Video is quickly becoming established as the go-to option for marketing professionals. The rapid growth of high-speed internet connections has seen online video consumption explode.
By 2017, 74% of all internet traffic is expected to be video.
This ever-growing market presents real opportunities for advertising, and on a relatively level playing field where any video has the potential to be a hit, smaller businesses have just as much of a chance of reaping the benefits as their larger competitors.
But only if they get it right.
A poorly-made video that no one wants to watch may end up being more than just a waste of time and money - it could even lead customers to view your business in a less favorable light.
Video is tough - tougher than almost any other form of marketing. Before you jump in and add video to your website, you need to know the basics.
Making Use of the Golden Seconds
The first thing we have to accept when making a video advertisement is this: most people don't like ads. As a society, we think they're invasive and annoying. They use up precious mobile data and, given half a chance, we'll do everything we can to avoid having to watch them.
Anyone who's ever been on YouTube will have experience of this - how many times have you stared at a countdown, watching the seconds tick down, waiting for the option to skip the video you came to see?
It's not so much an issue when the viewer is already interested in the product and has chosen to watch, but if you're sending your video out into the wider web and are hoping to grab new business, you need to engage people before they lose interest and decide to click away.
The opening few seconds are crucial. If the first impression is good, a viewer is more likely to stick around to catch the full message - and more likely to take some form of action.
Creating Viral Potential
You're probably hoping your video "goes viral" - that is, gets organically shared from person to person, spreading far and wide without costing you a dime.
But no marketing agency or department - unless they have an army of compromised, fake or very tame social media accounts at their disposal - can guarantee a "viral video."
The product that leaves the studio is just a video - the viral part doesn't come along until later, when the ordinary online population decides it's interesting enough to share it with their friends, family or professional networks, who then share it again, and so on.
All the creators can do is increase the likelihood of that happening.
So the first step is to establish who you're trying to reach with your video. Get to know your customers. Once you have your target audience nailed down, think about the kind of videos those demographics like to share. Most viral marketing success stories fit into one of five categories - funny, "wow", heart-warming, bizarre or useful.
This video of a commercial preceded by a commercial is genius. You're clicking through to watch an Apple Music commercial featuring Taylor Swift. But before you can watch the commercial, you might be treated to a commercial advertising a movie about teenage Carole King.
Your video needs to stir some kind of emotion and do more than just advertise a product. No one wants to share an advert - but most of us are more than happy to share a cool video. Who doesn't want to watch Taylor Swift falling face-first off a treadmill?
Doing it Yourself
Anyone can create very simple content - a six-second Vine clip, or a short video for Instagram on an average smartphone, while a decent HD camcorder will provide a small step up.
Mounted on a tripod, basic equipment can give acceptable results if you're making, for example, a simple how-to guide. For informational videos, content matters a lot more than sheer quality - if you can cook up a good script and come across as trustworthy and knowledgeable on the topic, you're 90% of the way there with minimal cost.
However, you may find that "homemade" videos are limited in what they can be used for. If you're aiming to make a real showcase video for your brand or product, poor quality in any area - such as writing, sound or picture - could well turn potential customers off.
For a polished, professional-looking finished product that will truly get your message across in style, you may need to outsource to a video company – providing you can afford it.
The Cost of Professionals
The cost of a paying someone else to make your video can vary widely; factors such as length, what you want in your video, the reputation of the creator, and their location will all play a part.
If your chosen professional has only a local reputation and works out of an area with a low cost of living, you'll pay less than you would if you hired a nationally-renowned company based in New York City.
But as a rough guide, a well-made video will set you back around $5,000 per minute, plus whatever you are willing to spend promoting the video.
Look into how much this is likely to cost before you make a decision on who to hire. Some video professionals will offer a full service, including promotion - this may prove a smarter option than a video-only package.
Your Video Marketing Campaign
Putting together a video marketing campaign can be harder work and more expensive than other forms of online advertising, but don't let that put you off.
In a worldwide survey, 93% of marketing professionals said they were using video as part of their strategy, and 52% of them stated it gave a better return-on-investment than any other method.
Adobe reports that those who watch videos are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than those who don't, and video has proven successful when used in all manner of ways - on home or product pages, in emails, on social media and out on the wider web.
Furthermore, search engines love rich media - pages containing video tend to rank higher in Google results than those without it.
It's not easy and there are no guarantees of success. But video is the future, at least in the short- to medium-term, and any company not doing it is at risk of falling behind.