Friday, April 5, 2013

Digital Strategy is basically your gut on metrics [It really is that simple]

Last week we launched the first official music video for Brian Owens, a St. Louis-based American soul artists with whom I've been working on digital strategy since last fall. As I wrote back then, we started working together because he was running into the traditional music industry tendency to package and promote him as their turnkey definition of "urban" and/or "hip hop." Given that the song in the video is essentially about having sex all night, based on Song of Solomon, and the video uses his actual wife (5 months pregnant) and (3) kids, you can see how he fits no standard definition of anything.

And that, is repeatedly shown as his key engagement point.

Like your standard artist Facebook page, there are posts about performances, recording, touring, etc. But on Brian's page, there are also daily bible verses, comments and photos of his kids, and the occasional testimony about how much he loves his wife. These kinds of posts, repeatedly, outperform everything.

So our strategy? Lean in, as authentically as possible, to who Brian is. Look at who and how people are engaging with it. Find more of them. Do more. Stay authentic. Oh, and right, and keep delivering a quality product.

Brian on why he chose the song for his first video:
"I like this song because for me it approaches the subject in way that is consistent with my view of sex as an expression of something much greater and deeper between my wife than just the physical. It’s a spiritual picture. A beautiful mystery. It’s dope in a heavenly sense!" 
(Yes, he said "dope in a heavenly sense.")

In the first conversation with the director on what Brian wanted to video to be:
"I want to show what it is like to have an affair with my wife."
On why he used his real family in the video:
"...the story of [the song] cannot exclude such a vital part of what [it] is about. I could not imagine not having my family and especially my wife in a video that is depicts such an intimate part of who we are"
[More on Brian's thoughts on the video here, director's notes here, and thoughts from his wife on being in it here.]

And the result? A tribute to who Brian is and what he loves about his family, in the package of a high quality expertly performed music video. That, oh, by the way, his fans loved.

Our goal in the launch strategy was maximum shares and views. To use the engagement point as a tool for fans to introduce the music to new potential fans. We used the Facebook event platform to create an opt-in and direct connection environment (events send notifications to everyone "invited" unless they opt-out, as opposed to regular timeline posts which may or may not even show up passively in a fan's feed), as well as to put a focused time around the promotion. We invited fans and people in our personal networks specifically asking them to join us in launching the video by interacting and sharing the content. For three days we pushed out "pre-release" content to the event page - re-purposing photos from the video shoot day and attaching commentary from Brian, his wife and the director about the concept and approach to the video (to the tune of what I highlighted above) and posting two behind the scenes teaser videos (here and here).

In the end, the video launched with 1,549 views in the first week, outperforming every other thing he's ever put on his YouTube channel by thousands of percentage points. The posts with commentary from his wife or about his family outperformed the rest of the pre-launch content by far. We had two posts of the finished video on his Facebook page - one promoted and one not. The promoted one clearly reached more people but had 1% interaction, while the organic one had 7% interaction. And the paid post only brought us an additional 4 shares (25 total, more than anything he's ever put in his Facebook page by far).

Are these huge metrics in the general sense? Not the question. Did these efforts significantly move the needle from our previous digital baseline? In a huge way. And we were able to reinforce and put metrics around what we already knew - that it's not Brian the musician, the performer, the singer that leads, it's Brian the person. As multifaceted and non-conformist as he might seem. 

Because, really, what breaks a traditional marketing machine's brain is essentially digital media gold.

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