Scaling adoption with developer targeted video content


Carl and Matt

Carl and Matt

The team at Unity have made video central to how they drive adoption amongst developers. Here’s some of what they’ve been doing, in a talk from DevRelCon London 2019.


Carl: I’m Carl Callewaert. I’m actually already nine years at Unity Technologies. I followed the journey from a small community with a hundred people in the company, to about 3,000 people in a large community.

Matt: I’m Matt Schell, I’ve been at Unity for about five years now, and have been through a smaller slice of that process, but it’s been pretty interesting to go through.

Carl: For me, the slice was going from pure field Evangelism, going, visiting customers, to large community, and how we dealt with that. But I want a quick snapshot to give you about who we are at Unity and what we do. Understanding our community, and what we do, will understand you why we do certain tactics, and why we do certain strategies. Our Evangelism team is a global team around the world. We have more than 30 people engaging with the community, from field, online, and with influencers.

If you’ve never heard of Unity, raise your hand, who has never heard of Unity? We have several people who have never seen the light. Unity is the most wide used software, or real-time development platform, for rich interactive contents. The beauty is you create, in the software, you create it one time and it can deploy to 25 different platforms. You make it one time, and you put the application or a game on an iPhone, Android, a PC, you can put it to Steam, Gear VR, all in one shot. Some examples are Beat Saber, made with Unity, but also if you look at games like Pokemon Go, or killing games, mobile, mainly with Unity. But we also enable to play games, like the multi-play aspect to it, and that is provided by Unity.

But it’s not only games. The community has scaled into maybe, an example is here from Wayfair AR. Looking at the furniture placed in the room using Unity with your mobile device. Films are also using Unity. Have you seen CG animation of Baymax Dreams? It was done together with Disney and our internal team, to produce a series of that. It also scale to architecture. This is actually a snapshot of a real-time visualization, walking through our London office. This allows architects to show a location, a visualization, an interactive change things, place out of furniture, change everything.

Automotive is using Unity for self-driving cars. The displays in the cars all using Unity but also this was a nice example. BMW did a showcase where they had a virtual model and a real model showing next to each other. You couldn’t see the difference. This allows us to show, engage with the customer on a whole different level through Unity. Now if you think about that, who is our community? And there are some really staggering numbers. More than three billion devices have a Unity experience installed on it. In the last year, 29 billion installs were done, made with Unity experiences. We have such a broad reason, 192 countries are using Unity, and we have more than two million active-use students using our student licenses in the last 12 months. 45% of the top thousand mobile games are made with Unity. 50% of all new mobile games are powered with Unity. And more than 60% of all AR and XR content is powered by Unity.

Let’s go back to our topic, how we scale the adoption with developer contents, video contents. Now, one thing I want to point out is that we’re going to be very specific. We have a really broad community, it’s not a specific community. It goes from games, to architecture. But it’s not only broad, it’s also very deep. We have students, we have enterprise accounts. We target different decision makers, technical users, or the CTO, or the CFO. For games, we also have to think about, publishers are reaching out. In the film industry, we have to look at the leading film studios, but also hold a vendor system that creates a content for them. And architecture, we have to think about who is the architect, because they don’t program.

How they going to work? It’s a really broad and deep. That’s why at Unity, we work in account based marketing principle. What we saw on Evangelism, we create a message, and then we’re going to go out and to tell it. We really have to flip that model around when we grow. In the past, we only had the one specific community, broad, one message. Nowadays, we have those huge communities, and all different facets. The first thing we have to ask, who do we target? What are we going to say to them? And where and how we’re going to say it? Matt can talk more about this.

Matt: The key here is focusing instead of saying we have a message that we want to bring to everybody, we say who are the people that we want to reach? And targeting and tailoring that messaging to them. In the case of the work that we’re doing in Evangelism, we have a couple of examples here. In reaching beginners, one of the things we’ve been doing is public, basically webinars, live streams, using YouTube, we find that learning something new and difficult, can be kind of a lonely and alienating experience. Bringing people together in groups, we have usually 800 or 1,000 people at a time, and building community for them. Bringing them together can kind of help them not to bounce off of that early part of the learning curve.

