The dream stream: Best practices in video marketingby
As the old adage goes: “a picture tells a thousand words” – a mantra that has never been truer than in today’s world of instantly accessible information.
Our society has bred consumers who want to receive maximum information with minimal effort. So it’s no surprise that videos telling snappy and engaging stories – at approximately 24 frames (images) per second – are quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to engage customers with a brand.
Sophie Rayers is director of marketing EMEA at Brightcove, notes: "Video is the future of content marketing. That is, if it isn’t already the present. Although creating video content often requires more time and investment up front than other digital marketing assets, the results from a marketing and sales generation perspective are often easier to measure and evaluate."
In 2014, Brightcove commissioned a study with Aberdeen Group to examine the return on investment (ROI) from video marketing, revealing a significant difference between the average website conversion rates for those using and not using video content - 4.8% versus 2.9% respectively.
With such a difference in website conversation rates, these figures mean that companies using video require 37% fewer unique site visitors to generate a marketing response. Equally, websites without video will have to generate 137,000 unique visitors for every 100,000 visitors a website with video needs to generate the same amount of leads.
From a consumer perspective, a study by Internet Retailer found that over half (52%) of consumers say that watching product videos make them more confident in their online purchase decisions, and when a video is information-intensive, 66% of consumers will watch the video two or more times.
It's unsurprising, therefore, that Brightcove's study found that 95% of best-in-class companies – the top 20% based on aggregate performers from the industry average – are currently using video content as a key part of their marketing mix.
Driving higher conversion rates
So, with a new report from Cisco citing that IP video will account for 79% of all internet traffic by 2018, how can marketers ensure that their video content is effective?
"For video to meet its potential, I’d argue that it is first important to get buy-in from the board," says Rayers. "As video content requires a level of investment it’s important to get buy-in from the top early on in the process. Invite decision-makers into the initial meetings about the ‘value add’ – in terms of audience engagement and lead generation – that video marketing will bring to your business."
A further issue to bear in mind, is that video delivery is just as important – if not more important – than the content itself. When it comes to creating branded video content, marketers are quick to invest time and resources but it seems they are failing to hit the mark when it comes to video delivery.
When asked how their branded video experience could be improved, three of the top four consumer responses related to video delivery – better quality streaming (32%), faster launch times (31%) and less buffering (30%). Only one video content feature ranked in the top four, with 33% expressing they would like to see more relevant and engaging content. Clearly, although content is of vital importance, the delivery aspect should not be overlooked.
With this in mind, don’t forget to optimise your content. Consumers are now coming at brands 24 hours a day 7 days a week from multiple devices. It’s important that your video content is optimised for tablets, laptops, and smartphones. Think about the different experiences the viewer will have on each device and ensure that your video content plays back in a high quality manner across any device at any time. A negative viewing experience will reflect badly on your brand. In other words, don’t just think about the quality of your content but also about the quality of your video delivery to your consumers.
A structured approach
Of course, one of the biggest challenges facing marketers is that there is no single piece of video content that will meet everybody's needs. Marketers need to think about the different requirements of people with the content they're using.
James McDavid, senior analyst at Ovum, suggests that marketers should therefore adopt a structured approach, based on the customer lifecycle.
The customer lifecycle features six stages:
Discover: the discovery of a need that can be met by a particular product category.
Explore: The exploration of all their options and research of brands.
Buy: The process.
Use: The experience of beginning to use their new product.
Ask: Seeking support and looking for answers to product problems.
Engage: Initiating and participating i9n conversations with and around the brand.
McDavid believes that marketers can support each of those stages by focusing video content on optimising audience reach in the discovery and exploration phases; concentrating on the depth of information offered during the explore and buys stages; and building positive customer relationships through the use, ask and engage phases.
Not only does this technique help ensure you are delivering relevant video content to the right customers at the right time, but is also allows you to actively guide your customers through the cycle. You can actually use each individual stage of the lifecycle to vector people around. You might move into the engaged stage and want to vector somebody back into the exploration or the buy stage.
And what this demonstrates is that while we're very used to thinking about video operating squarely in the reach quadrant and as part of discovery, actually online video offers opportunities to spread video further throughout the lifecycle.
The customer lifecycle
In the discovery stage you need to ensure your video is offering broad reach and broad appeal; search is king. McDavid suggests promoting your videos with catchy descriptions and optimising them for search with tags and keywords. Think of YouTube as your new search engine. Here, you can supplement your own YouTube channel with paid search video advertising.
Videos focusing on the explore stage need to balance entertainment with practicality; you want content that people will be drawn to and enjoy, but that also offers practical information and will help nudge them through to the next stage of the cycle. Product demos are something to think about here, while remembering that heightening reach is still a critical factor.
