Before You Start Using Video To Promote Your Small Business, Read This!
According to a recent survey on content marketing, 53% of small business are creating or using some form of content to help sell their services or products. That’s actually remarkably low considering content, while costing time and energy to create, is otherwise free to distribute and benefit from.
What is surprising is that videos are the most common format, used by 72% of the companies involved in the use of content, followed closely by blogging. (click here to view more about the research). Or, maybe it’s not that surprising, given how faddish things are, particularly on social media where the newest hot thing can last months, rather than years.
No question that tons of small businesses are jumping on the video bandwagon without really having any concrete evidence that it works or any planned strategy.
But should they? Should you? You’ll be surprised at the conclusions that follow.
The Claims FOR Video In Small Business Content Marketing
As is often the case for faddish things online, the current advice regarding videos is that if you aren’t doing it, you are getting left behind. So here are a few of the things proponents are saying: (Try this article for ten supposed reasons to do video)
- helps build your brand
- personalizes your business
- allows you to tell a story (and that’s supposed to be a good thing)
- gives you better “consumer attention”
- results in higher engagement
- has a higher retention and completion rate than text
- provides better conversions
Sounds good, right? Well, until you look at the nature of the “research”. For example, the article linked above suggests:
…that 71% of marketers “say video conversion rates outperform other marketing content. Need we say more?”
That’s what they say. There is no cited evidence to support the beliefs. That’s how fads are born and propogated — pretending that if enough people believe something it must be true.
In the absence of hard data, stated in terms of business results, we should assume, before we invest the time and energy in producing videos, that there is little evidence regarding the efficacy of videos to promote services and products, BUT what is far more important — that you can’t assume that video will work for YOU. While it may work in certain niches, it’s unlikely to be effective in the majority of niches.
Why Video Content Marketing Is Ineffective
Before we get to why video content is ineffective here are a few things about video that you probably haven’t considered.
Understanding Video and How It’s Processed
People relate to videos based on their experience with television and movies. We have been conditioned to expect certain “production values” — multiple cameras, flawless sound, excellent graphics, and so on. The quality of a piece of video is viewed within that context.
It’s often the case that even very entertaining videos, say on television or for television commercials are remembered for what makes them entertaining, rather than being remembered for the actual product or service the video is promoting. While video can be memorable, they may not be remembered for what’s important — your services, and products.
Videos are passively consumed. Reading text requires more attention than viewing a video. A video requires no cognition or attention. It plays on its own. Text however, if the viewer/reader chooses to read it, demands attention. And attention is a pre-requisite for retention.
There is very little control over what is remembered from a video. Flaws in the production (bad sound, focusing problems, background noise, clothing, voice issues) may be remembered over the actual message one is trying to convey. (see the picture to the right).
Notice the vertical bars on the image to the right? Ugly, right? That comes from a mismatch between the size of the video as it exists on the camera (probably a smart phone), and the requirements of the platform on which it is viewed (in this case LinkedIn). It’s incredibly ugly, and quite hard to watch because of the distortions of the sidebars.
Video is inefficient for the viewer. Remember that the point of doing a video is to get a message to visitors or viewers. Sadly, the content of most videos can be summed up in text in what amounts to less than a paragraph, and often in one sentence. yet the video may be 2 minutes long. On top of that, videos can’t be skimmed.
Even in today’s world, we are conditioned to view video as entertainment. That’s one reason why instructional videos haven’t taken off. People simply don’t pay that much detailed attention to videos unless they entertain. Animal videos are great. People remember those. But what parts of those? Your videos? No. Unless they are embarrassing or otherwise sensationalist and controversial.
People are used to personalities in video who are smooth and polished. They memorize lines, and they are great at delivering them. Or, they use teleprompters and have professional script writers. Few of us would spend much time watching a movie with terrible acting, poor scripts, and people forgetting their lines. That is why they do retakes until it’s perfect.
An unknown but significant number of people refuse to play videos posted in social media or elsewhere, and/or cannot or will not have sound turned on on their machines. Which is why some people are putting extra effort into providing captions. In any event, that reduces the potential consumer market.
So What About You and Videos
By now, you probably know where this is going, but let’s talk about you. As a small business owner/operator you have a lot of skills. At least that should be the case if you plan on staying in business. Those essential skills that you lack, you either learn quickly, or you pay someone to do tasks that need doing that you cannot.