We are releasing a lot of new features and new technology that we want people to adopt. We’re doing overview video content, which is people who are already using the platform, bringing them into the new technology and adopting the newest version. In the past year, we’ve been releasing three major dot releases of our software, and we want to bring people to the new version of the platform each cycle.

Continuing with retention, we are releasing a video, but then also demo content. We want people to be able to not just see something in action, but also touch it, dig deeply into it, and get started quickly. And so we found that that’s been effective for us.

Unity publishes an asset store, which is a platform where people can purchase content and publish content. We have people in our community who’ve built whole businesses just by selling, for example, a first-person character controller system, or selling 3D models that other people can integrate into their games, and so we use our platform to bring visibility into them, as well.

Carl: An awareness to adoption. This slide is specific about the game’s community. I’m talking about the beginners, the technical enterprises, specific for games, and I’m going to call them the other markets. What we saw is when you bring out those really beautiful demos out, that sometimes you get an opposite reaction of the community saying “Wow, it’s amazing what I can do but I cannot do it, and I leave because of that, it’s too difficult.” So it’s really important when you bring out beautiful material, or really in-depth material, that it continues the technical story with digestible parts where everybody can understand it, and break it down to their needs. Each of those bullet points that Matt wrote here, are actually an ongoing campaign to continue those technical stories from really broad, customer showcases or the demos built.

Matt: There’s a couple of key platforms. We’re going to focus in a deeper tactical way on YouTube in this presentation, because that’s become a bigger and bigger part of what we do over the past few years. We have an in-house team dedicated to onboarding. The public, Game Jam, we call the broadcast that we’ve been doing has been a big part of that. We have a member of our Evangelism team that focuses solely on influencers. The influencer term has a lot of different meanings: community content, creators, a lot of people who are making both tutorials, video tutorials, written tutorials, material like that. We also do targeted webinars to key accounts, engaging with our larger customers, delivering video presentations to invited guests that way.

Carl: One of the things I wanted to point out is, why YouTube? People wonder why don’t you put everything on your own website? But, what we’ve seen in our data, that more than 60% of our enterprise accounts, actually goes first to YouTube to find something and to learn, and not to our website. Then another thing is YouTube, it’s the second largest search engine in the world, and especially when they look at rich interactive content, there you’re going to find it.

Matt: One of the things that we’re interested in is we want to reach and engage with our community, but we also want to grow our community. We want to reach new people, new developers, and get people on board on the platform. And one of the things that we’ve seen in terms of focusing on video content on YouTube is that it’s an incredible way to acquire organic traffic. To reach people, we’re not doing paid media in this case. We’re not buying impressions, we’re publishing content and attracting people to our platform through that and we find that YouTube has an incredible mechanism for organic discovery.

Everybody who’s viewed content on YouTube has this experience. You watch one video, then there’s an algorithmically suggested video that pops up on the side, and it brings new people into your ecosystem. This has been an incredibly useful part of our strategy. We try to be data driven in our activities. We have a relatively small tea, compared to the number of customers and developers that we need. I don’t even know how many developers we have now, but maybe a 1,000 or 1,500 developers building and shipping new tech. And then we have 30 Evangelists, or less.

In terms of the content team that I run, there’s three of us. We have a huge surface area that we have to cover, and a ton of demand for content, and so we need to be very mindful and intentional about how we’re using those resources. What we’ve found in terms of evaluating blog posts, live broadcasts, and prerecorded, or edited YouTube content, that YouTube content has been, by far, the highest performing content for us in terms of reaching a broad audience. I would say, comparing to blog posts, maybe four times as many. We’ve heard a lot of people talking about, “Oh we need to make more blog posts, more blog posts” Now, important caveat because we’re not all making content that’s necessarily super visually driven in our business. We’re creating visual content, and so, YouTube is a visual medium, and it’s important for us and works well for us.

Diving into it on a tactical level one of the things that we’re seeing, and I’m going to try to race through, because I realize we’re never going to have enough time. YouTube specifically is an environment that is very on-site conversion driven. Click through rate, on YouTube. This is interesting, for everybody who engages with social media, you’ll know that it’s a noisy environment. We are out there with our customers, and our community members, and with everybody else, trying to get attention. We’re not on the top of the mountain broadcasting down, we’re in the jungle with everybody else, trying to stand out.

