This March, we celebrate the 11th anniversary of our YouTube account: EUTube. Although we didn’t know it at the time, the launch of EUTube marked the first step of the European Commission’s social media journey. In the years that followed, our use of video has evolved: shaped by a diversifying online audience; directed by digital trends; and central to the ways in which we communicate our work and values to a global audience.
It all began in 2006. EUTube was established as a video repository with the principal aim of drawing the attention of journalists and stakeholders to the Commission’s Audio-Visual Portal to support the reporting of European policy and EU affairs. The AV portal retains a central role as the official repository of the video production of the European Commission and aims to provide a one-stop-shop to download video material on EU matters.
In the years that followed, YouTube grew to be the biggest video sharing platform in the world. As a result, its user base inevitably diversified. It was no longer simply a stomping ground for tech-savvy journalists; it became a playground for citizens of the world. This would herald a new direction for our use of video and usher in an era of social media focused political communications.
Shaping our content: attractive and user-oriented
In 2012, the Social Media Team of the European Commission sought to steer EUTube in a new direction. We had to adapt our content to the changing needs of video consumers which was continuously being shaped by the inexorable growth of social media. We had to change our strategy from sharing to caring.
While communicating the policy-element of our work remained at the core of our digital communication activities, we had to look into catchy ways to promote this and our shared European values to ever-diversifying online followers. By being aware of our audience make-up of and by monitoring the impact of our videos, we learned that we needed to focus more on user expectations: videos that are gripping, relatable and — above all — short!
To this day, online audience retention rates tend to drop before the 1 minute mark. Any longer than this and, on average, people simply stop watching. Our challenge, therefore, was to find a balance between informing and attracting. Hand in hand with our colleagues in the Audiovisual Services, our content has since been optimised to frame explanations of EU policies in a news-focused perspective and in shorter, more attractive formats. Amongst our first twenty videos, only one lasted less than 1 minute; amongst our last twenty videos, only one lasts longer than 5 minutes.
Fully endorsing the “keep it short” paradigm of the hour, we launched our Vine account the day the new Commission took office on 1 November 2014. For us, Vine was to videos what Twitter is to press releases: a means to highlight important information and present it to citizens in a short, relevant and attractive way. 10 times shorter than a 1 minute video, what does Vine’s 6 second format have to offer a political communication strategy? While the subject-matter remains the same, the attractiveness of Vine videos came down to their simplicity and quality. Not only did Vine provide a new avenue to information-sharing, its helped us shaping the new Commission’s digital image and add value to the way public figures interact with citizens. Our vines can still be looped after Vine shut down in late 2016. Farewell old friend. #RipVine
New challenges, new opportunities
For us ‘content is king’; however, just as important is ensuring that people actually find our videos. This began by implementing a SEO strategy for videos: organising them by playlists linked to topics, policies, campaigns and the news agenda. As worldwide use of social media continued to grow, we moved beyond YouTube to new platforms and formats which offered us increased engagement opportunities.
New native upload features on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram mean that it is no longer necessary to host videos on YouTube in order to share them across the most popular mediums — that, in fact, has become counter-productive! As data shows us, the reach and subsequent impact of natively uploaded videos is far greater.
Next steps: “going Live!”
We are always on the lookout for ways to communicate our work in an innovative, striking and attractive manner.
Live broadcasts are now available for basically all major platforms, from Twitter, to Facebook, Youtube or Instagram. Live formats mean a big opportunity to give an authentic and direct view into the realities of an Institution and the people behind the work. They also enable us to engage with our audience in real-time, to answer questions, provide more relevant information when it is needed and to jointly develop our communication with our audience.
Keeping our finger on the pulse of our online community and moving with the tide of digital trends has allowed us to adapt the way in which we use video to maintain a meaningful connection with the people in Europe and across the globe.