Online video is now a necessary marketing tool for reaching--and, more importantly, connecting with--followers, fans and customers. By adding a smile and a friendly voice, you can build rapport with your customers quickly and help them relate to your business on a more personal level.

There are several advantages to video marketing. One is its ability to reach all three types of learning styles: visual people who learn by reading or seeing, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners (who learn best from hands-on methods, which can now be covered in a video via demonstration of a product or service).

Another advantage of video marketing is improved SEO. With video marketing, browsers and search engines spend less time reading through endless web pages of text; instead, they pick up on keywords tagged on videos.

Here are nine tips for creating better online videos.

  1. You Don't Need Expensive Equipment: Consider using a Flip Video Camcorder. It's a small camcorder that can shoot a few hours of high-definition video, and it costs a few hundred dollars at the most. It's easy to use, plugs directly into any USB port and even includes editing software to get you up and running quickly.
  2. Don't Worry About Being Perfect: Chances are you won't like the first take of any video you create. It's OK to record a few extra takes, but don't let multiple takes slow you down to the point of taking weeks or months to finish your video. Find the key points, rehearse and then speak to your customers from your heart. Your confidence will grow as you get more comfortable in front of the camera.
  3. Keep it Short: The less people know about you, the shorter their attention span will be when watching your video. Your prospective customers want to know who you are, what you do and, most importantly, what's in it for them. So give them the message in less than three minutes. Often, 60 to 90 seconds can be enough.
  4. Include a Call to Action: So many websites have great videos but no call to action. If you want clients to call you or click on a link, then ask them to do so. You can also ask them to sign up for your e-mail list or visit your blog. If your video is focused on what's in it for them, you'll have their undivided attention. So take maximum advantage of this and prompt them to take the action you want them to take.
  5. Make Your Video Visible: It must be on the first page of your website. Don't hide your video on some obscure or deep page an online customer will never find. Including a short video on your home page can keep visitors on your site longer. Make sure you keep your video "above the fold" on your site, meaning visitors shouldn't have to scroll down to view it.
  6. Determine Whether You Want Your Video to Begin Playing Automatically: When your customers (or prospective customers) visit your website, do you want your video to play automatically? Your decision comes down to the behavior of your customers. If you're selling a "one off" and customers will only visit your website once to purchase, then a video that plays automatically might work just fine. However, if your customers visit your website multiple times, you may want to consider having your video play on demand, as an automatically playing video could irritate them and make them leave.
  7. Include Your URL at the End of Your Video: It's a great way to get additional exposure online, especially if you are posting it to YouTube or Viddler, as there are millions of viewers on these sites. Make sure your URL is in a larger font, and place it at the bottom middle for better viewing and exposure.
  8. Upload to Multiple Sites at Once: Uploading your video to all of the video sites available can be time-consuming. There are paid tools and services you can use to upload your video to multiple video sites simultaneously. There are also free sites, such as TubeMogul. After uploading your video, you can log in to your TubeMogul account and track the number of views, clicks and comments on your video. You can also track 10 other videos within the TubeMogul system, so if you're in a competitive marketplace where video is used a lot, this is a great way to see what other businesses are doing.
  9. Name Your Video Correctly: Give a relevant name to your video, and your video will show up better in search engine results. Your title should be something that matches what your customers are looking for. For example, if I'm selling widgets, then "Mybestwidget.mov" would be a better title choice than "9077709845wdgt.mov." Use keywords in your title, and search engines will find it much easier to index your video file.

It's important for you to integrate video into your online marketing efforts. Even if you start with a basic video tip on how to best use your product or service, just get it recorded and get it up. Although customers like humor and creativity, messages that help them save time or money--or make their life easier--are what they're really looking for.