Online video can support the buy stage brilliantly. Integrating online video with your ecommerce platform with in-video transactions is just one such example. If, however, interactive video is not suitable or attainable for your particular business, concentrate on using the completion and engagement data to identify leads within the audience.
The use stage is when brands can help customers unlock the value of their purchase. How-to videos have a long life as they offer relevant, useful and in-depth information about specific products and allow the customer to get more value from their purchase. This type of content helps marketers move beyond a campaign mind set into something that is more long-lasting and long-term. This is the first stage where you’re really trying to build a relationship with your customers so this kind of content is great for sparking discussions.
Reaching the ask stage of the lifecycle, customers want easily accessible, comprehensive answers to their product related problems. Companies which know the key challenges that their customers face and the most common questions they get asked can really make use of videos here – answering them on film. The viewing figures for this kind of content won’t be colossal, but that’s not important. Making sure people have the resources they need to self-serve, if and when they require them, is key to building your relationship with them and keeping them in the cycle.
Social is a great space in which to use video in the engage stage. This kind of short-form, social and sharable content is going to generate high engagement rates. People want to watch this kind of content, that mixes utility with entertainment, and they want to share it. Short-form social video is the most consumed type of video online, as mentioned above, meaning that there is great opportunity here. Content that’s seeded in these kind of short-form social video platforms is also a great way to vector people back to other stages of the customer lifecycle.
YouTube was mentioned above, and given its importance to the marketing landscape - YouTube receives more than 1,000,000,000 unique visitors each month, more than any other channel except Facebook - it is also worth reflecting on the findings of Simon Preece, founder of slp consulting, who recently identified numerous best practices in his comprehensive study of brands’ use of the video sharing site.
In his study, he found that many large brands aren’t using YouTube as effectively as they could, Preece concluded that in many cases just a few changes in how channels are structured and how videos are optimised could dramatically improve maters.
Three key areas were identified as key areas that brands should focus on improving:
- Meta data housekeeping – such as the description accompanying a video.
- Using interactive features – such as using clickable annotations in videos. Only 29% of brands questioned were making regular use of in-house annotations, while 54% didn’t include links to other social networks and two-thirds didn’t direct viewers to more content at the end of their videos. More brands should also set up their channels to incorporate user feedback.
- Adopting a programmatic approach – such as consistently publishing content using regular formats, and at the same time each week on a similar theme. Presently, only 11% of brands are regularly publishing content in a programmatic format.
Because there is little text to play with, marketers face challenges getting the video seen, meaning they can rely on a well thought-out title and a few keywords tagged along side it. This can mean that the chances of it appearing in a search are more limited.
This means that putting the right keywords alongside your video is more important than for almost any other type of content. Going through the video carefully to pick out the key words to tag can be time-consuming, but clearly it is important. For those looking for a more scalable option, there are also tools available that can automatically turn subtitles, manual tags, speech, logos, and even faces, into time-based web video text tracks format (WebVTT-format). This means that video can have the same advantage as text files, with the content of the video being analysed, both in terms of what is being discussed, as well as visual images displayed. This can then be uploaded to the internet along with all the associated generated text.
One factor that has undoubtedly contributed to the growing popularity of video as a marketing channel is the dramatic reduction in the cost of producing high quality video.
"Until recently, filming required high-tech camera and expensive sound equipment," says Rayers. "Thanks to today’s ever-advancing technology, these items have transformed into a luxury rather than a necessity for sophisticated video capture. As a result, overheads are much lower, allowing freelancers and regional agencies to achieve professional quality video content whilst sticking to tight content development budgets. Now, good quality video content is far less expensive to make than in previous years, thus helping cut the bottom line."
As with all areas of marketing spend, when investments are made, results need to be calculated. Video marketing is no exception. Metrics are critical to understanding the level of engagement with particular content assets, both to evaluate the content marketing version of ‘return on assets’, and, perhaps more importantly, to understand how customer interaction can inform the business about buying intentions.
The good news for marketers is that video marketing offers unique benefits in this respect, which should make it easier to get buy-in from the board. Rayers highlights the following factors:
- Video has a temporal element: Specific metrics will allow brands to capture how many times their video has been viewed and the duration of each viewing. If the data indicates footage is being watched until the end, they’re likely on to a winner. But if viewers are cutting off mid-way through the content, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
- Video is portable: With more than 40% of the UK's top brand websites still not optimised for mobile devices (Advertising Bureau), the portability of video content makes it a great asset for marketers. Unlike other digital assets, video can be shared across multiple media channels whilst maintaining integrity in terms of measurable tracking.
All of which merely adds to video's appeal. Rayers concludes: "In our ROI-driven marketing world, the facts simply speak for themselves."
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined MyCustomer in 2007.