You have a phone or two that can take pictures and videos. Not the best quality, but “all” it takes to do a video for your business is a few minutes, and some ideas that you want to talk about. OK. You don’t know about lighting….the lack of which can make you look like one of the undead. You don’t really know how to get good sound. What the heck. Everyone is doing it so it must be OK, and since 95% (arbitrary number) of the videos you see are terrible, well, it’s still all good.
You don’t even have to hold the phone to do a video selfie (what, you actually do that?)
What Do You Get?
First, you are probably going to feel embarrassed both during taping, and when viewing it. And chances are you SHOULD be embarrassed because it is almost guaranteed that what you produce is going to look sadly, badly amateurish when judged by most standards. That your “production” may be no worse than most other videos posted by amateurs doesn’t matter. Bad is bad.
But wait. There’s more.
- You stutter, mutter, forget what you wanted to say, look in the wrong direction, or stare into the camera so you look like a lunatic.
- The focus is bad. The camera shakes (doesn’t this thing have anti-shaking built in?),
- You look cadaverous because the lighting is wrong. (Lighting is EVERYTHING).
- The sound is bad, and the background noise is terrible.
…and on and on.
Now, let’s remember that your purpose here isn’t to say hello to your granny, who won’t care if you mumble. It is to create:
- a positive perception on the part of customers and potential customers
- some sort of positive sense of connection with customers, while at the same time coming across as confident, in control, professional, and…well, nice.
- something of value, not just for you, but for viewers, such that using video makes sense over the much more efficient medium of text.
Are you there? Is that what you produced? Good for you if you think so. I’d suggest you have your wonderful video critiqued by people who know what they are doing, and not by your granny. Because very very few people can produce good videos. If they could we wouldn’t need all those people who create news shows, or TV shows, or movies.
If you can’t do it well, don’t do it
It’s pretty simple. You understand that if you are illiterate and can’t write a complete and comprehensible sentence, that writing your own copy or articles is a really bad idea. Why? Because it damages your brand. It sends the wrong impression. It would not encourage people to do business with you. Or trust you. Or believe you.
There are always exceptions.
When Video Is Essential To The Idea
There are topics that lend themselves well to video. One is when teaching someone how to do something on the computer. Screen captures along with narration are very powerful, and convey information more efficiently than any other medium.
Teaching something that needs to be observed for ideal learning to take place? Ideal. There are tons of excellent videos on Youtube teaching people how to play guitar, where even if the video quality isn’t perfect, or the narration smooth, the lesson “works”.
But more to the point, the appropriate use of video — in the case of the computer, or guitar lessons conveys trust and credibility for the teacher. That’s the whole point of video; to create a desire on the part of the watcher to pay to have access to the expertise, or personality of the video presenter.
Another example. let’s say you want to rent out your home a la AirBNB. You could use pictures, and that could work well. But to really make it powerful, how about making a two minute video of the immediate area, highlighting the amenities. Maybe the quality won’t be great, but you aren’t advertising the Ritz here.
If YOU are the product — let’s say you are an entertainer, then get those videos done. Music, comedy, acting…all that stuff is best shown via video.
The rule is simple
Use video when it is the only medium that makes sense for your business, and when no other medium can capture the essence of the experience or the message you are trying to convey.
Doing bad videos is bad for business (unless you are doing it on purpose as comedy). It’s not neutral. Doing it even moderately well takes time, expertise, and a learning curve, and it’s likely that you have far more important things to do business-wise than do selfie videos or spend days on a video that….let’s face it, is going to look pretty much like most other videos posted on the Internet.
Use the medium that makes sense. If you are talking about a Picasso, then use a static image. Don’t sit there on camera talking about the Picasso.
And if you really want a dose of reality, if you’ve been on the Internet in the last week and seen videos, let’s say on LinkedIn, exactly how many did you actually view? Of those you viewed what can you remember about them? Do you remember the name of the people person who made them? Do you recall what they might have that would be useful to purchase? Do you remember how to contact them? Email address, phone number?
Or is it like Granny, who will remember well the videos from her grandkids. Why? Because she ALREADY knows and loves them. Think on that.
PS. The images used here are not meant to ridicule. They are typical of what happens when a frame from a video is shown to visitors as an image. In fact, I have a pretty extensive collection of really really bad videos made by business people who mean well, but simply don’t realize how badly they are impacting their brand and business by posting truly terrible videos. For obvious reasons, I chose not to share these.
Originally published at work911.com on August 22, 2018.