Avoid the Pitfalls of Home-Grown Online Videos

So, you’ve decided that it’s important to get some video on to your website. Now, the question quickly turns to content. How to get it? What should it do? And most importantly, how will we get it?

It’s natural for many online marketing teams to take stock of the skills and abilities of their existing resources to create original videos. The benefits are obvious: your staff knows the products already, it doesn’t cost much to get a Flip Mino, and you can bribe your staff to talk into the mic with little more than donuts.

Cameraman with Flip Mino Setup

Cameraman with Flip Mino Setup

But, there are some important considerations to using your in-house staff for on-camera talent. Here are the biggest challenges to consider for your own online video program:

Making videos is not your team’s main responsibility.

Most likely, your team already has a very busy schedule. They are working hard to drive results, stay ahead of the competition, and improve the bottom line. In this context, making a video can sound frivolous, or even wasteful. Even when you have a strong business case for creating online video content, the rest of your team has their own performance metrics.

In this case, it’s important to set clear expectations around the commitment that you are requesting. Is everyone going to do one video, that will take about 30 minutes to shoot? That’s a reasonable request. Are you asking your head of customer support to star in an epic 10-part webisode series? She might not have the time…or worse, bail out after episode five.

You want customers to focus on what you’re selling.

If your in-house staff is not naturally comfortable on camera, shooting video can become a painful experience for everyone – including your customers. Narrators, talking heads, and product reviewers all need to be comfortable and relate well to viewers on camera so that the customer can focus on the product you are featuring. Unfortunately, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and awkward video is just as shareable – schadenfreude is most active in social media. You want the video to be engaging for the right reasons: interesting content and deeper experiences with product.

If a video is painful to watch, it will not be successful for the right reasons.

To combat this, plan to shoot a long lead. Start rolling the camera, then casually chat with your subject, so they can try and forget that the camera is there at all.

Production values don’t matter as much – but they still matter.

One of the great benefits of online video is that users don’t expect broadcast-quality video experiences. It’s OK if the subject is not perfectly centered, or if the lighting is too bright. Years of grainy home movies on YouTube have trained online audiences to find relevance in imperfect video footage.

Still, you are representing your brand. So, you don’t want to make the viewer nauseous from camera shake. Don’t assume you automatically have a technical team that knows how to get quality, usable footage quickly.

Take an assessment of your team’s skillset early. You may find you have a family videographer on staff. If not, you can create a plan to fill that need with advance notice.

The biggest challenge: What if you’re right?

Your wildest dream has come true: your videos are a huge hit, and they get tons of traffic. They drive conversions. They start conversations. They get passed around on Twitter and Facebook.

But, success comes with its own challenges. First and foremost, if a program is working, you will want it to grow. But that might mean rethinking your current team structure. If your analytics guru is creating killer videos, you may need to take some of the analytics responsibilities off their plate. What are the implications to the rest of your marketing efforts?

These challenges might seem far in the future, but consider how quickly something can go viral on the web. The Old Spice campaign racked up 6 million views in the first 24 hours.

The way to future-proof your video program is by having a mix of content, using different contributors. Jimmy Healey, Senior Manager of Social Media and E-Commerce at Onlineshoes.com does a nice job of this – balancing himself being in the videos, with the rest of his team. That way, viewers don’t expect to always see Jimmy, and they get more chances to hear from “someone like me.”

Here’s a video of Jimmy:

Another challenge that comes from success is the potential for your content creators to leave the organization. If you’re planning on having one spokesperson, make sure their personal brand is strongly intertwined with the organization’s brand. Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” videos do this well. The main star of these videos is Blendtec’s own CEO, Tom Dixon.

Here’s one of my favorite recent “Will It Blend?” episodes: Vuvuzelas!

Have you used in-house talent for your own online videos? What were the challenges or unexpected benefits? Let me know in the comments.