We’re toying with the idea of creating more video content for the Econsultancy blog, so I’ve been investigating what it takes to come up with vaguely interesting content. 

To justify the time spent reading around the subject I’ve put together this blog post which looks at some of the issues I’ve been debating.

This is really aimed at content marketers working with a small budget or no budget at all, rather than advertisers.

What are you trying to achieve?

While we’ve been chucking around ideas about what type of video content we might want to do, we keep coming back to the same questions:

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • Will anyone actually want to watch it?

There’s obviously no point in creating video for video’s sake, but to be honest part of our motivation has been simply to try out a new content channel and see if it works.

We know people watch a lot of video online, so we want to see if it’s something we should be doing more of.

For us on the blog team that means coming up with something that’s either useful or informative, or ideally both.

Several times it was mentioned that we should use Rand Fishkin’s whiteboard Fridays for inspiration.

These are really useful to Moz’s audience and it’s an easily repeatable format, so this type of content could work for almost any industry.

The obvious sticking points are that I’m not as charismatic or knowledgeable as Rand, but we can at least try to borrow/copy his format.

From an ecommerce point of view, the most obvious angle would be product demos or perhaps discussions around a particular trend that’s relevant to your shoppers.

We’ve highlighted them several times before, but Simplyhike has created more than 1,000 videos showcasing its different products.

They’re short, well produced, and give shoppers a comprehensive look at products that could never be achieved by photos alone.

And the fact that Simplyhike creates so many video demos should be a clue to their impact on sales.

An employee from a US ecommerce site that sells massage chairs commented on another post that they’ve had the “biggest success with how to videos, and demonstration videos.”

Each chair has several videos explaining how they work. They’re generally no more than a minute or two long, but it enables the company to compete more effectively with brick-and-mortar retailers.

It's no coincidence that this and the Simplyhike example come from ecommerce sites that sell complicated products.

What's the point of your video?

Our own Video Best Practice Guide emphasises the importance of coming up with a brief.

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 in other words, the key is that your video has to be something that your audience wants to watch and that fulfils some kind of business goal.

There is no point in coming up with quirky ideas that you hope will go viral. The main reason being that it’s hugely unlikely to happen, but equally, what’s the point?

Chances are you’ll end up with something awful, like this number from Sapient Nitro.

A more sensible and useful agency video is this speed test from Qubit.

It’s a product demo that pits its software against a barista, something that its audience can easily understand and identify with. 

Short, snappy, mildly entertaining, and fulfilling a business need. It ticks all the boxes.

Another example from the world of ecommerce comes from Zady.

I’ve previously written about the company’s content marketing strategy, which includes some excellent videos.

The homepage features this short video that shows where the wool comes from that goes into its sweaters.

It appears to have a lot of money behind it but the idea is one that can be copied by other brands regardless of budget.

By showing the heritage and origins of its sweaters Zady is able to improve the perception of its products, reinforce its image as a company that cares about sustainability, and improve its conversion rates.

We can’t really do product demos at Econsultancy as people don’t need to be shown how to thumb through a best practice guide.

Instead we’ve considered making video versions of some of our regular features for starters, to see if there’s any appetite for video content in general, and this seems to be the most sensible place to start.

The Friday stats roundup is an obvious candidate. But then is that what our audience really wants? I suspect that the appeal of the stats roundup is that it’s easy to scan it and pick out data that’s relevant to your business.

In written form it can also be copied and pasted elsewhere, which isn’t possible if we just narrate the whole thing on video.

The only way to find out is to test different ideas and formats, which we will do, and we’ll of course share the results.

David Moth

Published 12 January, 2015 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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Charity Stebbins

Charity Stebbins, Content Strategist at Conductor

Hey David, thanks for the window into your content strategy brainstorming! It's cool to get to see the sausage being made.