Thumbnails have become more and more important on YouTube. Here’s an example of an algorithmically generated, or just randomly generated thumbnail that YouTube will put on your video if you don’t craft a thumbnail. And then here’s an example of a thumbnail that we created in Photoshop. The way I like to think of these is you can think of it as a cover art, or a movie poster, or a book cover, for your YouTube video. It’s incredibly important. It takes investment of time, maybe design resources. We have a person on our team who really invests a lot of time into this. We’ve seen a significant uptake, increase, in per piece of content. In this case, views is the number we’ve been tracking. But going from something like, 16,500 per video views to 27,500.

In terms of optimizing thumbnails and also titles, right now the two metrics that YouTube is optimizing for most heavily are video title and video thumbnail. They’ve actually started to track and provide conversion metrics in the form of a click through rate that you can get in your analytics to view. The important thing with thumbnail, there’s an SEO component that you want to have relevant keywords that are going to populate through search, but also that it needs to be human readable, and make a clear value proposition. What am I going to get if I watch this video? Is it a tutorial? Am I going to learn what I want to learn?

We also spend a bunch of time on the dark arts of trying to guess what the algorithm wants, and doing onsite SEO. There’s a site called Keyword Tool, there’s many different ways to do keyword research. is a site that will provide you YouTube specific keyword analysis which we find useful. There’s also shown here, there’s a plugin that we use called VidIQ. There’s a free version, but there’s also a paid version that’s really not expensive. That will help you in terms of picking tags for your video, but also in terms of optimizing the description text, which is very important, and even suggesting keywords to put in the title. And we’ve seen that that can provide some pretty significant lift, as well.

Having the keywords, not just in the tags, but also in the title. You can see here, VidIQ is giving us, like, ranking, where we’re ranking on certain keywords. Is your video actually succeeding in the results? And this is changing, constant, churning process. When you release something, you might rank for a minute because you’re new and they think maybe it’s relevant, and then it’ll drop back down. This is a little bit of a dirty trick. We’re interacting with an algorithm that’s not documented and it’s constantly changing. Some of these tips, use at your own risk. But what we see here is that YouTube wants traffic to the platform. If you take your video, make it, get it ready to be viewed, put it unlisted, which you can’t read here on the slide, but, make it unlisted, and then put it somewhere where it’s going to get views, whether that’s your blog, Twitter, forums, whatever. You get some inbound traffic to the site, we are, our hypothesis is that YouTube likes that. It sees that inbound traffic, you’re building new sessions on the site, and it will give it additional juice in the algorithm, and they’ll serve it to more people. It’s a guess, but it’s something we observe.

This is one of our online Evangelists, Sam Dogantimur, alias Sykoo, He’s a guy who was a YouTube content creator before, independently, who built up his own channel, we’ll show that in a second, once Carl stops messing with my slides. But he is someone who’s a community content creator, that we saw doing great stuff in the community, and hired to join our team. There’s two, kind of, components to that. One is that, he was somebody who was already known and beloved by the community. People saw him join our team, and level up, and turn pro in whatever sense. And that was something that people appreciated. And he’s been working for us for about two years now. We still see a bunch of comments on there, “Oh my God, it’s Sykoo!” People seeing community members represented and embraced. This thing of focusing on people, people don’t really want to talk to a brand, they don’t really want to hear from a brand.? We know this in the work that we do. People want to connect with the person. So putting people in the foreground, and not being the faceless, anonymous voice, is something that we see as effective.

In terms of some of the results that we’ve seen, providing, kind of, targeted, relevant links in the descriptions to our videos is our opportunity to drive people off YouTube to our own web properties, and bring them deeper into our ecosystem, and we’ve seen some pretty significant conversion rates between 10%, all the way up to 25%, with a lot of variation. Your mileage may vary, et cetera. But, and we track that through Bitly. These are just Bitly links, and then we track, we calculate the number of video views to the number of people who clicked on the link, and track that that way.

