Online Video Strategy Can Boost Business or Weaken It

Businesses that develop an online video strategy will find that selectively developing videos will likely deliver a good return on investment.

Video iconBusinesses that develop an online video strategy will find that selectively developing videos will likely deliver a good return on investment.

Selectively developing videos means choosing the right topics, investing an appropriate amount of resources in the production of them and ensuring their widest possible distribution.

Unfortunately, some businesses take a different approach and end up spending a lot more than they get back.

Video Strategy Lesson #1

My first experience with online video production took place in 1999 when I became the general manager for the Cox Enterprises Web site in Seattle, which is home to KIRO-TV, a CBS affiliate.

The initial strategy called for the staff to take at least six to eight videos from every evening newscast and convert them into an online format.

At that time, the conversion tools were limited, the amount of effort required was high, and the results were spotty.

We learned that the majority of viewers (at least those who had the software necessary to play video) were not interested in most of the videos we produced. It was clear we had to be more selective.

Major news videos had of course the highest number of views in a brief period of time, but the views dropped off quickly.

Feature videos had far fewer views in the beginning, but they seemed to deliver more consistent views over a longer period of time because the topics were often evergreen.

Because of these evergreen videos, it became clear that archiving was important.

As time went forward, we produced fewer videos but spent more time on each one with a focus on quality rather than quantity.

Traditional media operations embraced online video production with great passion until they discovered that videos took a lot of labor, got relatively few views and didn’t attract ad revenue.

The passion for online videos died for traditional media. Meanwhile, Google bought YouTube and steadily built a business based on user contributions, mass archiving and effective cross promotion with the Google search engine.

Video Strategy Lesson #2

The growth of YouTube, viewers who embraced online video and Web browsers that could play video more easily led to a resurgence of interest by traditional media around 2005.

Unfortunately, it also led to some of the same mistakes as before.

Some newspapers went so far as to build complete online video studios and hire staffs to create channels filled with what they produced.

But once again, the ad revenue didn’t materialize, the audience was limited and the industry pulled back.

Some operations did have success producing advertorials / infomercials rather than news and feature videos.

This concept worked better because an advertiser such as a home builder would pay handsomely for a complete video production package.

Otherwise, the previous lessons still held true. Don’t overinvest, archive everything and be selective on production.

A new lesson also arrived. As traditional media Web sites grew their audiences, they could distribute their videos both on their sites and on YouTube, Facebook and other national sites to the largest number of people possible.

The number of views started to grow at an impressive rate. Organizations that produced the most videos got the most views, but they also tended to lose the most money on the effort.

Others that produced videos selectively and consistently did much better.

Elements of Today’s Strategy

Some individuals and companies do nothing but produce videos on YouTube and reportedly make good money at it.

Others don’t have the time or resources to do the same. Instead, they have a goal of using video as a promotional tool for their own Web site or business.

The following strategy increases the odds of success:

  1. Choose a handful of topics that are closely relevant to the business.
  2. If the videos are promoting a site, choose topics from the site that have the highest page views. Embedding the videos on those pages will increase the views.
  3. Create test videos to develop the necessary skills.
  4. Keep the first public video brief and focused on quality.
  5. Distribute it everywhere including YouTube, Vimeo, company Web site, social media accounts, etc.
  6. If it’s posted on YouTube, make sure it is approved for ads. They help pay for the production costs, but only if it gets a lot of views.
  7. Analyze results: “Minutes watched” should be more than 50 percent of the total length.
  8. Invest more time in the next few based on lessons learned from the first one.
  9. Produce more videos consistently over time, but don’t overdo the pace. Depending on the results, once a week or once a month should be enough to maintain skills and build a solid archive.

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