Pretty much everyone is now aware of how compelling video is both for your target market and your brand visibility (the probability of a video content ranking on the first page of Google is 50% higher than that of textual content). However, most small business are intimidated by the thought of actually creating something themselves. Below are 5 tips to give you practical advice on how to Create Great Videos for Small Business.
1. Look at what works
The first step is to get inspiration from watching videos that work. A couple great places to find inspiration are Kickstarter, the Etsy Channel (see Handmade Portraits), Made by Hand, Those Who Make and trakAxBusiness.
Though some of the videos may have professional touches that are outside your budget or know-how, you will pick up tips on how to best compose your video, what content is truly compelling, what camera shots look well and how businesses are selling their products through online videos. Are they doing straightforward product demos, are they telling a story about the person/brand or are they focusing on building customer trust through tutorials and helpful advice videos? What tone of voice are they using? Are they speaking directly to camera or using an interview-style video? Take notes where possible and integrate these ideas into your plan.
2. Plan your video
There is tons of research on the optimal length for video marketing, but a good rule of thumb is – as short as possible.
Remember, you don’t have to fit everything you do into one video (that’s what a channel is for). Pick one angle to cover and aim to keep your video under 2 minutes. Any longer than this and you’ll simply lose your viewer’s interest. Your video could concentrate on the story behind the product/brand, the craft or expertise required to produce an item, the impact on the local economy/environment of your business or an advice-type video where you explain technical tips through a tutorial.
Once you have decided the angle, start mapping out the story of the video and what shots you’ll need. Many small business videos rely on an interview style, so start noting what questions you need to answer in your video and what your responses will be. If you are going to do an interview-style video, try and get someone else on board to help with your video, as it will feel more natural talking to someone real, and they can also help with the recording process.
An important aspect to consider before and during the filming is what the experts call “fill shots.” Fill shots are shots that can lead from one scene into another or can be faded in over a narration. We have found that you can never really have enough fill shots, as this is the footage that plays while your narration continues in the background. So this could be your product in action, you at work, users interacting with your product etc.
3. Invest in the Basics
You can make a great video on a tiny budget, but you will require some basic equipment. First invest in a tripod. Nothing looks more amateur more than shaky footage. You can pick up tripods online for less than €20. If possible, try and use a microphone. Sound recordings without a mic from regular camcorders/video phones probably won’t cut it. Again, these can cost less than €15. If you are using your iPhone or other smartphone for the recording, you will need an adaptor to plug in an external mic (just Google this and you will see tons of options).
The real difference between a video that looks amateur and one that looks professional is the lighting. Don’t worry, you don’t have to invest in pro-standard lights, but do think about the lighting of each shot. If you are using natural light outdoors (although good luck with that in Ireland), be aware of the location of the sun (and clouds!). When recording indoors, try to use as many lamps, lights and other sources of light already available to you as you can — even consider bringing in some lamps from home if your video is looking quite dark. There are tons of tutorials on the basics of lighting, so take a few minutes to get some ideas on how you can improve your lighting without investing in more equipment.
4. Learn some simple techniques.
There are some basic techniques you can implement when making a video that will immeasurably improve the overall look of your video.
Invest some time learning your camera settings like zoom and focus (simply put your camera model into YouTube and you’ll get lots of tutorials) and even learn some basic camera shots (here’s a great video on basic camera shots to get you started)
Another great tip is the rule of thirds: By using the rule of thirds, you will make the shot more interesting by placing your subject either in the first or last third of the screen (look at any good videos and you’ll see this technique used over and over again). Often beginners place themselves slap bang in the middle of the screen and either too close or too far away in the frame, which can be off-putting for the viewer.
Once you’ve recorded all your footage, it’s time to start editing. There are lots of interesting tools you can use. If you are using a Mac then iMovie would be perfect. If you’re on a PC then you can try a product like ours, trakaxPC (€35), which will allow you to create professional looking videos without blowing your budget.
Going through the footage requires patience, there may be just a few seconds from a long piece that you’d want, so set aside time to review the footage and really be able to look at it in detail. I find renaming the video clips can help to identify what footage to use and what can be discarded.
The soundtrack is one of the most important elements of video. Pick a track that sums up the vibe and style of your company. The best practice is to use a royalty-free track and there are tons of sites offering professional soundtracks at relatively low cost. I always pick the soundtrack first and then start creating the video – it sets the pace for the video and gives you the discipline to keep the video short.
When editing your video, you can try and implement techniques called J cuts and L cuts. Although you may not be aware of the technical terms, you see these transitions every day. For example, the video may begin with you introducing your brand and products. The screen will then cut to you working on a product while your voiceover continues to explain the process. This gives your video a flow, rather than abruptly cutting from one scene to the next.
Finally keep transitions and text simple – either a straight cut or a subtle fade is enough. When using text, keep it classic with a plain font in either white or black (Fontsquirrel.com has tons of very nice free fonts.)
5. Be Yourself
The most compelling thing about all small business is that they are driven by someone who is passionate. Showing that you really care about the business is the first step in creating a relationship with your user base. Your delivery should be simple, genuine and honest. Small companies are sometimes afraid of making videos for fear of looking “small” – our office isn’t fancy enough, we don’t have enough employees, people will think we’re small-time etc. However, what people really want online is trust. By seeing the people who are going to be selling them something or providing them with a service, you are building this trust. If you’re not comfortable in front of the camera, get your colleague to be the face. If your office isn’t “cool”, add a backdrop of a chalkboard or a plant – you just need to think outside the box. Don’t be intimidated by creating a video. The investment to start is minimal, but the rewards can be great. Start small and get a feel for what works, and every video you create will be an easier process than the last.
Most importantly smile and have fun!
If any of the Small Business Can community are interested in dipping their toes into the world of video, we’d love them to give trakax a go – all the products are available to try for free and if they have any questions at all, just to drop us a mail, we’re always here to help.
Catriona Barry is CEO and one of the founders of trakax.com, a software development company based in Dublin, Ireland. The vision for trakax is straightforward – to give users tools to make original videos. The Android product, “trakax” and the PC product “trakaxPC”, are tailored to enable even the novice user to start taking their raw videos and turn them into compelling content. They have recently launched a dedicated small business website, trakaxbusiness.com, to provide small businesses with all the help and resources they need to start creating their own videos, regardless of their experience or budget.
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