Gil Becker is CEO & President of AnyClip, the AI-powered online video platform. Tweet at him @Becker_Gil
Most marketers across the ecosystem agree on video’s effectiveness as a marketing tool. To not engage with it as a brand is effectively self-sabotage. The statistics vary from site to site, but they’re uniform in their conclusion: Video marketing can boost engagement, increase sales and offer an unbeatable return on investment. This was true back in 2019, but it became undeniable in 2020 when the pandemic closed off many other forms of marketing. With holdouts getting onboard since Covid-19 began, we’ve witnessed a notable uptick in video marketing content and a drastic expansion of its audience. According to Wyzowl (registration required), 96% of consumers are said to have increased their video intake in the past year.
Is this an aberration, a makeshift response to an extraordinary situation, or is it the new normal? In my opinion, nearly every sign points to the latter. It’s true that — thankfully, finally — the vaccine is steadily wending its way through the population. Slowly, over the course of 2021, the world is returning to some version of its pre-virus state. But that world will be substantially different from the one we vacated back in March 2020. Brick-and-mortar retail, already on the decline, has nearly imploded during the pandemic. According to a recent CoStar report, more than 40 major retailers declared bankruptcy last year, and 11,000 stores announced they were shutting down. And retail survivors will have to contend with the fact that the past year has permanently altered the habits of many Americans who have grown accustomed to the ease of shopping online.
This is all to say that, post-Covid-19, video marketing will be as essential as ever. Brands that want to stay competitive and stand out in an increasingly crowded field will need to produce not simply more but better content, the kind that keeps consumers on-site, the surest route to purchase. They will need to act, in effect, like miniature streaming platforms, with diverse, accessible material tailored to multiple audiences.
I’ll admit this sounds daunting. But it shouldn’t be. Video content can but doesn’t have to mean lavishly produced, professional ads. Among the more pleasant surprises of the past few years is the revelation that consumers actually like less intensive, more casual content. It suggests authenticity and (executed well) can be as engaging as any costly campaign. The list of formats proven to engage consumers is long and growing, encompassing unboxings, testimonials, tutorials, live-streamed events, pre-recorded talks and explainer videos, the kind of inexpensive content you can film without a large cast and crew (and the elaborate Covid-19 safety procedures those would entail).
Unlike, say, a tightly scripted commercial, this kind of content allows consumers to develop a personal relationship with your brand. You can describe your products in full, compelling detail, introduce thoughtful members of your team and establish yourself through smart dialogues as a thought-leader in your field. A vast budget, in this arena, matters less than enthusiasm, a unique perspective and a steady stream of content.
And that’s not even to mention user-generated content, which is among the most effective strains of video marketing. According to one study, 90% of consumers are more likely to be influenced by user-generated content (UGC) than by promotional emails or SEO efforts.
If you do want to leverage UGC seriously and intend to sift through it manually, you’ll want to make sure to dedicate some team members to the task. Generating reviews can be easier than you think; start with some incentives, like coupons or special offers, and try using email campaigns to push your customers to create a review. Gamification, like offering points that accumulate with interactions and can be later redeemed, can help create a community of reviewers. Be sure to respond to negative reviews with tact and warmth. A little gamification on your side can help, too. You could offer your team incentives to find, vet, promote and respond to reviews to encourage them to keep at it.
Of course, once you get things rolling, manually tracking UGC content can be time-consuming, and inadequately vetting it can pose real risks to your brand. As an alternative option, you can consider using AI with video marketing. (Full disclosure, my company offers these types of services, as do others.) The scale and constant oversight demanded by manually tracking UGC can seem impossible. Beyond serving as a censor — flicking away clips with inappropriate language or imagery — AI can recirculate content you’ve made in-house, boosting retention by rescuing old clips from obscurity. It can also auto-tag your clips on a frame-by-frame basis, making it easier for your customers to find what they’re looking for. And outside the walls of your own website on social media sites where brands seek consumers, AI can be an organizational tool, helping you coordinate content across multiple platforms.
There are, at this moment in history, few things one can say with confidence. Will we return to “normal” as the pandemic wanes? Or have we changed enough to establish a new normal? Maybe a little of both, but we can’t really know. That said, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I predict that, through this pandemic and long past it, video marketing will continue its steep ascent. Those brands that recognize this fact and act accordingly, can be well-positioned for whatever the future has in store.
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