Key Article Takeaways:
- Cross-promotion has major benefits including:
- Supporting authenticity
- Assisting reach + Frequency
- Provision of additional assets
- In today's video-first world, cross promotion is centered around using the same assets
- There appears to be correlations across platforms on content performance
In the comments of the article What Size Influencer Should I Work With? back in May, reader and friend Tom Feary asked a question in the comments about the value of having influencers post content on multiple platforms within a single campaign. I’ve been thinking about this cross-posting question ever since. And very recently, that thinking has been pushed in ways that I will describe through the lens of a recent campaign that feels to me like a harbinger for emerging industry trends.
Let’s wind the clock back a bit and remember a simpler time. You know, before TikTok came trampling through the social media garden and Instagram and YouTube dominated. Instagram owned images and YouTube owned video.
In that world, cross posting felt self evident if you followed this simple executional strategy:
- Step 1: Determine platform and influencers based on product and priority
- Have a high consideration product where we need to educate the shopper? Find YouTube influencers who can deliver that in-depth content
- Low consideration product or situation where we are prioritizing awareness or association? Start on Instagram
- Step 2: Cross promote the content or the product. Knowing that most influencers have secondary channels on alternate platforms to support or enhance their primary platforms, go for the package deal that bundles in supporting posts on those additional platforms. You could either promote the product directly if you believed all you needed was to remind loyal subscribers of what they had probably already seen OR you could promote the primary content to drive viewership.
- For YouTube influencers, the secondary content was generally on Instagram, a still visual, but lower consideration platform
- For Instagram influencers, the secondary platform might be YouTube but also might be Facebook or Twitter. In certain cases it could be additional posts on Instagram (a true frequency)
Typically, the incremental cost of these secondary posts was so minimal that it would practically be impossible to argue that it wasn’t worth it. Which is good because we so universally employed this tactic that I wouldn’t know how to run a test to see what happens when you don’t utilize cross-posting. Beyond the minimal incremental cost, here are some observations on why cross-posting works in general:
- Supports authenticity. For an influencer’s loyal subscribers, rather than being put off by multiple posts supporting the same sponsor, I believe the perception is more like, “ok, if they are cross-promoting this brand / product on all of their channels they must REALLY believe in it.” Hard to prove, but I can’t recall a situation where a companion post got panned with any kind of “not here also!” negativity. The truth is that influencers don’t really work this way: if they accept a sponsor at all, they are not going to decline to do cross-promotional posts but to the viewer the distinction between a fully sponsored cross promote and value-add post gets a bit lost.
- Reach and frequency is a real thing. We can make fun of traditional advertising and its simple metrics but there’s no doubt that frequency matters in marketing and reminder messaging on supporting platforms has felt like a self-evident way to achieve this.
- Free images! Since Instagram posts were frequently beautiful lifestyle images of the product in use, they were highly differentiated from YouTube content and had different repurposing potential beyond the social value.
As an estimate of efficacy in a typical YouTube focused campaign, I’d say Instagram added an additional 20% to impressions and 10% to clicks, which is remarkable when thinking that these channels tended to be much smaller than their “sister” YouTube channels and the link-outs were in the influencer’s bio vs. the much more accessible YouTube description box. And 5% of the time one of the Instagram posts would take off and outperform the YouTube content. So cross posting was essentially a 20% supercharger with a lottery ticket thrown in.
But as I said, those were simpler times.
Now that the world has become much more video-first, the equation is changing. YouTube responded to the TikTok threat with Shorts and Instagram responded with Reels. Among other news outlets, the Wall Street Journal posted a great article this week (subscribers can read it here) on how Instagram and by extension Meta has completely over-extended itself with its emphasis on Reels, failing to dent TikTok’s lead and leading to a bit of a loss of identity for Instagram, which is correlated with if not driving a major slip in Meta’s momentum.
This has all brought a new dynamic into play: the ability to cross post the exact same content. Now the platforms themselves frown on this, saying that they use their algorithms to focus on exclusive or original content. Hmm, ok. If I’ve seen anything, I’ve seen exclusive content underperform but in any event if the platforms want exclusive content they should be focusing on delivering viewers and reasons beyond narrow, short term content deals that benefit very few creators to cultivate that loyalty (it’s also a bit ironic given their propensity for copying each other’s functionality to say that they don’t want duplicative content).
Cross posting got going in earnest a year or so ago with influencers suggesting that they cross post the same content on TikTok and Instagram. In fact, it was almost exactly a year ago when I first appreciated what this could mean: we hired surging TikToker Kyle Nutt to create a video for a high end mouse from HP and share it with his 5 million followers. He cross posted the exact same video to his 1 million followers on Instagram. Unfortunately, the video didn’t take off on TikTokthe way much of his content does and when we wrapped the program, it “only” had 250K views. But wait…the Instagram post knocked it out of the ballpark and got 750K views, ensuring the success of the program. The hedging element instantly became even more relevant as we weren’t hedging down to secondary content, we were simply hedging over platforms.
More recently, an even more extreme example has pushed my thinking further. We hired another visual artist named Karen Cheng to do work for NVIDIA. Karen created a series of four videos and posted all of them on TikTok, Instagram (as reels) and YouTube Shorts. Now to state the obvious: the results of one campaign doesn’t necessarily prove anything. But, I think these results highlight some trends? concerns? we’ve been noticing…and at least one observation I need to think more about. Here are the results as of last week. Note that all of this is “public” information so that I’m not sharing any confidential NVIDIA or Karen Cheng data:
The first shock is that a YouTube shorts video got 9.8 mil views (now 9.9mil). We have not seen that kind of performance with YouTube shorts but now that platform extension has our full attention.
The second shock is that to a greater degree than I would have expected, there appears to be correlations across platforms on content performance. This is most evident in the AI Painting going essentially “viral” (if we want to define that as exceeding the influencer’s follower count) on all three platforms but also noted that the Dinner video generally underperformed the other NeRF videos (Piano and Walk). Is this indicative of the algorithms becoming more similar? Or maybe I just need to spend more time with our content scoring team who is working on machine learning content characteristics that drive performance.
Less of a shock but something that has to be considered is the variance within a platform for a singular influencer and similar content. It’s becoming reasonably well understood that content on TikTok can have some extreme fly or die characteristics and there’s a growing sense that the same thing is starting to happen on “traditional” YouTube. Here we get the impression that Shorts looks to be just as extreme as TikTok (250x differential from highest to worst performing post). Old faithful? Instagram, which honestly isn’t how I think about that platform but maybe should. While the trade-off was that in total it delivered less than half of either of the other platforms, three of the four videos had their best performance on Instagram and a minimum of 388K views feels a lot better than something 10x lower which occurred on TikTik and YouTube. If you were just looking at the macro stats that show TikTok kicking Instagram’s butt, you might be tempted to ignore Instagram, but not only is there a lot to be said for consistency, there’s also the point that any incremental viewership is good.
Again, one campaign doesn’t prove anything. That said, it is an interesting test case given that it is the exact same content posted pretty much simultaneously on three different platforms, 4x over. If nothing else, it’s:
- forcing me to rethink my “portfolio theory” a bit and potentially recommend laying down more bets per campaign
- further reinforced my belief in cross-posting, if for different reasons than before
What are you seeing?