With The Secret Life of Pets tearing up movie theaters, pet owners everywhere are starting to wonder exactly what their perfect pooches and contented kitties are doing when nobody is watching. As it turns out, thanks to companies like Nest, the answer to that question is easier to find than ever. And the results are hilarious.

I stumbled upon Nest’s YouTube channel by chance when a friend shared this video of a bulldog being a bulldog:

And discovered that, in addition to making an award-winning thermostat, Nest also creates cameras for home surveillance, and has one of the best user-generated content channels I’ve ever seen. Say hello to the Nest Cam – Greatest Hits.

What the heck is a Nest cam?

The Nest Cam is an inexpensive home monitoring camera that uses your wifi connection to beam high-definition 1080p video to your mobile device. It also allows you to back up video on a subscription plan and use your voice to issue commands or ask questions. In short, it’s the fancy home monitoring system every 80s movie had, now available for under 300 dollars and about the size of a small lamp.

Where things get special is how they interact with users’ footage. Nest doesn’t just sell cameras and hope for the best. By actively engaging with their user base — encouraging users to send in their hilarious (or shocking) videos, they not only build up a huge amount of free advertising for their products, but they produce memorable episodic content that drives even more subscribers. Here’s the magic behind this.

Making People Laugh 101: Pet Content

The fact that The Secret Life of Pets has raked in over half a billion dollars proves that people love laughing at the misadventures of our furry friends. And the fact that this video of a dog barking on a nest cam and getting shut down by the family cat has just under four and a half million views confirms it:

We have pets in our lives because they make us happy, but anyone who says goodbye to their pets for the day wonders what their lovable animals are doing when they’re not home. Nest Cam has not only created a solution for this, but an entire channel that shows exactly how funny it can be when your pets act out and nobody is watching. From the bulldog dance shown above, to other less loved content like this escape video, hilariously named The Pawshank Redemption:

Videos like this work so well because they check off some key boxes when it comes to social video:

  • They’re super short: Very few of the UGC videos are over a minute, and many are under 30 seconds. Enough to set up the joke, show the punchline, and if applicable, allow you to bask in the aftermath.
  • They’re infinitely shareable: Content like this is a goldmine for Facebook and Twitter shares because it’s easy to watch, doesn’t require audio to be funny (even the barking dog video makes sense without the sound on) and is short enough that people will engage when YouTube autoplays it.
  • They’re relatable: The cornerstone of every user-generated content campaign is that people are sharing their stories for the benefit of other people. This campaign has that in strides.

Now, Nest Cam could probably hang up its hat on hilarious pet videos alone, but since not everyone owns a pet, they take it one step further, and show the other side of why their product is important.

Making People Think 101: That Could Happen to Me

While watching your dog do a butt-dance across the living room floor is hilarious, it’s not the only purpose of the Nest Cam. The company markets its product as a home security device, and they have plenty of video content explaining exactly why this works:

The caption on the video is simple, and to the point:

“I got an alert at work and saw my worst nightmare, a break-in. I called the police and drove to the scene just in time to watch the arrest.” Submitted by Damien G., Massachusetts.

Fear of having one’s house broken into is universal — and the fact that most breaking and entering cases go unsolved means that fear is compounded by knowing that if it happens to you, you’ll likely never get your stuff back. Nest Cam changes that game, so that even if thieves leave before the police arrive, you have a high-definition video of the perpetrators in the act to show police, and start putting together a case around where your things have gone.

Even something as small as having your packages stolen from your porch can be a violating experience, and Nest Cam’s outdoor variation is designed to catch just that:

Videos like this still appeal to the social content checkboxes listed above, but more than that, they provide tangible examples of how Nest’s products help keep your property and your family safe. Even if every case doesn’t end with the burglars getting arrested on camera, it still provides you with the peace of mind to know when something amiss is happening in your home, and take action on it. A privilege that few victims of a break-and-enter have.

Last But Not Least: Capturing the Incredible

Break-ins and pet hilariousness aside, there’s one more type of video that we can’t get enough of. To paraphrase Fry from Futurama, the “World’s Blankiest Blanks Ever Caught On Tape” variety. Extreme weather and natural disasters being a big part of this.

Nest has a small but extraordinary collection of these types of videos as well, featuring everything from a palm tree being struck by lightning:

To this time-lapse video showing the devastating fires at Fort McMurray from the side of an airport hangar:

Videos like this aren’t something everyone can relate to, but they show the power of always-on cameras to capture the extraordinary. This kind of content has captivated people since TV shows like Real TV showed amateur footage of natural disasters on a regular basis, and Nest Cam’s channel is further enhanced by it.

Wrapping it All Up

Nest isn’t the only company that looks to its users for content to back up its products. GoPro is another shining example of a video product company that does very little of its own production, choosing to focus instead on the people who own the cameras to show off what their product can do.

If footage like this:

doesn’t show off both how incredible human beings are, and how versatile the GoPro camera is, check out the rest of their channel to see what happens when you attach a camera to your wing suit, skateboard, or swimming dog.

When your product is meaningful in a visual way — and cameras are about as visual as you can get — looking to your users for content to enrich your social accounts is both easy, and fun. People love seeing their content featured by brands they enjoy, especially if it’s their dog doing a butt-dance being shared by Nest to all of its subscribers.

Even at the Vidyard office, we have our own Nest greatest hits. Tom Karthaus, one of our Account Managers has a Nest cam, and before finding a more reasonable solution for controlling his curious pooch Jackson, would share weekly still shots from his Nest cam, including:

Jackson breaking through his meager barrier and using it as a bed… on the couch.

Jackson - Couch

And Jackson making himself at home on the kitchen island.

jackson - table

Jackson has since been confined to a more reasonable space in the house that he cannot so easily escape from, so sadly these updates have dwindled. But, for a brief few weeks, knowing that at any given time Tom’s dog could be doing something completely ridiculous, and we could see it, brought an immeasurable amount of joy to the dog lovers in the office.

Content like this goes a long way to reinforcing why your product is so important. If your audience is willing to capture themselves using your product, and enjoy it — whether it’s dancing dogs or foiled break-ins — you get free marketing in exchange for validating your customers loyalty by sharing their awesome moment with the world.

User-generated content is meant to be win-win. Just ask this dog:

Jon Spenceley