I think one thing worth pointing out is the value of developing a video content strategy (like any content) down the whole marketing funnel. I noticed that you have a mix of early and late stage examples, but it might be worth thinking about them separately? I've been working on an infographic about this, here's a rough sketch of how I think video content might look down a B2C funnel (but B2B wouldn't be too different):

Awareness -- "how to tie a tie" (educational, not branded)
Consideration -- "Sally's silk ties" (branded videos)
Decision -- "Sally's spring 2015 premiere ties" (a collection/product line)
Post-Purchase -- "Sally's tie of the month" (developing loyalty)
Advocacy -- "Your favorite ties" (user-generated, sharing encouraged)

ANYWAY...just some additional thoughts. It would be interesting to think about Econsultancy's funnel and plan content around that and different personas. Can't wait to see what you guys come up with!

over 2 years ago

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Ian Gregory, Head of Online at Kiddicare

I've recently completed the google analytics individual IQ. I was most impressed with the way that google used video and also annotated the video and featured a "text version" next to the video. The video's were very simple, clear and concise and was an opportunity for google to give examples around the points it was trying to get across. I think the most important thing like anything is the content and also with video you need a charismatic and knowledgeable person in front of the camera.

over 2 years ago

Chris Sheen

Chris Sheen, CMO at SaleCycle

Great article David - As Charity says, great to get some insights into what goes on at Econsultancy towers!

2014 was the year that we really started taking video more seriously at SaleCycle and the one thing we learned above anything else is how important LENGTH of video is...

We've had lot's of success (in terms of views, shares and leads) from our shorter videos - 60 seconds to 3 minutes), whereas the longer form content we've put out, 20-30 minutes of educational lead content, has had far less traction and see's a pretty depressing drop-off after a minute or two...

Ironically of course, the longer form content takes us much more time and effort to put together!

I can definitely see the benefit in a short-form video summarising your Friday stats roundup - that's something I'd watch - but would be best to compliment the great content below so people can still copy/paste etc. like you say! :)

over 2 years ago

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matt wright, Content & SEO at Honed

Target audience, it's all about what journey they want improving with video (e.g.) more info crammed in their 2 min break and how best they like to see it - listicled e.t.c.. This is where the benchmarking stops and the pure audience engagement focus begins:

With Econsultancy it begins with exploratory listicle guides and demonstrations. The Drum recently have stuck to event soundbites, a kind of expert-(photo)-booth approach but it can seem flash-pan unfortunately

The main desire of video is to see collaborate and go further inside of something you can't with images or text, e.g. complex topics, a breadth of information too much for articles e.t.c.

Recommendations:

1. Go with your audience/business instint... e.g. Distilled sell training videos. This instantly improves a service and has an added financial gain from your training.

2. Strengthening your research proposition, how about doing the research via interviews instead of questionnaires? K.I.S.S though.

@matdwright

over 2 years ago

David Somerville

David Somerville, Head of inbound marketing at Fresh Egg

Really useful to see how you're tackling a new area like this David thank you :)

I agree with Charity's comment above regarding the customer funnel. Video is great for that general 'top of the funnel' awareness, but also to give existing users more insight and work on driving actions/conversions.

So having a strategy with video content across the customer funnel/journey definitely makes sense.

over 2 years ago

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Luke Lovell, Creative Director at REM

Over the last few years, online video content marketing and TV broadcast have become more closely linked. We see TV channels adopting user generated content (eg. gogglebox), taking channels online (BBC Three) and numerous example of online production companies producing TV broadcast type films.

One explanation for this is that, now more than ever, online and broadcast are competing for the attentions of that same audiences. So in a world where you can view anything and everything on your ipad, it makes you stop and think; "how are broadcast channels still holding audiences when they are, broadly speaking, committed to a schedule?".

We can offer a few sugestions why this might be the case.
1) TV production is firstly about content - BBC editorial values (it's driving force) state that each programme should inform, educate, and entertain. In fact the econsultancy video marketing strategy document outlines that similar values are needed for online video marketing content. It is no longer the case that if you make an advert, people will watch it - there's too much content out there for that - in fact, as mentioned in this article, it needs to offer more. Like with a TV programme, the audience need to come away from viewing with the feeling that they have gained something from watching. This is essential in a era where everyone is time poor. In TV programme making, "content is king" and the production is merely a "harvesting" of months of pre-production.
A lot of online content is still preoccupied with technical production values and often forgets to tell stories! People like stories.

