Step aside, infographics. Step aside, mobile apps. Video is the latest darling of the marketing world.
Video marketing is nothing new of course. People have been using video to broadcast their messages since 2005, when YouTube went live. What’s different now is that video is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s something marketers can no longer afford to ignore, because more people want more videos.
Says who? Says a lot of big-name observers researching video consumption trends across various digital platforms:
- Online videos will account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020 (CISCO, 2016)
- 55% of people consume videos thoroughly — the highest amount of all types of content (HubSpot, 2016)
- A Facebook video receives, on average, 135% more organic reach than a Facebook photo (Socialbakers, 2015)
Y’know who else loves video? Facebook. In 2016, the tech titan declared that it was “becoming video first“. Now its algorithm favours video content, particularly live video.
“What does this mean for the written word?” a fellow marketer friend mused recently. As avid writers, we wondered if there was still a place for copywriters and content writers in a “video first” world.
That’s what I want to explore in this post. I was also inspired to blog about video by some recent first-hand experiences with video at work. Not much, just some video editing, a couple of video production courses, and research into the secret behind successful marketing videos. These gave me plenty of food for thought on video as an alternative medium for storytelling and content marketing.
What’s So Great About Videos Anyway?
Text requires imagination to “see” the story, photos can be static, but when you watch a video, everything unfolds before you.
Say, you want to learn how to bake something difficult, like Castella cake.
Which mode of learning do you prefer: read a recipe (all text), use a step-by-step picture guide, or watch a baking video?
An all text recipe works best when the steps are described in accurate detail. Even so, newbies might still find some instructions confusing. An example: “When you stop the mixer and lift the whisk attachment, the mixture should fall in ribbons.” How do eggy ribbons look like? Thick or thin? What sort of consistency?
A step-by-step picture guide lets you see eggy ribbons falling off a whisk attachment. But without some animation, it’s hard to tell what kind of consistency you should aim for.
A baking video makes things even clearer. As the baker whisks, you can see the batter change properties. The colour goes from canary yellow to creamy white. The volume quadruples. When the baker stops to lift his whisk every now and then, you can see the consistency change over time. Finally, he is done, and he lifts his whisk for the last time to show silky ribbons of batter falling off. Ah, now that’s what you’re supposed to work towards!
In short, video content has more visual appeal and is easier to digest. Video is therefore an ideal medium for explaining how something works or illustrating complicated concepts.
Other advantages of video include:
- Building trust. It’s one thing to read about someone’s good experiences with a product. It’s another to see and hear someone (like you) talking about its positive impact, using it in their everyday lives, and enjoying it.
- Helping people to get to know you better. Especially if you use live video. Live video lets people see you face-to-face and interact with you in real time, thus creating deeper emotional connections.
Build (A Video), And They Will Come?
Video offers a wealth of potential. Plus, the appetite for video is strong. So should marketers jump into video and produce less of other content types?
Not so fast.
There are, in fact, a couple of good reasons to “proceed with caution” when it comes to marketing with videos:
That’s one of the biggest drawbacks. Every successful, well-loved, and popular (to the tune of a few million views) video I’ve watched has good production quality. No shakiness, grainy visuals, muffled dialogues, etc. Those videos may not be full-on cinematic, but they are at least professional. You want professional? Prepare to pay more.
Here’s one of the most famous video ads in recent times. Dollar Shave Club announced its launch with this witty video, starring its CEO Michael Dubin, about why “our blades are f***ing great”. The video was an overwhelming success. Some 12,000 people signed up for Dollar Shave Club’s service in the first 48 hours after the video’s debut.
Dubin spent US$4,500 to make that one-and-a-half minute video. Something as well-polished as this would cost most companies US$50,000, but Dubin was able to keep costs down as he had the right connections. Now, how many companies or marketing departments have budget of US$4,500 — US$50,000? In comparison, you can get an experienced content writer to produce a quality article for a few hundred dollars or less.
Let’s assume that Cisco’s prediction that online videos will account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020 is correct.
That’s to say that videos will become very common in the future.
So, how can your video stand out from the crowd of competitor videos, cute cat videos, videos of people doing wacky shit while drunk, etc?
If you want to build your marketing on video, then you need to keep your creative juices flowing all the time. You’ll also need to develop a distinct tone and style for your videos. That’s how Dollar Shave Club continued to succeed with video marketing, even after its smashing launch.
Or, if it’s not possible to keep thinking of fresh and innovative video ideas all the time, just “pay to play”. I won’t be surprised if sponsored/promoted videos become more common, even a necessity. That’s what’s happening with Facebook marketing now; organic reach is so hard that spending money to “boost” posts is difficult to avoid. It might soon be the same for YouTube and other popular video platforms.
How Can Writers (Or Any Content Creators) Stay Relevant?
I wrote this blog post from the point of view of a writer trying to understand the rising popularity of video as a storytelling and content marketing medium. Should writers like me worry about becoming less relevant?
It turned out that there are no easy answers. I can see that video has its strengths and good potential, but it’s not clear if video will indeed be king, as heavy costs and competition are real drawbacks. Another possibility to consider: some other content type (augmented reality and virtual reality?) could dethrone video as the darling of the consumer and marketing worlds.
So, how do writers, video producers, and content creators move forward from here?
I think we shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with other media. I enjoy writing, but having exposure to video opened my eyes to new possibilities for storytelling. Writing is great, but could it be more powerful if I combine it with moving visuals? That’s what one of my writing heroes, copywriting coach Colin Theriot, does. A big part of Colin’s marketing is writing snappy nuggets of wisdom for his community of followers on Facebook (or “the cult”, as he calls us!). But he also delivers knowledge through live videos and webinars that delve deep into the issues he touches on in his writing. Everything he creates is so useful that folks either come back for more, or recommend him to their friends.
Even better: what if we could dabble in a variety of media, compare and contrast different storytelling approaches, and produce something original? Oh yes, it can and has been done. In 2012, The Guardian challenged a group of famous writers to come up with 140-character novels a.k.a “Twitter fiction”. Here’s what they came up with, and here’s my favourite, by Jeffrey Archer:
It’s a miracle he survived,” said the doctor. “It was God’s will,” said Mrs Schicklgruber. “What will you call him?” “Adolf,” she replied.
I’d love to see these guys come up with ad-length videos of their novels. Or tell a story using a series of five Instagram posts.
Or maybe I’d be the one to pull it off, someday 😉