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5 Lessons on Creating Video Like a Pro

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5 Lessons on Creating Video Like a Pro

If getting better at working with video is on your content marketing to-do list for this year, you’re in good company. CMI’s most recent Video and Visual Storytelling Research finds 88% of marketers use videos for content marketing, and 60% anticipate spending more on video this year than they did a year ago. Yet, nearly half indicate they weren’t using video to its full potential (48%).

What’s holding them back? Concerns about budget, lack of in-house technical skills, and limited management support sit at the top of the barriers. Once you clear those operational hurdles, there’s still the matter of how to plan, position, and promote your video stories to achieve optimal marketing performance.

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 In a recent Ask the CMWorld Community chat, Andrew Davis, best-selling author and internationally acclaimed speaker, shared the expertise acquired throughout his career, which spans the entertainment, marketing, and media industries.

Andrew believes with the right upfront preparation, attention to a few critical details, and some expert tips, any business can deliver high-quality, highly engaging video stories – no matter how much or little they invest in developing it.

The right preparation, attention to critical details, and adherence to some expert tips can deliver highly engaging #video stories, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Watch the video below for the full conversation, and then read on for some expert tips and shortcuts to streamline your technical processes, sharpen your creative focus, and improve the marketing results from your video content.

Note: Andrew references a video throughout the conversation, which is included below to provide the necessary context for readers:

Lesson 1: Make sure you have a good writer

Unless you livestream, you need a good writer to craft the stories before you film them. A skilled scriptwriter can help ensure the visual imagery aligns with and reinforces the key points.

Andrew points to another reason high-quality writing is instrumental: It can help you set realistic expectations around your technical capabilities, making production more efficient.

A good writer should craft the stories before you film them, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

He explains the writer’s creative choices set the stage for many filming requirements, such as:

  • Equipment – Will you need a wide-angle lens? Will filming with your phone be an option? Would you need to rent a drone for aerial shots?
  • Production work – Will you need someone who can scout locations and handle permit applications?
  • Specialized editing skills – Will you need someone with animation experience? Special effects expertise?

An experienced writer also can point to areas that may be challenging to execute (creatively or financially) and come up with viable workarounds. For example, if the initial idea requires aerial camera work or expensive props, the writer can think about ways to script the story to avoid those costly concepts. “Don’t worry about technical stuff until you have a script you’re happy with,” Andrew says.

Lesson 2: Map out your words and images in advance

Like most content marketing assets, videos start as ideas – they likely will get refined, revised, and reworked numerous times before deployment.

Yet, video workflows are more complex than most text-based content. You need to take steps in advance, such as establishing your filming locations and scenery, managing production tasks, such as text overlays, interstitial graphics, and B-roll), and securing technical equipment and expertise, such as editing software and a skilled editor who can turn the raw footage into a cohesive story.

Unlike a blog article or email campaign where you can make small changes and republish almost in an instant, fixing an error or updating a scene in a video can create a ripple effect of time-consuming and costly tasks.

Fixing an error in a #video can create a ripple effect of time-consuming and costly tasks, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

To avoid those late-game budget busters, Andrew suggests mapping everything – from the copy for the vocal track and the imagery and actions in each scene to the props and anything else your team might need to bring your story to life on video.

Andrew uses a simple, two-column template Word document. He lists each shot he plans to capture. In the left column, he details the audio features, including the spoken script and background sounds or music. On the right, he notes the visual features, including camera angles, B-roll footage, on-camera actions, props, and captions or other effects. He refers to this outline as “a recipe for creating the best possible video for his purpose.”

Here’s what Andrew’s template looks like:

However, if videos are an ongoing focal point of your content marketing, you may invest in a dedicated screenwriting app (like Scrivener or WriterDuet), which provides more scripting templates.

Screenwriting apps such as @ScrivenerApp or @WriterDuet provide more scripting templates, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The key is to match up all your audio and video details before filming each shot. As Andrew explains: “When I first started out, I didn’t do this. Then I would realize I didn’t have the shots I needed to make the video really good or that I forgot to say something and would have to reshoot or figure out how to sandwich it in.”

Identifying potential problems and addressing them before committing them to video also prevents editing costs from skyrocketing due to revisions.  

Once you have your “recipe” mapped, print and share it with both on-camera talent and video editors, Andrew says. It gives everyone the clarity they need before it’s time for them to do their work, which will make for a better product.

TIP: Do a little online research to learn standard film terminology – like B-roll (background footage), transitions (elements that create smooth segues between scenes), and SFX (sound effects). Use that lingo in your script. “If you can learn the shorthand, you’ll get much more efficient at communicating your vision to your editors,” Andrew says.


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Lesson 3: Gear up for the gig

Filming on the fly using your phone camera might be sufficient for livestreaming or publishing spontaneous conversations. However, this isn’t ideal for producing more detailed or polished stories.

