Content is King: Video & Viral Marketing for Recruitment Success

The following content is from our NAFSA 2011 annual conference presentation on video and viral marketing. 


Online video is a great way to:

  • Inform
  • Educate
  • Elucidate
  • Entertain

Students, who are now considered digital natives, expect to be simultaneously, informed and entertained. Video is a great way to make content dynamic and informative.

Some video content is inherently viral. In recent years there has been a huge increase in the production of “organic” video content. We define this as video shot on a small, handheld consumer device by a participant or active observer, then edited (or sometimes not) and loaded onto a social network or online video website. Several of our case study examples showcase videos that have naturally gone viral due to their fun and entertaining content (such as the lipdub that was created by UBC students). Yet there is an important place for the professional overview video featuring an institution and their programs & services.  These type of videos generally don’t go viral on their own as they are more serious in nature, focusing on informative content showcasing the institution. This was the case with our example of Coventry University. In this example we explain how a corporate campaign was created and implemented to increase viewership to over 50,000.


There are a distinct set of steps to getting a produced video viewed at a level that meets the aims and objectives of any campaign. These steps are as follows:

Stage 1:   ‘Social Network Leveraging’

  • Upload videos to all relevant video social networks
    • e.g.,, Yahoo video, etc.
  • Once video is placed on these networks they need to be actively promoted across those social networks, also referred to as ‘on site marketed’
    • For example: YouTube allows for ‘video comment posts’ in response to other videos and ‘recommended related videos’
  • After the video has been posted on video sharing networks it should then be placed on the standard social networks that allow video uploading
    • e.g. Facebook
      • With promotion of the video to very specific groups of users

Stage 2:  Placement on Video partner sites and ‘syndication’

  • Video placement on web publishing sites and industry specific partner sites
    • e.g.,
      • These sites allow embedded videos to drive traffic to their own sites
      • These partners are usually interested in hosting videos relevant to their audiences for free
  • The advantage of this type of video hosting is that a clickable overlay and syndication tools (‘embed in blog code’, ‘forward to a friend’, etc) is available
    • Audience can share with others using their own social network profiles
  • This type syndication is a vital element to the viral element to the campaign

Stage 3: Paid or free placement of your film

  • Placement on industry specific websites with high traffic and a strong user base to ensure wide exposure of the video
    • Approach relevant blogs/forums and portals
      • Paid placement is important
    • Current students should be encouraged to place the video on their own networks
      • Facebook, Twitter, personal blog
  • Extent of this stage of the campaign is dependent on the budget available
    • Positive results can be achieved with even a conservative of budget

Stage 4: Monitor results and take remedial action where required

  • The results of any video campaign should be monitored and, if required, further interventions may occur
    • Responding to video comments, re-posting, etc


  • In a 2010 report from Cisco, 30% of Internet traffic is currently video. By 2013, 90% of Internet traffic will be video.
  • According to ComScore Video Metrix, in February 2011 the total U.S. unique video viewers on the Internet was 169,646 with an average of 816.4 minutes per viewer.
  • U.S. online video consumers watched 4.3 hours worth of video on average in the month of June 2010
  • By 30 seconds into an online video up to 33% of viewers have moved on; at 1 minute 44% have left (regardless of the clip’s length) and almost 60% have abandoned by the 2 minute mark.
  • According to Visible Measure’s Matt Cutler, “if your online video campaign has 10 million viewers, 2 million of them saw less than 10 seconds of it. Ouch.
  • Video E-mail messages generate 2-3 X higher click-thru rates compared to static E-mails.
  • Roughly 66% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2014.
  • Catching the e-tail trend, 55% of online retailers used video on product pages in 2009 but this technique increased to 73% of retailers in 2010.
  • According to Internet Retailer, an April 2010 report stated that consumers who watch product videos are 85% more likely to buy products compared to those who do not watch.

