Video as Part of an Overall Strategy
Despite the popularity and growing ease of producing video for online consumption, it is inherently "just another tool," cautions Carney. "I hate to say it but video is just another piece of content. It's an awesome piece of content, but it is just another piece of content. ... There's got to be a strategy behind it. It can't be just ‘We want to do a business casual video and we just want to say stuff.' It's the same as with any other form of communication."
The importance of thinking, strategically, about how video fits into an overall communication approach based on audience needs is critical, agrees Wuebben. "At the end of the day companies need to take a step back and survey their customers, talk to their customers, and find out what they want to see."
Importantly, he stresses, it's not about what you want to tell them it's about what they want to know. "What tips, tools, shortcuts, and how-to videos can you produce that will make your customers' lives easier or help them with some problem they're having or some challenge they're facing?"
That's the approach that Olay has taken with its site, and it's working, says Bott. While he says he can't share actual sales results, he does note: "I can tell you that a lot of people have been watching the videos and looking at multiple videos. It shows you that it's something they want to engage with."
Quality and User-Generated Content
One of the drivers of video, as we've seen, is the growing ease and declining costs involved in its creation and delivery. Do-it-yourself anything always brings up concerns about quality, but overly produced, super-high quality videos don't work in the social sphere, agree the experts. Quality is important, but not as important as some companies think it is, says Wuebben. "The main thing you want to be is authentic and genuine. You want to come at it from a genuine place, a transparent place."
In fact, says Carney and others, casual video has a higher level of acceptance than the traditional, over-produced and formalized video that corporations produced-at significant cost-in the 20th century.
"Business casual video" is a term that has been popularized by David Meerman Scott, who attributes the term to Cliff Pollan, founder, president, and CEO of VisibleGains. Business casual video, says Scott, "is as easy as putting on a pair of khakis."
Casual video, says Carney, "Comes across as very honest. There's no pretense. There are no floaty menus. There's no cool music or graphics-there could be, but they're usually not very highly produced. So it comes across as very much ‘I'm laying myself out there just for you' and it's a very honest approach."
That said, certain quality issues should not be ignored, notes Wuebben. "You want to make sure that the audio is loud enough and clear enough. You need a decent camcorder and decent lighting-lighting is really important. Do some testing and look at the video before you do the final shot."
Consumer-generated video is another innovation that corporations are using to spread and support brands as a sort of word-of-mouth on steroids approach to what has long been a very influential factor in marketing-simply getting consumers to spread the word about your products and services.
Angela Bandlow is with Extole, Inc., a social media marketing company based in San Francisco. "The basis of what we do we call social referrals," says Bandlow. Extole has had success with this concept through leveraging advocates and generating word-of-mouth marketing to drive measurable social results through referral plans, promotions, and testimonials; it is now moving into the use of video as another online tool. "Video is our newest offering," says Bandlow. "Getting real people to say real things about your brand-it's a much more engaging medium."
While she acknowledges that fewer people are likely to participate and share their experiences on camera, those who do are particularly compelling, and they are more committed ambassadors. "You get a really high-quality content piece with much higher engagement," she says. To illustrate, she notes that a posted photo will get about 200 views, but a posted advocate video will generate about 5,000 views. "There's a smaller number of people creating the content, but it's a much more engaging type of user-generated content," she says. At Extole, Bandlow notes, clients are encouraged to make sure there's a way to moderate and approve user-generated content before it gets published.
However, as one poster to Scott's blog notes: "[A]t the risk of seeming like a fussbudget I'll say that, like all ‘empowering technologies,' DIY video can lead to some pretty scary outcomes. What's next, business casual annual reports?" It is a valid and very relevant point. Somewhere in between The Blair Witch Project and Michael Jackson's Scream, which was produced for an estimated $7 million in 1995, lies the answer for those thinking about jumping into what promises to be a growing area of opportunity.
Of course, when considering user-generated content as well as any form of content, the right answers are organization-specific. "We see video as being a very powerful part of a more integrated marketing plan, not just as a stand-alone initiative," stresses Bandlow. "If you don't have a strategy for it, it usually doesn't wind up helping your business at all."