Marketers got skittish after Facebook’s do-or-die call to pivot to video failed a few years back.
In the continuum of love to heartbreak, where are you with video in your content marketing?
Were you burned by the pivot, or are you still a video believer?
In 2015, Facebook executives trumpeted “pivot to video” as their new mantra. Marketers and advertisers followed suit, pouring their budgets into video on the platform only to later learn that the metrics Facebook had tapped for its pivot intel, were, to say the least, miscalculated. A backlash followed, with articles denouncing this pivot with words like “fail” and “lie.” So if you’re nervous about dumping more dollars into video, we get it.
And yet, video is still relevant and still works. Among consumers ages 18 to 35, more than half report they’d be more willing to stay on a brand’s channel if video was included—a number backed up by recent research. According to Cisco, 66% of the world’s population will have Internet access by 2023. By that same time, there will be 29.3 billion networked devices—3.6 per capita. So why does this matter?
With the rise of streaming services, global internet access and the number of networked devices per capita, 80% of all internet traffic by 2022 will consist of just internet video traffic.
This is particularly important for B2B brands. A study by Wyzowl shows that nearly eight out of ten marketers feel that video has a direct, positive impact on sales. Not only that, but 94% of marketers have seen an increase in user understanding of their product or service, and 78% of video marketers have seen video directly help increase sales.
Today, video doesn’t just mean imagining pre-produced videos. New social media features allow you to invest and get creative with your B2B video marketing. While YouTube remains as the top site for B2B video marketing, webinars and TikToks saw an increase in effective usage throughout 2020—a year where human connection was everything.
It’s time to take a fresh look at the format. Here’s how B2B video content is evolving.
What’s new in B2B video marketing
Microtargeted video strategies, live streaming, new platforms for videos—here’s what’s driving results for smart marketers.
Livestreaming creates urgency.
Broadcasting in real-time to your audience—whether it’s event coverage, a tutorial or a Q&A—generates excitement. “Consumers believe that if something’s happening live, it’s more important than if it’s not,” says Allen Adamson, NYU Stern School of Business adjunct professor, co-founder of Metaforce and author of Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World. “If you say, ‘We’re going to be demonstrating our new soup mix in a live video,’ that sounds more exciting than, ‘Watch our new soup on this video.’” Theresa Cramer, editor of EContent, says audiences view live videos longer and engage with them more often than with prerecorded videos. Even better, once your live video does its job, you can repurpose the recording and get the best of both formats.
Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Vimeo Livestream, Periscope and Twitch are the go-to social platforms for live video content. But if they’re not the right environments for your audience—or if you want to reach into new territory—other platforms have been introducing live video capabilities.
For example, in 2019 LinkedIn introduced LinkedIn Live. For B2B companies looking to boost thought leadership and attract an executive audience, this is a big win. Even better, you can choose whether you’d like to broadcast to LinkedIn at large or target a select group of viewers.
Then there’s Instagram Live, which lets you live stream onto your Instagram Story. This can be a valuable tool for brands that want to interact with their viewers in real-time—plus, you can now save your broadcast to your profile, making it available for your followers to share or view later. Wish you could combine the benefits of Instagram Live with the interactivity of webinars? With Instagram’s Live Rooms, now you can do that too.
Don’t forget about Stories.
While the platform has come a long way from its former days of the 24-hour-miss-it-and-it’s-gone Instagram Story, that doesn’t mean you should give up on the OG feature—especially now that you can index old Stories to your profile. “I believe in repurposing and recycling content across other platforms,” says Lou Bortone, a video marketing strategist and author of Video Marketing Rules: How to Win in a World Gone Video! “Instagram Stories is [still] a good way for brands to cross-promote their more permanent content like blog posts.”
Recorded videos find new homes.
Cramer suggests that some brands might want to look to another Instagram platform for better results: “Instagram Stories are definitely popular, but video marketers need to be looking at IGTV (Instagram TV) if they really want to capitalize on Instagram’s video capabilities,” she says. “Brands that already have an Instagram presence have a chance to create great, long-form content marketing video and set themselves apart from the crowd early on.” IGTV, which features full-screen, vertical video for mobile devices, is a good place for tutorials, behind-the-scenes looks into a business or even recurring shows built around the brand.
What about Reddit, home of the AMA (Ask Me Anything)? As of 2017, you can upload videos directly from your device onto Reddit, but Cramer doesn’t recommend it. “You may be able to easily post video, but Reddit is not a ‘brand safe’ environment,” she says. “It wouldn’t be my first choice—or even my fifth choice.”
1:1 video personalizes an impersonal format.
Video doesn’t have to be a one-to-many format. In fact, savvy content marketers are using 1:1 video to offer customized content like thanking a customer for a recent purchase or delivering personalized support to a single individual.
Paul Faust is the president and co-founder of RingBoost, which sells personalized phone numbers for businesses—numbers that spell out words like ROOF or TACO, or that are easy to remember, like 222-9999. Since his business is all about voice, he found typical emailed receipts and drip campaigns much too impersonal.
“Everybody’s trying to think of the latest, greatest marketing thing, and that costs money,” he says. “I’m like, I’ve got an iPhone that costs me nearly zero. It takes 15 to 30 seconds to put my phone in a little stand on my desk, hit record and record a note.”
In his video message, Faust usually thanks the customer for their purchase, informs them that his team will be in touch, compliments their number choice or asks them to send friends to RingBoost’s website. “They hear my voice and see me smile and know that I care,” Faust says. “And the reaction’s been awesome.” Bortone also practices microtargeting with 1:1 video. “With my traditional email, I get open rates of about 10%,” he says. “When I use video email, it’s more like 75%.” He uses the tool Loom to create quick, personalized videos.
