How to produce compelling online videos for your small and midsize business without spending big bucks.
Sure, online video is plenty popular. YouTube alone generates 3 billion video views each day. But does that mean it's a good idea for your business?
It can be if you know what you're doing. The good news: You don't need to be Martin Scorsese to produce high-quality video content, and you don't need a big budget, either. Nor is your only option the online version of a traditional TV ad. Shane Lovellette, product manager for Techsmith's Camtasia screencasting software, notes that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) these days are using Web-based video for product demonstrations, customer testimonials, instructional series, souped-up sales presentations, and a host of internal uses such as employee training.
In an interview, Lovellette offered some expert advice for SMBs looking for better results from their online video strategy.
1. Know why you're making a video. You're not improvising a cute dog video, unless maybe you're in the pet industry. You need to have clear business goals for your video content or it's likely going to be a waste of time.
2. Brevity is a virtue ... "Watching long videos online does not go over well," Lovellette said. "People want to get to the information they're trying to find." Keep your content as short as possible--video isn't as easy to scan as images and text. Lovelette's rule of thumb for most cases: Two minutes or less. He also recommends including calls-to-action and other interactive elements to keep your audience engaged.
3. ... Unless it isn't. If you go so minimal that your videos don't make sense, that's a problem. "Don't sacrifice providing the right kind of information just to keep it short," Lovellette said. So what to do if you've got a ton of worthwhile content? Consider breaking it up into a series of shorter videos--you don't have to run it all together, provided there are logical places to pause.
4. Become a screenwriter. You don't need Academy Award aspirations; you do need a sturdy script to keep your videos on target, especially when they involve real people speaking on camera. That said, beware a pitfall of a script: the stilted corporate monologue. "You still want it to sound conversational and not like you're reading from a script," Lovelette said, adding that a good script could take the form of well-conceived talking points rather than memorized lines. "It definitely takes a little bit of practice. You'll want to do some rehearsals and just talk naturally."
5. Don't skimp on audio. If you're going to spend the time and energy to create a video, invest in how it sounds. "Audio is one of the things that derails a video faster than anything else," Lovelette said. "If people can't hear or it's poor quality or really noisy, people are just going to leave right away." Get a good microphone and choose a space where you're assured of quiet--no honking cars or muffled sounds from the office next door. (If you have no control over background noise, there are editing tools that can help strip out unwanted sound.)
6. You don't necessarily need a camera. Video doesn't necessarily require a camera, though when it does, Lovellette notes that the costs of filming in high-definition have decreased dramatically--in a pinch, even some smartphones produce passable video. But for product demos and other how-to content, a screencast--essentially a videocapture of whatever you're doing on your computer screen--often does the trick. Lovellette offers a couple of specific pieces of advice here. First, record your full screen and, if necessary, shrink it later in the editing process. This helps ensure production quality. Second, turn off reminders and other system notifications that might interrupt an otherwise smooth screencast; forgetting to do so can mean starting over from scratch. Bonus tip: Beware "jumpy mouse syndrome"--your viewers will stop watching if the cursor arrow zigs and zags all over the screen.
7. Even Scorsese has an editor. Edit your videos, no matter the content or goal. At minimum, prowl for any mistakes prior to going live. (Example: Did you forget to introduce yourself by name?) The editing process is also a good time to be sure you're highlighting important information and add any enhancements to keep your audience focused.
8. Consider standardized intros and outros. Online videos, even when they're not marketing material, present a great shareable branding opportunity for SMBs. One way to capitalize: Create a standard intro and outro for each of your videos that includes your company name and other critical information. Done right, this can also save you a good bit of time on each new video you produce.
9. Don't forget context. Do anything you can to help people understand what they're looking at. It's called the "establishing shot" in the movie business--that quick exterior view of the building the next scene occurs in, for example. Include visual cues that help a viewer intuitively understand what they're watching--otherwise, they'll focus on trying to figure it out rather than the content. "When they're having to think about that and not the message you're trying to get them, the message gets lost," Lovellette said.
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