When it comes to content marketing, nothing seems to confuse marketing departments more than how to maximize their efforts when constructing content. Video content being highest on the list.
Video content is not only the most expensive to shoot, edit, and create, but it is also difficult to optimize once constructed. Therefore, we are going to take a deep dive on how to construct your video, the length, and what purpose it serves. We also will cover how to think more critically about using your shooting schedule to maximize the types of video content.
I hear the same thing over and over when it comes to video: “I’m not sure why it’s not converting.” More often than not, the answer is simple – it’s too long. Many of us are working with marketing departments and agencies that are entrenched with a television commercial mindset. Breaking that mindset is essential to capitalize on the different social formats you can distribute to, and to avoiding the trap of blowing your budget on TV “spots.” Here are the standard scenarios when it comes to video content:
- INTERSTITIAL — the interstitial spot is a video clip with a maximum length of 15 seconds. These are often short vignette commercials that will sit in front of longer videos on channels such as YouTube. Important rule of thumb when it comes to interstitial video: Say everything you need to say in the first five seconds. Otherwise, people will “skip video” and you’ve lost your 15 seconds of fame. The next time you’re watching a YouTube video and you choose not to skip commercial – you know they have done their job exceptionally well.
- COMMERCIAL :30 — 30- and 60-second spots are the bread-and-butter of the television world. Therefore, if your brand is working on a product or service that is large enough to be placed in a media buy that goes online and on television, you will be developing content at these lengths.Conceptually, when designing a 30-second spot, I want to ensure that I have constructed interest, developed a “call to action” (what you want your customer to do — buy now, sign up, etc.), and locked those two pieces specifically to the brand. As we all know, a great commercial means nothing if you forgot who it was for.
- WEB SPECIFIC CTA — This is anything between a 30- and 60-second spot as a hybrid or organic video. It lives simply because it has done its job but doesn’t fit in the 30-second window. More often than not it will not be placed in a television media campaign. The next question you are going to ask is, “Why not simply create a 30-second version” for online viewing? The simple answer is because you do not have to, but you’re still trying to keep it short. You might assume that keeping within a specific time bracket should be an easy goal. You will think differently if you ever sit in an edit room with a client insisting that there is not enough payoff to the spot. The world between 30 seconds and 60 seconds can be a lifetime if you’re bound with a script or campaign that has a long checklist of requirements. Knowing this particular piece of content is intended to deliver online only, the mantra should always be the shorter, the better.
- COMMERCIAL :60 — The commercial 60-second spot basically allows greater flexibility for you to pay off what we covered in the 30-second overview. You will have the ability to add to and stretch your edits, and most importantly apply more storytelling to your video concept as a whole. And while this may sound rigorously old-school from a conceptual standpoint, a longer commercial always allows you to construct an environment with your customer to show why your product should be considered over the competition.
- ORGANIC — The organic spot is exactly as it sounds. These video clips are more often than not going to live online and just simply do not fit “within time”. Just as a real-world exercise, imagine you have done a diligent job constructing a campaign within 60 seconds. However, you failed to think about putting a 3- to 5-second “bumper” at the end of your commercial with the primary call to action of CALL NOW! LIMIT 100 PER CUSTOMER! etc. Or perhaps you simply neglected to progressively beat the customer over the head with the 800 number throughout the spot.!!! YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE!!! — as you are rolling through these definitions, my gift to you is this: if these spots are not converting, how do you intend to change them and keep time? Can you swap out your hero shot of an elderly couple on bikes with a young and progressive millennial couple at a coffee bar? This now becomes a chess game of how to maximize the budget if all things go to hell.
- MULTIPART: EDUCATIONAL — This is the type of video content that you intend to show your audience to explain your product service or education in serial form through multiple videos. The reason we still keep these videos short is that more often than not, they are living on a website page that has additional supporting written content to describe what the video explains.You often find this style of video on product-based websites as well. They may, for instance, show you the value and benefit to a particular product. Zappos.com gives you an overview of a new type of leather boot, while an electronics store might show you the attributes of new tech gear. The term “educational” in a marketing perspective is a double-edged sword. One is what you would expect from a DIY, how-to, multi-step or training-based environment while the second style is inherently more influential and intended to sway the perception of your consumer. Be sure you figure out which side of the fence you are on when you conceptualize this content.
- SHORT SERIES / WEBISODIC — One can argue that short series or “webisodic” content must contain a type of linear thread that is found in television and movie programming. While I believe the most effective content is based in some type of storytelling, think of this format as simply an elongated opportunity to engage with your audience. The critical component to webisodic content is crafting a message that brings your audience back to find out more. It’s what we traditionally referred to as the “stickiness” factor of an article or website. Superior content creators in this genre, such as vice.com, do an impeccable job of constructing a long-form video. A common approach is to create an hour-long piece that can be cut into shorter contextual sections and parsed progressively over a series of videos. This is really no different than any standard piece of entertainment on television having interstitial segues for commercials. For your purposes, however, you want gaps that will create repeat visits from your audience and engagement with your call to action.
