As broadband speeds increase and websites become increasingly sophisticated, video marketing is really taking off. Venture capital firm KPCB estimate that almost three quarters of internet traffic distributed during 2017 will be video content, though this does include streaming media services. Nevertheless, the concept of watching videos online has become the norm rather than the exception, with those stuttering 1990s’ AVIs giving way to buffer-free HD streams.
There’s huge traction for videos on social media, with 500 million people watching Facebook videos every day, and four-fifths of Twitter users doing likewise. Adding the word ‘video’ to an email subject line boosts open rates and slashes unsubscribe levels, while embedding a video in the email can treble click-through rates. It’s even been reported that viewers retain 95 per cent of a video’s messages, compared to just 10 per cent of text-based content.
Such statistics have naturally attracted the attention of marketing managers and entrepreneurs, desperate to engage with audiences and find new ways to spread their messages. As a result, corporate videos have become big business. With modern smartphones able to record in HD or even 4K, and free editing software available to meld clips into a seamless montage, we are undoubtedly living in an age of video marketing.
A video represents a great way to make a point, tell a story or sell something. It should inform and excite an audience, explaining how your products or services can benefit them. A behind-the-scenes documentary-style video may bring humanity and warmth to an otherwise impersonal or anonymous brand, particularly if it contains talking-head testimonials. These are way more influential among potential consumers than a thousand corporate soundbites.
In this special feature, we look at video production costs, from hiring professional crews through to taking the DIY route. We consider various hosting options, and discuss ways to maximize engagement once a file has been uploaded. We’ve also included ten golden rules every successful business videos adheres to; after all, maintaining an audience’s attention during a video is rather different to retaining their attention with advertising or a blog…
What does a video typically cost to make?
Like many aspects of running a business, the answer to this question varies hugely. It is theoretically possible to bring video production costs down to zero if you have suitable recording and editing equipment. You’ll also need storyboarding and scriptwriting abilities, plus access to people who can present or appear in the film, unless it’s a product video for a sales platform or ecommerce site. Alternatively, you could subcontract the job…
(i) Employing professionals
Video production pricing can escalate rapidly, and there used to be a common rule of thumb within the industry that one minute of professional-standard video cost roughly $1,000. In the last couple of years, video production pricing has decreased thanks to a combination of growing competition and greater hardware affordability. Even a 4K video camera only weighs a couple of kilograms and costs a couple of thousand dollars, enabling production companies to slash their costs. With plenty of review portals and customer testimonials floating around, it’s easy to find a decent video production company in your local area.
Even so, $750 for one minute of footage represents a considerable outlay, and video production costs remain a key barrier for smaller businesses. According to Buffer, almost half of marketing professionals would create more video content if they had more time and a larger budget. Then again, web analyst Dr James McQuivey claims that one minute’s worth of video is worth as much as 1.8 million words when it comes to promoting a brand. In that context, every cent invested in video can be considered worthwhile.
These are some of the ways to reduce video production pricing:
- Have a clear idea before you call the professionals. Don’t ask the production team to produce storyboards, edit scripts or undertake casting. If you’ve done all this yourself at the outset, the camera crew will know exactly what they’re doing for each shot. That reduces retakes, which saves time and money. It also allows the movie’s editors to quickly compile a video meeting the brief, without the need for revisions or additions.
- Use editing tricks to disguise cost-cutting. When you watch an interview, there are usually cutaways to the interviewer before their subject answers. Most broadcasters record these questions before or after the actual interview, so they only need a single camera on-set. There are loads of other ways to reduce filming or editing costs, such as using copyright-free music and sound effects. We discuss this in more detail below.
- Avoid animations. An animated video can cost between three and ten times as much as a conventional live-action movie. Animators are skilled craftspeople in great demand, and animated clips pose unique challenges like dubbing on voiceovers. A huge number of cartoons or drawings are needed to fill the 25 frames in each second of video footage, while meme-style graphics videos look tacky and unprofessional.
- Employ rookie firms, or graduates. An established company’s video production pricing will be many times higher than those of a new graduate, who’ll still have a decent portfolio and a working knowledge of Apple Final Cut or Adobe Premiere. Bear in mind consumers are only expecting steady camera shots, audible sound and slick captions. They won’t know or care who produced or edited a short movie.
Ask prospective companies for quotes rather than estimates, and find out what will happen if the filming schedule overruns, which it usually does. Who will pick up the bill if an actor fails to arrive on set, or if ambient weather conditions prevent an outdoor shoot from going ahead? Will you be able to request revisions to the first-draft edit, and is a soundtrack included in the proposed costings? Videos without some sort of ambient music can seem surprisingly dull.