2) Audiences. How many times have you flicked through TV channels saying "No" to programmes about teenagers having sex in Ibiza, or rolled you eyes at a big bearded repo man taking belongings from a rich american? Maybe you don't say "No" and that's the interesting point - all TV programmes are designed with a in depth understanding of the demographic and psychopathic of its audience and it's content is tailor made for them.
All too often businesses want a "viral video" that appeals to all audiences, when sometimes it is more effective to hunt out your niche, strip back corporate messages, and tell stories that appeal to them using your brand as a conduit.

3) The drive for authenticity. There is so much video out there now that audiences are becoming immune to sensationalism. In place of what used to be awe - watching something amazing happening on a video - there is now skepticism. "That's been faked".
We have become advanced b*lls*it detectors and this is why TV channels have become a safe haven for audiences who want authenticity. Creating authentic online video in our experience can have as big impact on what the audience take away.

over 2 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks for your comments, everyone. They’re all really useful.

@Charity, we actually had a meeting yesterday where we touched some of the points you mentioned, though we didn’t lay it out so eloquently! On the blog team we’re very much at the awareness end of the funnel, which is why ‘how to’ videos seem like the best place to start.

But then we also discussed using videos on our report landing pages as an aid to conversion, and potentially as a subscriber benefit on certain reports or other products. There’s certainly a lot for us to consider at the moment, and I think a lot of it will come down to resource and which videos show the most obvious commercial potential.

@Ian, I agree that transcribing what’s said on the video is very important as some people will want the option of reading the info rather than watching the video. I also agree that you need someone who is natural and charismatic in front of camera - luckily we have several good public speakers at Econsultancy.

@Chris, other brands within Centaur Media have had the same problems with long form content, so it’s something we’d avoid at Econsultancy. I doubt we’d want to do anything over two minutes.

For the stats round up we were thinking maybe 10 stats in 60 seconds, then we can potentially put them on Vine as well.

@Matt, thanks for your recommendations, they’re very helpful. We’ve actually done talking head videos from our events in the past, but I think they were used for marketing rather than on the blog.

We’ve also been discussing ways of monetising videos (e.g. sponsored content, or an upsell as part of specific reports), but that is more something for the research team to consider as we don’t currently do any form of sponsored content or native advertising on the blog.

@Luke, thanks for your in-depth comment. Any video content we produce will (hopefully) be authentic and targeted at our own audience. I don’t know about the storytelling aspect, unless you consider a two-minute ‘how to’ clip to be a form of short-storytelling ;)

over 2 years ago

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Luke Lovell, Creative Director at REM

@David no worries. It's good to have a good old chin wag about video content. I hope some of it helps.
Funnily enough 2 min 'how to's' video are a great example of story telling.
You start with the audience living with a problem (Equilibrium), you identify the problem (disruption), you offer the solution through the product (realisation), you explain how to solve their problem using the product (quest to restore), and you end up with - no more problem (new equilibrium). An equation fit for any campfire. :-)

over 2 years ago

Suds Singh

Suds Singh, Founder at InterestingContent.co.uk

With the popularity of Instagram (I assume Instagram short form video) What are your thoughts on shorter more bitesize videos for Instagram/ Vine? Will we see B2B brands engage with micro form videos?

over 2 years ago

Tim Aldiss

Tim Aldiss, Consultant/Director at ThinkSearch

Google recently published their approach to video strategy. Instead of the "three A's" that at FatSand we use for planning our client video strategies (Awareness, Action, Advocacy) they have chosen three H's! Hygiene content represents the every day how-to, FAQ content that should be frequently created videos; Hero content, which is the more promotional content designed for enthusiasts and those already passionate for the brand; and Hub - the crowning glory of a great infrequent piece of film designed to lure in new customers.

Whether you like the terminology or not it's a good way of ensuring a cyclical nature to video content creation. Ensuring your strategy is joined up and across media is of course the trick to it all.

I can't find Google's PDF online but the Guardian did pick it up and write a piece on it earlier this month: http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/jan/06/youtubes-hero-hub-hygiene-content-strategy-should-not-be-confined-to-video

over 2 years ago

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