how to master digital video in 2017

The 10 Digital Video Best Practices in 2017

In case you haven’t been paying attention, let me bring you up to speed.

Video is everything on the internet right now. Instagram stories, YouTube, Facebook, every single platform is turning towards video. I won’t even go into detail on the popularity of Netflix but let’s just say that everyone I know has already binged the second season of Stranger Things.

No surprise then that by 2020, 79% of total internet traffic will be video (according to Cisco, who know a thing or two about internet traffic).

And it’s not just that video looks great and appeals to some sort of inner curiosity and attention grabbing, video is also super effective in presenting products.

Brands are no strangers to videos, and in many ways they have pioneered the development of new creative strategies over the past few decades. TV commercials were flagships that entire marketing mixes were based around.

Notice that word though, “were.”

Video in 2017 is not being broadcast to a captive audience waiting for their show to resume. It’s competing with the infinite choice of the internet and all of that other content is a mere tap away. Traditional strategies for video no longer cut it.

Oh, and if you’re a brand and you’re pitching your concept for a viral video to your management that’s going to light up the social networks and get shared with no advertising budget, you can forget about all of that. 81% of video views on brand channels came from paid campaigns. Organic reach for brand pages on Facebook is a dismal 2%. So if you’re making a video for your brand, don’t forget your checkbook when it comes time to get those views.

When you are paying for views, that means that you need to get the most clicks for your cash, so here are 10 best practices for brands to improve the perfomance of their video strategies.

1. Make that video as short as possible

You might have seen the stat that after 3 seconds, 82% of viewers will have moved on from your video on Facebook. That leaves a sliver of your audience. When your video starts with a black screen and a bit of text, that will be what most people see. That’s it. They wont even see the first shot of your beautiful video. All of that money down the drain for nothing.

Condense your message and get the video roaring from the moment it starts playing. Digital environments are not places to slowly build up. You need to start making an impact immediately.

“Yeah, yeah,” I can hear you rolling your eyes, “but people will watch my video.”

Is your video a Russian dashcam footage of a meteor explosion? Is it a Kim Kardashian Kanye West sex tape? Is it something from National Geographic?

Then no, viewers wont stick around. And even if they do, as a part of a solid strategy, you cannot plan on that.

2. Get that logo in there from the beginning

Even if your video fails to engage, having your logo present from the very beginning will at least provide a brand recall lift that can justify your campaign in itself.

You don’t need to super-impose your logo, you can find other ways to show the name of the product or company. But if you let those 82% of people who leave after 3 seconds on Facebook go away without seeing your logo, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.

The only exception to this rule is when you want to surprise your target. As a general rule, don’t let the application of best practices unravel your storytelling. If you are confident in your approach, don’t change that just because the data says otherwise. You might be the exception.

3. Get that video going immediately

There are a few different things that you can do which have been proven to increase completion rates.

  • Have a character enter in the first 6 seconds. This helps to capture attention, so if there are actors, get them in there from the beginning. You know what works better than a simple character? Celebrities! Not everyone can have Selena Gomez in their video, but people naturally pause when they see people they know.
  • Same thing for a narrator, don’t let too much time pass, the narrator’s voice can capture attention and prevent people from skipping. That follows into the next point:
  • Add text from the beginning. Adding simple words and subtitles can have a positive impact on completion since people take time to read so they stick around longer, letting the content play. You should have subtitles for all video content, but it doesn’t have to be yellow text at the bottom of the screen. Use big words that fit with your brand’s style to reinforce your message.
  • Start with something dynamic. A static panning shot doesn’t work. You need something like an explosion of color, athletes running, your product in action. But be careful not to have too many cuts in the first few seconds or else you can turn viewers off.

4. Think mobile first

I’ve written about this subject a lot before. You’re probably reading this article on a mobile device. So why would you not take the vertical format into account?

I know, I know, listen, the horizontal format is the most comfortable. Most cameras film in that format. We are used to horizontal cinematography. But it’s just not how people consume video. Sure, you can make a horizontal video, but most people won’t watch your video let alone turn their phone into landscape mode.

Each and every social platform has their own formats and they change all the time. 9:16. 4:5. The easiest thing to do: make it square.

5. Don’t rely on sound

Quick, look to your right. Now look to your left.

Chances are the people around you are looking at their phone. They might not be wearing headphones, either. In fact on Facebook 85% of video is watched without sound.

What does that mean? Not only do you need subtitles to convey your message properly, but you need more visual kick to compensate for the no-sound experience. Does the video work without sound? Is the message clear? Does it keep people’s attention? If not, or if it needs sound to work, you can try to add a prompt like “tap to activate sound” if you’re posting a video to Instagram. But to be honest, not many people are going to do that.

That is not to say you shouldn’t have sound in your video. Sound and music are crucial elements to having a beautiful video. Digital platforms change and could become sound-on by default in the near future. Just don’t rely on the sound as your main driver of engagement.

6. Tailor your message to the audience being targeted

One of the wonderful things about digital is the ability to find customer segments and address them in a unique, personalized way. But ad targeting is only one part of the story.

Your creative should be adapted to each audience to maximize potential impact. This can be as simple as re-editing your video so that the beginning corresponds as much as possible to the target group. Or you could have entirely different videos for each segment.

As targeting gets more and more accurate, content that isn’t personalized will have a higher risk of failing.

7. Use call to actions

Don’t leave it up to interpretation, tell your viewers exactly what you want them to do. A call to action is not a call to arms in the sense that you need to motivate people to get up and move. You just need to explicitly tell people what they should do after watching your video.

The best calls to action are really simple like “Buy Now” or “Click Here.”  For videos that are pushing awareness of a new product, call to actions like “Learn More” or “Discover” tend to work well. On platforms like Instagram these calls to actions are built into the app.

If someone is watching your video until the end, you don’t want them to finish the video and say “so what?” Keep their interest on you and bring them closer down your marketing funnel.

8. Go Live

Live is the new frontier in digital video. Now that connections are pretty good – even over mobile data networks – Live video is possible to broadcast and watch from pretty much anywhere.

Live video has a whole host of challenges but it’s one of the most genuine and direct ways to engage with your fans. It’s intimate and powerful, and there aren’t a lot of brands doing it.

So at your next event, plan out how you’re going to go live and let the hard work of the event planners fuel this fast-growing part of your video strategy.

9. Use cards

Cards are the overlays that appear during YouTube videos. This is prime real estate for passing extra messages directly to your audience as well as diversifying the number of ways that your customers can discover your products.

You can plan out cards directly in YouTube and if you are a monetised account you can link out to your e-commerce site or landing page.

10. Measure with the correct KPIs

There is a big tendency to simplify the metrics that are used to measure how effective videos are. When a campaign is run to generate awareness, traditional qualitative KPIs are the most effective, things like brand recall and desire to buy. In this case the typical View-through Rate (VTR) is a good measure of how attractive your video is, but it might not show how effective your video is at generating business.

But digital is all about getting people into your funnel. That’s why no matter what your video is for, you should be measuring how many people click through. The KPI that measures this is the Click-Through Rate. Then, if possible, using event tracking in Google Analytics you can create a cohort of visitors that come from a specific video. What do those people do when they get to your site? The answer to that question will reflect the efficacy of your video.

Do those visitors stay and complete a purchase? In that case, the video is creating product desirability. Are they signing up for a newsletter? That shows that the video is driving brand desirability. Are they bouncing? That could mean that your video is misleading.

Do you have any other best practices that you follow? Share them in the comments!  





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