Video has always been a valuable content format, but throughout 2014 we have seen video content marketing become an increasingly trending topic.
As Colin Osing noted in August at Business2Community.com in a post called “Video is the New Black for Content Marketing,” video content is projected to account for more than 80% of all web traffic in a few years.
The problem with video is it has long been perceived as too expensive or too difficult or too time-consuming for many businesses to fold it into their content strategies. Now, with stats such as the one Osing pointed out above, there could be a real and growing fear among businesses that they are missing out on all these potential customers.
Don’t fall into that spiral of doubt. Video does not have to be expensive, it is not difficult to produce, and it can be no more time-consuming than blogging. In fact, depending on your business and your marketing goals, video content can often be even easier and faster to create than blog posts or infographics or whitepapers.
The key to video is having a good story to tell and the ability to tell it honestly. You can do that with your iPhone, a microphone and a YouTube account and still find an audience for your message.
At the risk of being reductive, remember: For thousands of years, the only technology people needed to tell good stories was a campfire.
We have some better technology these days to distribute those stories, but it’s something to bear in mind to keep your ideas and budget grounded.
Below are 18 tips from experienced marketers on creating video content without blowing the budget or spending days in the editing room (note: you don’t need an editing room). Producing great video content can be as easy as you need it to be.
Planning and Conceptualizing the Video
Vidyard’s Michael Litt has a very useful five-step checklist for optimizing video at Content Marketing Institute’s blog, but we are just going to focus on Step 1 right now: “Design videos with the goal in mind.”
Litt points out that video content can do much more than just produce brand awareness. He suggests defining three goals upfront before even mapping out the story the video will tell:
Doesn’t that sound like writing a piece of direct-response copy to you? The goals are the same; only the format changes.
So, before you whip out your storyboards/scratch paper, define these three goals.
At this point, you can begin to conceptualize your message. As Eventbrite’s Mark Walker wrote in 2013, also on the CMI blog, business can use the things they have on hand to tell their stories. There is no need to go to some remote location to film when you already have experienced employees in the office, or customers coming in and out of your front door, or even just a cool office space to show off.
The same applies if your business participates in any events or conferences or seminars. Those get-togethers are ripe for interviews, or maybe a talk given by a company executive, or even just a quick 2-minute highlight reel of the event.
Sometimes, just doing a product demo can get big results. Apple has certainly been making hay with that strategy for years.
Think about what local assets you have to talk about and to share first.
But make sure to keep everything exciting and relevant for the viewer. As Outbrain’s Will Fleiss points out on the company’s blog, you need to try out a variety of video formats to see what resonates.
“And consider the most compelling attributes of video as a form: the ability to show your audience something, rather than just telling them about it,” he writes. “Video is a powerful and visceral medium, perfect for content that is emotional, highly visual, or personal.”
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk on story telling is the gold standard for simple yet powerful video:
Shooting and Editing
The key development for video content is that the technology has become amazingly cheap. If you have a cheap smartphone, you already have a better video camera in your pocket than what your parents recorded home movies on.
Furthermore, the software to produce and cut video is inexpensive (or free), and using it is pretty intuitive.
“But is video really possible for small businesses? Absolutely. Production costs have fallen significantly in recent years and you no longer need to be a technical whiz to work out how to use it. Apps such as Twitter’s Vine, with its six-second maximum clip length, have dramatically increased the opportunity for businesses on a limited budget to get stuck in.”
Trimble goes on to detail some of the things anyone needs to keep in mind when producing a video intended for a larger audience, which we will get to, but first let’s follow that line of thought about using Vines.
Vines are six-second videos you can shoot and cut all from your phone, and they share easily via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. They are so versatile that video strategist Rocky Walls put together a nice tutorial for Vine marketing at Convince & Convert.
“Think about your audience, think about the people who might be watching this Vine and ask yourself basically two things: What do you want them to do after they watch the Vine and why would they do it?,” Walls writes.
“So, if you can answer those two questions and almost write it out as a sentence:
The people watching my Vine will ___________.
“What is it? They laugh? They click on a link and find out more? They understand that something new is coming out and they should look for more information soon?”
Notice again how everything comes back to audience awareness, just like with writing copy.