(ii) Doing it yourself
This is a risky strategy, but potentially a highly affordable one. Even a decade ago, it would have been easy to spot a self-made video. However, technology’s relentless progression means each of the key areas involved in creating a corporate video can now be covered to a relatively professional standard by an enthusiastic amateur.
How to avoid video production costs by doing it yourself:
- Video footage. It isn’t necessary to record video footage in the highest definition possible. HD content will be fine, since nobody is expecting eye-popping quality from a corporate video. Framing the shots well is far more important. Ensure vertical lines are straight rather than crooked by using tripods or a Gorillapod to hold the camera steady, and consider what’s out of frame as much as what’s in shot.
- Sound quality. This is one area where video production costs can quickly escalate. Integrated microphones in tablets and smartphones are generally weak, but it’s possible to buy external mics to dovetail with everything from 4K cameras to iPhones. There’s an important distinction between unidirectional mics (which face in one specific direction) and omnidirectional (used to capture sound from all around).
- Editing software. Sophisticated programs like CyberLink’s PowerDirector or Adobe’s Premiere Elements can be purchased for less than $100. The latter is a cut-down version of Adobe’s market-leading Pro CC package, with features like haze removal and automatic soundtrack adjustment to match clip length. While learning how to use these packages can take time, it is possible to generate dynamic footage very cheaply.
- Music. The Free Music Archive is perhaps the best-known provider of copyright-free audio downloads. Each file will have some restrictions on its use, but these are far less draconian than recordings whose copyright is owned by record labels. Websites like Freesound offer specific noises and sound effects for general reuse, though a small donation should be made whenever you raid a creative commons-style portal.
How do I host the video?
Once you’ve made or acquired an edited video clip, the next decision is where and how to host it.
These are the main hosting options:
- Self-hosting. From WordPress templates to bespoke site designs, it’s easy to upload video clips stored on your server alongside other web content. HTML5 has made embedding videos far easier, though it does have issues with codec standards. Avoid full-screen playback, and bear in mind HTML5 doesn’t support DRM or adaptive streaming, which adjusts according to the bandwidth capacity of output devices.
- Upload it to YouTube. As one of the world’s most popular websites, it’s almost unheard of for YouTube’s servers to be offline. Parent company Google has made its vast infrastructure available, so movies can be hosted remotely yet played on your site as if your own server was supplying the content. Since YouTube retains overall control of the file, it might be preceded by ads or followed with unrelated content. YouTube videos can also be embedded in your web pages, which leads us onto our next point …
- Embed your file from a third-party platform. It’s possible to use video hosting platforms like Vimeo and Dailymotion to host content that is then played through a window within a page of your website. The host servers handle buffering and bit rates, while your server supplies other page content like text and formatting. This is the preferred method of video hosting, though each platform has unique drawbacks.
These options are all technically free, yet each involves compromises. Option 1 may necessitate upgrading your servers to ensure there’s sufficient bandwidth for multiple audiences to view a file simultaneously. Midphase will gladly discuss the optimal hosting package to ensure your clients can enjoy lag-free video provision. Options 2 and 3 capitalize on some of the world’s most powerful servers, but they do involve relinquishing a degree of control over your own content. That may be painful if you’ve invested heavily in creating a slick promo video, only to discover your chosen hosting platform is prefacing it with a tacky advert for an unrelated product or service.
How can I get people to watch the video?
If you’ve gone to the expense of commissioning and producing a video, you will want it to pay for itself. And the statistics suggest it will – providing people see it. An entire subset of the marketing industry has developed around optimizing view rates for video content, attracting maximum eyeballs and allowing those carefully crafted sales messages to reach the widest possible audience.
There are plenty of ways to ensure a worthwhile return on creating a video:
- Repost it on social media. Platforms like Snapchat and Facebook are great for sharing and reposting content. The more outlets your video is displayed on, the better. People tend to have one preferred social media platform, so you’ll be reaching new audiences every time you post on a new site. Don’t forget that with over a billion users, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine behind parent company Google.
- Create blogs and news stories linking to the video. Blogs are great traffic drivers, but they need a destination to send their audiences to. There’s a lot to be said for finishing your latest blog or news post with a call to arms, encouraging people to watch a video for more information. If you end up creating more than one video, it’s easy to set up a dedicated channel on a platform like YouTube and organically build a following.
- Email marketing. Despite ongoing issues regarding spam filters, email marketing remains an effective tool for disseminating a message. That’s especially true for video content. Research indicates marketing emails with a video can double or treble click-through rates, making consumers 64 percent more likely to buy a product online. Emails are also easy to share and forward, spreading the message far and wide.
