Take a tip from YouTube, Broadband Sports and Google Video, and take advantage of the popularity of online videos. The fact is that consumers have decided that online video content is one of their preferred formats. Whether you’re trying to promote your products and services or you’re offering tips that could benefit existing or potential customers, online videos are relatively inexpensive to create and can offer a healthy ROI. So jump on the trend and capitalize on the content everyone is asking for. Here are a few ways you can use online videos in your business:
- Promotion (especially as the line between ads and content has blurred in the world of rich media, companies are finding that audiences are especially willing to accept marketing if it’s skinned well inside of entertainment)
- Training (for complex products and services, online video series can be archived and used to train sales staff or your potential buyers)
- New product demonstrations (Can’t explain it well in a PDF or in a single ad? A 1-minute online video may be all you need.)
Take a cue from the prosBefore you start, take a look at some of the ways other businesses are using video, from humorous ads to interesting training programs.
Invest in a cameraVideo cameras have dropped in price at the same time features and quality has increased. Now you can pick up a decent camera for a couple hundred dollars, and a really nice amateur-videographer’s camera for around $1,000, or an entry level pro camera for about $3,000. Options to look for include a line in for external microphone, an attachment for a camera-mounted light, image stabilization, compatibility with a tripod, and quiet motor noise. Nicer cameras have more than one CCD image sensor; they will use three. The result is a much more accurate image, though this may be overkill if you solely plan to use the video on a Web site. HD ready cameras are dropping in price. They are nice if you want to use your footage on TV, but aren’t necessary if you’re just going online with the content.
Use editing softwareJust shooting the video isn’t enough – you need to put it in a decent format. You can outsource this or do it yourself with some simple software. For the software, look at ones that can “rip” video coming off of your camcorder. A general rule as you move into the editing process is that you will need a lot more raw video than you may believe. Shoot everything from different angles and get more video than you think you need. Then take the best of the best so you can keep your video lively.
Host the videoYou’ve shot the video and edited a nice little package. Now what do you do with it? You can host it on your own site (though high numbers of downloads may exceed the bandwidth your ISP permits), or you can go elsewhere.
- Get some training. Making quality movies is something people can study for years to become proficient. Check with your local colleges to see if there are “community enrichment” classes you can take to improve your skills. Above all, don’t be embarrassed with your first attempt. Chalk it up to experience and then take what you learned to the next video.
- Because you’re using the video for a commercial purpose, you need to make sure to get permission from any persons who are captured in your short film. Get them to sign a waiver recognizing that they may be featured in your works.
- Keep videos short. TV crews know that our attention spans aren’t what they used to be, and they capitalize on short segments, with few static shots (no video of a man behind the desk talking for five minutes, please!) This goes back to the old mantra of “Show, don’t tell.”
- When shooting, use the rule of thirds. It’s a common mistake to try to center everything. The “rule of thirds” is the theory that you should visualize a tic-tac-toe grid on your screen and try to center your most important video element on one of the four points where the lines intersect. Don’t place the subject of the video in dead center of the screen, move them to the side to create some “drama” to the image.
- Convert existing videos. Already made a video that’s on a VHS tape or a DVD? Get your local video services firm to convert it for you.
- Offer videos in different formats. We’re not all connected to T-1 lines, so consider offering low, medium and high-speed connection versions, as well as different file formats like .wmv (for Windows Media Player) or .mov (for Quicktime).
- Watch the bandwidth. Many companies pay for website hosting based on how much server bandwidth is used. If you start using your website to distribute lots of video (which requires lots of bandwidth if your vides become popular), you may “max out” your capacity and find you need to upgrade with your hosting provider. Some companies have been surprised to find their websites temporarily “down” because they went over their bandwidth limit.