Does a successful video marketing strategy have to be pricey?
For some brands, popular content is driven by costly celebrity cameos and expensive song licenses. For others, success is based entirely on production values and large-scale cinematic excursions. But the majority of brands—even enterprise-sized marketing teams—don’t always have the resources for this kind of undertaking. Does this mean some brands are just less likely to be successful with video?
Big budgets, fancy cameras, and flashy celebrities: All of these elements can exaggerate the value of video marketing, and they don’t inherently produce it on their own. They aren’t required for brands to create excellent video content. In fact, sometimes a simpler approach can generate more interest.
One of the first videos I ever worked on was meant to be an experiential brand piece for an advertising startup. We barely had any budget, a crew of five people, and artistic ambitions perhaps more suited to first-time Hollywood directors. Our project called for sweeping shots, complex camera movements, authentic acting performances of the highest caliber…it was going to be impossible to pull off conventionally.
But take a group of twenty-somethings and tell them something can’t be done, and suddenly things start falling together. Authentic acting was replaced with candid moments from people we found on the streets of New York City. Large crews and demanding budgets were reduced to a handful of staff excited to pull double duty. Cranes and dollies for camera movement were replaced by a longboard and cinematographers with impressive senses of equilibrium. The whole ordeal took a weekend to shoot (not counting a couple of weeks for planning and preproduction), didn’t break the bank, and met most of our planned vision despite the lack of bells and whistles. A few weeks later, it also had around a quarter of a million views, coverage by the Huffington Post, and over a thousand shares on Facebook.
Regardless of brand size, from startup to enterprise, this is a common scenario—what do you turn to when expectations or vision don’t match up with available resources? Simple answer: Bells and whistles help, but they don’t make your story.
Clicks Are Tactics, But Story Is Strategy
Go on Facebook today, and there is an extremely high likelihood that there will be a couple videos within the first few posts on your News Feed. This is a simultaneous result of Facebook’s ever-growing emphasis on video content (particularly native content), as well as the general popularity of sharing videos. However, this also frequently results in News Feeds becoming a mess of political news clips, low-quality compilation videos, and stolen content that’s been re-uploaded. But just because some of these videos pick up views doesn’t mean that they actually accomplish much for their brands: Views don’t necessarily translate to returning or engaged viewers, and if your content is derivative, it’s probably a safe bet that your audience will just keep scrolling through that News Feed.
So when it comes to video marketing strategy for social, there’s a fundamental question marketers should ask themselves: What does my audience want to see, as opposed to what will my audience click. This distinction will help you make sure that you are orienting your brand toward a holistic strategy intended to grow a consistent audience, and not just to create a series of isolated videos that don’t sum up to much audience growth or engagement.
So you’ve asked the right question, and now you have an idea for some content that should perform well with your social media audience. What elements will make your video actually hit the vision you have in mind? There are a few principles that scale for any sized project and will help your videos stand out in the social landscape.
- The “We’ll Do it Live” Method: Authenticity is an often sought-after quality in video content, and one of the easiest ways for brands to achieve this is through live video. Facebook and YouTube both support live video streaming if you want to utilize a video space you’ve already established, or you can try to carve out a space on streaming dedicated platforms like Vine or Periscope.
- The Long and Short of It: Typically, when creating digital video, the goal is to keep the length somewhere between 30 and 90 seconds. Shorter than 30 and you’re probably better off with a GIF, while videos longer than 90 seconds tend to have fewer clicks and full views. But (hopefully) your brand has some stories to tell that can’t be expressed in a minute and a half. Rather than just cranking out the same minute-long videos every week, try to diversify your video content and test to see what kind of engagement each produces for your brand. Facebook prefers 30-90 seconds, but Vimeo is typically more forgiving in terms of longer video, while Snapchat’s growing popularity provides the perfect space for brands to take advantage of the shortest possible run-times.
- Make Audio, Visual: While many social platforms support auto-playing video, most do not support auto-playing audio. So if you’re hoping that a dramatic voice-over or catchy intro will capture viewers, then you’ve just added an extra click of the mute button between your content and your potential viewer. A simple way to beat this can be to include a clear title card or headline in the first few moments of your video. An even stronger method is to include captioning in your video—this visually draws the eye of anyone who might be scrolling by, but more importantly gives you a more powerful way draw someone into the opening moments of your video even without sound.
Our social media addiction to video doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon. But ultimately, it will be up to marketers as to how this reliance takes shape over the next couple of years. If your brand’s goal is only ever views and clicks, then you’re going to find your video marketing strategy quickly falling into rhythms of exploitive practices with shallow stories. This is short-sighted and doesn’t actually present many opportunities to grow your brand effectively. Alternatively, if you have an idea that people might truly care about—as well as a longboard and some chutzpah instead of a huge budget and celebrity appearances—then you’ll likely find that people come for your video but stay for the ongoing story.