Online Video for Small Businesses

I have a talented drummer friend who is very active in the music community of New York City. He gets gigs by answering ads on craigslist, through word-of-mouth, and general networking. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a website, his MySpace page is updated on an infrequent basis, and he refuses to take part in any type of social media. I am constantly urging him to invest in a Flip Video or Kodak Zi8 camera, start filming his gigs and drumming demos, and then post the footage to YouTube or Facebook – and promote it with a blog or Twitter (or both!). These ideas are always met with great skepticism (“what about my privacy?”) or excuses (“I have no time!”) and the conversation usually ends with nothing happening. Who knows – he could be missing the chance to record with T-Bone Burnett, Jack White, or Jay-Z. Hopefully some day he’ll embrace the new social technologies and get some more exposure for himself.

Flip
Photo Credit: Nick J Webb

All of the above can very well be said for many small business owners. Some would offer that they don’t have the time, resources, or manpower to introduce online video into their marketing efforts. Much like my musician friend above, small businesses must be wary of their marketing spend. Fortunately, a lot of the tools used in marketing with online video are free (or very affordable) and a 5-10 minute piece can pack in a lot of information, while also being entertaining, informative, educational, and engaging. Below are some tips you can use when incorporating video as part of your marketing strategy:

Equipment

Sound. Lighting. Vision. In this order of importance. These are the three essentials when making sure your video project is not lacking the quality people expect from online streaming media. The video devices you use rarely have decent on-board microphones, so acquiring a viable sound solution is a must. If viewers immediately notice the sound is not up to par, they will tune out… immediately.

It’s also wise to follow the general rule of thumb for lighting, which is to provide your filmed subject or space with 2-3 times the normal lighting in a room or environment.

Finally, be sure to check out the affordable HD video camera options currently available on the market. As I mentioned above, the Flip Video and Kodak Zi8 cameras produce very nice results for web-ready content. You can also check out the new Zoom Q3, which adds higher quality audio to the equation. Of course, there are a plethora of higher-end digital video cameras out there that would produce more professional looking images, but it all depends on your scope and budget.

What to Film

1) Yourself!: Are you an industry expert? Do you want to take a break from writing blog posts? Do you have a message or knowledge that you think would be better communicated through visuals and the spoken word?

2) Your employees: What better way to personalize the B2C or B2B relationship than to profile the people who do the actual work. This could also open up opportunities to start regular video blogging amongst your team of experts – providing a constant flow of fresh content to the web user.

3) Product demonstrations: Companies have innovative products that are made in ultra-cool ways. Wouldn’t it be nice to demonstrate how these products work and how they’re made, in addition to the drag-and-zoom options of a photo slideshow? It’s also a good way to boost sales (wink-wink).

4) Celebrations: I’m not talking about company birthday parties. I’m referring to customers celebrating your business. Get customers to film testimonials and post them on your website or Facebook page. Capture your products and services in action – a dog enjoying a new line of chew toys, a solar panel instillation team preparing a house for green energy, or your dry cleaning business accepting an award at an event for excellence in social responsibility.

Prepare

Before your organization dives into online video, make sure you don’t become a deer caught in headlights. First, you’ll want to outline and script each shot of your film – even if there’s only one shot and one subject. There’s also the task of storyboarding. This involves the rendering of the action taking place in each shot. Storyboards can be done on a napkin or made to look beautiful by your graphic designer. Whatever you do – have a plan! These processes of preparation are all part of that plan.

Finally, discover why you are making these videos. What do you think visitors to your website or social media sites will want to see? The two main purposes of online video in your marketing plan are to engage and to tell a story. Will these videos achieve these things? Know your audience before they get to know you.

Promote

There are numerous ways in which you can promote your videos once it goes live. Since YouTube is the fourth most visited website in the world, it would be wise to create a company-branded YouTube channel. If your company has a Facebook page (the second most visited site – now with 400 million users!), you can also post them there and announce their existence on Twitter, the company blog, newsletters, and your website. Online videos can also be optimized for search engines.

Speaking of search engines, I will discuss SEO as it relates to online video in the next blog post about video for your small business. I’ll also get into editing software and techniques, audio issues, and the importance of branding and messaging in your video content. Stay tuned…