For a higher-quality standard, use specialized filming equipment. Andrew stresses that investing in the right gear is more important than investing in the best gear – especially when you’re starting out.

Investing in the right gear is more important than investing in the best gear, especially when you’re starting out, says @DrewDavisHere via @joderama @CMIContent. #Video Click To Tweet

Though some video tech will be determined by whether you record solo or with a team, Andrew recommends everybody have these tools (in addition to a camera) available when recording:

  • Prompter and stand: You can use an iPad or other tablet to display your script. Use a stand to hold it steady and at eye level so your talent can see it clearly. If no one can scroll the script for the on-camera person, get a small Bluetooth connection remote control device that can be hidden in your hand.
  • Headphones: Earbuds – the kind you might use for a Zoom call – work great for this, as they’ll block out some of the background noise that might distract you without making it obvious you’re wearing them.
  • Tripod: Like your prompter stand, a tripod ensures your camera is steady during still shots and can swivel smoothly when the subject moves. It can prevent bouncy or jarring motions that interfere with the viewing experience.
  • Wireless microphone. Your camera might have an internal microphone, but if you’re filming outside a controlled studio environment, you want to minimize background noise and make sure the voices are as clear as possible. The best bet is a small lavalier mic that can clip to the subject’s collar.
  • External camera monitor. To see what the camera sees, use a monitor. You can make sure you aren’t moving outside the shot or wasting battery life on some clown who walks by and decides they want to insert themselves into your scene. Though your camera might have a flip-down screen for this purpose, a large, battery-operated monitor that attaches to the camera will make your life easier.
  • Cords and extra batteries – for all your gear. You never want to get to your filming location and realize you forgot an essential cable or dongle or discover a dead battery with no way to recharge it.

Lesson 4: Check yourself before you wreck your video

Dead batteries aren’t the only thing that can ruin your filming plans. In fact, Andrew says you need to check a lot of small but important details before the cameras roll. “I cannot tell you how many times I have realized after filming, like, for 20 minutes that the microphone is not working or that I’m out of focus,” he says.

Time is money on a video shoot. So, while a seasoned pro like Andrew has developed a mental checklist, he runs through as he sets up each new shot, he suggests having a written reference when you’re starting out.

If you’re filming at an in-home or -office studio, Andrew offers a few more questions for the checklist:

  • Did you close the doors to the room in which you’re recording?
  • Did you yell, “Quiet on the set,” so everyone in the house/studio knows you’re recording?
  • Did you notify people who may enter the building after the recording starts by text or sign about the video production?
  • Did you remember to silence your phone (and any other devices in the room)?
  • Did you crank the air conditioning? Between the lights and nerves, things can really heat up when you’re on camera. You won’t want to make everyone stop in the middle of a scene so you can wipe off your sweat or turn the thermostat down a few degrees.
  • Did you yell, “That’s a wrap,” so everyone knows they can go back to normal?

Lesson 5: Make strategic, data-driven creative choices

Andrew estimates he and his team put in about 40 hours to create a video. That might seem like a lot of time, especially in an era where livestream videos can go from idea to on-air in minutes.

Most of those spots run between 30 seconds and six minutes. Andrew’s videos typically run between seven and 10 minutes. Why doesn’t he produce shorter pieces? It’s all about his strategic goals. Andrew says:

The real core of my audience doesn’t want a superficial marketing tip and trick because they can get a million of those elsewhere online. I’m trying to help people think strategically about the marketing they’re doing and how to deliver a better customer experience. To me, that [requires lengthier videos]. I think it also helps to take people on a real journey.

Andrew doesn’t take his creative cues from industry standards, assumptions, or rules of thumb about audience content preferences. Rather, he creates videos based on what his audience tells him resonates directly or through metrics. Here are a few ways he gathers that feedback:

  • Audience retention rates: He compares the retention rates for each video on his YouTube channel. For example, one popular video showed a retention rate of 50% – meaning half of those who viewed the video watched until its completion. For videos that don’t reach that retention rate, he does a deeper dive into their creative and technical details, such as length, topic, title, and tags, to learn what might not have worked as well.
  • Subscriber responses: Andrew includes links to his videos in Loyalty Loop, a weekly email newsletter. He tracks direct replies to those emails: “Lots of people click, open, and watch it, but the people who respond – especially when it’s about something that really hit a chord – help me understand what’s working because it tells me what they’re liking, what’s challenging them, and what are they learning,” he says.
  • Comments: Andrew also mines the comments viewers leave on the YouTube page and below his LinkedIn posts where he shares the link.

Create winning videos – without losing your mind

A little extra efficiency in your video creation processes can add up to big marketing gains – in content quality, audience engagement, and video performance. Follow Andrew’s pro tips and let us know how it goes. If you have some video planning and preparation tips to share, why not pop them into the comments below?

All tools are identified by the author or sources. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit this March in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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