Let’s get one thing straight, if you want to use video as a way to market your business, you’re going to have to learn about production.
This whole idea behind “all you need is a webcam” is pretty much garbage. Don’t believe me, when was the last time you watched someone’s webcam video for extended periods of time? To be fair, it’s sometimes true that a webcam is all you need, but only if you have an engaging video personality. And let’s face it, being good on video is not a skill that most people are born with.
I’d love to tell you otherwise, but one look at the YouTube Trends blog would suggest otherwise.
Big businesses are savvy now and they’re throwing more money into production. If you want to be competitive, you’ve got to have some skills.
What Skills Do I Need?
In order to create videos that are going to be worth your audience’s time, you (or a team) are going to need to have a solid handle on at least these 5 areas:
A Basic Understanding of SEO
These basic components are in the DNA of nearly every video that spreads online.
This is the foundation. Without a basic understanding of how to tell a story, there is no way you’re going to make a video that’s worth watching.
Being a good writer is not as essential to being a good storyteller, which is why some unscripted talking to the webcam videos can work, but it is certainly essential if your story isn’t compelling enough on it’s own.
Consider these two people talking about food:
(I dare you to watch for longer than a minute and a half)
and the now popular Dayum Drops:
In the Five Guys Review, even though the host is talking to the camera the entire time, his personality, and his ability to move through the story from start to finish keeps you watching the entire time.
In real life, you or I might just cram food into our faces without much thought for story (even if it’s tasty). His expression, however, makes you vicariously experience this moment of bliss when he bites into the burger. His ability to vividly tell the story of eating a Five Guys cheeseburger makes you want that experience, which is a ringing endorsement for the Five Guys brand.
Dayum Drops has such an engaging personality, he can take a mundane event and turn it into an experience with no script at all. On the other hand, the show “Tales of Mere Existence” tells the story of mundane events, but with clever writing and a dry voice over (if only to emphasize the mundaneness of it all):
At the end of the day, good storytelling is the foundational element that separates the competent videos from everything else. It is also often the missing element in most online videos. Without a good story, there is nothing to build on, so the video is destined to fail.
A few key resources on storytelling and writing:
Terrible Mind’s 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure
Lew Hunter’s ScreenWriting 434
Stephen King’s On Writing
One thing I can say with the utmost sincerity is good video is more about what’s taken out than what’s left in.
If you want to make good videos, you’re going to cut the script. You’re going to move your story structure around. You’re going to shoot things that will never see the light of day.
Editing is the most frustrating, most time consuming, most rewarding experience.
It happens in two phases:
Pre-Production: This is where you’re plan your video. You write your script, figure out your locations, and plan your camera angles.
After you’ve planned your story and written the first draft of your script, it’s important to cut out all of the parts that are superfluous. Then, once you’ve written your script (even if it’s as something simple as a burger review) you need to read it aloud so you can rewrite and cut all all parts that do not move the story forward.
If you’re shooting “on location” it may become necessary to edit the script again. More often than not, you’ll find certain things don’t work as well in real life as they did when it was just you and your computer.
Your script may need to be edited frequently throughout the entire process. So long as your edits are ultimately serving the story, frequent editing is okay.
Post-production: After all of your footage is shot, it’s time to put it all together. This is the part where most people just aren’t willing to put in the time, probably because editing a video is very hard work.
It has been said that in the average 90 minute move there are over 5000 cuts. Editing is what makes the video. It controls the pace of the story.
“The choice and length of shots shape our response to everything we see on the screen… It’s the reason we like movies, because in the end, wouldn’t we like to edit our own lives?” – The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing
See what James Cameron has to say about this build up in Terminator 2:
A major Hollywood production shoots nearly 200 hours of film, the editor may work for months, even years, turning those 200 hours into a 90 minute movie. Professional video bloggers do it too, just much quicker.
Try watching only the first 14 seconds of this video. You’ll see what I’m getting at:
Did you watch all 3 minutes? Me too.
You may have heard him mention the “Rule Of Thirds” at the 0:27 second mark in the video above.
This is what he was talking about:
The Rule of Thirds is the basic building block for video composition and is an even older component in that visual language we were talking about earlier.
If your video involves complex movement and editing, you need to storyboard to organize your thoughts. Yes, it takes more time, but it’s a lot less complicated than getting to your set and trying to figure everything out on the spot. One of the major signs of a rookie video maker is someone who is not able to visually communicate the story. Be sure to have an idea of how your story will flow before you start filming, otherwise you risk losing your audience.
Here’s a whole series of videos about storyboarding on Vimeo.
If nobody sees your videos, do they really exist?
The truth is, there are volumes upon volumes of content about how to effectively social network. Heck, I even made a video about it myself:
But in my experience, I’ve found that the best networking for showing off your videos happens in person.
If the thought of showing your videos to people in person freaks you out, there’s a simple solution: Make better videos.