- Choose a dynamic thumbnail. If the opening frames of your video are a black screen fading into a product montage, you don’t want the first frame as your thumbnail. Think about how programmes on streaming services are often presented with a dynamic image from each series or episode. Pick something eye-catching to stand out from the millions of other online videos, making people want to click Play.
- Employ SEO. Videos can be tagged with search engine-friendly terms that will come up in results pages separately to the hosting pages themselves. Use a platform like Kissmetrics to identify terms people use to search for your industry or product/service, and ensure the file is appropriately tagged. Its title is also crucial; it should incorporate keywords, while being as clear and as concise as possible.
- Inbound links. Internal links on your site are good, but links from third-party platforms will boost your site’s SEO by inferring it contains valuable content. Of course, the video needs to be relevant to these external firms or people, so consider who might be willing to promote it. Linking to it ought to be as easy as copying and pasting a URL, but avoid spammy link farms that may damage your SEO ranking.
- Don’t forget about it! A well-made video should be durable, promoting your business for months or years to come. It might receive new views at any time, so it’s crucial to maintain promotional efforts. If the platform hosting it accepts comments, set up interaction notifications, and reply to every post. Periodically promote the video afresh – some of your audience will already know about, it but many others won’t.
What do I need to know before making a corporate video?
Below are ten golden rules you should follow when scripting and editing a corporate video, to ensure it maintains audience attention and justifies its expenditure…
- Keep it short. There’s a reason TV ads tend to be less than a minute long. Attention spans are short and a sub-two-minute video clip will receive more engagement. Don’t let a camera shot last for longer than necessary, avoid fade in/out effects, and don’t leave subtitles on-screen longer than an average person needs to read them. Quick cuts between camera shots help to build a sense of dynamism.
- Be professional. Just because you’ve got an iPhone with 4K video capabilities doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a slick business video. Better to employ a video marketing agency than produce an amateurish attempt yourself. If you are going to create a DIY movie, invest in a tripod so the camera remains steady. Avoid wacky or silly content that will suggest unprofessionalism and potentially damage your brand’s credibility.
- Front-load the core message. Although two thirds of people watch the vast majority of a video, some will abandon ship at the first opportunity. On platforms like YouTube, that’s often within five seconds. Place a core message at the start of the video for people to take away – the AV equivalent of an email’s Subject line. The first half-dozen words might just stick in their minds, boosting brand recall at a later date.
- Add color. Can you present a to-camera piece in a dynamic location? Are your company’s products available in bright colors that can all be displayed at once? The human eye can see up to ten million colors, so don’t have someone in a black suit talking to-camera against a black backdrop. More visually stimulating videos retain an audience’s attention for longer. Colorful graphics and captions stand out more, too.
- Avoid long pieces to-camera or monologue voiceovers. Hearing the same voice speaking for a while can become dull, as does a fixed ‘talking head’ shot. If you have to deliver a monologue, break it up with reverse camera angles, or mix to-camera dictation with action shots or behind-the-scenes footage. It’s helpful to include two voices on the soundtrack, with a soft, upbeat musical score filling any silences.
- Add a splash of humor. In point one, we counseled against silliness. However, self-deprecating humor is fine, as are jokes aimed at major rivals or industry standards. For instance, if you’re a gourmet burger supplier, it’d be fine to show a squashed hamburger with the caption “product from leading competitor”. Test your suggestions on family and friends to gauge whether they elicit a suitably enthusiastic reaction.
- Build associations. Video is a two-sense platform, with no touch, smell or taste. That’s why washing powder companies often use footage of meadows, for example, inferring what the ads can’t otherwise convey. These associations can be projected through cutaway shots, backdrops or words used in the voiceover or captions. Use terms like ‘trust’ or ‘quality’, and try to show a product or service being used to deliver its core benefits.
- Leave contact details on-screen. People might abandon your video at any point, so leave web addresses and key social media details on-screen or periodically flash them up. Nobody will mind this in a business video – you’re not creating a Hollywood movie. Monitor click-through rates from embedded links or canonical URLs, and measure each video’s response rates for lessons you can learn with future output.
- Don’t rely on sound. Mobile audiences often consume video content with their devices set to mute, to avoid loud adverts or autoplaying content erupting into quiet public spaces. An estimated 85 per cent of Facebook videos are watched without sound, so captions and graphics need to relay the core messages of your video. Treat voiceovers and musical scores as a bonus, but ensure audio tracks are crisp and clear.
Include a call to arms. Videos are created for one of several purposes including lead generation, driving traffic to a website or raising brand awareness. Conclude with a graphic/voiceover encouraging people to perform your preferred action. Most videos finish with contact details on-screen anyway, but inject a degree of urgency with a time-limited offer, or encouraging people to act before competitors do likewise
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