There's no question that online video is fast becoming a favorite of internet users around the world. Two facts highlight this dramatic change in online content consumption. Online video views recently surpassed core search queries for the first time, and YouTube has ascended to the No. 2 search engine spot. But this shift in consumption has left marketers searching for the best ways to incorporate online video into their campaigns. The hit-or-miss nature of viral video, the brand quality considerations of user-generated content, and the general disdain for television commercials online have left marketers wondering, "How do I make video work for me?"
Video advertising is known for its powerful branding ability, but it can also be a great direct response vehicle that drives measureable actions that result in sales when used properly on the web. And with new production methods, quality online video can be produced for as little as $1,000 to $5,000 per piece, making video a marketing tool that can be used across web campaigns while driving high return on investment.
Here are 10 ways that marketers can drive consumer action with online video.
1. Tell a compelling story. With the user in control and limitless options available to them at the click of their mouse, your video must be compelling. Once the user clicks "play," you have five to 10 seconds to engage them and keep them watching. Use a compelling narrative to captivate them for the duration of the video. The narrative, storytelling format presents the information in a compelling and useful manner, and ensures that the viewer remains engaged and absorbs the key messages in the video.
2. Be authentic. The online user is skeptical of the high-pressure sales pitch. And with so many choices online, they're looking for reasons to eliminate you from consideration in their search for the product or service that meets their needs. The fastest way to turn off an online viewer is to bombard them with inauthentic sales pitches and weak emotional brand appeals. Online viewers are looking for content that accurately and honestly provides information about a product or service to aid them in their decision-making process. A successful video will demonstrate value and relevance in an authentic manner that doesn't alienate the viewer with an over-the-top sales pitch.
3. Provide useful information. When users are in decision-making mode online, the last thing they want is an irrelevant branding commercial that mimics a traditional television advertising spot. At this point, they want to get beyond the sales pitch to features and benefits in order to determine if your product or service will meet their needs. If you fail to meet this deeper information need, you will lose the viewer's interest and the opportunity to turn them in to a customer. Your video should demonstrate products, features and expertise in a manner that compels viewers to learn more by taking an action such as clicking a link for more information, filling out an inquiry form, or picking up the phone to talk to one of your representatives.
4. Use a call to action. Without a strong call to action your viewers won't know what you want them to do once they've watched your video. Your video should create a clear action path, and your surrounding web content should make executing that action easy. Decide what action you want your viewers to take before shooting the video. Do you want them to fill out an inquiry form, forward the video to a friend, mention a coupon code, or click a link to learn more about a particular product or service? Whatever the action, make it clear in the video and easy to find and execute on the surrounding web page.
5. Don't overproduce. With the small player size, user bandwidth considerations, and the audience's demand for authenticity, over-producing a video is simply throwing away good money. Professional production is important in order to maintain brand standards, but fancy graphics, expensive effects and other high-end production efforts will be mostly lost online. Worse, some of these effects may muddle the video, making the content and information difficult to comprehend, which can lead the viewer to abandon the video. Maximize your ROI by finding the right balance between production value and delivering a clear, meaningful message considering the current limitations of online video.
6. Don't oversell. The user is firmly in control of the online video viewing experience. They decide whether your message and content are worth watching or whether they'll click away to more relevant information. Respect this dynamic by using your video to inform, educate and build preference rather than going for the hard sell. You're not recreating late-night infomercials with web video -- you're looking to assist and aid in the decision-making process by providing authentic, relevant information and a clear call to action.
7. Measure and test. Affordable online video means that marketers can test messages, formats, and the call to action to see which mix resonates best with their audience. Try testing different offers, highlighting different product benefits and features, and using your video at different points in the decision-making process to determine the optimal use of your video in creating your desired consumer action. Provide a unique coupon code, URL, or other identifier to let you track the impact of video on your online marketing initiatives.
8. Make it shareable. YouTube taught us all that video is a portable medium on the web that starts conversations and spreads among friends and their social networks. Make sure your video facilitates this natural phenomenon. Provide links and functionality to make it easy for people to email your video to friends, embed on web pages and blogs and post to their various social networking profiles. By making your video portable you increase its reach while gaining a tacit recommendation of your product or service with each person who forwards your video.
9. Place it at key decision points. According to a recent eMarketer report, video can often be the final push customers need to complete a purchase online. Video has also shown to improve customer satisfaction and reduce product returns and abandoned shopping carts. It's no wonder then that e-commerce sites have increased their use of video by 40 percent compared to last year. By placing video at key decision points in your purchase funnel, you can create greater confidence and retain customers who might otherwise abandon their purchase.
10. Make it search-engine friendly. The advent of Google's Universal Search has made video an important part of the results returned in a user's search query. Companies can gain visibility in the search engines quickly by providing video content that is search-engine friendly. Do this by properly naming your video files, using proper keywords and titles, and surrounding them with keyword-rich web content. Other best practices include keeping your videos in one video directory on your website, providing an MRSS feed for all of your published videos, and publishing your videos to third-party sites such as YouTube.
Video is a powerful online marketing tool
Keeping production costs inline with the realities of the online channel will ensure that the return on investment remains high, while creating a compelling story to help drive conversions and reduce abandonment in the purchase cycle. As bandwidth continues to improve and more of the online audience makes video an important part of their online experience, successful marketers will understand how to incorporate video marketing in their online campaigns to drive favorable consumer action.
Consider these tips when creating video to drives consumer action. What else needs to be considered? Please leave your feedback and thoughts in the comments.
Bud Rosenthal is CEO of TurnHere.com.