Moving pictures and making sales: getting started with video content marketing

A brief visit to Google reveals hundreds of articles about why video is the most engaging form of media.

From the practical fact that video tends to involve multiple mental processing systems at once [https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-ca/marketing-strategies/video/effective-video-ads-viewability-audibility/], to the somewhat disturbing reality that the eyes are actually part of the brain [https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2021.719717/full], there’s no shortage of explanations for the profound attraction we feel toward video content.

But anyone who’s lost hours to the attentional grasp of YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram Reels already knows the effect video can have on the mind.

However, a useful and attractive medium doesn’t always mean an effective and practical marketing channel. Before you dive into video content marketing, you’ll want to consider whether it’s the next best thing for you and your business.

Here are a few reasons it might be right for you:

  • You like video. Me, I do most of my learning by reading, so I tend to create most of my content in the form of written words (like these ones). I understand the medium, I know (or have convinced myself I know) what makes a good written piece, and I enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean it’s better—only that it’s better for me. So if you spend most of your time consuming video content, lean into your interest and try your hand at creating it. And start by making the type of content you like and consume most, so you’re both more likely to stick with it and you’ll have a better ability to judge its quality and improve it over time.
  • Your company/organization/product/service is easy to represent visually. Does your company have what mid-century advertiser David Ogilvy called “story appeal”? Does your office space or worksite have a unique or surprising look behind the scenes? Is your product easy to demonstrate? Do you have large, complicated machinery you can show off? Are you or your team tapped into the latest memes, trends, and vibes—do you have a instinctive feel for what’s funny, cool, or popular? If your company is inherently visually interesting, videos will be a lot easier to make.
  • You already have a million video ideas.When you choose a marketing channel that aligns with your customers’ interests and habits and your own resources and abilities, you’ll immediately find yourself overwhelmed with good ideas. If you don’t, it’s most likely you haven’t nailed down your overall marketing position—which means no marketing you create (video content or otherwise) is likely to work well. So first get to know your best customers, what they value most, how you’re uniquely able to deliver that value, and when and where they are (or go) when they need help from a business like yours. This is your marketing position, and all of your marketing should be focused on reinforcing that position.

If you know you’ve got the interest, the appeal, or the ideas to make video work for you, the next question is the kind of video should you focus on. It’s easy to jump to what’s most popular right now—specifically TikTok—but that doesn’t mean it’s best for you or your business.

Your marketing position would have revealed to you where your customers are. Do they actually use TikTok? If they do, are they learning about businesses like yours there? Are they likely to be in the state of mind to make your videos appealing and actionable? Do you have the ability or interest to make content that is widely interesting to a massive audience?

If you can answer Yes to those questions, and you’re comfortable with the inherent privacy/security trade-offs of the platform [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/jul/19/tiktok-has-been-accused-of-aggressive-data-harvesting-is-your-information-at-risk], then it might be time to start dabbling in the space.

If you answered No, think about whether your audience may be more attracted to longer-form content on YouTube, or even something more formal like a pre-recorded webinar. Additionally, many popular podcasts (such as Ali Abdaal’s “Deep Dive” [https://youtube.com/c/DeepDivewithAliAbdaal]) record video alongside their audio, allowing them to post video versions of the episodes on YouTube.

Here are a few other ideas for video content you can consider and adapt to your specific business and customers:

  • Demos and Explainers: A quick demo of your product can grab attention in a TikTok or a Reel, and a longer explainer video pointing out the intricacies of your product’s design or engineering can create strong engagement on YouTube. See CGP Grey, one of YouTube’s most popular educational creators, trying his hand at long-form content marketing for his Theme System Journal [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSwpe8r50_o]
  • “Vlogging”: Entrepreneurs can use the classic YouTube “vlog”—a personal, straight-to-camera storytelling format interspersed with day-in-the-life b-roll—to engage their peers or potential customers. Tell your customers what you’re up to, what you’re working on, and sprinkle in your philosophy, vulnerabilities, and values to create a stronger connection with your audience. Tech YouTuber Shevon Salmon is a artist of the vlog format and recently created one about his journey from Jamaica to Toronto [https://youtu.be/IVkpQuCB484].
  • Illustrations/Animatics: Comedy podcasts have spawned a cottage industry of animators and illustrators honing their craft by creating companion videos for podcast clips [https://youtu.be/JrJIEMdQZoY]. Do you have existing audio content—like clips from your podcast, webinars, or interviews—that you could (or could commission someone to) animate or illustrate?
  • Roundtables and Panels: Does your particular place in your industry, business lifecycle, or career give you an unique perspective? If so, you might want to empanel a group of other thinkers, doers, or builders in your space to discuss or debate those ideas. Lean on the expertise of others (and their built-in audiences), while positioning your business or your personal perspective in the center of the discussion.

Of course, the options for video content marketing are near limitless. But don’t let that overwhelm you.

First, understand your marketing position.

Then, understand yourself and your own interests and capabilities.

Finally, find the overlap between what you can do and like doing and what your ideal customers enjoy and spend their time consuming.

Once you understand yourself, your business, and your audience, the video ideas will come, or it will become clear that video isn’t right for you right now.

Just don’t skip those first steps!

Joel Kelly is a marketing strategy consultant and co-owner of The Family Knife. You can read his latest marketing strategy newsletter here: https://www.familyknife.com/blog.