Promote your business with online video

Use short videos to get the word out about your products or services to the people who need them

Whether you're General Motors or the corner convenience store, you probably could use a little more business. The question is how to get the word out about your products or services to the people who need them. One hot technique these days is to use short videos.

If you're not convinced that video can help your business, consider the viral marketing success of the incredibly nerdy "Will It Blend?" videos created by Tom Dickson, founder of Blendtec. The videos became an overnight sensation on YouTube, and according to some sources, sales increased by 500 percent. Not too shabby for spending a few minutes in front of a video camera and a little editing effort.

Why Video?

Video on the Internet is still novel enough to be compelling in its own right. People now routinely use the Web to search for information about products or services that they want to purchase. And if you can dig up a typical Web site's traffic patterns, you'll find that an enormous percentage of site visitors click away from the site in less than a few seconds. They scan the text and pictures and make a snap judgment about whether or not the site has anything to offer them. It is extremely difficult to get them to read all the way through the home page, let alone click through to get more information on subsequent pages.

In contrast, once they start, people are more likely to watch video clips through to the end than they are to read a whole Web page. This gives you a better chance to engage them and get your message across.

What's your message?

The most important step is to determine what you want to tell your audience. Maybe you have a novel product or service that customers may not understand. In this case, an "education sell" might be most appropriate, in which you explain the category as a whole and the benefits it offers. If the product or service is familiar to your prospects -- such as buying a house -- then you want a "comparative sell" that showcases the advantages that your particular product or service has to offer. Or maybe you want to use a "promotional sell" message that makes a special offer such as a discount or bonus item for people who see the video.

Designing your video clip

Keep it short. Four or five minutes long is a good limit for a promotional video. If it runs longer than that, your audience is likely to lose interest and click away. Also, the large size of longer videos makes them more difficult to manage.

If possible, create a widescreen format video in MP4 format. This is the new lingua franca of Internet video, and has efficient compression to keep your files smaller. The widescreen format matches the newer HDTV aspect ratio, and thus immediately gives your video a more current appearance.

Create your video in 720p resolution (1280 by 720 pixels). This is easier to do now that many under-$400 digital still cameras will also record 720p video. Many sites -- including YouTube -- now support high-definition clips, so the extra resolution will make your video look better.

One note on tone: Be cautious about using humor in your videos. What might be funny to one person can be seriously offensive to another. Unless you're appealing to a narrow and well-defined audience that you know well, you might want to avoid making a comedy clip and stick to a straightforward approach.

Distribute your video

Just as a Web site is not likely to increase business on its own, you need to do more than just post a video. First, you need to put it in lots of places so that more people are likely to find it. Consider using an uploading service for distribution. TubeMogul is a free service that will post your clip to seven or more video sites including MetaCafe and Yahoo Video, as well as YouTube. It will automatically adjust your video if necessary to meet the sites' requirements (though all will accept widescreen MP4 files). So you just have to upload your file once to TubeMogul, and it will take care of the rest.

You also need to keep search optimization in mind when you post. Choose your tag words carefully so that viewers will be more likely to find your clips.

Note that posting your video to these video sharing sites makes it easy to embed the clip on a Web page. YouTube creates HTML code that you can cut and paste to put both a player and your video clip on your Web page. You can even choose the format for the video player that appears on your page. Promote your clip by finding other sites that will link to the video's location on your site, or that will embed the video right on theirs.

If appropriate, consider sending out a press release announcing your video. Send it to local news outlets if you sell to your local markets. Try low-cost services that will deliver electronic press releases to a broad range of media outlets, such as SBWire or PRFree.

Also, take advantage of the social networking sites available on the Web to promote your video. Put it on your Facebook page. Get people to submit it to sites such as Digg, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, and Reddit. Just as with a Web site, you need to drive people to your video in order to get them to see it.

Finally, don't abandon your clip. Nothing dies by itself on the Web, so if your products or services change, or your promotional offer expires, or for some other reason the content of your video clip is no longer current or accurate, remember to take it down from the sites where you posted it. Just like a Web page that is never updated, an out-of-date video can hurt your business rather than help.

But a well-crafted video that gets promoted to your target audience will deliver your message in an efficient and effective way that engages your prospects and boosts your business.

Tags small businessdigital video

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