Post videos with emotionally compelling content.
Park’s study (Park, Naaman, Berger, 2016) found that negative comments (and not positive comments) were associated with longer watch times on videos. They theorize that content that is more emotionally compelling might account for this correlation since anger and anxiety would produce comments that could be coded as negative.
As a marketer at a higher education institution, you have to weigh the value of more interactions with the potential harm of negative reactions and comments on the videos. In a marketing environment, it would be difficult to justify posting a video solely for the purpose of generating negative sentiment and therefore more interactions overall, especially if reputation management is one of the guiding goals for the institution.
However, emotionally compelling content might be a genre that marketers could use to their advantage. We can conclude that videos with emotionally compelling content would inspire interaction and therefore higher engagement numbers, and perhaps more interaction as a result of those numbers.
Emotionally compelling content elicits a reaction and, therefore, interaction, but doesn’t necessarily drive negative comments. For example, Duke students posted a video on their channel about how they reacted when they found out they got into Duke. Comments included, “This made me cry,” which might skew as “negative,” but was really a positive emotional response.
The same study (Park, Naaman, Berger, 2016) cited a correlation between watch time (as a percentage of the full length of the video) and other YouTube interactions, concluding, “videos with higher ratio of likes per view… and higher view count are more likely to be watched longer” (Park, Naaman, Berger, 2016, p. 3). Park also points out that being able to see these metrics (likes, views, etc.) may influence whether the user wants to engage with the video in the first place. If a viewer sees more reactions, they’ll be more inclined to watch to find out why others reacted.
Experiment with types of content.
As far as video style, according to Gielen (2019), creating focused (niche) content can increase view duration and number of views. This suggests that not all content need be widely applicable to all audiences.
Not all higher education content needs to be educational, but a lot of it will be, based on the expertise that is available to higher education institutions. The YouTube Creator Academy is a great source of information on how to create educational content for YouTube (“Starting an educational channel,” 2020).
What other types of content are there for YouTube videos? The possibilities are nearly endless, but Gielen (“The taxonomy of YouTube videos”) has developed what he calls a “taxonomy” for YouTube content, splitting all of the kinds of content into eight different formats (or genres), with sub-genres within those.
The eight formats of content are challenges, commentary, explainers, interviews, listicles, music videos, narratives and reactions.
Gielen’s twist on the formats is to combine the formats into what he calls “hybrid formats” (Gielen, n.d.). For example, you can make an interview video that is also a challenge video. He cites the popular Hot Ones series as an example of an interview-challenge hybrid format.
Obviously, higher education institutions will have to err on the side of caution (the Hot Ones video above drops an f-bomb in the first few seconds of play), but the principle is the same. In order to create and brainstorm new types of content, create hybrid formats of the formats that are already loved and recognized on YouTube.
Some higher education institutions have successfully used formats beyond explainers (which are your typical educational content) and branched out into other formats like interviews, listicles, and music videos.
As with all marketing content, managers of higher education institutions will need to consider their audiences and what formats will resonate with those audiences. YouTube, more so than other social media channels, has the potential to reach many varied audiences. 77% of 15-35-year-olds in the U.S. use YouTube (“25 YouTube statistics that may surprise you,” 2021). Additionally, YouTube is the most used platform for watching video on TV screens (“25 YouTube statistics that may surprise you,” 2021). Even among older adults, YouTube is a very popular platform. In fact, Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults, with 74% of adults saying that they use YouTube (“25 YouTube statistics that may surprise you,” 2021).
This means that an institution’s content need not all be only one format or another. Different series and videos can experiment with different formats to reach different intended audiences across wide ranges of demographics.