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4 Steps to Take Video Content Beyond Ads

alarm clock-wake up callGo ahead. Do your own research and see if you can find meaningful insights and data on measuring, benchmarking, tracking, and optimizing online video content. No doubt, you’ll end up as frustrated as I was. And you’ll find that most of the information out there is focused specifically on online video advertising.

I am still hopeful that one of these days marketers will wake up to the fact that online video content is not just about advertising. The real evolution is the huge shift to video for almost every other form of content and communication: employee communications, product videos, how-to tips, customer reviews, brand stories… you get the point.

There is an interesting prediction that two-thirds of the world’s data will be video by 2017. I think that stat warrants repeating: Two-thirds of the information we consume — research, news, entertainment, you name it — will be in video form. Even if this forecast ends up being only partially accurate, are brands remotely prepared to measure, track, benchmark, and optimize engagement for these types of video content? 

You don’t have time to hit snooze

Here are just a few alarms that should be shaking content marketers from their sleepy approach to video content strategy:

  • Ninety-six percent of U.S. adults who have watched a video on their computers, tablets, or mobile phones at least once over the past 6 months find video helpful when making purchase decisions, according to a recent survey by Animoto. And 73 percent say they are more likely to make a purchase after watching an online video that explains the product or service. 
  • Another recent study by Invodo found that half of consumers claimed YouTube videos influenced their purchase decisions. Some 57 percent of online shoppers said they are less likely to return a product bought after watching it explained via video. 

In light of this, it’s important to keep online video advertising in perspective, and remember that ads are merely a subset of a bigger shift to using video content to better engage with consumers.

Some marketers are starting to stir

As marketers and communicators, it’s time we spend our energy, resources, and funds to better understand, measure and capitalize on this bigger shift to online video content. We’re already seeing some signs of this:

For example, two-thirds of marketing and sales professionals will increase their video spending as a means to increase brand awareness (47 percent), lead generation (40 percent), or online engagement (40 percent), per a new report from Ascend2. Interestingly, they consider video email their most effective distribution channel, followed closely by video platforms such as YouTube and company or brand websites.

These are promising numbers, but when I look at the magnitude of the opportunity and the avalanche of video content that will transform the web from a text to a visual network, I find myself frustrated with how far behind marketers fall every day. The only way to capitalize on the opportunity is for marketers to take ownership and embrace an enterprise video content strategy today — one that includes strategic measurement, testing, benchmarking, and optimization, just like every other aspect of their marketing and communications programs.

Why the slow start?

There’s no contesting that video content is quickly becoming the new order on the web. But just like any monumental shift, there are hurdles that we ignore or approach reluctantly when it comes to optimizing video content, such as:

  • Content ownership: Naturally, the consumer marketing professionals own online video advertising. The rest of the video content can fall under the purview of a wide range of verticals, including PR, product development, corporate communications, internal communications, investor relations, executive offices… the list goes on. Without centralized ownership, there’s no standard for measurement and optimization — and often no clear understanding of what needle to try to move and when. 
  • Measurement: Current advertising measurement is relatively generic and, although standards are evolving, gross rating points, clicks, and views are still acceptable success metrics. But, measuring longer-form video content (1–5 minutes) is a bit more complex, and there is no standard for creating a relationship between variables that will help quantify content engagement and success. 
  • Content production: I am oversimplifying this to make a point, but in a traditional advertising structure, all I need to do is call my creative agency and ask them to produce a couple of great commercials a year that work both online and on TV. Fast forward to a new world where fresh cross-department video content needs to be created and distributed according to a strategic editorial calendar. That requires a publisher mentality and the involvement of many teams working together — not just marketing departments. With this comes a multitude of process and production challenges, including determining what part of the organization will be responsible for paying for the necessary shifts in resources. 
  • Distribution: Advertising — whether on TV or online — offers plenty of evolved processes, and there are plenty of companies whose raison d’etre is to target the right video ad content to the right people at the right time. Meanwhile, the rest of the video content distribution typically relies on the marketers and their video strategy in creating an integrated distribution platform. They must effectively and efficiently tie together all of the company’s content access gateways without forgetting about mobile platforms that are leading the way in video consumption.

How we can avoid the video graveyard

We need to look beyond online video advertising and embrace the video content revolution as something much bigger and broader. Unless we focus on how we measure, benchmark, and track all video engagement, our expensive video content will end up in what I call “video graveyards” (i.e., most of the branded channels on YouTube).

At a relatively high level, here are four steps I would suggest to get content marketing on the right path:

1. Define your overall video content strategy, including metrics and benchmarks: Not unlike other marketing tactics, the makeup of your video content and distribution structure should be driven by business goals and the profile of your target audience. Establish measurement metrics and create benchmarks, before tracking, reporting, and optimizing. 

I believe that measuring your videos’ engagement levels must be at the core of your KPIs. I wish I could tell you that it’s as easy as looking at the number of views or “likes” from your YouTube analytics dashboard, but it is a bit more complex than that. Video engagement is not a single event but rather a relationship between multiple weighted attributes in three key factors: exposure, action, and social amplification. So, when you look at setting up your video engagement KPIs, you need to look at tracking attributes — such as channel subscribers, percent of videos viewed to completion, socially embedded vs. on-channel views, etc.

2. Think and act differently: Try structuring your marketing team like a content publisher. To be a bit more specific, typically marketing departments produce content that speaks to the interests of the company (i.e., it focuses on the company’s products and services). By injecting publisher-centric resources and methods, you can start creating and delivering content with a better balance between your brand’s needs and those of your consumers. 

A publisher mentality will help not only with the way your content is created but also with how it gets organized, targeted, created, vetted for relevancy, delivered, and archived. The easiest example I can think of is incorporating an editorial calendar into your content processes to help you plan out the creation of thoughtful, timely, and relevant content. Taking a page from a publisher’s playbook can help marketers figure out what parts of their company’s content plan would work best in a video format, as well as how to integrate their internal content resources to reflect the needs of the enterprise at-large — not just certain department silos.

3. Be creative with your resource usage: Find the right balance between developing content internally and using third-party production resources. Keeping both your brand’s business objectives and your consumers’ needs top-of-mind will also help you strike that balance: Third-party content sources can often help validate the authenticity of a brand’s messages and provide added value without the bias of internally generated content. Third-party content can also help address the need to sustain a healthy stream of new content, while keeping internal costs in check and realizing quicker turnarounds.

4. Mind your company’s technological infrastructure: Make sure the technology and development resources of your company are factored into your strategy development. Otherwise, you may build a great content-producing machine with no functioning mechanism for proper distribution — which means your content will, ultimately, go nowhere. How many of us have created great content that never really reached its ROI potential? I am sure we are all familiar with “the moment is gone” scenario — situations where the time between coming up with the idea and being able to deploy it became too long. Having the right technology in place to keep the process moving forward can help alleviate the potential for your video content to fall into the graveyard of great ideas that died on the vine.

None of the above is a walk in the park, but they are steps all marketers need to start taking. Start with measuring what you’ve done to date, and then create benchmarks and quantitative goals for where you want to go. As for that part — the vision — the best advice I have is to look beyond the obvious.

For more great ideas, insights, and examples for advancing your content marketing, read Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi.