How to use video to connect with customers

BY JULIE A. PALM

Bedding manufacturers who want to forge new connections with consumers should jump on the video bandwagon. And using this moving medium is easier than you think

video live

If you want to grab consumers’ attention these days, go with video. It’s what they are watching, seemingly all the time. Consider these numbers: More than 500 million people watch a video on Facebook and 1 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube—every single day. And that’s only two platforms.

Admittedly, a lot of those videos are makeup tutorials, garage bands and funny animals. But a considerable number are from companies hunting the same disposable dollars you seek, and they are going where they know consumers are—on their phones and laptops looking for everything from entertainment to information. More than 39,000 brands uploaded original videos in 2016, according to the “State of Online Video” report from Tubular Labs, a provider of social video analytics and intelligence headquartered in Mountain View, California.

“Video marketing has become the fastest-growing trend of the digital era,” says Matt Byrom, managing director of Wyzowl, a producer of explainer and other videos based in Southport, England. “Whether it’s an explainer video, a webinar or a social media campaign, there’s little disputing that customers—and business owners—want to create, consume and share videos.”

In fact, Wyzowl’s own report, “The State of Video Marketing 2017,” shows 82% of companies believe video is an important part of their marketing strategy and 75% of marketers plan to increase their use of video.

If you’re among those companies that want to increase their video marketing efforts, we’ll walk you through the basics of creating videos and offer plenty of tips, whether you want to shoot your own or hire videographers to handle it for you.

Because video dominates social media these days, many of our tips are geared to those platforms, but most apply to videos for use on your company website or in your dealers’ stores, too. Consider that your first video lesson: When you’ve made a great video, share it everywhere you can!

Telling your story

When we talk about video here, we mean everything from how-to explainers to live event videos. (Read more about both of those below.)

Regardless of the type, your video should tell some sort of story. It might be “The Story of Carla, Who Makes Sure Your Mattress is Perfect Before It Leaves Our Factory” or “The Story of How Our Foam Conforms to Your Body Like No Other.” (You’ll come up with better titles, of course!)

“The best video content tells stories that connect with the viewer. The better you tell stories about yourself, the more likely your viewers are going to understand what your company is offering and what it can do for them,” writes Ash Read, a content creator for social media management platform Buffer in an April 2017 blog post.

These days, authentic stories are most compelling to consumers. Use videos to give people a real, upclose look at your company and its culture. Show consumers the manufacturing process in interesting ways and introduce them to the people who will make their mattress. Give viewers a feel for what drives you as a company—and what that says about the products you manufacture.

Just make sure you don’t overwhelm viewers. Concentrate on one story at a time. For instance, demonstrate how you use the finest mattress components. Save other “plot lines”—how you are a zero-waste manufacturing facility with a small environmental footprint—for subsequent videos. Remember: Video shouldn’t be a one-and-done effort. Social platforms, in particular, crave new content, so think about creating a series of videos or related video campaigns. Encourage your team to submit ideas and don’t be afraid to try something new.

And not to set the storytelling bar too high, but Read argues that, ideally, each video’s story should be so intriguing that it engages viewers even with the sound off. There’s a practical reason for this: Loud autoplay videos have some people rebelling and silencing their devices while they scroll through social media feeds. That means viewers may see, but never hear, your video.

“Marketers should think about how they can create a compelling story without the need for audio,” Read says. “If users can pick up a story without the need for sound, then you can certainly boost the effectiveness of your content.”

Along with the story you want to tell in each video, consider also the tone you want to set. Serious and sophisticated? Playful and irreverent? In general, videos with a casual tone are more popular. For instance, in the Wyzowl survey, 83% of consumers said they prefer videos that have an “informal voice,” meaning people are chatty and conversational, speaking like family and friends do.

“Videos are ideal for maximizing the emotional impact of your content. … Videos feel more real and alive than other types of media, and they can help you deliver a big emotional punch in a shockingly short time frame,” writes Ana Gotter in a July 2016 article for social media marketing resource SocialMedia-Examiner.com.

You can appeal to viewers’ emotions using music, tone of voice, camera angles and more. Every detail helps set the mood.

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Action!

To take your video from concept to completion, you need a plan. Now, you don’t necessarily have to write a formal script, use paid actors or create a detailed storyboard. But to save time and ensure an effective, professional-looking final product—even for casual videos that have a shot-on-the-fly feel—you need to take some time to create a story outline and a basic shot list. On location, roughly block out the action and right before you actually start to shoot, check lighting, camera angles and sound levels.

Give extra thought to how your video will open. Those first few seconds are critical to grabbing viewers’ attention and, let’s face it, people’s attention spans are shorter than ever—and perhaps shortest on social media.

“You must bring your story to life quickly, so as to instantly gather interest as people scroll through their feeds,” Read says. “In the opening seconds, you must give clarity to what your video is about and give the viewer confidence that what they’re about to watch is worth their time.” Of course, good editing will help hone those first seconds, but you want to go into the video shoot with a clear idea of what that opening will be.

