Back in my day, all online content was text-based. If you had two animated .GIFs on a website, you had to wait 30 seconds for the site to load. Four .jpgs on a site would crash your browser. We were grateful when posts were just words! We didn’t whine about “visual stimulation” or “content variety” back then, let me tell you.
Of course, we also dressed like this:
So maybe we didn’t get everything right. For better or for worse, the early days of the Internet are long gone, and modern consumers want video content. Over half of all people online watch videos daily. And they’re not just watching cat videos and Jimmy Fallon clips: 59% of executives say if text and video are available on the same topic, they prefer the video. And 54% of senior executives share work-related videos with colleagues weekly.
It’s extremely likely that your target audience wants video content. Brands that create useful, engaging video will quickly surpass their competitors who don’t. So whether your brand sells baby strollers or enterprise-level cloud-based SaaS solutions, it makes sense to get into video.
Granted, video can be complicated and expensive. You could spend thousands of dollars on equipment, hire someone to shoot and edit the final product, or turn your conference room into a fully-functioning television studio. But there’s no need to go that far to see if video fits your content strategy.
Here are four cheap ways to get started with video content marketing. But first:
Make Video Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy
Don’t practice random acts of video. As with all your content, your video should fit within your content marketing strategy. That means each video should have a clear objective in mind, a plan for amplification, and a way to measure success. Keep the basic questions of any content creation in mind:
- Who is this for?
- Why should they watch it (what’s in it for them)?
- How will they find it?
- What do I want them to do after they watch it?
Make sure you answer all four questions before you start planning your video content. Once you have your strategy nailed down, you can use these techniques to start creating video without busting your budget.
The easiest way to create video content requires no camera setup, no acting talent, and minimal upfront investment. Slideshow videos combine still images with transition effects and overlaid text. They’re simple to make, but surprisingly versatile and compelling. The simplest way to start is with Facebook’s slideshow creator – it’s a good way to experiment with the form and also create some compelling Facebook ads.
Once you know the basics, there are plenty of inexpensive tools that can create some surprisingly versatile videos. Options like Moovly and Animoto offer everything from stock images to licensed background music for a nominal monthly fee. Here’s a sample of how an infographic can become a compelling animated slideshow with Animoto:
Live Streaming Video
Once you’re ready to get more dynamic with your video content, you can dip a toe into streaming video live. The barriers to entry are lower for live video versus pre-recorded video; people expect streams to be informal, low-fi, and off-the-cuff.
All you need for live streaming is a smartphone and a good internet connection. And, of course, a compelling idea for what you’re going to stream. Here are a few types of content that are well-suited for the platform:
- Behind-the-scenes tours of your facility
- Product demonstrations
- Live interviews at events
- Q&A sessions where you take questions from the audience
Just remember to announce your live streams in advance, so you have time to build an audience. And it’s a good idea to have a partner working behind the scenes to stay on top of comments and monitor audience response.
If you use Facebook to stream, you will get a saved version of the video that you can further promote to those who missed it live.
The next level of video creation is to create polished, edited video, which may or may not be scripted. A “vlog” is the most informal example of this type of content. Vlogs usually consist of one or two people addressing a single camera, with some editing and effects added in after the fact. Think of a vlog as a video blog post, content that might cover the same topics as your written content, but in a more visually compelling way.
You can create a vlog with nothing but a smartphone camera or laptop webcam. But it’s worth investing a little in lighting, camera, and microphone setup for a more professional-looking end product. For example, here is one of the first vlogs that we did for TopRank Marketing, using a webcam and natural lighting:
And here’s a more recent one, using a tripod-mounted camera, a few lights, and lapel microphones:
There’s a marked difference in the quality of the video, with a minimal investment in equipment.
This type of video can be made with the same setup you might use for a vlog – a decent quality camera and a few lights are all you need. But instead of focusing on people reading content, a demo or explainer video focuses on demonstrating a process or giving a how-to. If your product offering lends itself to demonstration, it’s easy to create compelling video that gets watched.
For example, here’s a video made with practically no budget and a smidge of post-production that currently has nearly 40 million views on YouTube:
Tasty’s YouTube channel has great examples of this type of video, too. They use time-lapse and clever editing for lightning-fast recipe videos, and have earned over 3 million subscribers:
Less demonstration-friendly solutions (like, say, cloud-based SaaS) can still use a similar format, with an explanation instead of a demo. Just make sure your video has these basic fundamentals:
- Make it brief (less than five minutes)
- Keep it practical and useful
- Make sure it’s comprehensible without sound (85% of Facebook video is watched on mute)
Lights (optional), Camera (optional), Action (required)!
Video is rapidly eating the internet. As mobile connections get faster and data caps phase out, it will only get more popular. Your target audience is likely already looking for video content about your industry.
You don’t need a substantial investment to try video. Start slow, with slideshows that don’t require any special skills or equipment. Test out live video for a low-stakes next step. Once you have honed your skills and are ready to make minor investments, you can move on to scripted, edited content like vlogs and demo videos.
Learn more about creating compelling video content in our interview with Cisco Creative Director of Marketing Tim Washer.