Enhance your business brand image and add new dimension to your web presence with video! When you include video on your website, blog, Facebook® page, or maintain a YouTube channel, your business can reap tremendous benefits without investing tons of time or money. You will have to think about it sensibly though, and this post is a great place to start.
We’re big fans of mini camcorders and many of our clients also use mini camcorders to capture themselves in action and gather testimonials at events. The popular Flip (by Cisco) was discontinued last year, but good alternatives are available by Samsung, Sony, Sanyo, and Kodak. In a pinch newer smart phones are also a good option. The built-in cameras are much improved over the older models; however, most smart phone video quality isn’t as good as a mini camcorder.
Using a mini camcorder is very easy, just point, zoom, and shoot. You should also plan to purchase a full-size camera stand because a little shaking is inevitable even if you’re recording for a less than a minute. Web cams or built-in laptop cameras are also useful for capturing video but you’ll have less flexibility when staging your shots.
Video editing software is essential for minor tweaks and you don’t have to pay a fortune for the basics. Most mini cameras and webcams come with basic editing software and you should try their software first to see if it meets your needs. When something more robust is required, try Microsoft Movie Maker or Apple iMovie® to add photos, music (make sure you have the rights to do so), text, and effects to create a video experience for your viewers.
Your business web presence goals and available resources (time, skill, equipment & money) should guide your video choices, but it helps to know that there are 5 main types of videos that small business owners and solopreneurs regularly use to improve their web presence and grow their businesses.
How To Videos are immensely popular and can drive a lot of traffic to your website / blog. Your video can be extensive or just present a few simple tips, like a landscaper who demonstrates the proper way to prune a bush or plant bulbs. Last year I created a How To Video series on protecting your privacy on Facebook for our blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. It’s a fine example of video screencasting.
Promotional Videos don’t have to use high-end production techniques like you’d find in a TV ad. Your promotional videos can simply explain your services and the benefits of working with your company. When someone is passionate about their work it shows, and your passion increases the chances that your target audience groups will want to hire you. Do they just need to see you in action? We created a video of Janet Taliaferro reading her poetry to promote her latest poetry chapbook, for example.
Information Sharing Videos capture the spirit of helpfulness that pervades many blogs and the Social Web. If you don’t like to write, try creating a video blog post. If you do like to write, mix it up once in awhile and share information in a video post, like this one on social networking. Effectively educating your audience is good business as well as a public service. A lawyer might use video to explain one point of law in understandable English, or a financial advisor might pronounce and explain “fiduciary responsibility” to establish their expertise and connect with potential clients.
Outreach Videos offer a great way to reach out to specific communities that share a common cause or interest and videos are a great (shareable) way to get the word out and create buzz about an event. For example, a freelance health writer and advocate might use video to promote a fund-raising event for a specific health issue on Facebook or their own blog. The video can be as simple as photo montage with music like in this inspiring 2012 Polk County’s Race for the Cure video.
Testimonial Videos can bring both project and praise to life. This testimonial from Shira Harrington shows her enthusiasm effectively even though there was (unfortunately) background noise too. Don’t forget that you can also create video testimonials for services or products you like and then upload your video to the company’s Facebook page or Amazon product page.
Where Do My Videos Live?
There are many video hosting services and the one you choose should meet the needs and interests of your audience and your company. YouTube has incredible name recognition and uploading videos to YouTube is fairly easy. However, there are many alternatives to YouTube and some focus on a particular niche, like Vimeo which boasts a very creative clientele. Plan to host your videos on an external service rather than on your website, and then embed the video itself on your site. Video hosting services handle increased bandwidth needs and streaming requirements more seamlessly than most small websites ever will.
Your final video does not need to mimic TV / movie production quality, but at the same time you want to end up with a steady shot, clear visuals, and understandable audio. It’s important to shoot the best video possible from the start—so pay attention to the lighting, and minimize background noise as much as you can. Video quality will be shaped by the environment, but you won’t always have a lot of options for your location so just do the best you can.
Set-up Takes Time so you should plan on taking a few minutes to set-up and test any equipment before each shoot.
Place your subject thoughtfully and remember that everyone wants to look good on camera. Photographers and videographers will tell you that people always look better when the camera is higher than the subject so that the shot angles slightly down. When it comes to composing a seated shot, you will often want to frame the top half of the subject in the viewfinder and then zoom in so that they fill up much of the screen.
Embrace the light! Love it, use it, you need bright light for clear video. If you’re using a web cam to video yourself at your desk, change the color of your computer’s desktop to white or open a blank browser to get more light on your face (tip via Lifehacker).
Pump up the volume! If your mini camcorder has a built-in mic, keep the equipment close to the subject. As you consider possible locations for your shoot, it’s very important to listen for background noise and reduce it as much as possible.
Minimalist backgrounds rule! Many business videos will benefit from a visually calm, minimalist background—think solid colors, attractive bookshelves, a wall and plants, or anything that avoids directing attention away from the star of your video. Busy backgrounds distract viewers from that all-important message or vital piece of information—and we all have enough distractions on the Web. Busy backgrounds make it harder for viewers to focus on the message.
Avoid reflective surfaces whenever possible. Watch out for glass, mirrors, and shiny surfaces when you are setting up a video in the field—they will reflect surroundings, passersby, and occasionally the person shooting the video as well.
Expect to trim the beginning and the end of the video or to combine several videos into one, but you don’t have to have the skills to do much else. Microsoft Movie Maker or Apple iMovie® make it easy to add photos and music, but you will need to own the rights to those photos and songs or get permission for anything you use. More complex video editing is time consuming and takes a lot of skill. If video is your calling and you decide that more sophisticate videos are for you, Lifehacker can help with The Basics of Video Editing: The Complete Guide.
Everything Takes Time
Be patient—it takes time to get comfortable in front of or behind the video camera, and the benefits of adding video to your business web presence are worth the effort. When video brings your work to life, current and potential clients will be drawn to you even as you enhance your business reputation. What’s not to love about that story?