To give yourself maximum flexibility in editing your final video, allow time to shoot B-roll after you’ve finished shooting the main video. For instance, if you’re explaining a new mattress technology, B-roll could include close-ups of the components and happy consumers rest-testing a finished bed. Video professionals have a saying, “You can never have too much B-roll.”

Like all good marketing efforts, most of your videos should include a call to action, maybe asking viewers to visit your website to learn more about your mattresses or encouraging them to download a special offer in conjunction with a retail partner. Or calls to action can be something that will boost your message’s reach: You can ask people to like your Facebook page or share the video with their friends, Read says.

In traditional marketing, calls to action typically come at the end of the ad, but those placed at the start (preroll) or even middle (midroll) of your video can be effective. In fact, research from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based video hosting platform Wistia shows “midroll CTAs appear to convert at the highest rate,” Read says. “Midroll CTAs had an average conversion rate of 16.9%, compared with a post-roll conversion rate of 10.9%.” Experiment with placement and see what works best for your company. If a person in the video doesn’t explicitly issue the call to action, you can add one during editing by inserting cards, graphics or other text.

In the editing bay

Now that the rough video footage is shot come myriad editing decisions and final touches.

Let’s start with how long your final video should be. Conventional wisdom is that shorter videos are better, but in reality what matters is if a video keeps viewers’ attention. Twenty seconds can be boring; three minutes can be riveting.

When asked the ideal length for an explainer video, in particular, 50% of consumers preferred about a minute, while 33% said one to two minutes and 12% want it to clock in at less than 60 seconds, according to Wyzowl.

All that said, social media platforms have their own limits on video length—from only 10 seconds on Snapchat to 120 minutes on YouTube. Hint: You often can get around length restrictions by posting a video on YouTube and then linking to it from a more restrictive site. And some platforms allow paid ads to run longer than free posts.

But again, the driving factor is how long will people—real people—be interested in your video.

When it comes to sound, there are two big things to consider during editing. Do you need to add voiceover and do you want to incorporate music?

You can use voiceover to present additional information that’s not conveyed explicitly in the video or to issue a call to action. When including a voiceover, be careful whom you choose to speak: Three-quarters of consumers say they’ve been discouraged from buying a product because a voiceover in an ad “annoyed or alienated” them, according to the Wyzowl survey.

Music is especially important—for those viewers who leave the sound up! As we noted earlier, music helps create a mood. It also covers up little background noises. Just be sure the tunes don’t drown out anyone speaking. If you have the budget to pay royalties, great. If not, there are several companies, including Free Music Archive and Audio Jungle, that offer free or low-cost music. (Check each song for specific licensing restrictions.)

To help along those viewers who are listening with the sound down, add captioning. These days, it’s critical—and also kind, Gotter says. “Adding video subtitles will allow those who are hearing impaired to watch and get all of the information,” she says.

At this stage, you also may want to incorporate branding icons into your video. As Gotter notes, when a video gets shared repeatedly, viewers can lose track of its origins, and you want people to know it came from you. In most cases, your logo naturally will be shown clearly several times in each video. If it’s not, incorporate it during editing. Gotter suggests keeping your logo small, maybe tucked into the corner, where it’s visible but not distracting.

Finally, you need to choose the first image from your video that people will see when they are scrolling through their social media feeds or looking around on a website. This image is called a thumbnail and it is what grabs people’s initial attention. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are among the platforms that let you pick the thumbnail: You want it to be both compelling and representative of the video.

“Avoid a blurry, motion-filled shot,” Read says. “Your thumbnail should suggest that the video is high quality. Pick a different frame where your subject or environment looks crisp and clear.”

Getting seen

Once you’ve got a video you’re happy with, you want everyone to see it. Post it on your own website, and if appropriate, share it with your suppliers and retail partners for use on their own sites. Some videos might be great for in-store viewing, too. Then broadcast them widely on social media, from YouTube to Pinterest.

Note that some social media apps prioritize native videos—videos that are posted directly or created on a social media platform, as opposed to being linked to from another site. Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes native videos, Gotter notes, and native videos appear to perform better on other platforms than linked videos, too. Pinterest, however, doesn’t allow native videos unless you pay for them as promoted posts, i.e., ads.

Speaking of Facebook, remember that in addition to paying for ads directed to specific audiences, you also can target individual posts to a selected group.

“With Facebook organic reach in decline, this feature could be a great help to ensure you’re always reaching the most relevant people with every post,” Read says. You can target videos to groups based on age, gender, location and their interests.

And lastly, make sure all your videos are optimized for internet searches. As Read notes, “More than 3.5 billion searches per day are performed on Google, and Google-owned YouTube also boasts more than 3 billion searches per month. Search is also a growing trend on Facebook, with more than 2 billion searches per day conducted on the platform.”

How do you make your videos findable in internet searches? Start by using keywords in your video’s title, and then add a keyword-filled description, as well. “Avoid overdoing it, though, and ensure your description tells a story about what’s in the video rather than just being a list of keywords,” Read says.

