How to produce video content from home on a COVID-friendly budget
“[Video is] really endearing,” says Alex Winter, creative director at IMPACT, a sales and marketing agency. “It’s a great way for people to get a chance to meet your team to see the facets of who they are—to see different layers of your business that they wouldn’t normally get to see through text and copy alone.”
A 2019 study by media agency Zenith found that the average amount of video viewed daily by the typical consumer rose 32% annually between 2013 and 2018. The report predicts that consumers will watch 100 minutes of video each day in 2021. Video also drives consumer behavior in ways that benefit brands, particularly on social media: IMPACT found that social video posts generate 1,200% more shares than text and image posts combined. Viewers retain 95% of a message delivered by video, versus only 10% of text, and marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than those who do not.
The most effective form of video content depends on your goals, but COVID-19 restrictions and shrinking budgets have left many marketers to their own devices—literally.
“Everybody will overrate the importance of buying a nice camera,” says Tyler Stalman, an independent video production consultant. “If you have an iPhone [or other smartphone], you can go as far as you want.” However, avoid the selfie side, as that camera is inferior to the multiple, high-quality ones found on the back. If you insist on going a step up from your phone, purchase a nice lens; cameras are updated every few years, but it takes longer for lens technology to become outdated.
And beware the built-in webcam. “Having a good webcam is like putting on a suit and tie in the morning: It’s how you present your face to the world,” Stalman says. “The difference between the thing that’s attached to your computer and a real camera is night and day.”
Invest in a simple tripod or jury-rig your own solution to keep the camera steady. For a homespun look, consider vertically orienting the camera to resemble selfie footage.
Lighting makes a noticeable impact on visual quality as well. Many content creators opt for a ring light—a halo affixed to or next to the monitor—but Stalman cautions that “you might look like a beauty blogger.” Instead, check out key lights, which are flat panels about the size of an iPad and are often used by video game streamers.
If your office basks in beautiful, natural sunlight (congratulations!), you may not need to purchase any additional lighting. Do avoid a shadowy visage by keeping the window in front of you, not behind, and ensure the background isn’t cluttered with reflective tchotchkes.
Behind-the-scenes videos allow customers to meet the people who run their favorite brands. Corral in-house brand representatives, other marketing folks and magnetic members of upper management to be your on-screen personalities—and set up recorded video calls between these spokespeople.
If you’re producing customer sales enablement videos, cast salespeople and aim for what Winter’s team calls an “80% video”—hold back about 20% of the information to encourage people to reach out for more.
Thought leadership videos work best when a single person is on camera in front of a neutral backdrop. Studio B Films, a production company that has worked with brands such as Facebook and Adobe, recommends casting team members who have experience giving presentations—especially talks that have been filmed.
Ideally, videos will feature colleagues who are likely to remain at the organization for more than a year. “People are going to associate this person with your company,” Stalman says. “And if they leave after a year, you’re not just training someone else up, you’re getting your audience used to a new face.”
If the person in your videos doesn’t feel like a good fit or they seem unnatural in front of the camera, replace them immediately with another team member who can cover the same topic. Don’t force the issue.
Winter says that it’s easy to forget about audio quality, but a small lavalier microphone can make a huge difference between crystal clear vocals and the incessant drone of an air conditioning unit. Mics capture audio up close, rather than relying on your phone or computer’s built-in microphone across the room.
Brands have started using Instagram to make sales, but Jessie LaMacchia, director of marketing and outreach at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago, recommends focusing your Instagram efforts on building community. “I’m more interested in creating engaging content—then, the sales follow,” she says.
While sound and video quality matter when producing a YouTube video or a piece that lives on your company’s homepage, go easy on yourself when creating content for Instagram, particularly Instagram stories. The vibe of this platform is far more casual. “You can just hit record on your phone and let it go live,” Stalman says.
LaMacchia says the videos that do best on Instagram provide a sample of the services her company offers—in her case, classes in art, photography, ceramics and more. “We recently started hosting artist demos on Instagram Live, which made for tons of engagement with our community and brought in a lot of new followers,” she says. “These videos increase the value of continuing education by giving a taste of what you can expect from a longer engagement class.”
Produce, Produce, Produce
A video presence takes time to establish, so commit to producing between 50-100 videos; meaningful results are unlikely to appear before that. “Acknowledge that this is a challenging space and it may take a while for you to conquer it, and you can make some mistakes on the way,” Stalman says.
Before diving in, watch your competitors’ videos and identify those you like for either message or look. You needn’t be a video expert; we’ve all watched enough TV and movies to know when a message is clear or to sense when a shot is properly framed and in focus.