If You’re Going To Do It, Do It Right: Committing To Your Online Video Strategy

Most businesses wouldn’t argue with the statement that video helps drive consumer engagement. It’s what the video content should consist of that usually sparks the debates. Just what exactly are consumers supposed to be engaging with in these videos? Well, to get right down to the ROI, we must first ask what it is that the business is selling… Products or services?

Historically, product videos have dominated the video commerce frontier. Not surprisingly, they are relatively easy to produce and have a clear cut purpose. Utilizing sight, sound and motion to virtually deliver the product experience, these videos are designed to convince the consumer who may be interested in making a purchase. But what about businesses offering services as opposed to physical goods. These videos can often cross over into lifestyle territory in the guise of cooking guides, fitness tips, DIY how-to’s and so on. Frequently referred to as “branded entertainment”, this category of video is not only reserved for service-oriented businesses and been placed on a trendy pedestal as the future of online video. The ROI can be more nebulous on this side of the fence. Worse, competition can come in the form of ferocious corporate giants with megalithic budgets. That said, it is important for businesses who decide to dive into a video strategy to do so with a solid plan in place and a long term commitment to reach their goals. Ask yourself the hard questions… Why am I doing this? How can I do it better? Who cares?

How a video strategy can fall apart

Many businesses either internally develop a fleeting urge to produce a few videos or externally have their arms twisted into a short lived attempt at programming. Either way, when approached without the proper discipline or foresight, the potential of the video strategy is dissipated before it has a chance to ignite. Most likely, the hard questions are never asked, the path of least resistance is taken and the strategy fizzles out in the short term. Properly adopting a long term video strategy can be daunting to most businesses, especially those with little-to-no technical or media savvy experience. If no internal production team exists, someone needs to be hired or the production needs to be farmed out. Both of these options can be cost-prohibitive, which tends to be the main deterrent for most production aspirants. For those who take the plunge and hire producers and editors as well well as acquiring the necessary equipment, the journey has only just begun. Those who decide to farm out the work face the challenge of effectively communicating their vision to company outsiders, assuming there is a vision to begin with.

What Retailers are Saying

I recently attended the Liveclicker Video Commerce Summit in San Francisco. The preponderance of attendees were retailers worshipping at the shrine of the product video. At one point, the topic of internal versus external production was raised. Scott Anderson, Director of eCommerce for Vitamin Shoppe, expressed concern over risking the sacrifice of authenticity when farming out production. Jon Schroeder, Video Director at Crutchfield, told an interesting anecdote about their proportional lowering of production value and increase of consumer engagement. Patagonia’s Managing Producer, Lisa Hall, talked about their concept of “storytelling videos.”  The latter intrigued me in particular, because these videos take on the much more broad and challenging scope of branding, as opposed to the micro-focused task of documenting a singular product. Despite the fact that Patagonia sells products, it is at its core a lifestyle company. The followers of this culture are captivated by the essence of these storytelling videos, because they capture a zeitgeist that is emulated by the company’s product lines. This is a great example of a business creatively bridging the gap between product videos and branded entertainment.

The science of distribution

Even when captivating videos are successfully produced, only half the battle has been fought. To the dismay of many who have tried and failed, effectively distributing videos online can be extremely difficult. It requires a meticulously aligned matrix of platforms and networks, combined with extensive research, painstaking video SEO and nurtured budgets. In most cases, years need to be spent amassing a community of like-minded individuals who will respond to your videos in the desired fashion. Whether these community members are congregated on Facebook, YouTube, a video site or as email subscribers matters little. In many instances, all of the above are utilized to deploy a single video. Marketing dollars inevitably need to be spent to generate views and the traffic associated with the optional call-to-action. Needless to say, expertise comes in handy here. While the style of production and the unique content of videos are a variable art, distribution tends to be a less forgiving science.

Regardless of your level of know-how, the moral of the story is dedication. If you intend to use online video to drive brand awareness and ROI, then treat it earnestly, as you would any other aspect of your business. Whether you decide to take on the production yourself or outsource it, be prepared for trial and error. We’ve come a long way since 56k dial up modems and postage-stamp-sized players, but the standards for online video are still evolving. Think about who it is you’re trying to reach and deliver your message passionately. Most importantly, be creative!

Matt McGlynn is Production Manager for Bradford Media Group