Get Started with Video Marketing

According to SCORE, 45% of small businesses plan to try out  video marketing this year. Video marketing has become affordable, and video is now a serious contender for search marketing, when you do it right. What’s more, people like video. People who won’t read most of the words at your website will still check out your video, and people who read will often watch video, too.In the same study, 59% of respondents said they’d watch video before reading the text on a page.

If you’re thinking about using more video marketing (or just beginning), here’s a process to consider.

Plan.

While there are certainly plenty of viral videos which were created simply by turning on the camera and focusing it at a cute kitten/ bullying teen/ drunken colleague, this isn’t what you want on your company website. Determine the key concept you want to convey. Without plot or characters, your video won’t keep people’s attention for longer than a few minutes, so a few minutes is the right length, and one key concept is plenty.

Planning should also include ideas like budget, who will shoot the video, where it should be shot, etc. A professional video for your website will run you about the same as the cost of a professional website, so most companies won’t choose this option if they want to be able to add videos to each product page or to use videos to announce each week’s special offer. As of this writing, viewers are still tolerant of casual video blogging; we’re taking advantage of this window of opportunity to use lots of video on sites, and you may want to do the same. However, professional video is worth the investment if you’re planning a fairly permanent video which will be a major component of your website.

Write.

Plan the visuals for your video and write a script for the words, whether they will be spoken, written on the video, or a combination of the two. Write this plan out in two columns, showing the visuals on one side and the associated words on the other. This will help you and your techs to keep the right words with the right visuals.

The example on this page is visually very simple: a person talking to a camera. This is a very popular type of visual for company videos, but there are other options:

  • Product demonstration videos, if you have a product to demonstrate, are the most popular and have the highest conversion rates. Making your product look good will require better quality video than making a person look good, most of the time, but combining the two can work well with vlog-style video.
  • Slideshows can be easier to put together than live shots. Make sure you have the rights to the images you use; sometimes you may have permission to use photos as still shots, but not to put them into a slideshow or video.
  • Screen captures work well to show software, websites, and other computer or online products and services.
  • We also like animation. Sean Sallings did the animation for the video below.

We’re a content firm, so we usually write the script first and then plan the visuals, but I’ve worked with companies that like to shoot first and add the text later. Either way, you should consider hiring a pro for this part. Video content is still content, and content is a) the most important part of your online presence and b) the least expensive to hire for.

Set up.

There are several things that make a big difference in the quality of your video. First, the lighting. This is the thing that makes the biggest difference for us, actually. Investing in what you need to get the lighting right can make as much difference in your camera work as investing in a better camera, and it costs less, so do it first. Go for a triangular arrangement of lights and bounce those lights off of a white wall or umbrella for the best effect. You can see that the video below is a bit dark.

Second, the background. You can shoot against a green screen and remove the background so that you can replace it with an image. We have found that this technique turns up very cheesy results in amateur hands, so we don’t mess with it. Instead, we try for a simple background. I like to shoot outdoors, but it requires better sound equipment than an inside shot, so I rarely get my way on this.The video below, for example, has quite a bit of wind interference in the sound.

Third, the person on camera. If you’re putting someone on camera, you need someone who is at ease on camera. Josepha does our videos, and her drama and performing arts background makes her a good choice. For many people, acting natural on camera is hard. If you tend to say, “Ummm…” or just don’t come across well on camera, let someone else do it.

Be conscious of accents, too. Everyone has an accent, but a fairly neutral accent is best if you have a national audience. A strong regional accent can be distracting to people outside the area where it’s usually heard.

Shoot.

We use simple cameras like the Logitech 1080p Webcam Pro C910 and the Flip UltraHD Video Camera, but you can get sharper footage by stepping up to something like Sony Professional HVR-A1U CMOS. We chose the Flip camera after learning that it was used in the TV show Numb3rs, but we now hear that it’s being discontinued. If you don’t want to spring for a professional video camera, we recommend snapping one up while you still can.

However, given the price of professional videos, a pro-level camera can be a worthwhile investment if you have all the rest of the pieces in place and would like to be able to do your own videos on a regular basis.

For screen capture videos, we use Camtasia Studio and can highly recommend it.  Screen Toaster is a free alternative.  Write a script and plan your shots with screen captures, just as you do with live video. On screen mistakes and “ummm….” and nervous chatter spoil plenty of otherwise good screencasts.

Edit.

Editing is key. You can put together a variety of elements, including live video, screen captures, still photos, music, and animation to get the effect you want. At the very least, you should have a good introduction and an equally good ending that gives your web address. Chad Taber makes our video intros. Rosie does our video editing. We’ve used lots of different editing software (I review software for several companies), but she prefers iMovie. Adobe Premiere Pro is the industry standard.

Much modern software for video editing is easy and fun to use. The key is not to get too carried away by the options, or you’ll end up with a result that causes people to think, “Here’s someone playing with their video editing software.”

We sometimes use music for a background with a slideshow or screen capture. We have musicians in house (that’s Rosie singing in the video below), but you can also buy music tracks just as you can buy photos and illustrations. We also have used other people’s music with permission. Just write and ask them.

Embed.

Get your video onto your website. The easiest way is to upload it to YouTube. You will hear people say that this is a mistake, that you’re better off keeping it exclusive at your website. We disagree. YouTube can bring people to your website, and embedded YouTube videos can spread information about your company and your products.

When you upload it to YouTube, use all the fields you’re given to add text for the search engines and to help YouTube’s search engines in particular to offer it to the right people. When you add it to your website, add plenty of text for the search engines — and, let’s be frank, for people in a hurry who want to skim through and see whether or not to watch your video. If 59% will watch the video first, that means that 41% won’t, so you need text for them.

For the example at the top of the page, we used LinkedTube to add links. Frankly, we don’t always do this, but we should.

Share.

We’ve found that the videos we mention at Twitter or Facebook get lots more views than those we don’t mention. We weren’t amazed by this, but we’re letting you know in case it hadn’t occurred to you.

You can also upload videos to Merchant Circle, Google Places, Brownbook, and a variety of other places online. At some of these places, there is a fee to add video to your listing; if your video is good enough, it can be worthwhile.

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