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New Media Video in Perspective

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by Andy McCaskey, Principal

Once you have added New Media to your marketing program, or perhaps used it with internal audiences for training or management information, the next step might seem to be adding video. But don’t be too hasty. What's needed is some careful thought about your marketing and communications goals, and an evaluation of your overall social media marketing program. Make sure you have the bases covered with content other than video before you make the leap.

Remember that the overall goal is to focus your efforts around using social media promotional tools to reach an involved community, creating and distributing good content. You might incidentally mention your product and services, but you must insure that your content offers value to that community and fits within the overall conversation within your industry. Adding video to your content mix is not an automatic road to higher engagement. It could be a fast track to over-reaching expectations, expense, and frustration.

If you've structured your program correctly, you are already off to a slow yet dependable start. You are publishing regularly, often enough to get noticed (weekly or bi-weekly), in a format and length that begins to allow an audience to build around your offering. Blog posts, infographics, PDF White Papers, app notes and ebooks are all forms of content that can be cross-promoted. Audio podcasts need to be delivered within a stream of other types of content that are of interest or value, and video content will need to complement that content and fit within your overall communications plan.

You have been careful to mix your social media tools as well - allowing for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ pointers; each citing the same content but with a little different slant for informational, social or technical audiences.

You have paid attention to the basics on structure (beginning, middle and end), made a call to action, set up your metrics, and guarded against a corporate tone of voice. You've allowed subject matter experts some latitude in content and approach, striving for an eighty percent predictable, and twenty percent delightful experience.

You are able to align with the information flow of your industry, because you are maintaining close involvement by monitoring the social media streams of colleagues, industry thought leaders, and competitors. Investment creating transient content is not going to be high, so you need to strike a balance in your coverage of items of only short term interest. People want to be up to date, and at the same time forge connections with resources that are evergreen and relevant. Noting news or announcements and adding perspective will have far greater staying and referral power than news alone. Insight always sells, and with your knowledge you can offer that insight in your information stream.

So what about video? If you are confident and consistent in your other forms of content, it may be time to add it to the mix. Video can build your brand, and it puts a personality on your Subject Matter Experts that helps build their personal brands as well. This opportunity can be important to individuals with an appreciation of the longer term career building potential of a positive social media and New Media reputation. Video coverage and interviews can have a long shelf life. We are seeing continued viewer downloads of Consumer Electronics Show (CES) video interviews that were recorded five or six years ago. Video also allows you to add personality to your market interactions, and make event experiences available to customers and partners that are unable to attend in person.

Initially, you will have a major decision to make: choosing the appropriate form of video delivery for your community. Video on demand (VOD) presents a screen shot or thumbnail in some sort of player on a web site, or in a dedicated player application. It may be free to the viewer, pay-per-view (PPV), or subscription.  Video on demand is most relevant to most businesses, as it allows time shifting and screen choice between laptop, desktop, smartphone, tablet, or flatscreen TV through a device such as the Roku box (see our public networks SDRNews and RVNN.TV).

A fast growing alternative is streaming video, which may be provided for free, or by subscription, or as pay-per-view. It may offer real-time video as events occur (for example at a trade conference), or in a “push” format similar to a television series, where a viewer tunes-in to a program already in progress.

Streaming video technology is also used to deliver video for VOD applications, since broadband service is now widely available. This format is now used almost exclusively on your PC or smart device, or on streaming video players, or streaming video TV set-top boxes It significantly reduces delivery cost for the content provider. Players such as Roku and Apple TV are available in the sub-$100 range in thousands of consumer electronics and big box stores.

Some video material is delivered on video podcast subscribe/automatic download model, just like audio podcasts - but it is not common. The reason? It is very expensive for the content provider, who pays for delivery bandwidth even though the viewer may watch only a few minutes or never watch the episode that has been downloaded to the subscriber's device. Video on demand hosted by commercial services such as Vimeo or Wistia will provide filtering of real audience demand and views, and allow you to pay only for the bandwidth that your viewers actually consume.

A quick note on the cultural phenomenon known as YouTube:  The price is right (free), there are some metrics, and you have a comfort level and familiarity that is hard to beat. Unfortunately, it is the Wild West as far as content is concerned, which could reflect poorly on your brand.  If you choose to host your business-oriented content on YouTube, it builds the YouTube brand as much as yours, and places your competitors' content immediately adjacent to your content when viewed on the YouTube site. YouTube should not be the primary site for distribution of your New Media content, but needs to be folded in to your overall strategy of New Media deployment. YouTube is extremely useful for discovery and promotion of deeper involvement with your content, but it should never be viewed as your primary video distribution means.

Video remains the land of tech complexity, with time consuming and confusing options. Technical standards are improving (HDMI connectors, H.264 video encoding, HD video on consumer devices) which reduces the costs for video capture and editing. For many purposes, smartphones or tablets are exceptional devices for video editing and capture. It is very hard to recommend entry level tools beyond the iPhone and iMovie or their iPad equivalents. Other devices on the low-budget end include Flip cams (no longer in production, but available), the Kodak zi8, and similar products including consumer HD camcorders.

The bad news? Audio is, and will be, the Achilles heel of productions using these tools. The $100 camera needs to be complemented with $1000 worth of professional wireless mics, a tripod and LED lighting to be usable - but investment at that level will immediately push your quality level past 80% of the total content available on YouTube. You will find that a recent smartphone or tablet will have more than enough video (and audio) capture capability if you connect external microphones and follow the same processes that you use to develop and produce good audio content. Adding a second microphone and recording on your audio podcast gear while you record your video will pay off.

It is essential that your video capture device have an external audio input. On-camera audio will at best insure mediocre results. In general, staying within one manufacturer’s line is a good strategy, especially in consumer and prosumer video cameras. There are multiple video codec standards that, while similar, do not play together well and are virtually impossible to edit.  There is NO place for video tape.  

The video and audio captured on site is, unfortunately, only part of the content. A lot of the complexity of the project involves bringing people, assets and locations into synchronization. Time needs to be allocated to planning - just like other elements of your new media content. The video production does not need to include elaborate titles, photos, effects or music. It does need to tell a story, offer value, and provide your community with relevant information that they will recommend and endorse for their social media channels.

The same tools and processes now can be turned towards private networks. We'll take a look at those next.

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