CANNES: Secondary influencers – defined as those who share content received from other influencers - are the true key to an online video going viral and achieving the highest levels of engagement and reach, a new study has said.

Ogilvy & Mather analysed the sharing patterns of 66 video campaigns and found that only one in five of the videos tested on Twitter managed to motivate a second wave of influencers.

But, crucially, the vast majority of those that did (more than nine out of ten) were successful – and this was true no matter what the style or source of the video.

"Big influencers will give an initial boost [to a campaign] but those that had the longest tail and the most intense viewing were the ones with second tier influencers," said Thomas Crampton, global managing director of Social@Ogilvy.

"First wave influencers offer a sugar high, second wave influencers are the ones that give a campaign its heft and momentum," he told Marketing Week.

The implication is that brands ought to focus less on endorsements from high-profile online celebrities and more on those people who are genuinely interested in the category or product.

"It does involve more work," Crampton admitted, "but it is higher value and potentially lower cost."

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The research also uncovered some common themes in winning content which were found to motivate the second wave, the most significant being that secondary influencers want to add their own point of view.

Some 60% agreed that this was a reason to share content – a percentage which jumped to 77% among the most influential online video sharers.

VIdeos shared with a personal comment performed much better than those that were shared passively, without a point of view expressed.

"Brands need to re-evaluate the way they plan and run online video campaigns because, without the support of the second wave, they are bound for mediocrity," Crampton stated.

He added that it was important that brands created video with small mobile screens in mind. Not doing so limits the chances of success, he explained, "as influencers are more likely to express themselves when using their mobiles".

Data sourced from Ogilvy & Mather, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff