How to Win with Video for Small Businesses

Today’s post is guest-authored by Phil Nottingham of Distilled, a creative online marketing company.

Screencasts can be fantastic marketing content for small businesses—they’re cheap, easy to do and can provide a great return on investment. A brilliant example of this is the WordPress Guide to Small Businesses. Here, using easy-to-follow video tutorials and links to articles and resources, the folks over at Simply Business simplify the daunting process of setting up a website.

Screenshot: WordPress for Small Business tutorialsSo what are the benefits of the screencast format?

More often than not, the biggest challenge when creating content is determining which media type(s) will best communicate your message.

While there are already many guides to using WordPress out there, Simply Business felt that there was a gap in the market for one which was specifically tailored to small businesses who wanted to create their own website quickly and easily. Most of the other guides out there are long-form written content which can be daunting to negotiate for a time-pressed business owner. Additionally, many of the existing guides are aimed at ‘advanced’ users.

Making website creation as easy as possible for novice users was the primary aim for this piece. Since the content is essentially a series of short tutorials, they felt that screencasts would be easier to follow than written posts, which might overwhelm users.

For this process, Camtasia is the perfect tool. Camtasia automatically records mouse clicks, allows you to zoom in on different bits of the screen you’re recording, records vocals, optimises sound quality, and offers a framework for compositing and branding your content to make it visibly your own. For the WordPress Guide, Distilled used a Samson Meteor to record the vocals, which can be picked up for under $100. The Simply Business Ident was created in Apple Motion ($50) and then everything else was pieced together in Camtasia Studio.This brought the total cost for content to $450.

Here’s an example of one video from the WordPress tutorial series.

(Can’t see the embedded video? Watch it on YouTube.)

So, what results did they see?

At the time of writing, Simply Business have seen the following results off the back of this guide:

  • 198 Facebook ‘likes’
  • 557 tweets
  • 170 shares on Google+
  • 104 ‘Pins’ on Pinterest

They’ve also seen links from more than 115 websites including SEOmoz, Search Engine Journal and WPMU.

Will video work for your content?

“A good idea can still fail if you choose the wrong format”
–Mark Johnstone, Beyond Linkbait (buy full recording)
SearchLove 2012

The most common mistake when it comes to creating video is to see this as content just like a blog post or interactive graphic – rather than as a unique format. Of course, it’s not surprising that video as a medium is not always an appropriate media type for every kind of idea or story. If you ever find yourself trying to “convert” content into a video, rather than developing the video idea organically, then that’s a pretty good indication that things have gone awry in the creative process.

Luckily, there are two easy ways of working out whether or not an idea will work well as a video. The first is to ask:

“Would this content lose something if it were just text and image?”

You only have to look at the viral success of the ‘Will It Blend’ video series to know that showing images of an iPad being put into a blender along with some accompanying text doesn’t really have the same impact as actually seeing the technology caught all up in the blades.

The second question, which should give you an idea about what the appropriate format is for your piece of content, is :

“Does the idea or content require aesthetic as well as conceptual engagement?”

If an idea requires a visual or aural element for it to be interesting—then you can be fairly certain that it could work well as a video.

High quality content doesn’t mean high production value

Clearly, only organisations with huge marketing budgets can consider Hollywood-level production and animation, but that doesn’t mean small budget video can’t be extremely successful. Stock footage isn’t that expensive and is a great way of building a variety of different “difficult to source” shots into a video. If you’re doing advertorial content with little time and a small budget, stock footage can be a great way to showcase professional production values for almost anyone.

If your company is working on a TV advertising campaign, consider spending a small amount of budget to produce some additional online-only video content. This can help can help to boost how effective your campaign is by offering even more content for users to share and engage with online.

How to win with video

Just like with any other piece of content, work on the plan. The content strategy is the road map that leads you to create exceptional content. Create a strategy that includes linkbait (but isn’t all linkbait) and figure out where you can leverage the content for link building. Alongside this, you should also work to create a separate link building strategy that drives additional links above and beyond what your content can do alone. The link building strategy is how you plan on getting those links.

Make sure you cover both of these steps – simply producing a piece of linkbait isn’t a content strategy and vice versa. Why should you know (and care about) the difference? Because getting linkbait and content strategy confused can set your team up for failure. Miss one part and you could be missing an important piece of the big picture.

For an even bigger win, consider how you can coordinate with your social strategy to really leverage both your content and link building efforts. The key here is collaboration and integration, which will ensure you don’t miss opportunities for a win.

This all sounds great but how can I get this to work for my company?

Put quite simply: Create content that you, and your audience actually cares about.

The approach Simply Business took was to find out what their customers cared about, but that perhaps wasn’t currently explained particularly clearly, in layman’s terms, anywhere on the web (in this case, how to set up a site using WordPress).

Ask questions

All the best pieces of content start with a question that needs to be answered. This idea works the same for video as it does for infographics or blog posts.

Become an expert in your field

Or find one. Don’t know much about the area or data you’re looking into? Find someone who does, to make sure the data you’re talking about is credible. This will add tons of value to your video, which in turn will make it that much more shareable.

Carefully plan your videos before recording

With this all set, you’re now ready to use Camtasia to document this process. You’re looking to tie together visual demonstration, with an easy to follow voice over that gives specific actionable recommendations, along with simple explanations where necessary.

Verbosity is the enemy of comprehension here, so aim to compose a “lean and mean” script & storyboard with your expert, before you sit down to record the screencast and audio. If your performer is inexperienced with voice overs or using the software, splitting up the video into a series of short, digestible chunks can be a good way to minimize the amount of takes you need to do before getting something right and will also aid with retaining audience engagement later down the line (few people sit down to watch tutorials/informational content lasting over 5 minutes).

When launching your campaign, making the videos easy for people to share with a visible call to action is imperative in order to maximise views. This can be done through adding social buttons and an embed code around the video frame itself. If you’ve compiled your videos into a graphic, as Distilled did with the Simply Business Guide, then typically having a singular call to action for the page (“share this page” rather than “share each video”) is a better way compound the effect of each share and build virality into the framework of the promotion.

The end goal

When your goal, as in this example, is generating links or shares back to your own site—then the content must be absolutely exceptional. People don’t embed or link to mediocre videos. If someone embeds a video on their site, it has to be because they want their readers to temporarily disengage from their own content and spend time watching yours. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the production quality has to be ground-breaking, but rather that the content must serve a specific need or interest of a defined group—and serve this need extremely simply and effectively.

Further learning

Want to read more on creating and implementing great video? Here at Distilled, we’ve been working on a pretty extensive resource on integrating video within your marketing plan; the Distilled Guide to Online Video Marketing. The guide works to demonstrate the ways of using video to engage with your audience as well as showing examples of best practices.

About the Author

Photo of Phil Nottingham, SEO consultant, Distilled Phil Nottingham is a web marketing consultant at Distilled and renowned expert in search engine optimisation for video. Hailing from a mixed-disciplinary background in theatre and broadcast technology, Phil relishes the challenge of integrating the creative with the technical and now works to discover and implement the best ways of using video for business benefit on the web.