"Here we are now, entertain us!" - Kurt Cobain
I'm not sure if web marketing is what Mr. Cobain had in mind when he uttered those words in the Nirvana song; but it just about sums up where the web is now at in terms of video. It's come of age and it's time to start seriously considering it as part of your web marketing strategy.
Over the last couple of years, I've published articles on audio marketing tools, rich media and also using animated characters in web marketing, but I've always steered clear of full-on video. Why? I just didn't feel that the time was right yet. There were still far too many people on dial-up accounts and the technology was a little hit and miss.
2005 saw that rapidly change and in 2006, the broadband steamroller will just keep gaining momentum. It's estimated that at least 50% of those currently online in the USA have broadband access with many other markets also hitting that level of saturation.
Having said that, it's important to bear in mind that video should only be a part of your marketing strategy, not the whole enchilada :). Remember that dialup users will most probably become broadband subscribers, but you don't want to alienate them while they are still on slow connections.
So why should you venture into video as part of your marketing?
Combating shorter attention spans
People, especially younger people, generally have a shorter attention span these days; there's just so much information out there to try and assimilate. You can cram a lot into a 30 second video/audio spiel that may take many minutes for some to read.
Communication/learning via video is ingrained
Kids' educations are becoming increasing focused around the use of multi-media tools. In my generation we were taught the value of a good book, the joy of having that lump of paper in your hand and flicking through the pages - not so these days. Kids increasing learn via a screen and not just pages of text on that screen. There's a great deal of animation and interactivity involved. The learning methods they pick up at school are then brought into their adult lives.
The human factor
Humans are gregarious creatures, or so I'm told :). The web can be a rather impersonal environment. The use of audio and video can help you to better connect to your audience. You can convey excitement and rev potential clients up; getting them past their hesitation and into purchasing or signing up for your products and services
Video and audio software tools have traditionally been very expensive. These days, you can purchase a suitable web cam for under $50 and a microphone for just a few bucks. Likewise, video software is a heck of a lot cheaper than it was. A good package will cost you a couple of hundred dollars, or you can use subscription services for around $30 a month. Video/audio also tends to chew up substantial bandwidth, but most hosting services provide plenty now, even on basic plans.
Writing articles and newsletter content, while great for attracting search engines, can be extraordinarily time consuming and it's not every site owner's forte. Perhaps you can record a more powerful message with your webcam in just a few minutes instead of spending hours trying to express your thoughts via the written word.
Ease of implementation
The software needed to get video and audio online used to be quite complex. Now it's really just pointing and clicking - no software engineering degree required :).
In previous, video was implemented in a variety of formats, where special plugins were required to view presentations. Blocks like this prevented people from bothering about viewing videos. After all, who wants to download a 5 megabyte plugin just to hear how good your product is?
These days, Flash is becoming the medium of choice for video and the Flash plugin is usually included with most browsers; allowing for a compatibility rate of around 90% - and increasing. Flash utilizes some excellent compression technology these days that allows for small file sizes; making video attractive to even 56k connected users.
g) Boosts comprehension. People want to understand what they are purchasing or have purchased. Many studies have shown that the use of video boosts comprehension quite dramatically over text or just audio alone.
What can I do with video?
The possibilities are endless! Here's just a few:
a) Full motion tutorials and demos of your products. Some people just don't like to read. If you run a support desk or have ever worked in product support, you'll know exactly what I mean. With video, your clients can quickly get the information they need on how to use a product or to assist them in making a purchase decision - they can see the product in action.
b) Introducing yourself to your current and potential clients. A short spiel placed on strategic pages pages on your site can help you connect directly with the client. The client can see that you really do exist and can get a better feel of your company.
c) Create excitement about your products. While the written word can convey excitement, there's nothing like a human face and voice to generate this more effectively. An excited client is far more likely to purchase your products.
Getting video on your site - tools
I've trialed a number of video related tools in the past few days, but the following two really stand out from the rest in terms of cost, ease-of-use and features; and the third is a very economical way to have quality web video presentation produced using professional actors.
The blurb for Instant Video Generator said it was very simple to use and I'm please to say it most definitely was. I plugged in my camera, accessed the interface, clicked record and bam, done. There's no messing around with configuration or export options and all you need to do from there is to embed a single line of HTML code into the pages where you want it to appear.
Instant video generator is a remotely hosted service and your videos are automatically optimized for the best delivery. You can record versions of your video for dialup and broadband users and the files are stored on their servers. Each account comes with support for 3,000 minutes of video.
Instant video generator is best suited for recording human-to-human spiels and also has some interesting features such as video email
Demo Charge is a great application for creating animated demos for use on your site, in emails, tutorials, promotional and marketing materials. You can capture the use of any applications or desktop activity you perform. Once captured, the footage can then be edited and easily exported to many formats, including Flash, AVI, Java and a self contained executable.
If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use Demo Charge - it really does enable to you create professional demos ant video tutorials, complete with audio, in just minutes. Once you gain a little more experience, you can take full advantage of all its very powerful editing features.
Demo Charge currently offer a totally free 20 day demo of their software - it's well worthwhile checking out.
Just what the small business market needed - an economical video production service where they'll supply the actors, do the filming and take care of the implementation! You just provide the script and instructions on how you'd like the actor to dress and behave! If you're camera shy; Live Face On Web may be the service for your business. Read more in my review. It's quite an amazing service and product.
Marketing via video - tips
If you're just starting out in using video and audio, there's a few simple tips you'll want to keep in mind
Give visitors a choice
Don't let your video or audio start automatically. This can not only slow down page load time, but also startle your visitors. The web for the most part is quite a silent place, so an unexpected voice can really put people off. Scaring your visitors isn't a good start to converting them to clients. Let the visitor be in control, but just ensure you embed the video somewhere towards the top of your pages to ensure that it's seen.
Keep video size small where you can
Unless you're creating a demo, there's really no need to have your video full screen. The smaller the video the faster it will load.
You should place your camera at eye level and as close to your computer screen as possible so that you can maintain a good level eye contact with the camera.
Keep mouse movement minimal in demos
If you're creating a demo video of your software product, ensure that each mouse movement has purpose. The viewer will be watching the mouse, so any superfluous movements may confuse.
Script your video
Some people can talk forever about nothing :). Ensure you plan your video carefully. There's nothing more annoying than listening to a person "umming" and "ahhhhing" their way through a speech. Keep a dot point list close at hand so that you remember to cover all major topics. Ideally, the script should be right next to the camera to assist in maintaining eye contact.
Maintain eye contact
If you're making a human to human video, it will lose much of the impact if you're not looking at the camera the vast majority of the time. If you're looking away or casting your eyes down, this can give the impression of dishonesty or uncertainty. It does take a little bit of getting used to looking directly at a camera lens - practice with the camera turned off for a while until you are comfortable.
So important. A deadpan expression is fine when playing poker, but not when you are trying to sell something. Don't force a smile as most people can spot a cheesy grin a mile off. I know that when I try to force a smile, it looks more of a grimace :).
Don't yell and ensure you use appropriate emotion throughout your spiel. Want people to get excited about your product? Sound excited, just don't go over the top!
If you're nervous about being on camera, or have a heavy accent that people who aren't from your next of the woods may have difficulty in understanding; ask a friend or colleague to help out.
Good luck in your forays into video marketing - let me know how it works out for you!
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