Well, a video, however polished, is only ever as good as the action it inspires in viewers – and without an effective distribution plan, it won’t have as many viewers as it ought to, which means it won’t deliver on its goals. If you can’t get your video content in front of your target audience, then it really doesn’t matter how good it is.
This guide will take you through the steps needed to get your video in front of the people who matter most to your organisation – from defining your target audience to choosing channels to testing, optimising and managing – everything you need to execute a successful video distribution strategy.
When to think about video distribution
Video distribution can’t be an afterthought: a distribution and amplification strategy should ideally be in place before anything’s written, animated, or filmed. That’s not to say it’s more important than production – but it is as important, and it’s one of the very first things your brand should consider when deciding to commission a video.
Of course, the process isn’t always linear: in some cases you will find yourself working on a distribution strategy for existing videos following a video content audit, for example, in which case you will need to adapt this process as best you can. But in an ideal world you should be considering distribution at the start of your project.
In fact, the video distribution strategy should drive many of the major decisions made early on in the production process. From the outset, you should consider:
A paid distribution strategy. This might require you to reserve some of your production budget.
Audience demographics. How do you expect to engage with your audience? How do they engage with your brand and which platforms do they prefer? For example, Instagram is all about visual storytelling, while company intros do well on LinkedIn and Twitter offers a much smaller window of opportunity to engage the viewer.
Aspect ratio. To make your video work aesthetically pleasing, the size must fit the platforms you’re sharing it on. On Facebook this would be 16:9, while on Instagram you might choose a vertical video at 9:16.
Sound. In a world of autoplay video, many platforms such as Facebook are turning the audio off by default. Will subtitles and visual cues make your video more effective for silent viewers?
Calls to action. Unless you’re only showing your video on your website, you’ll need one for every platform it’s hosted on or venue it’s shown at.
If you’re choosing an unconventional distribution method such as video cards, you’ll need to budget at least six weeks to get them ready. This should be incorporated into your eventual project plan.
Authorities such as Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority place restrictions on TV commercials. All content must adhere to their standards.
What works for one platform won’t necessarily work for another: Facebook videos should typically be one minute long, Twitter videos should be 45 seconds long, Instagram reels should be 30 seconds long, TikTok videos are limited to 60 seconds and YouTube videos should be no longer than two minutes if possible (or really long if not because YouTube also quite likes long-form content).
Objectives: why are you doing this?
This is the prerequisite for any video distribution strategy – and therefore the most important step.
Without an objective in place, you can’t set KPIs, and as you’ll see below, these are critical determining the content and form of your video – and measuring its impact. It’s therefore highly advisable to set SMART goals before you get started.
At TopLine, we’ve produced over 2,000 videos and we tend to categorise objectives based on their place in the conversion funnel: awareness, consideration, conversion (and then engagement). These are just some of the types of objectives we have worked with:
Increase brand recognition.
Get noticed by a particular audience.
Drive search rankings of a keyword.
Raise awareness of an issue.
Attract investor attention.
Position the company as a thought leader.
Showcase an amazing project.
Demonstrate investment value.
Drive wider reach for an event.
Attract job applicants.
Drive website conversions.
Drive event registrations.
Reduce calls to the customer service centre.
Onboard an employee.
Onboard a customer.
Increase customer referrals.
Understanding your target audience.
To do this, all you have to do is ask your prospective customers what they want to see.
At TopLine, we do this via regular research surveys targeted at relevant communities: small business owners, baby boomers, millennials, HR directors, IT managers/CIOs – if we want their attention, we ask them what gets their attention.
If you don’t have access to qualitative research, then it’s worth asking your immediate network how they consume content. Start by enquiring with your customers, prospects, and sales team about:
Their favoured social networks and how they use them.
The media they consume.
Events they follow or attend.
The professional bodies they belong to.
How they use email.
How they keep up to date with news.
How they choose new suppliers.
The answer to these questions can often dictate your distribution methodology.
Setting your KPIs
Knowing your objectives is one thing: KPIs let you know whether you’re achieving them. They’re the ‘M’ in your smart goal, and they’re a pillar of any worthwhile video distribution strategy.
Your KPIs will probably vary depending on where your objectives sit in the conversion funnel. For example:
How many people are watching your video?
Thumbnail impressions: How many people have had the opportunity to see your video?
Watch time. How long are your viewers sticking with your video?
View through rate. What’s the number of views divided by the number of impressions?
Engagement with videos (comments, likes etc.). Has your video got viewers talking?
Subscribers to your channel. How many people are signed up to watch your content – and how has a new video impacted this number?
Video shares. Have your target audience been disseminating your content for you? (also relevant to engagement- and awareness-stage videos)
KPIs can sometimes be vanity metrics that won’t be directly relevant to your objectives. At TopLine, we try to focus on KPIs that drive meaningful action: if your goal is to generate leads, then your KPIs need to include leads; if it’s increasing signups, then you need to look at new user registrations every month. Whatever your KPIs, they should follow this basic format. You can get a million likes, shares, and comments, but they won’t mean anything if they don’t correspond with action.
We tend to break distribution channels into owned, earned and bought. For example:
Company social channels.
Email campaigns to your own database.
Email campaigns to partner databases.
Events where you are a guest.
Guest slots on podcasts.
Paid email campaigns to partners’ databases.
Whichever channels you choose, you will want to look creating free organic posts and paid for ads. Though it’s possible to get great results with an organic strategy, it’s highly advisable to reserve some budget for paid advertising: it can have a huge impact on the success of your video.
Here are some core distribution channels to consider:
Creating your content
You might be surprised that we’re only just getting to the point where we recommend you create your content. But we firmly believe that if you want to maximise your chances of a successful video campaign, you need to do most of the thinking about distribution before you start working on the video. This will mean your creative brainstorming can focus on your objectives and preferred distribution channels. You can use all the data you have gathered on your target audience to really refine your planning and to develop ideas that will deliver results.
Armed with this information, you will be able to select your format, such as commercial, social video, case study (find out how to make a case study video), explainer, promo video. You will also be able to choose the style – are you appealing to the audience’s lifestyle ambitions? Will you go for a documentary style? Or will it be more editorial-led?
Setting your budget
You can’t just release your video into the wild and expect it to flourish: consumer attention is more divided than ever, and getting the best results requires money and effort. A good distribution strategy requires a sensible budget.
Of course, you won’t necessarily have a clear idea about how to target your video from the get go – so it’s best to start small. If your total budget is £20,000, it’s worth starting with a £1k test: refining, building, and filtering out irrelevant targets as you go. Do this properly and you’ll eventually see higher ROI.
Launching, measuring and refining.
It’s horribly easy to waste lots of money on targeting and budgeting – so at the outset of your campaign, it’s necessary to spend time ensuring that you’re reaching the right people.
Accordingly, you should always check the performance of your ads across various distribution channels to see what can be improved and how: how many leads you’re getting, how many products you’ve sold, how many clicks and impressions you got for the money you spent. If you don’t have a decent feedback loop in place and you’re not listening to your audience, then your video distribution strategy will fail.
You shouldn’t expect it to work perfectly from the start. Maybe Facebook advertising isn’t getting the results you’d like; in this case, TikTok, LinkedIn, or even a video card might be more successful.
Overcommitting to methods that aren’t working is deadly for your distribution strategy – so modify, refine, and learn from your mistakes on a weekly basis. Report on what’s working and what isn’t – and adjust based on what you’ve learned.
With the right preparation, the above six steps, and a quality video to hand, you should see great results.
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