Your success with online video boils down to one thing--quality. But there's a lot more to the quality of an online video than visual clarity. In fact, there are five crucial qualities when it comes to marketing with online video. Those five qualities are explained below, along with tips, tools and traps to avoid.
No. 1: Quality Planning
Online videos aren't as easy to change as a section of text on a website's landing page, so it's a good idea to do some planning before you start rolling the camera. Start by determining your objective for the video and then plan the content to meet that objective. Here are some examples of marketing objectives and content you should consider including in your video for each.
Marketing Objective and Content to Include:
Brand recall - Your logo, emotional content, entertaining content
Advertisement - Your value proposition within the context of a story
Lead generation - An incentive combined with instructions for sharing contact information
Education - Product demonstrations, step-by-step instructions, product comparisons
Endorsement - Customers giving testimonials or professional paid endorsements
Immediate sale - The immediate benefits of your products or services and a call to action
Tip: Consider creating more than one version of your video.
It saves time and money to shoot three different introductions or endings to the same core video, and once you have multiple versions you can use them to test one version against another or to personalize your video for audiences with different interests.
Tool: A written script or outline
If you have a short video, writing out the content word-for-word gives you the ability to test the length and post the words as a transcript for search engines and people who would rather read your message. If your video is longer, use an outline instead of a word-for-word script.
Trap: Forgetting to plan for the context of your viewer
For example, if most of your audience will be viewing your video on a mobile device, you should consider the smaller screen, the location of your viewer and the features of the phone when planning your scenes and calls to action.
No. 2: Quality Production
The production quality of your video can really make or break your image. Production quality includes the visual and audio aspects of your video, as well as the quality of the spokesperson or actor, the story line and the believability of the entire presentation. Generally speaking, consumers expect serious businesses to adhere to high quality standards when it comes to video and audio presentations. They watch enough high-definition television to know the difference between a quality production and an inferior one.
While you could spend $1 million to produce a 30-second commercial with cameras, special effects, actors, locations and pre-production, you can produce a quality video with a much smaller investment. Most professional production companies can adjust their production services according to your budget by adding or removing services while keeping the quality of the video and audio high. LightGroup --the company that produced the video introduction to this article--is one of those flexible production companies.
If you're the do-it-yourself type but you can't afford to buy good equipment, or you lack the experience or technical skills to put together your own studio, search for a rental studio, public television station or freelance producer to help you out. (I did a quick search and found several professional studios for rent in my town for as little as $30 per hour.)
Tip: Consider the length of each message when recording.
The best online videos for marketing purposes are short, or "snackable." If your message is long, plan on dividing it into a series of short two- to three-minute videos, or start with an introductory video selling the benefits of watching the entire longer version.
Tool: Video production software
If you want to produce your own videos, you'll need the ability to record it, edit it and format it for different uses. Two options are Adobe Visual Communicator and Quicktime Pro .
Trap: Thinking that poor quality makes your video seem more personal
Don't use a cheap web camera and far-away microphone to intentionally give your video a rough look unless you want your customers to think you're begging for money.
No. 3: Quality Distribution
Putting a video on your own website is great for your website visitors, but if you stop there, you're missing out on the huge distribution potential of online video. In fact, many people who prefer online video presentations only search on sites such as YouTube and Hulu because they think they contain the entire collection of online videos. Once you have a video ready to post online, make sure you post it on the following sites.
. Your own website
. Online video sites such as YouTube, Hulu and iTunes
. Your blog
. RSS feeds
. Social media sites
Tip: Buy search and display advertising on your distribution channels.
Many distribution channels, such as YouTube, allow you optimize video posts for search engines and even place ads near videos or in videos with related content. One of the benefits of advertising next to a video is the fact that the viewer of the video isn't scrolling down the page while watching. That means your ad displays for a longer period of time than a typical page of text allows.
Tool: Syndication services
Posting your videos to every distribution channel can take a lot of time and effort. Using a syndicator allows you to distribute your video to many online video sites at once. TubeMogul.com has a free level of service that allows you to make up to 100 video deployments per month. Brightcove.com and ooyala.com include a variety of enterprise-level services if you're a bigger and more serious video distributor.
Trap: Exchanging free distribution for bad advertising
Some distribution channels allow you to produce and post videos for free in exchange for allowing advertising to appear in your video. While there's nothing wrong with that concept, some advertisements might be distracting at best and competitive with your video message at worst. Before you agree to allow ads in your video, make sure the ad content is compatible with the goals of your video.
No. 4: Quality Interactivity
Watching a video is a passive activity. If you want your viewers to take action, it's best to make your videos interactive. Interactivity can be built into the post-production process, and many video players allow you to add interactive elements such as:
- Interactive links that display during key portions of the video
- Calls to action that appear as text overlays
- Clickable screens that allow the viewer to click on objects in the video
- Comment forms that pop up during the video
- Live chats that allow viewers to discuss the content
Tip: Use interactivity to collect information.
Providing interactivity in a video is much more useful to your business when you can use those engagements to collect contact information or analyze traffic patterns and viewing habits. Make sure your video player is capable of tracking interactions and views, and include links to signup forms and social media sites so viewers can join your e-mail list or follow your company.
Tool: Video players
Online videos should be hosted in a video player with the typical play button and other click-to-control elements. Some players allow you to add brand elements, interactivity, formatting and distribution. I like Viddler.com , which allows you to record and publish videos with viewer comments, share links, add content tags and use your own branding. I also like Veeple.com for its ability to make parts of the video screen clickable. If you're into live broadcasting, check out Ustream.com .
Trap: Useless interactions
Interactivity can be a distraction if it interferes with your original goals. For every interaction you add to your videos, ask yourself if that interaction moves the viewer closer to a purchase decision. If not, don't add it to your video.
No. 5: Quality Sharing
Video is highly shareable, but the value of sharing isn't represented only by the number of views unless your only goal is brand recognition. If your goal is to generate leads or immediate purchases, don't lose focus by trying to make your video "go viral." Instead, focus your video content on getting people to share your lead generation campaign or immediate purchase incentive. For example, if your video promotes a sweepstakes to collect leads, your video should ask people to share the sweepstakes information, not the video.
Tip: Go mobile.
Video is one of the technologies helping to drive the adoption of more sophisticated mobile devices. Make sure to provide your videos in a format that can be viewed on mobile devices, and give your viewers the ability to download the video to their mobile devices either through a text message or a mobile site. Some sites, such as YouTube, automatically enable mobile sharing.
Tool: Video sharing links
Many distribution channels such as YouTube and video players such as Viddler.com make it easy for viewers to share your video with others on social networks, but you can also enable sharing by placing sharethis.com share links or RSS feeds on the website pages that contain your videos. To enable sharing via e-mail and mobile devices, you can provide a mobile link to your video or post the video to a mobile website and ask users to share the mobile version via SMS, MMS or mobile social media posts. Companies such as mogreet.com allow you to proactively send mobile videos to your customers via MMS messages and ensure that the videos are formatted to play on almost every mobile device.
Trap: Creating videos in only one format
There are a few standards in online video, but they are always threatened by new technology. For example, Flash is a great technology, but sadly, it's not supported on many new mobile devices. Make sure your distribution channels have the ability to display your video in a variety of formats so it can play in a variety of browsers, mobile devices and desktop video players.
John Arnold is a Boulder, Colo.- based consultant, speaker and trainer specializing in marketing advice for small businesses. He is the author of three marketing books in the 'For Dummies' series including Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference and Mobile Marketing for Dummies. Follow him on Twitter: @ArnoldMarketing