Video may have killed the radio star, as the old song by the Buggles claims, but today there's growing evidence that video may have static, text-heavy websites in its crosshairs as well. While it's difficult to quantify just how popular video on company websites has become, consumers' interest in Internet video is obvious. The Nielsen Company recently reported that overall online video usage via such providers as YouTube, Hulu, Yahoo! and Facebook in September 2009 were up by double digits over September 2008, with time spent watching online video up almost 25 percent per viewer.
VideoBloom, a provider of end-to-end online video advertising and distribution solutions, creates a bi-monthly "VIEW [Video-Enabled Web] Index" which analyzes 17 key website variables (placement of video within a website, web video formats used, etc.) to track what companies and sectors are using online video, as well as how they are using it. For July-August 2009, the VIEW Index found that, of the 100 surveyed companies, 30 percent had video on their home page, 75 percent had video on their site, and 25 percent didn't use any video on their site. These figures represented a significant change from the May-June figures, which found 30 percent with video on their home page but 65 percent with video on their site and 35 percent without any video. That the three percentages in each case add up to over 100 percent is explained by the fact that there is some overlap in the "video on site" and "video on home page" sectors.
But does the fact that more big companies are apparently employing video on their sites mean that smaller companies should follow suit? According to the experts, in a word: Yes. "With the sheer enormity of web video today, it has got to be top of mind for businesses right now," says Kris Drey, vice president of product marketing at video hosting service, Fliqz, and founder of VidCompare.com, a free comparison service for business decision makers looking for an online video platform provider (www.vidcompare.com). Many industries still do not use video as a common practice, he says, and if a given company's competitors are among the video-less, that company can distinguish itself further by employing video on its site. Conversely, if the competition is already using video, it's incumbent upon the company in question to keep pace.
As to be expected, with the growing popularity of online video has come a burgeoning number of technology providers. Currently there are at least 60 pure play, on-demand online video platform providers (OVPs), offering businesses top to bottom video solutions, including encoding to multiple formats, storage, content management, monetization and analytics, as well as playback in customized video players that match and perpetuate a company's brand via such viral features as email, embed code and permalinks. If all that sounds like a bunch of technobabble (or even if it doesn't), the fact remains that companies considering video need to do some homework before jumping in feet first. While, "because everybody's doing it," may be a sufficient reason to explore adding video, it does not address your company's specific needs. The first, most obvious reason for adding video is to inject a more personable component to your site.
"With the use of video, a solid connection can be made between the presenter and end user, which personalizes the communication while creating interaction," Ben Chodor, president of media software provider, Stream57, said in a recent report. "With video exposure, you are giving clients the opportunity to associate a name and a face with your company, and creating a personal relationship." A company's primary question when considering video is: What are we trying to accomplish? Some sites, like that of lifestyle home products firm, Flipo (http://shopflipo.com), employ short clips on product pages to demonstrate how to install and/or use that product as a general service to its customers and prospects. Others use video as a means of disseminating or increasing exposure of their brand name, much as Air New Zealand did with its Bare Essentials campaign. The campaign centered around video spots featuring Air New Zealand staff, who swapped their real uniforms for a body painted version. The clever spots were quickly picked up by a host of other websites and blogs (this is what's meant by "going viral"), and have found a permanent home on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=elD38pJX7iE.
Another potential use of video is training clips for internal staff. These can be a useful means for explaining to employees a company's preferred approach to customer service, sales objectives, and so on. One such example can be found here: www.actionvideogroup.com/dragondemo.html. Once a company has determined what its video objectives are, it will be better positioned to find and contact the OVPs that are most relevant. "If you just Google 'online video hosting or streaming,' you're going to get a ton of garbage," Drey says. "That's only going to confuse you further."
Drey recommends coming up with a "Top Five Wants/Needs" list before the search begins, including such possibilities as whether you're looking for an OVP that syndicates to the major search engines and YouTube or one that offers deep analytics to measure user engagement and viewer behavior to track such variables as when users stop watching, or where they rewind or pause. With those objectives in hand, it will be easier to narrow down your search. Once you've found some OVPs that seem like real possibilities, Drey says, "Start kicking the tires. All the providers offer free solutions or free trials, many of which you can access within a few minutes of registering your name and email, and then boom! You can start exploring."
At this point, you can begin experimenting with uploading videos or at least wandering around the site to familiarize yourself with the OVP's tools. "It's important to be comfortable with it and to understand it," Drey says. "These providers are eager enough for your business that they'll answer any questions or uncertainties that you have. You need to find out how their player works and what you can do with it without getting confused. Some of them have way too many options for a small business." Questions to ask oneself, he adds, are: 'Is the navigation clear?' 'Can you get where you need to go, or find what you're looking for within one or two clicks?' 'Are the features obviously exposed and readily accessible?' If not, move on.
As is the case with any website, search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial. SEO involves the use of certain keywords that consumers are likely to use as they search for a particular product or service via Google, Yahoo!, Bing and the like. Using targeted keywords when titling and tagging your videos, and creating a number of videos that each focus on a different search term, are two relatively simple ways to make sure your video content and your website appear regularly on those search engines. Another buzzword, interactivity, can be a critical component for success as well. Encouraging customers to upload videos of themselves using your product to your website, inviting them to embed your videos on their own web pages, or even offering a video contest to promote your company or brand, can all engage existing customers and attract new ones. Video can also be used to emphasize specials or sales. Clips of new products, promo codes included in clips that reward viewers with discounts, or video messages about upcoming deals can all be effective.
Many business owners are gun shy about the possible expense of adding video. "People are afraid that they're going to need 30 engineers to deploy their video platform at a cost of $80,000 a month," Drey says. "But most of the small business solutions cost a fraction of that, and don't require any additional personnel." Still, some caution is recommended. Even after having their questions answered satisfactorily, some may still be reluctant to sign up for a standard 12 month contract, with the fear that something they hadn't thought about may turn into a negative, or even outright disaster, a few months down the line. For that very reason, many OVPs offer a month by month contract, which usually costs more per month than the 12 month offer, though you may need to inquire about such arrangements directly.
Another key question before signing on revolves around who actually owns your video content once you're onboard. "Oftentimes you can get out of a long term contract for a minimum fee," Drey notes. "But you need to ask, going in, what the provider's migration policy is. You could have uploaded 2,000 videos and then found something wasn't quite right. If you decide to go with a different provider, and want to move those video assets to that provider, is it fairly easy to do? Some providers feel that if they've encoded your raw video content for the Internet, then the coded product belongs to them, and you're faced with the problem of re-encoding your video with the next guy," he continues. "If that's the case, move on."
Inquiries should also be made as to how you can access your content to send to the next provider. Some will offer a separate web page, where you can retrieve your materials, while others will send you a disc containing the material. In any case, Drey says, the time to act is now. "I believe that within two years, virtually every website will have some video component," he states. "And those who don't will fall by the wayside, competitively."
For more information:
Kris Drey, founder
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