Photo via CNN.com
File it under trendy but true: Online video will be a transformative marketing tool for entrepreneurs in 2010.
Online viewers consumed 33.2 billion videos in December alone, with the average viewer taking in nearly 190 per month last year, according to recent statistics from comScore. That represents a staggering 2 billion jump in total videos watched from just a month before.
Multimedia represents an increasingly powerful way for small businesses and startups to boost credibility and brand awareness. You don’t need a TV studio and a teleprompter to pull together brief, informative videos that underscore your expertise and help create separation from competitors.
For most entrepreneurs, a bare-bones trinity will do the trick: Handheld camera, tripod and a whiteboard.
The key is adding value. Video is becoming a killer marketing avenue for companies committed to true utility — offer quality information on a timely topic and, more often than not, you shall be rewarded.
If you’re really lucky, that reward will be some serious love on one of the world’s busiest news sites.
CNN: Go Big or Go Home
The demand for quality video and citizen journalism has carved out an exciting new space for entrepreneurs.
Citizen journalism sites like CNN’s iReport and MSNBC’s First Person allow everyday citizens to post videos and photos on a variety to topics. Submissions run the gamut from low-brow nonsense to breathtaking commentary.
These video sites represent a prime marketing opportunity for companies willing to take a leap and develop content rooted in education and analysis.
The beauty is these aren’t social spaces ruled by Digg nerds and social marketers who can easily manipulate success. The video equivalent of link bait isn’t likely to land much success at sites like these, where thousands of submissions pour in every day.
That isn’t to say that getting a piece to go viral is impossible. Just ask David Siteman Garland.
The Rise to the Top of CNN
In mid-January, we posted our first iReport piece for one of our satellite companies. We took a journalistic approach, putting together a three-minute video that explored new regulations for mortgage originators and the potential impact on home buyers.
We also took that approach because we have a former journalist on staff. That isn’t a requirement for success here. These citizen news-sharing sites welcome all manner of video, whether it’s commentary, opinion, a review or any other snippet that imparts information.
A few weeks later, I suggested the iReport route to our friend David Siteman Garland, who runs the phenomenal marketing site The Rise to the Top.
Now, David churns out well-crafted videos every day, so the concept wasn’t foreign. But he soon proved how the combination of quality content and a hot trend can send your site into the stratosphere, traffic-wise.
A day before Apple’s big iPad announcement, David posted a piece to iReport on how the yet-to-be-unveiled device could save the dying publishing industry and bolster innovation and entrepreneurship.
The next day, a CNN producer called him about five minutes before Steve Jobs took the stage and asked David if he would shoot another video after the announcement. He agreed and his second iReport piece soon had top billing on the CNN Tech page and a prominent link on the CNN home page
We’re talking about a site that averaged 1.7 billion page views a month in 2009.
David’s success is still the exception. But here are five suggestions for boosting your chances with public journalism sites like CNN’s iReport:
-Harness a Trend
You have a much better shot at attracting the attention of network producers if your piece is timely. Keep an eye on trends and the news and look for ways to interject your expertise or insight. CNN’s iReport also has an “Assignment” desk that solicits submissions on specific, ever-changing topics.
-Create Quality Content
Video that’s cobbled together with little planning and poor execution is doomed from the start. Look for a way to connect to viewers and explain why this topic or your commentary is important to their lives or their wallets. Take the time to write a script or at least have a solid understanding of why your insight is key at this particular point in time.
Pieces that come off as overly promotional in nature will probably fail to take off. Most of these citizen journalism sites require a producer’s approval before a piece can wind up on the company’s main pages or even on its airwaves. Don’t make this a walking talking brochure; do stake a position as an authority or expert when introducing your topic and your take.
-Sneak in Some Self-Promotion
That said, there are ways to ensure your brand gets out there. Make sure you clearly mention your company at the beginning and probably at the end of your piece. Provide contact information such as an email address or the company website so viewers with questions can inquire further. You can also embed links in the small text area beneath the video player on some of these sites.
-Pound the (Electronic) Pavement
Pump your tweeps and light up your other social networking hubs. Slap an “As Seen On CNN iReport” tag on your site. Driving traffic to your video can also garner the attention of producers and other movers and shakers in your industry and beyond. In turn, use your video pieces to leverage new content and posting gigs.
Nathaniel Broughton is president of GrowthPartner.com, a unique firm that provides angel investment and online marketing expertise to emerging companies. A veteran online marketer, Broughton and his team have built three separate Inc. 500 companies in the last five years.