Business videos come in several different varieties. There are explainer videos, about us videos, marketing videos -- some meant to educate, others meant to purely entertain and some designed to do both. And while there is no way to guarantee that your next business video will garner tens of thousands of views on YouTube, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood of it being viewed, liked and shared.
Here are 14 tips from video marketing experts on how to help ensure your next business video is a hit.
1. Know who your target audience is. "Before you [write a script or] get the camera rolling, think about who your audience is and what their needs are," says Loni Stark, director of product, solution and industry marketing at Adobe.
Your "business objectives will help you segment your target audience. For instance, if your goal is to drive awareness, your audience will be quite different and much larger than, say, folks already on your site who need a little nudging to drop a product into their carts," says Stark.
2. Have a solid concept and script. "When it comes to creating influential business video, a solid script is the foundation for success," says Sabrina Cote, social media marketing manager, Brainshark, a provider of business presentation solutions. "Start by determining the format for the video. Is it a product demo or talking head style video that requires a carefully worded script? Or is it a Q&A video that requires pre-written questions, but allows for wiggle room in the answers to ensure authenticity?" Then, once you've settled on a format, "create an outline. Then fill in the details." Finally, make sure to storyboard it.
3. Hire a professional to film it -- or at least use professional grade recording/sound equipment. "Some of the most popular viral videos on YouTube were shot by amateurs recording something funny, with mediocre sound and video quality," says Russ Somers, vice president of Marketing, Invodo, a business video provider. "That may work for 'Charlie Bit My Finger,' but your business shouldn't make the mistake of [shooting] amateur quality videos," he says. "Consumers prefer professional-grade business videos to user-generated content, according to multiple studies."
"There are many companies that can make you look good [that are] cost effective," says David Greenwood, the owner of Greenwood & Associates, a PR and video marketing firm. "There's nothing worse than bad lighting, sound and a business video that looks like it was shot on a phone. Invest a little and get a lot back."
Indeed, "sound is 50 percent of what makes a video," says Jason Whitt of Geek Powered Studios, an Internet marketing agency. "Having quality recording equipment or a controlled environment is critical when recording a business video. If the sound quality of your video is poor or has too much external noise, viewers may not respond the way you want them to."
So if you have to shoot the video yourself, "don't rely on the camera's built-in microphone," says Somers. Instead, "make sure you're using an external microphone to get the best audio."
4. Have a clear, simple message -- and minimize (or cut) the corporate jargon. "A successful business video is simple to understand," says Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation.com, a provider of online document filing services.
"Customers are looking to understand what your business can do for them or how you can help them solve a problem," Sweeney says. "If your video is too detailed and complicated, viewers will click away and search for something simpler. So make sure your video is "compelling, brief and focused on a specific message."
"Too often we try to cram in every benefit or feature about our business in a single video," says Stephen Murphy, the owner of Bamboo Interactive. So "keep your message to one or two main points and cut the rest; your audience will reward you with their attention."
Lastly, "cut out [or minimize the use of] words containing '-ization,' such as, 'globalization,' 'utilization,' etc., and avoid overused business words [such as] 'innovate,' 'disrupt,' etc.," says Eddie Rice, a speech writer at Custom Speech Writing. "To make this happen, take the script and highlight all of the jargon -- and then get someone not familiar with your industry to find the jargon and useless phrases." Then replace jargon with easy to understand words and phrases.
5. Keep it short. "Fifty-three percent of people viewing business videos leave after one minute," says Eric Guerin, executive producer,Adelie Studios. "So edit. Then when you think you're done, edit some more," he says. "Being concise helps keep your audience engaged and drives them to whatever your call to action is."
That said, "A 2012 research study by the etailing group found that more than one-third of consumers (37 percent) will spend more than three minutes watching a video if it helps them make a decision," says Somers. So rather than picking "an arbitrary time limit to your business videos, decide what information your customers or consumers need to have and deliver it in a concise, compelling way."
6. Don't forget SEO. "A good business video is optimized for SEO," says Ken Wisnefski, the founder and CEO of WebiMax, an Internet marketing company. "Adding keywords in the title, description and tags, and uploading a transcript, will ensure that your video is easily found by people searching your brand name or keywords associated with your products, services or industry."
7. Include a call to action. "Like any other content marketing channel, your video should have a clear, direct call to action at the end," advises Murphy. "Don't miss this opportunity to take an engaged audience and point them to the next step of your sales funnel. It can be as simple as asking them to subscribe to your newsletter, or to call for more information."
"Always include a call to action at the end that will get them moving toward your website, picking up the phone or connecting with you on social media," says Christa Freeland, marketing manager, Powershift Ventures, a venture capital company. "Let the viewer know how they can engage with you further and learn more about your company if interested."
8. Brand your video(s). "A branded title card design makes your video look polished and professional," notes Shannon Stull Carrus, creative director, Whoiscarrus, an advertising agency. "A title card can also be reused for new videos, keeping all of your company's videos brand consistent."
9. Add music. "The effect of an appropriate music selection can't be understated," says Kevin Pallotti, assistant video producer and editor at Symmetry Partners, an investment advisory firm. "Whether it's a melody that plays gently in the background or a catchy beat that's synchronized to the movement of your video, the right piece of music can generate an entertaining atmosphere for the viewer," he says. And adding music to your video needn't be expensive. "Royalty free music comes in all price ranges; there is something for every budget."
10. Feature real employees or customers (if relevant). "Many potential customers will be drawn to the authenticity of real people in a company video," says Greenwood. "The customer will have the opportunity to get to know the actual people at the business, and it won't come off as a slick corporate video."
11. Remember that clothes can make (or break) a video. "When it comes to on-camera appearances, solid colors are always recommended over patterns or stripes," explains Jayson Schkloven, senior vice president and partner at Merritt Group, a communications firm. "Complex patterns and lines do not look good on camera and often cause what is known as the moiré effect... [where] the stripes or patterns appear to move on camera."
Also, make sure subjects' appearance is consistent with your brand or the image you want to project about your company or brand. For example, a talking head for a financial advisory firm should probably wear a suit and tie (as opposed to a pair of jeans and a t-shirt). And make sure the outfit is clean and neat -- no stains, wrinkles, rips or loose threads, which can be distracting (unless you are trying to highlight them).
12. Think mobile. "Marketers have a real opportunity to expand their influence with consumers on the go. So make sure your videos are optimized for playback across a variety of mobile devices," says Stark. "For example, Biltmore, which operates the George Vanderbilt historic estate, makes the mansion and garden come alive in a [ series of videos] that are optimized for desktop, tablet and mobile devices."
13. Use YouTube. "Even if you plan on embedding your business video in a custom player on your website or using another embed from sites like Vimeo, post it on YouTube," says David Shiffman, founder and brand elevator, Brandamos, an Internet marketing firm. "YouTube, which is owned by Google, is the second largest search engine on the Internet." And "with a properly optimized video title, tags and description, you increase your chances of Google ranking your video for relative keywords," he says.
And be sure to "take advantage of YouTube's transcript feature," adds Carrus. "Including a video transcript will help make your video accessible to the hearing impaired, and will also help boost your SEO."
14. Share your videos on social media and with existing and prospective customers (via email newsletters). What if you made a business video and nobody knew about it or saw it? To make sure you get maximum viewership, post your video not just on YouTube but on your Facebook page and on Twitter and LinkedIn. And let people know about it via your email newsletter or a press release.
Read more about online marketing in CIO's Online Marketing Drilldown.