What’s your type?

Here are three types of videos that are sure to garner the attention of consumers.

1. This is how we do it

How-to videos that explain a product, concept or process are ideal for sleep products manufacturers—and consumers love them. In fact, nearly eight in 10 consumers say they’d rather watch a video to learn about a product than read about it, according to a survey from Wyzowl, a producer of explainer and other videos based in Southport, England.

Post a video on Facebook showing how big ol’ mattresses get put into those tiny boxes—and bounce back quickly in a consumer’s bedroom. Or create a video for YouTube explaining how your smart bed app functions.

“How-to videos are a great opportunity to promote your product without being too heavy-handed,” says Ana Gotter in a July 2016 article for social media marketing resource SocialMediaExaminer.com. “I saw a how-to video where a clothing company posted six different ways to tie one of their scarves. It was incredibly effective, offering value while still promoting the product.” (Maybe you can help consumers finally learn how to fold a fitted sheet.)

2. Go live

Social platforms, most notably Facebook and YouTube, have gone all in on live video streaming, while Periscope is devoted to nothing but live feeds. (Instagram is experimenting, recently adding the ability for a person to “go live” with one other user.)

In its Cisco Visual Networking Index, the San Jose, California-based technology conglomerate estimates live video will account for 13% of all internet video traffic by 2021—a 15-fold increase over 2016. Live videos are great for special events. And they have an authenticity that makes them popular with viewers, who can respond and comment in real time.

They also have their pitfalls, including problems with connectivity if you have a weak Wi-Fi signal, so it may take a few tries to be successful. (Note that you can save live videos on Facebook and YouTube so they remain on your platform. Live chats on Snapchat disappear.)

3. Fly into the sky

For another perspective, incorporate drone footage into videos. For instance, use a drone camera to fly over your facility (we know many of you have impressive headquarters and manufacturing plants), sweeping in through the front door to a crowd of happy employees. You could even use a drone inside to get an overview of the entire manufacturing process. Many companies provide drone video: Just make sure you and the company you hire follow all applicable laws for these flying aces.

Who’s watching videos? Everyone!

  • 84% of consumers have been convinced to make a purchase after watching a brand’s video
  • 91% of consumers have watched an explainer video to learn about a product or service
  • 79% of consumers would rather watch a video to learn about a product than read text on a page
  • 90% of consumers watch videos on their mobile device, but 60% say they prefer to watch videos on their desktop (or laptop).

Source: Wyzowl’s “The State of Video Marketing 2017” report

A handy guide to social media video specs

It’s hard enough to keep up with the names of the latest social media apps, let alone what their confusing and ever-changing specifications are for posting your latest company video.

The experts at Sprout Social, a Chicago-based social media software and services provider, understand that frustration and have created a handy tool to help—a comprehensive and regularly updated guide to social media video specifications and advertising video dimensions.

The guide is publicly available and housed in Google Docs. You can even sign up for notification each time it’s updated. Sprout has made a similar guide for social media image sizes. Find links to both here. So useful!

Your equipment list

videoIf you’d like to try your hand at shooting video for your company, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t need to invest in a lot of pricey equipment. The smartphones most of us carry around in our pockets and purses typically have a high-quality camera. Download some free editing software and you’re ready to start shooting. If you invest in a few upgrades and inexpensive buys, you can make shooting and editing video even easier—and the final product more professional looking.

Brian Peters, a digital marketing strategist for Buffer, maker of the social media management platform by the same name, gives a rundown of favorite tools used by video pros at Buffer and elsewhere.

Basic hardware

  • Smartphone: Both iPhones (iPhone 5 or newer) and many Android models (Google Pixel/Pixel XL, Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, HTC 10, Lenovo Moto G4 Plus and others) shoot high-quality video that meets social media platform standards, Peters says.
  • Camcorder: “For marketers who want to take their social video creation game up one step while still staying on budget, a camcorder is your next best option,” Peters advises, adding that CNET.com is a good resource for reviews of high-quality, yet inexpensive, camcorders.
  • Tripod: Unless you’re going for the shaky-cam feel, you’re going to need a tripod to keep your phone or camcorder steady. It’s simply too hard for most of us to keep the camera steady over any length of time.
  • Microphone: Small lavalier mics that can be clipped onto the shirt or jacket of subjects in your video dramatically improve sound quality, Peters notes.

Editing tools

  • Apple iMovie: “It’s a user-friendly tool that will allow you to perform basic edits to your video, including captioning, adding music, enhancing the quality, reducing background noise and more,” Peters says. The app is available for free on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
  • Movie Maker: This software is similar to iMovie but for Windows computers and Android devices. For Androids, Peters also recommends PowerDirector (free and premium paid versions available).
  • Filmora and Lightworks: These higher powered editing options are used by everyone from filmmakers to professional video editors. A single lifetime business license for Wondershare’s Filmora is $119; Lightworks’ Pro version is $175 for an annual license. Both are available for Windows and Mac. 

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