Expert Advice: How Slate France used video to explode their Facebook following
Over the past two years, news media in Europe have been feeling increasing pressure to create video content, particularly for social audiences.
It’s what the technology platforms are pushing, with publishers’ Facebook videos getting shared 5X more than their article links. It’s also what audiences are responding to, with never-before-seen view counts and engagement rates on Facebook video.
For media companies, this has meant a clear imperative for social video to grow audiences and drive engagement, but also raises difficult questions for those players who are traditionally focused on the written word.
How do we start making video?
Who should do it?
What stories should we tell?
How should we tell them?
Where should we post them?
At Wochit I spend a lot of time with publishers helping them answer these questions, and am continually impressed with the strategies and insights from the hundreds of media brands we work with across Europe. Sharing these insights is one of my favourite parts of this job: we become an ally for success in video as well as providing our powerful video creation platform.
Slate France is an online player that has taken a fearless approach to social video, continuing to experiment to find what works, and staying humble when
things don’t go to plan. Slate began working with Wochit to accelerate their social video strategy in December 2016, and they’ve already had multiple
videos with over 1M views, but it’s the way they have achieved this success that really makes them stand out for me.
I caught up with Marc Pédeau (@marcpedeau), Slate.fr’s head of social media, over email to see what insights he had to offer a couple months in.
GG: So Marc, at Slate France you've just begun really focussing on social video and have already had some huge success. What would you say are three things every social video should have?
MP: We try to elicit an emotion (joy, anger, empathy, humour…), to directly address the big questions and issues for our audience, and to encourage them to share and comment on the videos. Our objective is to tick those three boxes while staying true to the editorial voice of Slate. That said, there’s no magic recipe!
GG: How about the opposite, what are three things to avoid when making video for social audiences?
MP: Trying to do “social video” without identifying a specific channel, that doesn’t really work in my opinion. A Facebook video doesn’t look like a Snapchat or YouTube video: the narration, the format, the user experience - they’re all different. So, the first mistake: trying to make one video for all social networks.
The second mistake: being too sure of yourself. The algorithms are constantly evolving, as are audience expectations and trends. If I’ve learned one thing working to optimise content for social audiences, it’s that you have to constantly challenge the work you’ve done and what you’re planning next.
The third mistake is maybe losing a sense of your own identity, your style and tone, trying too hard to copy social video formats that currently work well. It’s difficult, but it’s important to maintain your own style.
GG: I liked your strategy for finding what subjects to focus on with these social videos. Can you share how you are choosing what stories to make video for?
MP: We chose from our evergreen stories, which are all the articles we’ve written since Slate was launched in 2009 that aren’t time sensitive. Slate is lucky to have a large number of articles that are as relevant today as they were three or four years ago. Then, we look at other factors, ie. is the article easy to visualize? Can we tell the story in a 40 second video? There’s a fair amount of editorial intuition as well.
GG: Have you developed certain formats that you like to reuse, or do you create videos uniquely for each topic?
MP: Almost without meaning to, we began doing videos from the beginning that were broken down into sections. This storytelling style emerged naturally for us, it’s an efficient and enjoyable approach, and it allows for a clear flow in a video even when we’re asking something that has a lot of answers like Why are certain people always late?.
What I like about this format is that it grabs people’s attention and it really plays to Slate’s identity, more than the standard list format for example (something we also tried).
GG: In what ways is social video particularly valuable to the Slate.fr operation?
MP: These videos add variety to our editorial output and they help us attract a new, younger audience. This audience is discovering Slate for the first time through these videos, they then might follow our page and before too long become regular readers on Slate.fr. .The main thing is increasing Slate.fr’s visibility and expanding our loyal readership.
GG: How has Wochit helped you in pursuing your social video strategy?
MP: The advantage of Wochit is that it helps us create videos quickly and therefore enables us to produce more. What’s more, we don’t have to negotiate with different content rights holders, as the content is already included in the product and our team can work remotely because everything is in the cloud. Plus, the platform is easy to use for anyone. For a media company like Slate.fr, which basically revolves around the written word, it’s a great first step to creating our own original videos..
GG: It's always interesting to learn from our successes and also our failures. So with that in mind, what's the best performing video you've had in the past few months? And the worst?
MP: The best video we did was 13 good things that happened in 2016. We’ve had a lot of videos that worked really well, but this clearly resonated with people because it had 8.8M views and 190K shares. That’s huge for a Facebook page with only 300K fans. The engagement on our page exploded and the impact on our reach was significant: we gained as many fans in 10 days as we had in 4 months.
On the other hand, there have been plenty of disappointments too, but that’s normal because this isn’t a perfect science. Sometimes we think we’ve made a great story but it doesn’t do well for whatever reason. You can’t be scared of failure though because it often leads to a future success. What’s important is staying humble, and trying to understand why something doesn’t work, then you draw your conclusions, and get back to work.
Garrett Goodman is Wochit’s director of business development for EMEA, based in London. He tweets on media and startups from @garrettgoodman, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.