A Basic Understanding of SEO
Basic SEO deals with the findability of your content, but I put this component last because assumptions are too often made that if your video is findable, then it’s going to convert.
This couldn’t be any further than the truth. If your video is good, it’s going to convert. If it’s findable, that’s just icing on the cake.
So what do we do to make it more findable?
Title Tag Optimization
Simply put, what phrases are people typing in if they wanted to find your video?
You probably already thought about these keywords while making your video, but what you probably didn’t realize is that in addition to using the Google Keyword tool, you should also be looking at the YouTube Keyword Tool.
Don’t make the assumption that because 10,000 people are searching for a particular keyphrase through Google, that they’re going to be searching for it in YouTube as well. Remember, most people are going to YouTube for entertainment or very specific types of tutorials, whereas Google can be used to search for anything under the sun.
For example, Google’s keyword tool returns 49,500 global monthly searches for the phrase “landing pages”, while YouTube’s states “Not Enough Data”. The term “make money online”, however, returns 368,000 and 20,000 respectively. Therefore, look at both places and try to find the middle ground between them.
Title Tag Optimization
It’s important to use your Keyword phrase in the title, but be careful not to make it look spammy.
Here are the first 4 examples for for the phrase “KettleBell Workout”:
Notice how each one gives you a very specific idea of what the video is about. Each one offers something a little different, but gives the searcher the freedom to choose what is going to be best for them. For reference YouTube’s keyword tool shows 21,600 searches for the phrase, while Google says 49,500; that’s a perfect sweet spot for keyword optimization.
Notice how the words “KettleBell” and “Workout” are bolded in the description area of the videos? That’s because the video producer remembered to add them throughout the description.
Include your Keywords, but don’t overdo it. Google loves going slaphappy on spammy content.
Also, don’t forget to include a link to your desired call to action as high up in the description. If you want people to share the video, use a service called ClicktoTweet.com. If you want people to opt into a mailing list, insert a link to the landing page you want them to go to. It’s as simple as that.
This is a big one that many creators often skip, because it can be a bit of a tedious process.
If you were smart in your planning, you created a script of your dialog ahead of time. Open up that script in Notepad, remove everything except the dialog, and save as a .txt file.
Then, add your transcript to YouTube:
Aside from making your hearing-impaired and international viewers happy, this also gives additional content for the GoogleBot to index when they’re trying to determine which videos to rank into the searches.
See, GoogleBot can’t watch videos (poor guy) so he looks for as much relevant information on the page as possible in order to determine what he should put into Google’s main search.
This isn’t a fool-proof tactic by any means, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances.
Notice the top two video results in the Google Search for “KettleBell Workout”:
They’re the first and third results from the search we did on YouTube above. The #1 video result here does not have a transcript, but the #2 result does.
So again, it’s not an exact science, but even if you don’t end up ranking in Google, many of your viewers will still appreciate it because having text that coincides with your video often helps people retain the information better.
A Few More Notes
Play to Your Strengths
If you’re not funny, don’t try to ham it up. If you are don’t get too concerned about doing it right.
Even Hubspot has their own in-house SEO rapper:
Encourage Video Responses
On YouTube the hierarchy of social currency looks something like this:
View count (least important)
Like (slightly more important)
Comment (pretty important)
Video Response (most important)
These factors all play into how your videos rank for any given keyword on YouTube. Of these, the video response is the most important because it requires the most investment from your viewer.
“But how to I encourage video responses?” you ask.
Chances are, your customers are going to be pretty camera shy, which means you’re going to have to think outside of the box.
The most obvious thing you can do is network with fellow YouTubers since you already know they’re comfortable on camera. Because video comments and responses are so important, you may consider responding to one of their videos first before asking for the return favor.
Just like other web content, links and embeds on relevant, high quality websites signal to YouTube and Google that your video is one of the good ones.
If you need places to scout for links, plug in a major competitor’s channel URL intoopensiteexplorer.org:
If you’re not a paid member, you’ll only get 10 results, but this provides you with a starting place to give you an idea of where else you should look.
It may seem counterintuitive to encourage inbound links that point anywhere other than your website, but remember that YouTube and your website are two entirely different properties. Having different people link to each place means you have more chances of dominating the search rankings with your content on a given keyword.
Like I said in the beginning, if you want to use video marketing for your business your first concern should be creating high quality videos.
If your video isn’t funny, or shocking, or scary, or extremely informative and full of personality, the effort of marketing and promotion will be fruitless. Focus on marketing only after you’ve created something worth marketing, otherwise it’s just a ton of wasted effort.
Have you noticed the “recommended videos” that show up on the right sidebar when you’re watching a video on YouTube? Those are the videos that have the highest retention rates, so if people aren’t watching your videos all the way through, you’re not showing up as recommended. If you’re not showing up, you’re missing out on more potential viewers.