UNILAD Drives Engagement by Producing Action Oriented Live Video Content

Published on Nov 17th, 2016

by Nathalie Nuta

As any frequent Facebook user can tell you, they have probably come across their fair share of hilarious content. Chances are that at least one of these pieces of content has come from UNILAD at some point in time. Last week, Founder and CEO of Shareablee, Tania Yuki, hosted a webinar exploring the topic of video measurement in social media. She was joined by special guest, John Quinlan, The Commercial Director of UNILAD. After sharing industry data on the current state of social video, Tania had the opportunity to chat with John and  gain more insight about UNILAD as well as his take on the ever evolving social media eco system.

Tania Yuki: “Tell us some interesting things about UNILAD that we might not know already.”

John Quinlan : “We started out a couple of years ago on Facebook, and at that time we were primarily a funny video and picture site. More so a funny picture site. We have come a long way since then. We have become more of a video site that is dedicated to content that we believe our audience wants to both interact and engage with. We started the site when we were pretty young so we had a good idea of the type of content that millennials want to interact with. You could even call us your classic cliché story - starting out in a basement and ending up where we are now, with over a hundred employees.

At the current moment, our focus is on Facebook Live . We recognize that our audience isn’t only from the UK which is why we have recently been pushing content that deals with the election. To the average user, some of our content may seem baseless, however many of the key stats we monitor show that users find our content engaging. For the past four to five months we have been the number one publisher on Facebook in terms of views. Our concept doesn’t only apply to video, but all the content that we push, which is why we are able to reach about a billion people a week.”

Tania: “That’s amazing John. It takes a lot of hard work to turn what some would call a niche site into a social media juggernaut. Can you tell me a little bit more about some of the election content you have been developing?”

John: “This is an example of one  of the unique ways we have taken to diversify ourselves from the competition. I think that’s really important if you’re going to be successful in this day and age, not only should the product be unique, but it should also examine it from a different angle. We knew beforehand that the election was going to invoke a lot of strong opinions and emotions, and we wanted a vehicle for people to express these presumptions. We created a video that engaged the user by asking for their reaction, and then tallying these totals for all other users to see on screen. In this example, the general consensus among users was that some people were looking to move to Canada. This was one of a few options, and that’s important to us, allowing our users to express themselves in a number of ways.

Similarly, our pre-election video offered not only an option for Hillary and Trump, but also for ‘Nobody.’ The ‘Nobody’ won this category, but keep in mind this isn’t what only the U.S voted on, but the world. It may seem like a small thing to do, but keeping that ‘Nobody’ out would have potentially lost us those engagements.

Tania: “Absolutely, it just goes to show the power of perfecting your content to try and capture as much engagement as possible. Can you talk a little bit about how you cultivate your content?”

John: “Sure. The way we see it; nobody is an expert in Facebook Live yet. We always like to test things out and look in the comments section to see how people react. As an example, we have done some different content pieces with NASA. For example: we have shown a live safari, and have even shown people opening packs of Pokémon cards, which some may find lowbrow. It’s all about experimenting and finding different patterns of engagement and watch times. Currently we’re averaging nearly 37 Facebook posts a day, and this has been going on for some time now. This comes not only from understanding your audience through the comments, but also through the proper use of data available to us.”

Tania: “So it sounds like your team puts in a lot of research to produce the content that you guys do, but from what it sounds like, it’s not only about the views. What is your take on how important viewership of content is?”

John: “Well some outsiders might see our viewpoint as different. We don’t care about views. Engagement for us is key. We care about total video engagement, then we look at total time spent; I know that pushes views down, but we want people to take action on our content – sharing it and commenting.”

Tania: “That’s an excellent point you make, and a testament to your business model as it has worked thus far. While we are on the topic of engagement, can you briefly explain some of the guiding metrics UNILAD uses to measure social engagement. What are some of the key factors that you hold yourself accountable for?”

John: “It’s engagement 100%. When we look at engagement we see who’s sharing and commenting, in particular being the ones we care about. Views used to be the second most important factor for us, but as we have grown, user attrition, or the duration a user spends with us has become the second most important metric that we look at. When I look back at when we first started, if our post didn’t receive a certain number of likes, comments, and shares in the first couple of minutes then we would replace it. We have come a long way since then.”

Tania: “It’s interesting that your metric philosophy is this way. I have been on sort of a personal mission since 2009 to try and decrease the emphasis put on video viewer metrics. It’s a good metric to know, but at the same time it is not a leading indicator. It all comes down to what people do with the content. For example, you could track the number of people that come into your store, but what did they buy? I think it’s excellent that you hold yourselves to such a high standard that you’re willing to take down content that people don’t engage in. Some critics might argue that, ‘Oh we’re not getting much engagement. Let’s promote it. Let’s force it into people’s feeds.’ It’s great to hear that you’re taking the opposite approach and succeeding while doing it.

Any advice you can give to a traditional media company with video assets about how to to leverage their opportunity in social media?”

John: “I think the best way of doing that is to change the organization's  perception of social. The social team should be their own unit and should be viewed in the same way as someone who is going to broadcast on TV. In our organization, social are the “kings of the castle”, they have priority on everything and freedom to create content. The length of the content isn’t so much a factor as the thumbnail is. You’ve got to beat the scroll. If people on mobile devices are only viewing the first three seconds, that thumbnail has got to be engaging. For some of our longer content we’ll take the most engaging snippet from the whole thing and put that in the first five seconds to get people engaged. This helps the user see what they have to look forward to, but also what they will miss out on if they scroll past it.”

Tania: “Fabulous advice, I love that philosophy. Any last tips for our audience before I let you go?”

John: “In terms of tips: give people social ownership. If there is one thing you can extract from this conversation, it’s that social should be right out there. For companies who have yet to fully embrace social, I believe it would be beneficial to put a social media person on the board. If you treat social media well, it will treat you very well too.”

Tania: “Thank you John. We look forward to learning about all the awesome things UNILAD has on their agenda when they launch here, in New York, in December.”

More information as well as slides that relate to this Q & A can be found here: Shareablee State of Social Video Measurement

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