Monday, December 25, 2017

Search Videos: Another Avenue for Searching

The success of a recent search video organized by some Chongqing adoptive families with children from that area highlights some important lessons on how to produce a "viral" video. 

The Chongqing video was uploaded on November 28, and as of this writing has been viewed over 8,400 times on Youku, as well as an unknown number of views on other uploads of the video (several in-country newspapers, TV and other sites have uploaded the video to their sites). A half dozen newspapers and TV stations have broadcast stories about the search. So far, nearly three dozen birth families have come forward, and activity surrounding this search video is still growing. Some of those that have come forward are from other Provinces, such as Anhui Province. One of the video's participants, "Lilly", is being interviewed for a serial print and web feature promoting the search. As the Global Times exclaimed, the video "has gone viral on the Chinese Internet, prompting calls for a rethink of China's welfare system and gender equality."

It is impossible to predict with certainty which videos will be successful, and which ones won't, but several things done by the Chongqing families increased their project's visibility. The Chongqing video contained no Chinese names, no child-specific information at all. The preface of the video states "you may think your child was adopted by a family inside China." The Chongqing video intentionally avoid giving any clues, other than the orphanage of origins, as to which birth parents are being sought.

This is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why the Chongqing project video garnered so much attention inside China. Rather than focusing on locating the birth parents for specific children, the Chongqing video said, "You are all our parents." The Chongqing video was apparently designed to appeal to everyone. Not only were the children from all parts of the globe, but they represented disparate orphanages within Chongqing itself -- Xiushan, Youyang, Qianjiang, Fuling, etc. This gave it a very broad geographical appeal. Additionally, the children themselves ranged in age from 2 years old to children in their late teens or early twenties, twins, boys, etc.  The project was all-inclusive. It represented, in a literal sense, every child ever relinquished in Chongqing. A viewer in China would be much more inclined to pass on this video because the birth parents being sought could be literally everyone. The Chongqing video, to use a fishing metaphor, is like taking a large net from shore to shore with the design to capture every fish in the river, with the hope that one of those fish is the one sought after.

So, future search videos would do well to learn from this project. A few key takeaways that seem to give a video "legs" are":

1) Rather than focus on locating specific birth parents, make the video to locate every birth parent. The "wide net" model will gain more interest, since it speaks to more people, and thus gets more media attention.

2) Use the video to educate a birth parent that even though they think their child was adopted by someone in a neighboring village, in fact that may not be true. Create a sense of doubt. This is critical to get past the story many, if not most, birth parents were told about the destination of their child after relinquishment. The video must penetrate the significant mental barrier that exists in the mind of many birth parents that the images seen "can't be my child, for she was not adopted internationally." Without accomplishing that goal, the search will fail.

3) Avoid giving specific dates and details that are not known with certainty, as that will only cause potential birth families to not come forward. It must be assumed that the information -- birth dates, finding dates, locations, etc. -- is inaccurate, and thus providing them may cause potential matches from not coming forward since they will feel that the match is not theirs.

4) Try to incorporate something into the video that gets one's attention. The Chongqing project created a very smooth and cute transition technique with the "high fives" that each child did to move the video to the next child. With the disparate ages and physical locals of each child, this was extremely effective. Although separated by time and space, one felt that the kids were actually a unified group.

5) Before launching a search video, do some ground work. Recruit volunteers on the ground and in the area media to promote the video after it is launched. Promote the video to various news outlets. Your goal is to force the video into the public consciousness as soon as it is released.

6) Include as many different children as possible, speaking as many different languages as possible. There is a fine line between too long, too short, and just right. Have friends watch it. Did they remain engaged through the entire video? Was it interesting? Did it make them want to forward it to others? Do some pre-release test marketing to fine-tune the video for maximum impact.

7) Lastly, provide WeChat (preferable) or email contact information at the beginning and end of the video. Many viewers may not watch the entire video, so placing it just at the end of the video risks losing some potential contacts. Do not have the viewer have to go to another website, etc., to get contact information -- most won't cross platforms.

The Chongqing search video, among others, have provided all adoptees and their families with valuable techniques to make a successful search video. If every search video learns from the experience of these groups, more birth families will be successfully located going forward. But the adoption community must recognize as more and more videos are produced that the attention paid to such videos inside China will decrease. Media fatigue may set in, making it harder and harder for future projects to garner the needed attention. Thus, it is important that every project be crafted to produce the greatest success possible.

In the end, a search video should be seen as an absolutely last resort in a search. Other steps can and should be employed prior to publicly announcing a search. But once all of the "discreet" methods have been employed, a search video is a last "hail Mary" option.  The goal then is not to search for a specific birth family, but to search for every birth family.


Sue said...

Great ideas! Could you also write about the logistics of dealing with contacts from potential birth families? What kind of skills and resources are needed for dealing with inquiries? How is DNA testing arranged? Is it a good idea for Chinese families use WeGene and then children outside China to upload their Ancestry or 23&me results to WeGene?

Research-China.Org said...

It is best if a search video includes our WeChat code for contact. My wife Lan is able to arrange for DNA collection. All samples will be matchable through 23andMe. This allows all these efforts to be centrally coordinated. Contact us privately for more details!