It's time to return to video

Why B2B should take cues from B2C—without breaking budgets.

BY Linda Formichelli

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, more than 82% of all internet traffic worldwide by 2022 will consist of internet video streaming and downloads.

This is particularly important for B2B brands. A study by Forbes showed that after watching a video, 65% of executives—across all age groups—visited the vendor’s website, while 53% conducted a search to find more information. Not only that, 72% of businesses surveyed in 2016 said video had improved their website conversion rate. This means the 64% of B2B marketers who increased their use of audio/video content in 2018 from the year before are on the right track.

Yet even when B2B content marketers do invest in video, they often hold narrow perceptions about what video can do, only imagining makeup tutorials on Periscope or gym buffs posting live videos to their Instagram Stories. When they do use video, they often only use preproduced videos and only take advantage of tools like livestreaming 17% of the time.

It’s time to take a fresh look at the format.

What’s New in Video

Let’s talk about how microtargeted video and livestreaming, plus new platforms for video, are 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, LinkedIn recently 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 livestream onto your Instagram Story. This can be a valuable tool for brands that want to interact with their viewers in real time. However, because the live video becomes a Story, it is ephemeral—disappearing after 24 hours. This may or may not be useful depending on how you approach the format. “I’m not a fan of content that disappears after 24 hours because 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! “But having said that, Instagram Stories is 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 in 2019,” she says. “IGTV launched without any advertising mechanisms in place, but that won’t last for long. 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 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.

Preproduced video still makes an impact. Despite the buzz of these newer video formats, preproduced content still works well. Unlike with live broadcasting, marketers have much more control over the content and quality of preproduced videos—important factors for B2B buyers whose purchasing decisions affect their entire company and who need to justify their spend with their higher-ups.

64% of B2B marketers increased their use of audio/video content in 2018.

Put Video to Work

If you’re ready to put your budget back to work with video content, this expert advice can help you make a real impact with your videos.

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.”

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.

Be consistent. The average person in North America owned eight connected devices in 2016, and that number is expected to rise to 13 per person in 2021.

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.

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.”

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 preproduced video or written content.

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 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.

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.

Save the best for first. Decades of research show that viewers have short attention spans. That’s why Hsiao recommends keeping preproduced 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.

You’ve got this, content marketers. Because 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.

“IGTV launched without any advertising mechanisms in place, but that won’t last for long. Brands that already have an Instagram presence have a chance to create great, long-form content marketing video and set themselves apart from the crown early on.”

Theresa Cramer
Editor of eContent

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.
published: September 27, 2019

most popular

To gate or not to gate?

That is the question. But it’s just one you should be asking about the exchange of content for user information. Here are four more to get you started.
read it

22 resources to help you nail email

Find out what to read and whom to follow to hit inbox gold.
read it

How to write for the human ear

Use these three tips to write text that rolls off the tongue for podcasts and audio.
read it