Pre-produced video still makes an impact. Despite the buzz of these newer video formats, pre-produced content still works well. Unlike with live broadcasting, marketers have much more control over the content and quality of pre-produced videos—important factors for B2B buyers whose purchasing decisions affect their entire company and who need to justify their spend with their higher-ups.
Video Won’t Break Your Budget
Video is always pricey, right? Not necessarily, says Allen Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce, adjunct professor at NYU Stern School of Business and author of Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World.
“But as Apple tries to show with its (Shot on iPhone) campaign,” says Adamson, “everyone’s now walking around with a pretty sophisticated video camera and video editing capability in their hand. The creation of video has become democratized so that money is no longer separating people who use video from people who don’t.”
8 ways to put your B2B video content strategy to work
Whether you’re just starting out or giving your B2B video marketing strategy a spring clean, use this expert advice to put your budget to work and make a real impact:
1. Change your mindset.
Videos are not ads; they are content. It’s a simple but critical message to remember. “One of the misperceptions is that video is just another item on your marketing checklist,” says Jason Hsiao, co-founder and president of Animoto, an award-winning online video maker. “But it’s become a form of regular communication, in the same way that businesses emailing their audience, posting to their blog or posting to Twitter are forms of regular communication.”
2. Check your data.
Many platforms offer analytics that track how long viewers are watching your videos, when they tend to drop off, whether viewers clicked on your call to action and more. Paying attention pays off. These stats can help you create more compelling videos to hit your goals—whether it’s website traffic, downloads or some other goal.
3. Be consistent.
The average person in North America owned eight connected devices in 2018, and that number is expected to rise to 13 per person in 2023.
Just imagine what that means: A viewer might cast your video from their laptop to a smart TV while also interacting with a smartphone or tablet and glancing at their smartwatch. In fact, Xfinity estimates that around 70% of Americans interact with multiple screens simultaneously. In a couple of years, this situation will probably only intensify.
“Marketers have to be aware of how to convey their message and tell their story consistently and simultaneously across several platforms and devices so it’s not a total disconnect if their Twitter account is talking about something completely different than their TV advertising or YouTube videos,” says Bortone.
4. Video should not be thoughtless.
Even live videos or extemporaneous recorded videos require sound planning, clever production and a team with the right skill set. It’s crucial that content marketers brainstorm, storyboard, practice and prepare just like with a pre-produced video or written content.
5. You be you, B2B.
It’s important to stay true to your brand and audience. That means marketers shouldn’t try to compete on the B2C brands’ playing field. “People see the success of the DollarShaveClub.com videos where the founder walks through his factory talking, and they want to do the same thing,” says Adamson. “But they don’t have his personality. He’s funny and engaging, whereas most business leaders as spokespeople are pretty unengaging.”
The good news is, you don’t have to have your viewers rolling in the virtual aisles to create excitement and results. Let viral B2C videos be an inspiration for your videos, and adapt what they do well to your own content. For example, you might not be Old Spice, but you can bring that brand’s famously irreverent humor and creativity to your own videos, within your B2B brand personality. Play with the news, trends and jargon that resonate with your particular audience to bring a fresh feel to your video content.
6. Get textual.
Hsiao points out that many people watch video without the sound on, so it makes sense to “cater to the sound-off experience,” as he puts it, with text in your videos. Text should complement your content without confusing viewers when they turn the sound back on.
7. Save the best for first.
Decades of research show that viewers have short attention spans. That’s why Hsiao recommends keeping pre-produced and recorded videos short and not making the audience wait for the best parts.
“Content marketers are all thinking like Steven Spielberg; they’re all storytellers,” he says. “Well, the big difference is that you don’t have the luxury of your audience being in their seats at the end. It’s almost the exact opposite: You start with 100% of your audience, and then it only goes down.” Experts used to say that the first three to five seconds of the video were the most important, but Hsiao stresses that now, even the first second needs to grab attention.
8. Remember: Quality wins.
Audiences love live, off-the-cuff videos—when they are engaging, memorable and entertaining. But many marketers believe that they can skimp on quality in the name of “authenticity.” “There’s a belief that if you just make a video, people will watch it—so more and more marketers are creating more and more average or invisible content,” says Adamson. “The belief that ‘If I build it, people will come’ is not true.”
Now that you know how to grab attention from the first second—plus how to create engaging content and how to experiment with formats and platforms—you’ve got a head start on getting the most out of video’s new features.
Try these video creation apps
Here are just a few video apps content marketers can put to creative use.
- Loom lets you create instantly shareable videos. Share on social or email by pasting the URL with the click of a button and embed the video into your website. The Basic version is free, and the Pro version, with HD video, a premium editing suite and other special features, costs $10/month.
- Animoto is a drag-and-drop video maker. Prices range from $5 per month for the Personal version to $49 for the Business version that comes with more fonts and pre-built storyboards, plus a 30-minute consultation with a video expert. (Animoto also created six LinkedIn storyboard templates for common business videos like industry insights and event recaps.)
- Dubb is a video communication platform that lets you share embeddable, trackable videos from your camera or screen. Prices range from free for the Starter version to $250/month for Small Business Pro+, which includes customer relationship management integrations, a custom URL, phone support and more.
- Wistia lets you create, edit and host videos. The free trial has a three-video limit, and the Pro version ($99/month) gives you 10 videos, with additional videos costing 25 cents each per month. The pricing for the Advanced version, with 100 videos, A/B testing and other features, is available upon request.