- PRESENTATION / LIVE STREAM / LONG FORMAT — Most long-format videos (let’s just say anything in excess of 10 minutes) usually follow one of a few format environments.
- A presentation environment — In this scenario, you have a captive audience with the expectation of, “the more that I get, the more efficient I have been.” Therefore, there is an expectation that video in this environment, such as Ted.com or live streaming information, will take time to distribute and therefore there is an understanding of its time investment.
- Long Format — This usually surrounds content that has a specific contextual directive for the audience. They have an interest in a particular documentary; therefore, 60+ minutes is an acceptable amount of time for them to digest online.
Regarding timing: If you are constructing content in such a way that your audience has a desire/expectation of granularity and holistic understanding, then you can increase the video length in order to sufficiently engage your audience. The best, and most immediate example of this is this website: maximizesocialbusiness.com — this is not a quick, transient environment where people intend to find snippets of information. This is a website for professionals trying to thoughtfully understand and apply learning into their daily professional and business modality.
Cause’ if I met me in real life and I was this long-winded about anything I would probably try to strangle me unless it provided a discernible benefit.
Lastly, I want to leave you with a cheat-sheet to help fill your content storage vault for a rainy day.
Here’s how you can maximize your time while shooting video content. I created this list as if the shoot were for a physical product; revise it to meet your needs:
- Script and storyboard your core content — regardless if you are spending $50 or $500,000, do yourself a favor and script/storyboard the video(s).
- Shoot “behind-the-scenes” video — nothing keeps an intern or production assistant busier than running around with a cell phone, GoPro or related camera shooting behind-the-scenes video. This content can later be sliced and diced and distributed over your social media channels to your heart’s content. This content allows your audience to get a feel for the fun and excitement of how the finished product can’t be.
- Shoot still photos — Collect still images while shooting video. These photos can be used on photo galleries on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, given that you paid your talent enough, repurposed into print advertising, and/or banner ads.
- Get testimonials with talent, crew, and friends — One of the many techniques you can use while shooting behind the scenes is a testimonial angle. Use this opportunity to stick the product in the hands of anyone working the shoot and have them say something positive about it. You be surprised how authentic this content can be. Audiences sometimes perceive too much production “polish” as lacking authenticity. It often devalues credibility.
- Create impromptu educational video — Video shoots can present an opportunity to create a “low budget” version the finished video product. Therefore, be sure to shoot extra footage of the product’s usage and benefits.
- Keep the camera “rolling” — The days of “quick takes” and “checking the gate” are gone. You can shoot digitally to your heart’s content. Unless you’re shooting exceptionally high resolution footage, there is really no reason why you can’t have a camera of some sort capturing the excitement on an ongoing basis. Later, you can sort through this footage and capture just the instances that you feel are interesting, and can be pushed to your social graph.
- Make your shoot look active and fun — Make sure the audience feels like what you’re working on is fun and exciting. Therefore, behind-the-scenes footage should become just as much a spectacle as the finished product.
- Cut your edits down using different styles and effects for different demos — Once you are done cutting down the mountain of different types of content, it will all fall to post. In post-production (given that you have an adequate editor or understanding of the process), you can make the lamest moments interesting. These days, there are countless types of filters and effects that can also be used to appeal to different types of demographics. Make sure messaging hits the appropriate audience, and that the videos engage them thematically.
- Distribute content both “LIVE” and delayed showing — While you’re shooting, do your best to post what should be perceived as a live environment. You can even go so far as to schedule social messaging to invite people to get ready for the content.
- Man-on-the-street — This style is a tried-and-true technique that creates immediate authenticity by removing style and script to be replaced with candid and impromptu feedback from what your audience should presume are real people. You can control this environment with actors, or pre-engagement and call-to-action directives. Ensure that it feels natural, and be sure to get a legal release for its presumed usage.
I hope you can take this content and apply it to your next video campaign. Most marketers now understand the landscape is change so dramatically that not only do they need to plan for a different end product, but they must keep competitive by creating efficiencies and additional value with an understanding of where newly created content will live.
If you were a brand reading this article expecting to crack the code on making a video go “viral” I, from a marketing perspective will happily give you a virtual hug and a sucker punch at the same time. Sorry, but you have a lightning strike’s chance of success. Nevertheless, I have written articles in the past that address viral content. The best recipe for success is, “keep it short and unexpected.”