Top Online Video Brands by Unique Viewers

Video Brand                                Unique Viewers (000)       % Change in Viewers
YouTube                                       111,860                                           3.6%
VEVO                                             33,253                                             3.0%
Facebook                                     31,885                                              0.6%
Yahoo!                                          26,016                                              11.1%
MSN/WindowsLive/Bing      15,972                                              7.1%
Hulu                                               12,315                                               3.7%
AOL Media Network               11,215                                                13.7%


  • YouTube holds about 40% of the online video audience each month
  • On YouTube, over 13 million hours of video was uploaded in 2010 and 35 hours of video was uploaded every minute. That is comparable to 150,000+ full-length movies
  • More video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than the 3 major U.S. networks produced in 60 years
  • Only 30% of YouTube traffic comes from within the U.S.
  • YouTube is confined in 25 countries including 43 languages


University of British Columbia
Type: Lipdub
Video Link:

A Lip Dub is a type of video that combines lip syncing and audio dubbing to make a music video. It is made by filming individuals or a group of people lip syncing while listening to a song or any recorded audio then dubbing over it in post editing with the original audio of the song. Now very popular with University students who like to use Lip Dubs to showcase an institution in a fun and engaging manner.

Using a popular song the students dance and move around the university in various guises whilst lip syncing the words. This Lip Dub is longer than the usual type of its kind.

Why it is successful as a viral video:
Loaded on April 8, 2011. As of May 13th it has been viewed 1,055,017 times. Making it YouTubes: #39 – Most Viewed (May) – Entertainment – Global & #103 – Top ‘Favourited’ (May) – Global

That’s Why I Chose Yale
Type: Independent Collaboration | Current Student/Alumni in Admissions Office
Video Link:

An introduction to undergraduate life at Yale College. The film is roughly 15 minutes in length, using the concept of a musical story to portray the experience of undergraduate studies at Yale University. The project was an independent collaboration between Yale undergraduates and recent alumni working in the admissions office. All filming, editing, and vocal recording was done on Yale’s campus exclusively by Yale students.
Over 900,000 views on YouTube

Why it is successful as a viral video:
The video was developed by current students and alumni so the message is one of heartfelt student testimonials rather than a stoic, professional video featuring university officials talking about the benefits of the institution. On the heels of popular films and television shows such as High School Musical and Glee this video uses a pop culture and student testimonial marketing approach to attract prospective students.  Due to the prestigious ivy-league brand, producing this type of video shows prospective students a more intimate, real perspective on the school featuring Yale students singing, and telling a story, about their experiences as a student at the world-renown institution.

University of Ohio
Type: FlashMob
Video Link:

Students and staff break out into a choreographed dance routine to Don’t Stop Believin’ in the great hall of the new Ohio Union. The beginning of the video shows normal activity occurring in the Union building and then suddenly students come in from all directions to start dancing to what is obviously a pre-coordinated effort. By the end of the video students, faculty, the mascot and the institution president all join in on a celebration of the student body’s excitement about the institution.

Why it is successful as a viral video:
The video was developed by current students using the popular culture concept of flash mob. Ohio University students took the popular social concept and created a dance routine to music that was performed in their main student union space. The fact that even the institution’s president was involved shows that, while the concept was student driven, there was buy-in and support from even the highest level administration. Showing students that the president was willing to be a part of this further promoted school pride and unity. One YouTube comment even said: “Such awesome president you guys have there xD If we ask ours, she would prolly be like *what? nope, you cant do it*….. xD”

Coventry University
Type: Corporate Campaign
Video Link:

Synopsis: Coventry University International Office had produced a good 5 minute promo film for the university to market itself to international audiences.  The film once completed was placed on the university website and left in a ‘set and forget’ situation. By the end of the first year it has been watched only 1000 c. times.  The University’s media agency (MJD) was tasked with making the number of viewings ‘increase dramatically’ in as short a space of time as possible.

The campaign plan and roll out:
In conjunction with a specialist film marketing company (Geocast), MJD developed the following solution:
The marketing of the Coventry international video was focused around four separate areas that generated increased visibility for the film across a varied array of viewers from around the world for a sustained period of time.
The four key areas of placement for the film were:

1.   Video social networks

2.   Blogs

3.   Partner websites

4.   Social network discussion boards

This film marketing or viral marketing plan ensured maximum exposure whilst maintaining exposure to a targeted audience. This is called NARROWCASTING not BROADCASTING and was in three distinct stages:

Stage 1: ‘Social network leveraging’.
Stage 2: Placement on Video partner sites
Stage 3: Paid placement of film

The entire campaign cost: £2850 ($4560)
The total (monitored) viewings by the end of the campaign was 51,000

Presented By:

Chris Price, PFL International

MacKenzie Hizon, Technology in International Education  | @mhizon | @intledtech

Image Credit


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