VidCon London has quickly become the premier European annual social video event (that’s a lot of adjectives) and because of the huge information value I got from attending last year, I just had to be there in London Excel on February 21-23 for the second edition.
The event is evolving, bigger and battier for sure, and in this state of constant flux it provided a truly exciting freeze frame of the now and the future of social video. If you still need to convince anyone in your business about video-as-superfood, book them in for 2021. Although everything will be a lot further down the line by then!
So here’s everything I learned.
1. YouTube Is Basically The Shape-shifting Android From Terminator 2
I was quite ready to complain about the number of repeat speakers at this year’s event, until I heard Matt Gielen present again about the YouTube algorithm. The latter having changed so much in the last year that it made perfect sense for Matt to go at it once more.
Amongst other things, Matt is a YouTube Dark Lord who seeks to translate his murky findings into the plainest English for the lay marketeer. This year though, in spite of impressive charts and towering graphs, he kinda lost the crowd, not because he is not awesome, which he is, but because this algorithm has mutated and shape-shifted to the extent that it is a little beyond the ordinary video peeps in the room.
The behaviour of the algorithm is now device dependent, browser dependent, time of day dependent, viewer location dependent, etc. etc. The first 24-48 hours after upload have the biggest impact on long-term views.
So much so, that if you put out a new video too quickly, you might kill the performance of your previous video in the long run.
So fresh is good, but fresh too frequently might be bad.
Shorter videos are still performing better because mostly people are scrolling through a feed on the YouTube mobile app.
And, as always, Matt extols the importance of the thumbnail and video title.
“Me Eating 87 Spongebob Stickers In Alleyway Whilst Homeless” was a very convincing example of best practice. Check it out.
2. How You Could Teach Old Dogs Some New Tricks
Kicking off with the observation that “KFC and PizzaHut have just made a baby and it’s called Popcorn Chicken Pizza”, you just know this lady dip-dabs content all day long.
The secret sauce at LADBible in Sophie’s view, is their hiring policy. Their digital teams and their audience are the self-same human beings, and therefore their innate JungeFreudian knee-jerk reactions are always exactly right.
This is actual audience-first, and trusting the kids is what these folks are doing right.
Vertical video is a massive priority for LADBible right now, and they’re pushing ahead with quality long-form series like The Gap, which has gotten them real results on IGTV. A major inspiration for me was their approach to their channels – why try endlessly to drag audiences to your publication’s website when you can more or less abandon your own ship, and just float around with them all the time where they are floating. IGTV being a great example.
They’re also brilliant at lateral content that just happens to be sponsored, without even a whiff of brand in there. Traditional news media outlets that are in crisis could learn everything they need to know from this pup, if they really wanted to.
3. Everybody Tokkin Bout TikTok
There was consternation at the TikTok Fireside on Friday afternoon, when Security had to lock the doors to prevent further entry, such was the stampede by Industry types into the event. I did suppress a wry chuckle or two to see the desperate hunger for anything that might help us understand (ie, market with) this GenZ monster.
Not that I understand it myself.
Fortunately, clever TikTok has built a Creator Marketplace, a nice warm place where marketers can contact these creative types from the safety of their office desktop. You can specify location, budget, demographic, whatever box you need to tick, and let these crazy kids off to do the work for you. Next #woahchallenge? Sorted.
Holly H, who has 16.4 million followers on TikTok was there too, and it was really refreshing to listen to a superstar of the here and now, who is so modest and smart as a whip.
Definitely a fine ambassador for the platform of the moment.
4. Baby Got Big
Last year at VidCon London, there was a cute little cousin who got in the back door and everyone said, “oh look at the cute little cousin, they’re here too”. That was Cousin Instagram.
This year, the cousin was back, except now they were top table and the only one that everyone was either talking to or talking about. What a difference a year makes.
The IGTV presentation was particularly good. “The future of Instagram is video. And video is the future of Instagram”. You heard it here first. IGTV is going nowhere, which means that contrary to rumours whispering its demise, vertical video is decidedly on the vertical.
So now it’s all about shareability, not likes. The way to crack IGTV is to make content that folks will share. Which is interesting because it’s not yet the most naturally sharing of platforms, but this news explains the move away from Likes. Expect to see some more obvious sharing tools in the near future.
Two top IGTV tips:
- Feed Previews are the Number One contributor to increased views on IGTV. Promote, promote, promote some more.
- And weekends are officially the best time to post for IGTV. Take the rest of the week off 🙂
5. Great-Aunt Beeb Came Too
There were a couple of presentations from BBC’s digital-first content crew, BBC Talentworks. As an ex-terrestrial (possibly extra-terrestrial) broadcasting type, I attended with gusto and my fully-stamped loyalty card, but it pains me to say that they seemed a little out of step.
One of their content strategies translated to me as the pursuit and capture of online talent already-doing-well-in-the-online-video-space-thank-you-very-much, in a bid to give them a big old-gold BBC stamp. As old-school as television chasing radio people.
And a BBC script-writing workshop experienced a mass youth exodus about 15 minutes in, perhaps when talk about year-long writer development and the seventy stages of script approval failed to hold the attention of digital natives who just don’t have to jump through those hoops any more.
Granted the BBC is in the business of developing evergreen and important drama, but I don’t know that VidCon is the place for them. If Instagram is the cheeky cousin, they seemed like great-Auntie Beeb let out of the nursing home for the day. Kind of a shame.
6. YouTube Revealed Their Latest Toys
Which brings me to the hosts with the mosts, YouTube themselves. They held a ‘Best Practice’ session which was pretty packed with creators, a number of them with eye-watering sub counts.
There are exciting things in store for these full-timers, with revenue tools that will ramp up their pay cheques way beyond..pfff…mere ad revenue.
Channel subscriber bonuses are coming thick and fast from the developers, such as Superchat for fans who can pay to have their questions or comments made more prominent, and answered.
The fans can also buy SuperStickers, which are small animated characters that will also surface in live chats and videos. And store merchandising through TeeSpring will become a ubiquitous channel add-on.
One interesting nugget from the scarily brainy YouTube engineer on the panel – text descriptions are not important. Once again, it’s all about the thumbnail.
A couple of random notes.
- Pushy parents were everywhere, foaming at the possibility of their hoodied darling becoming the pension fund. The stage Mom is now the Invested Parental Team, who were leading the charge through queues and access gates. Be afraid.
- Lickd had an exhibit stand that caught my ear – they’re a platform that can license commercial music for YouTube. New on the block at least.
- A socialist is no longer just a person who advocates or practices socialism. A socialist is who you want to hire for your social media channels. Overheard at VidCon 2020.
- Freak and geek kids rule at VidCon, and it’s so great to see it.
And this pretty much everything I learned at the biggest and best social video summit on this side of the Atlantic.
Scroll on VidCon London 2021!
Niamh Guckian is the Director of Go Motion Academy
Providing expert training in video for social media & digital marketing