By now, we’ve become accustomed to seeing random videos pop up in our news feeds and timelines. It’s hard to remember a time when that wasn’t the case. Video has been the most dominant force in internet advertising since 2011, and it seems like every year since then has been deemed “the year of video.” It’s now been half a decade and video is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, video content is expected to be the driving factor behind 85 percent of search traffic by 2019, and account for more than 80 percent of all internet traffic by the year 2020.
So yes, we’ve been seeing video content for a long time. But 2017 was the year of video content. As will 2018. And probably 2019. And maybe even 2020, if self-driving cars are still not a thing. Video as a concept is a wave that has yet to crest and it’s not too late to dive in, or even restructure your video strategy. There’s not a surefire method to make quality, engaging videos, but there are some basic problems that can be solved on the ground level.
Problem: You’re posting good content on the wrong platforms.
The phrase “video content” is overarching and can refer to any type of moving picture you find on the internet. And back in the stone-age when YouTube was the only way to consume video, that was the only label we needed. But with faster internet speeds and better compression technology, social networking platforms have morphed into social media platforms, and each one has their own unique identity/usefulness.
I spoke with BigWing’s Resident Video Yoda, Chris Hawk, for his thoughts on how each social platform differs and what the potential for monetization is for each:
“Twitter tends to focus on newsworthy videos and short content,” he said. “It’s the wildest mixed bag of the social media platforms for video. Anything goes on Twitter.
Facebook has become so buttoned up as far as advertisements go, that you almost expect to see an assortment of random videos from promoted pages. They’ve recently tried to up their game with video tools to challenge YouTube’s reign on long-form content creators, and you might see many brands posting shortened snippets of their longer YouTube content as multiple uploads via Facebook. This helps their content spread more on the platform, as dominating the feed with more videos will help engagement.
Apps like Instagram and Snapchat are generally more successful with ‘in the moment’ content. Keeping it natural, unpolished, and as real as possible to find success there. Know what the target audience is expecting to see when your video pops up and tailor the content to those expectations.”
Solution: Don’t upload the same video to every platform.
Facebook is the most popular thing that has ever existed (probably), and it hasn’t taken it long to grow into a serious contender for YouTube’s throne. The biggest difference, in my opinion, between the two of them is that YouTube is still a search engine. The videos you watch on YouTube are most often sought out and will live there forever. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Facebook is a news feed and will put the most relevant, timely things on your homepage. This is great for live videos, short demonstrations, and more day-to-day content. Whereas, YouTube is where you will want to put all your important, big-picture videos that you can link to from your website.
Something to consider when making content for mobile platforms like Instagram and Snapchat is that they can cater to vertical video. But, those big black bars on the sides of your video are a Facebook faux pas—and your fans deserve better than that.
If your goal is lead generation, you might want to consider a platform like Wistia (yep, we’re a fan and agency partner).
Problem: Your viral video didn’t make you successful.
The phrase “going viral” seems to be on the tip of a lot of tongues in the modern business world. The mindset seems to be that if you create a video with thousands of views, customers and dollars will come with it. There are even courses popping up at colleges and universities about how to create viral content. But what happens when something actually “goes viral”?
Not a lot, unfortunately.
According to the New York Times, the cost per thousand (CPM) on a monetized YouTube video is about $7.40, and that’s before YouTube takes their (45 percent) cut of the money. Business Insider even met with a couple in 2015 who created a million-view, scripted comedy video that only netted them $180 overall. There are clearly exceptions to every rule, but there also isn’t an algorithm for virality. You’d be better off dedicating your time to winning the lottery than trying to fabricate viral lightning in a bottle.
So, if your viral video isn’t going to make you rich online, it will certainly raise your brand awareness enough that your customer base will expand, right?
Although this is a much more likely success-scenario than making money from YouTube, it’s still not guaranteed. Especially if your video is something unrelated to your brand/product. A video of a cat playing the drums might get you 10,000 retweets, but it’s not going to help you sell your new clothing line.
Sam Priestly is the man behind a YouTube video that generated more than eight million views called, “Guy Plays Table Tennis Every Day For A Year.”