As Convince & Convert’s Jay Baer notes in a separate post, though, make sure you shoot multiple scenes for your six-second Vine: “If you just point your phone at a tree, or a car, or a building and make a Vine, you don’t have a story; you have an Instagram photo that takes six seconds to look at, which is ridiculous.”
Improving Production Quality
You still can get away with shooting video on your phone if you have a newer phone. The iPhone 6, just as an example, can shoot HD video at 1080p with a camera speed of 60 frames per second.
The difference in production quality really lies in the ability to stabilize a shot and the ability to get good sound quality. In an episode of the SmartPassiveIncome podcast, DIY video expert Caleb Wojcik suggested two accessories that will really boost production quality for about $100 combined: a GorillaPod tripod and a Rode Smartlav Lavalier microphone.
That’s it. With a good mic and a tripod and a phone (and some experimentation on your part), you can shoot stable HD video that looks and sounds professional.
If you don’t want to mess around with filming on a smartphone, or if you want an even better level of production quality, Chipper Nicodemus at VerticalResponse has put together a nice roundup of all the supplies you need for a professional video setup that costs just $300. This setup lets you play around with lighting and backdrops, which could be especially useful if you have a product showcase or demo you would like to shoot.
Public service announcement: If you don’t have video editing software installed on your computer, and you think you will need it, do not just do a search for “free video editing software” and download programs at random. We hope it’s not necessary to point out the pitfalls of doing so, but just in case…
Instead, we recommend listening to advice from filmmaker Jason Christofferson, who posted a quick video review of inexpensive editing programs earlier this year. That video is below:
Christofferson’s three recommendations in that video are Windows Movie Maker (free), Pinnacle Studio (about $130) or Sony Vegas Home Studio Platinum (about $80).
If editing video sounds too intimidating (it’s really not), there is always the option of shooting videos in one long, continuous shot. The subject needs to be able to carry the content for the entire duration of the video, but Lewis from Unbox Therapy was able to pull it off with an uncut review of the iPhone 6’s bendability issues. That video has 3.7 million views at the time of writing:
Putting This All Together
As a final example that you don’t need a huge production to make a good video, check out what Rand Fishkin from Moz does every week with his Whiteboard Friday videos. These videos are literally just Fishkin and a whiteboard, explaining concepts of content marketing. Here is a good example video from April 2014, in which Fishkin describes the biggest misconception people have about content marketing.
The message, and the audience’s demand for that message, are the most important elements of any piece of content, video or otherwise. Execution is important, but you have a lot more room to work with in that department.
Marketing Video Content
Now, the hard part: Getting people to actually see your video.
YouTube should be your starting point. As Arnie Kuenn from Vertical Measures writes for Relevance.com, YouTube allows you as a content producer to own and brand a powerful marketing channel.
“If you haven’t done so already, set up a branded profile,” he writes. “You can set up background images to show your brand logo and coordinate the color theme to match your brand style. When posting video on YouTube, make sure to link back to your website in the description, engage with the commenters, and encourage them to follow your brand’s channel.”
But don’t stop at YouTube. Outbrain’s European marketing director, Sarah Gavin, in a piece for The Guardian, points out that while YouTube is the second largest search engine in the English-speaking part of the internet, it only accounts for 40% of all video views. That means the majority of videos are seen outside of YouTube.
“This is a highly fragmented market, and the most successful campaigns recognise this fragmentation and allocate their media budgets accordingly,” Gavin writes. “They spread themselves thinly and so maximise their exposure.”
Your other channels — your blog, your social media outlets — will be useful in promoting your video, but only if you have an existing audience.
If you feel you have a great video and want it in front of as many eyes as possible, then you might need to dip into all that money you saved on video production.
In the same piece as above, Gavin quotes Olly Smith, the managing director at social video advertising agency Unruly Media, as saying that a quarter of all video shares come within the first three days it goes live.
“So videos that are seen by few people in those crucial three days never get off the ground,” Smith told Gavin. “It is the videos that get an early wide viewer base, and so build early momentum, that are the most successful. When it comes to branded online video, you need to go big and go early.”
Videos that appear to have gone viral, Smith said, really were supported by a big media spend. No matter what your video content budget is, be sure to allocate some of it for paid distribution.