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8/15/2012
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Beyond YouTube: Turning Video Viewers Into Customers

Two SMBs dissatisfied with a lack of tangible return from their online video audiences went looking for an alternative to YouTube. Here's what they found.

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So your YouTube video was a hit. Then what?

Some viewers probably gave it a thumbs-up or left a comment. Better yet, they shared it with friends over email and social media, fattening your audience in the process. Maybe--just maybe--the video made enough of an impression that some of the people in that audience will remember your business and its message down the road. If you really dare to dream, a few of them may become paying customers.

The safe bet? They probably watched another YouTube video.

YouTube's sheer size--800 million unique visitors watch more than three billion hours of video there each month--is both a blessing and a curse for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). The potential audience is too large to ignore for many marketers. But when your video ends, the next one--often having nothing whatsoever to do with your business--is a quick click away, even if you've embedded the video in your own website.

"YouTube is about YouTube," said Tom Telford, CEO of Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals, in an interview. "Whenever [viewers] were done with a video, there were just too many ways for them to go off the [Cabin Creek] site."

Telford sees online video as a must-have means for engaging potential customers--especially in his high-end travel business. "They want to see the product," Telford said. He started out with YouTube because, well, it's YouTube. He later began kicking the tires on alternative video players and settled on Viewbix, one of several upstarts looking to put more control, features, and analytics in the hands of businesses that create videos for marketing and other purposes. Viewbix, which works with better-known platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook, enables users to add calls-to-action, apps, and other functionality to their video content. It also enables publishers to exercise more control over their brand and how videos appear on their own website.

"I was looking for a way where I could engage [with viewers] and it was self-contained within the player on my site, where there wasn't an easy way for somebody to click and go off the site, go into YouTube, and all of a sudden they're gone--they're looking at other videos," Telford said.

[ Drive more traffic to your website with SEO For SMBs: 7 Timely Tips. ]

After an initial investment of about $200, Telford said he's attributed 11 new sales--worth around $5,500--to people whose very first introduction to Cedar Creek was through one of its videos. He uses Hubspot's online marketing platform, not Viewbix, to arrive at that analysis. Telford noted that there are likely other viewers that have become customers, though video may not have been their first engagement with Cabin Creek.

"It's got to be a lot more than [11 customers]," Telford said, because if someone first visited other content on the Cedar Creek site, than the sale wouldn't necessarily be attributed to video. Telford likens it to Facebook; the Cedar Creek page has more than 10,000 fans, but he can't precisely quantify how many of them are reflected in the company's bottom line. "There's no way that I know to tell if [Facebook] helped to get the booking," Telford said. "If you know of a way, please do tell."

Another Viewbix user, Aish.com, has had its share of YouTube hits. Several of the Jewish educational site's videos have clocked upwards of 2 million views, including "Google Exodus," which generated 3.2 million views. Yet the Aish team was dissatisfied with how little it had to show for that large audience. The nonprofit wanted viewers to consume other site content and subscribe to its email newsletter, but most viewers simply went about their online business without any further engagement with Aish. Since adding in-video calls-to-action and apps for things like email subscription, the company estimates it has seen a 15-20% uptick in sharing, clicking to other Aish.com videos and content, and email sign-ups.

Cedar Creek's Telford also finds video to be a good way to attract eyeballs in crowded organic search results. Search "Helen, Ga. tubing" and you'll get a trove of links related to leisurely rides down the Chattahoochee River in northern Georgia, where Cedar Creek's cabins are located. Telford's business isn't the first listed, but it's the first with a video image next to it. "Your eyes are drawn to that picture," Telford said.

Adding Viewbix, Telford said, has helped mitigate the initial conflict: YouTube's about YouTube, but Cedar Creek's videos are about Cedar Creek. The Viewbix player includes YouTube integration, and Cedar Creek's videos are still hosted there. But Telford said his website visitors are now less likely to click over to a cute kitten video once they're done touring a rental cabin.

"That was the biggest thing. You either pay for someone to come to your site, or you do all that work to get them to come to your blog, and then they go to a video and--boom--they're off the site," Telford said. "That's just a nightmare."

SMBs have saved big buying software on a subscription model. The new, all-digital Cloud Beyond SaaS issue of InformationWeek SMB shows how to determine if infrastructure services can pay off, too. Also in this issue: One startup's experience with infrastructure-as-a-service shows how the numbers stack up for IaaS vs. internal IT. (Free registration required.)

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