Six years after YouTube launched, many marketing professionals are still grappling with how to use online video. Social media experts promise a global audience of millions and the potential of viral marketing … it is all very enticing. Yet, many organizations that have eagerly posted videos have met with disappointment instead of Internet fame. Something isn’t working.
Despite all the excitement about online video as a marketing tool, a key detail has been conspicuously absent from most discussion: substance and content. This situation is reminiscent of the early days of the Internet boom, when the medium overshadowed content, and organizations and businesses rushed to get online with little apparent thought about what to actually put on their new websites. Eventually, the medium matured and most organizations today put considerable thought into the content and functionality of their websites. With billions of videos online, it is long past time that the conversations about web video move in a similar direction. So what’s next?
Rethinking online video means putting the needs of the viewer first by offering a well-crafted and compelling story. Every organization and every story is different so there is no simple formula to accomplish this complicated goal. But if you want to rethink your online video efforts, here are ten steps that could get you started.
1. Forget everything you have heard about going viral. Instead of trying to win the social media lottery, concentrate your efforts on a sure thing: your target audience.
2. Your video should be an extension of your brand. Like any other marketing effort, the public will judge you based on your online video. The elements of the video (production quality, tone, messaging) should be consistent with how you would like your brand to be perceived. A poorly shot and edited video, for example, can undermine your image of professionalism and high standards.
3. Focus on storytelling. Everything in your video should further the story you want to tell, so avoid video gimmicks and other distractions from the main message. Develop your interviewing skills and use real people to tell your organization’s story in an authentic and unscripted way. If you hire a videographer, look for someone with demonstrated storytelling skills and not just a montage of impressive visuals on their demo reel.
4. Expect to invest time. It is easy to underestimate the work involved because the actual shooting of the video represents a surprisingly small part of the total time required. For every hour of video recorded, you will spend dozens more in planning and then reviewing and cutting footage afterward.
5. Expect to invest money. Whether you do it yourself or hire a videographer, creating good videos is not inexpensive. The good news is that, depending on the size of your mailing list, video can be less expensive, more compelling and have a longer shelf life than direct mail.
6. It’s a team effort. Expect skepticism at first when you ask colleagues to change their plans to accommodate a video camera, but work with those who are willing to be flexible and embrace the project with you. If your final product is good, you will build trust by always showing others at their best. Careful planning with everyone involved also helps you get the footage you need and ensures others are prepared to accommodate the presence of camera equipment.
7. Show, don’t tell. Video is an incredibly efficient and compelling way to communicate. If you choose your visuals wisely, a three-minute video can speak volumes about your organization.
8. Keep it short. Viewers of online video often watch while multi-tasking so don’t expect their undivided attention for much more than a few minutes.
9. Enhance the live experience – don’t replace it. Live performances are best enjoyed in person and you want to build your audience, so focus on giving the viewers an experience that they can’t have through a normal visit or performance. This creates a new level of understanding and deepens appreciation for your organization.
10. Share your video across as many platforms as possible. Once you have a great video, the hard part is done. Maximize your investment by making your video available on as many platforms as possible: live events, your website, YouTube, Facebook, mobile phones, etc. Different platforms reach different audiences and make it easier for your video to be shared. And if it’s a good video, people don’t mind watching it more than once.
Rethinking web video means going back to the basics: storytelling and strengthening your brand. It might not make you a one-hit viral wonder on YouTube, but it will make a lasting impression with your target audience.
About Chris Hintz
Chris Hintz is the national marketing and communications manager at Interlochen Center for the Arts and has planned online video efforts and strategy since 2007. He earned masters degrees in journalism and public affairs from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree at Butler University.