing platform to launch a media brand, is a huge undertaking. But the world is ready for it and you can be, too.
To learn more about using OTT video to build your personal brand, check out our classes on the following topics:
Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.