How to Improve Your Online Video and Your Communications Strategy

©Ryan smith photography

©Ryan smith photography

As you read this sentence, nearly 30 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube! That’s 300 hours of video every minute of every day. Video is huge. It’s everywhere. It’s all-encompassing and growing exponentially. If your organization has not yet started to think strategically about video, then now is your moment.

I’d like to help you understand a few misconceptions about online video before you dive in head first. First off, it’s important to understand that one singular video is not the silver bullet for your communications challenges. To make video work for your organization, you need to take a broad view. It’s rare to see one wildly successful video. Instead, take time to develop a video strategy that moves you toward your goals, communicates your brand effectively, and tells multiple stories within that brand. This will help you determine your budget and how to approach producing videos within that budget.

Video costs time and money, and there is little data about its return on investment (ROI). That makes for a tough sell to those who distribute annual budgets. It’s no wonder video gets minimal resources. However, we know that there is an audience waiting to be reached. Your target audience is watching an incredible amount of online video: 83% of 12-17 year-olds and 91% of 18-24 year olds watch video on a regular basis. (2013 ComScore study) We just need to reach them with the right story and set up a way to measure the success of our online video efforts. But how?

I believe it comes down to three specific steps.

1. Identify your audience and define your goals.

Whom will your video or videos target—prospective students, their parents, alumni, or someone else? Once you decide that, you can begin to identify your goals for that audience.

Let’s assume that you want to make a video to help increase the number of applicants to your school. You need to reach prospective students and parents looking for the educational experience your school offers and give them information they want. You might decide to do a series of videos that highlight students. Tell their story. What is their day-to-day life like? How has your school changed the way they think and learn? What are they passionate about and how have teachers helped them harness their potential? These stories can resonate with viewers and push them to action. Your video should include links to relevant pages of your website. You could build a landing page specifically for viewers who click through from the video, or you could build a micro site that houses multiple stories with additional information. The options are endless. You just need to think strategically.

2. Assign value to help determine ROI.

There is no need to prove that video is effective. Online video accounts for 78% of Internet traffic in the U.S. according to Dailytech.com. People watch video during lunch, on the way to work or school, walking down the street, etc. Your video will get views. You just need to make sure it achieves your goals.

To do this, you need to develop a model to calculate how much each engagement with your video is worth. Let’s say you want to reach donors for a capital campaign, so you create a video that directs them to a fundraising/donation page. You could assign a dollar value—based on the average donation amount—to each click that leads to your fundraising page. For simplicity, let’s make it $10. You should already know how many clicks your fundraising page gets, so it should be easy to track any increase after your video goes live. Let’s say that you notice an increase of 500 clicks per month coming from your video. That means your video is contributing an extra $5,000 per month toward your capital campaign.

3. Measure your conversion rate.

There are a number of tools for evaluating how people interact with your video. YouTube has built-in metrics, and Google Analytics is a robust tool for understanding how people engage with video, which of your videos are being watched until the very end, and the demographics of your audience. For example, look at the two graphs below. The first has a steady decline but still maintains 45% of viewers until the end, whereas the second graph drops sharply within the first 30 seconds. Obviously, the first video performs better.

There are other ways to help track conversion rates. Put links at the end of your video to donation pages, application pages, or additional videos in the series. (Just keep the links relevant to the viewer.) Or put phone numbers and emails in the video description. Feel free to experiment. Try new ways of getting your video out to your audience—perhaps through various social channels—and then assign values to engagement from each of those channels. If your ROI doesn’t meet your expectations, make some changes. Try expanding your viewer base or fine-tune your target audience. Most importantly, make sure the story and message in the video are clear and interesting.

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