Another really important thread on YouTube right now, is optimizing for watch time. 10 seconds. YouTube wants to maximize session time on the site. They’re now starting to favor more and more longer videos, it used to be that shorter videos that got higher number of views, would perform better. Now what we see is that, people who stay with the video, and videos that create longer session times, will be, kind of, privileged in the algorithm, and shown more.

Carl: I think you heard a lot here about leads, qualified leads, revenue, attribute revenue. In all this structure, we really track how much influence in the pipeline we bring through that. Specifically from our movie files, so that is a paid product that we’re promoting, we track that, and also understand all the integral product, the close revenue it fully is. Of course it’s all attribute and influence, because it’s not one thing that creates a user to buy a product. Now, one thing I really want to point out is that, in our system that we really changed our philosophy from a qualified lead to a qualified account. We are not targeting, not always an individual, but we really targeting an account. And an account is made up of a lot of different individuals. We need to understand who they are, which messaging we do.

But what we’ve got here, is we’re talking about targeting the core developer, at a company to convert to a paying user. And we do that through targeted messaging, with a target video, and track that to which account it is. Now, one of the things that we also did to really scale massively our message is to work with influencers. We have one of those key influencers is Brackeys, and there’s multiple. The main thing that I want to point out is here, that one individual, Brackeys, who on a regular basis posts a movie file about Unity, has more than 900,000 followers, while our company, with more than 2,000 employees, has almost 700,000 followers. You would be thinking, well, “What’s going on? You don’t do a good job?” When you look at companies, big brands like Ferrari, for instance. Ferrari has 600,000 followers also. But when you look at the influencers, two million, three million followers. It is normal. Because the people are looking for an authentic messaging.

Another very famous influencer is Doug DeMuro. Doug DeMuro works for a car trader, he’s an influencer himself and reviews cars. But in there, he really explains, in his movie files, why he’s way more successful than car trader followers. Because he tells the quirky stuff about the cars, and that’s why they’re influencers. They tell the quirky things about the stuff, what it is, what a challenge they have, and how they sometimes solve it. What we’ve done, is we’ve rebuilt the program to enable all the influencers to be successful, and that’s how we came from one influencer, scale to multiple influencers. We ease the different subsets of customer targets. And we really focus on that.

Over the course of less than one year, we went from almost zero influencers, to more than three million subscribed users to influencers. What we learned in that process, remember they are not employees, no matter how much you love them, how much they grew through their messaging, you always have to loop in legal, think about the taxes that they’re going to implement in, because when you have to pay an influencer in another region where you don’t have legal identity, it becomes sometimes a legal problem to taxes, too. You have to be friends and work with the legal department. We do taxes as part in the company, and that’s a challenge we had to overcome.

But it’s also very important to understand branding. If you don’t enforce branding rules, you can actually legally lose your brand. So that’s why you really have to implement branding rules, what they can use, what they cannot use. And we also implement for making into successful is really educate them about not just the tech, but also about the branding, tax, and legal to help them be successful, helping them connect with other influencers to learn from it.

But one thing, I personally really learned in the journey was, everybody in the company sees out of the blue, “wow, successful influencers, I want to use them!” And everybody in the company is trying jump on them. What we made was a funnel system, a gate keeper system, and everybody in the company has to work through one gate keeper. Yes, it’s maybe a limit, but we have very strict rules, otherwise everybody is paying the influencer, and the pricing just goes sky rocketing higher, because different departments are actually competing on pricing to the same influencer.

That’s the number one thing that we learned, too. And one I’m saying, the golden rule of 80/20, making sure that you keep authenticity, that you just don’t bombard your influences with money, with offers to tell your story, let them be authentic.

Be ready to get fierce feedback from the influencers. Accept that they’re going to give feedback on your product, that you don’t have to sit there paranoid in front of you screen. They might be some giving feedback on my new feature that maybe it’s not perfect, they’re going to tell something about it. Be ready about it, learn from it, and work with them. So, we’re at the end. And my call to action is, go to our YouTube channel, subscribe and click on the notification button, and you will keep learning about Unity and see how we do online Evangelism.

Matt: Don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thank you all.

Carl: Thank you.

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