Over the two years of this column's existence, I've received only a handful of comments from readers that have challenged my understanding or views of the online video industry. My "YouTube Needs to Grow Up" article particularly hit a chord, with a whopping four visitors debating whether or not I was expecting too much improvement in such a young industry. But none of that made me think about online video in a different way until this past week.
As I do each morning, I opened up my business email and scanned over the subject lines (a practice I know some entrepreneurs would frown upon for productivity reasons). One email in particular caught my eye, as the subject line simply said "Point" and it was from someone I'm choosing to call Bob. In his email, Bob said he'd read one of my columns but believed I was missing a valuable aspect to the online video industry, and that was the human, face-to-face element.
Bob made some compelling arguments about why meeting someone in person when you're a professional in the online video industry is worth the extra time spent. For example, the reason Bob emailed me in the first place was because he is a freelance videographer. In his line of work, it's key to meet with potential production partners face-to-face and take in their "vibe." As Bob noted, this interaction can help you gauge whether or not a person is capable of taking part in your online video project and whether or not they might help or hinder it.
In the same way, any businesses working with a video production team need to be willing to attend as many in-person meetings as possible to make sure the final product meets or exceeds expectations. This advice should go without saying if your brand is working with a local videographer, but the same is true if you have an in-house video team. When you have a question about your project, it never hurts to stand up, stretch your legs, and take a short jog to the team member you need to talk to about the video production.
Bob's email also made me realize how sometimes businesses and brands forget their videos are watched by real-life people. On the other side of the internet is someone watching your clip, who may end up really caring about and promoting your brand (or not). When you lose sight of who your audience is, usually because you're chasing more clicks, views, and/or revenue, you'll find yourself falling short of all your goals.
Instead of solely relying on statistics and online feedback, remember, there's power in meeting people face-to-face. In the case of market research for your online video strategies and projects, try going where your audience is so you can understand what makes them click and what would make them want to watch your videos. Consider attending events, conventions, and locations where they'll be so you can talk to them in person and better understand their fears, pain points, and questions about your brand.
For instance, if you're a marketing manager for a coffee chain, show up at one of your stores and talk to customers. Heck, you could even consider working in one of them for a few days in undercover-boss-style to interact directly with patrons. I would especially recommend this method for high-level executives who often don't make it outside of their own offices and exclusive industry events. Sorry, but those environments won't help you make better video content which speaks directly to your intended audience.
Of course, sometimes in-person meetings aren't necessary or even practical. Like I pointed out to Bob in my reply email, as a freelance writer it doesn't make financial sense for me to fly across the country to meet a potential script writing client in person before (or even after) we've even committed to a contract. However, I can and do set aside time in my calendar each year for attending events which I know will further my career and also help me better understand my clients.
I appreciate Bob and his taking the time to email me, an effort roughly 90% of people online probably wouldn't have even bothered doing. His email made me think, for the first time, about how face-to-face interactions could benefit brands and businesses producing video content for their audiences. After all this talk about real-life meetings, I wonder if Bob and I will ever cross paths offline as we both continue our careers in online video.