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Video is one of the most effective forms of digital content, but also one of the most difficult to get right.

The beauty of video is that it’s both versatile and shareable, so it can be used for a range of functions (e.g. product demos, adverts) and can gain your company huge exposure in the process.

And the stats are certainly appealing. Data included in a report from the IAB shows that in 2013 video accounted for 12% of all time spent online, while separate data published on the Guardian indicates that one in three Britons watch at least one online video per week. 

In relation to ecommerce, we've published a number of case studies which show how video can improve conversions if used correctly.

But how do you go about the tricky task of devising your fledgling video strategy?

I’ve delved into the Econsultancy Online Video Best Practice Guide to bring you some advice on where to start.

Download the full report for a comprehensive look at this topic, which includes information on strategy, budgets, SEO, analytics and more.

The four strategic pillars

Steffan Aquarone, the report’s author, suggests that marketers start with four basic steps:

  1. Understanding audiences.
  2. Creating content.
  3. Managing distribution.
  4. Measuring and attributing success.

1. Understanding audiences

Internet users have the world at their fingertips, so if your video isn’t interesting entertaining, useful or informative then they’ll simply click away.

Creating content that people want to watch can’t be achieved purely on subjective opinion, it requires research into what your audience requires.

According to Jeremy Stinton, strategy director at Buto:

Really understanding your audience and validating that you understand them, rather than just thinking you know what they want, is absolutely vital. 

Start by understanding the problem and creating the strategy first before going anywhere near the content.

This process should involve some aspect of audience profiling (e.g. age, gender, lifestyle) alongside research into your sector and target customers.

Once you have identified your audience you can begin to look at which online communities they are part of and where they look for information.

You should also consider paying for some market research into your audience, particularly when it comes to testing the creative. 

An online focus group will tell you whether your video is relevant before you set it live and potentially waste all your time and effort.

Remember, if the content isn’t informative, entertaining or useful, then your marketing messages won’t get through, simply because people will have moved on to something else long before they’re even mentioned. 

2. Creating content

In the grand hierarchy of online video, adverts are very much at the bottom of the pile.

Internet users like watching music videos, celebrity news, cats or funny stunts. They don’t go on YouTube to admire the pre-roll ads or search out the latest offering from their local second-hand car dealer.

Therefore, once you’ve defined your target audience the next step is to work out how you’re going to get their attention.

So whatever your strategic objective, the key to creating effective content is the brief that starts it all off.

According to Aquarone:

Briefing is the single biggest point of failure in most online video projects for a frustratingly simple reason: people mistakenly brief based on what they think should be in the film, rather than the change in thinking, motivation or behaviour they want it to effect in their audience.

So regardless of whether you’re working with an agency or doing it all in-house, at some point you’ll need to move into a creative space and think about how to craft your content.

3. Managing distribution

Much has been written about brands becoming publishers, but with the rise of online video they are now also becoming broadcasters.

The full report examines different distribution channels in more detail, but it’s necessary to point out at this stage that distribution should lie at the heart of your video strategy rather than being an afterthought.

For example, if the video is to be used on-site then proper testing must be implemented to optimise the video’s position in the user journey. 

But if the content is designed to be used off-site or as part of a marketing campaign, then the correct approach to distribution is necessary to capture the widest possible audience.

This graphic from Ogilvy gives an outline of the difference between paid, owned and earned distribution channels:

4. Measuring and attributing success

A fundamental part of the planning process is putting in place metrics and KPIs that tie into the business goals.

These metrics then need to be analysed to help inform future campaigns.

Step-by-step, this involves:

  • Deciding what you’re measuring (your KPIs).
  • Having the systems in place to capture the right information.
  • Knowing how to interpret the data that comes back.
  • Changing what you do as a result. 

Unless you can present your reporting in response to a question such as “how did our video strategy compare to pay-per-click in cost per visitor?” the information is data for data’s sake.

And unless you do something different as a result, the whole effort will be pointless. 

For more information on this topic read our posts on content marketing for YouTube made easy and 15 quick tips for a successful YouTube strategy.

David Moth

Published 15 July, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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