You would think that eight million views, even at the meek $7.40 CPM, would be at least worth a cool $30,000. But, he wrote on his blog back in 2015 that not only did he make less than $1,000 on his video, the spike in traffic to his marketplace didn’t translate to many new sales:
“One of our businesses is a table tennis brand,” Sam said. “That’s a pretty direct link. You’d think that people who could sit through five minutes of me prancing around playing table tennis might be interested in buying a bat? Even before the video went viral, we put a link to one of our bats in the YouTube description. When the video went viral there was a massive spike in the number of views, but no noticeable change in the number of sales.”
Solution: Make branded content that showcases your identity and is made for your audience.
Even if it doesn’t get a million views, it will still have a higher conversion rate than a video of a monkey riding a dog that gets shared 700 times.
My favorite example of this is from a company called BlendTec. In 2006, they started the “Will It Blend” video series on Youtube and have since grown their YouTube channel to 890,000 subscribers, with some of their videos nearing eight million views. Even if they had not been able to achieve viral stardom, their videos still do a great job at showing off their products and personality. They have turned this campaign into dozens of media/award show appearances, and their company has grown by 700 percent since it started.
Here’s a fresh branded video we made for a client.
Problem: You’re investing too much in your promotion/production and not enough into your production/promotion.
This is a classic chicken vs. egg scenario for content creators. You want to make sure your video is technically perfect, but you also know that the more money you pour into promoting it, the more eyeballs it will attract. So, where’s the sweet spot? Do you trust the process enough that you’re willing to bet on yourself and your great ideas to organically grow your audience? Or are you the type of person who sees the time-saving potential of buying some prime placement real estate?
Solution: Preserve your money!
“I’d say to think of your video strategy as a garden,” Chris said. “Grow it slowly and intelligently, and you’re bound to come up with fewer flops and more success down the road. There’s no real recipe for success, but always make sure you have everything covered in your production budget, and that it’s consistent. There’s no point in buying a $3,000 camera if you’re going to buy a $20 microphone and light it with a flashlight. Low budget equipment can be great, just don’t let one piece of equipment far outshine the others.
Start slow on your advertising budget as well. Test audiences, test different video pacing, and explore what people enjoy watching. Once you have a handle on what people like, keep growing from there and learning more about the process.”
The most practical advice for this scenario is to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Different strategies will work for different things. There is obviously no blueprint for this, but cultivating and discovering those strategies while spending as little money as possible should be the goal. Don’t invest in that $3,000 camera until you’ve done enough testing to figure out that your audience is reacting strongly to your professional-quality videos. And don’t give all your money to Facebook to gain those additional views until you’ve molded your ideas into something that an audience will respond to.
Problem: Believe it or not, there are still standards for what people will watch.
So, you’ve decided not to invest in that high-end camera, but there is still a baseline set of technical standards that most people, even subconsciously, consider to be acceptable. Smartphones have come a long way in the last five years and are now more than capable of creating something in high definition. Built-in computer microphones might work for a screen share tutorial, but should be avoided when shooting actual video.
Lighting can make-or-break your entire campaign, and the quality of your content has to be at least high enough that your own mother would not turn it off.
Solution: Be your own standard.
Chris continues to drop knowledge-bombs:
“I think audio is the most important technical standard to set for yourself when recording,” he said. “If you want to dive in with a phone and start shooting videos, the picture may not look perfect, but cameras have generally gotten pretty good at easily capturing watchable video content. However, ask anyone what will make them turn off a video fastest and you’re bound to hear it: bad audio. Too loud, blown out, quiet, or noisy audio can cause insta-cringe from a viewer and result in a bunch of bounces from your video.
Secondly, just make sure the video is easy to watch, and not boring. If you make a video and notice yourself thinking about it and getting bored while you are watching, then I can guarantee you that no one else is going to like it. If you’re bored by your own creation, it’s time to start over.”
These are just a few of the potential pratfalls involved with diving into the world of video. But the low-floor, high-ceiling potential is what has made it an advertising powerhouse this year. And last year. And next year. It’s not too late to course-correct or even start over if you feel like your strategy isn’t working. Video is going to outlive us all.