Video in a Web 2.0 World: Building a Social Strategy

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Article ImageWhen it comes to the creation and publication of content in the 21st century, it's not just producers of print content that now face competition from "citizen journalists." Broadcast media has been equally impacted. With inexpensive digital video equipment, such as the Flip Video Camera, available and online video editing software available at low or no cost (among the top video editing software options provided by TechMediaNetwork's TopTenREVIEWS, the highest priced was just $100), almost anybody can produce high-quality video content.

Just as a keyboard doesn't make someone a journalist, a camera and editing software doesn't make someone a videographer. There is a range of quality represented in the archives of YouTube-nearly 8 years' worth of video from hundreds of millions of users. Those are staggering numbers. What is driving this level of production and, presumably, related consumption of video content?

Why Video? Why Now?

Bill Carney is vice president of marketing with VisibleGains, Inc. in Waltham, Mass., a company that has been using video for quite some time to engage with online consumers. Today, says Carney, video is being used across the entire life cycle of a company's engagement with customers-from prospecting to engagement to education and service throughout the customer relationship. "It's so pervasive it's ridiculous now," he says.

What's behind video's rapid growth? Bandwidth, for one, says Carney: "The pipes can handle it now, if you will." In addition, he says, the cheapness of the hardware, the acceptance of YouTube as a medium, and the comfort level with lower product values have all come together to create an environment in which "casual video" has become a phenomenon.

Video is also just inherently more interesting than static content to many people. That's nothing new and, in fact, has long been the driver of the popularity of television advertising.

Jon Wuebben is founder and CEO of Content Launch, a web content development firm in Fallbrook, Calif. He is also the author of Content Is Currency: Developing Powerful Content for Web and Mobile (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2012). "I think the main thing is that it's very popular because it's easy to access and people like watching video-it's kind of like television, but it's on your PC," says Wuebben. Video also provides control to users, he says.

Still, there's another, somewhat counterintuitive, driver as well, says Wuebben. Despite the proliferation of online video, lack of competition, at least among corporate users, is also driving utilization by smaller companies and individuals, he says. "Not many companies are really optimizing video content right now from an SEO perspective, so there isn't as much competition as there could be. Any company that optimizes video and uses all of the rules of SEO will rank very high."

While few would argue that there is value in producing and using video to spread the word online, it is a realm that many fear to a certain degree. Why? Seth Kenvin notes that while we have all been consumers of video and visual images since childhood, unlike creating written content, which we're all taught in school, "the whole process and craft of constructing video is something that people are just not familiar with very often." Kenvin is the CEO of Market7, Inc., a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that provides software to let teams collaborate on every aspect of video production from concept to completion.

These types of tools are making it easier than ever before for large and small companies to take advantage of the power of video to boost web traffic, engage with consumer and business audiences, and, ultimately, drive bottom-line results.

Innovation in Online Video

Angie McNew is the director of websites and emerging media and Jennifer Messmer is the emarketing specialist at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. To help the museum "stand out from the crowd" and directly reach its target audiences, a bi-weekly web series called This Week's WOW was created in 2010. Each video focuses on a new and exciting element around the museum. Some examples have included how to create a thunderstorm in the "Dinosphere" and an exclusive interview with Santa Claus.

The series is promoted in multiple locations on the museum's website, sent out to its email database, and posted to social platforms including Facebook and Twitter. The strategies have been successful; the museum has seen a 246% increase in video views on its YouTube channel, year over year.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is unique in that it employs "interpreters," on-staff actors who help bring these stories to life. "They are the stars of the videos," says McNew. The video stars are also a connection back to the brick-and-mortar museum. Visitors, especially the children, love to see these "stars" in person. "They ask to get their pictures taken with them; it just helps to bring that tie with online to the actual museum experience," says Messmer.

"I would say that if you're not doing something with video, and you're participating in any kind of social media, you are really missing out," says McNew. "It's a very significant piece of the social media landscape."

Careful planning and a well-developed and clearly articulated strategy are keys to achieving success with video, notes Michael Bott, formerly of Procter & Gamble. In his role as that company's brand manager, Bott was involved in the launch of online video to support the Olay.com site. The use of video was designed to increase online sales and conversions, improve customer engagement, and, of course, strengthen the brand. It's a great example of "thinking from the outside in" in terms of presenting information that customers, and potential customers, might find useful.

Visitors to the Olay site can go to the Olay for You section, where they answer a series of questions and then receive information on the regime that's right for them, including videos to demonstrate various products. The site also takes advantage of user-generated reviews, part of its three-pronged video strategy, says Bott.

The first prong was using video that had already been created for television and Facebook and putting it on YouTube. The second was creating "quick videos that aren't as exorbitantly priced to allow us to be nimble," he says. The final piece of the puzzle is user-generated content.

"It really starts with what consumers are demanding," says Bott. "Obviously, they're searching for information about products before they purchase them. But they're validating their purchases by looking at user-generated reviews. When you're looking to purchase something and you're about to click ‘buy now,' you need to have those multiple options available to validate your purchase decision," he says.

("Close up image of wide DSLR" image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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The brave folks at the Pew Research Center's Internet & America Life Project interviewed 799 teens to get a better understanding of how the kids interact with online video. From April 19- July 14, 2011 the teens were asked about their online behavior, and Pew put the results together in a report published on its website.