The Way We Work

One trillion. Not only is this a number with a whole lot of zeros, it is also the number of playbacks on YouTube in 2011. And those viewing numbers are not getting any smaller — in fact, online video’s explosive growth will probably add a few more zeros with this year’s roll out of Internet-enabled Smart TV sets (not to mention the new high-resolution iPad).

This growth in online video offers unique opportunities for small businesses and freelancers.

Unlike advertising on television, you do not have to buy “air time” for online video. Neither do you have to confine yourself to the 30-second spot or to selling within the conventional commercial format. On the Internet, a small business has a much greater chance of attracting relevant eyeballs and winning new customers in a cost-effective way. And video advertising can take varied and creative paths (witness the iPhone in a blender commercial).

Successfully marketing with video requires more than just clicking on YouTube’s “upload” button.  It takes careful development and focused execution at all stages, from planning to production to promotion. Here are some pointers for success during each phase.

Planning your video content

  • Know who you want to reach. How well do you know your customers? If you don’t know what they like, dislike, or what interests them, start with a bit of research.
  • Make it shareable. To get traction online, you have to cater to your target audience’s interests. On top of that, you need to inspire them to share the video with their friends. You want them to say, “I have got to send this to someone else!” Carefully analyze your target customers to determine what they want to watch. Then make it fun, interesting, even a bit offbeat — just make sure the video is memorable and worth sharing.
  • Make it scripted. Unless you are an incredible improv artist, you need a plan for your video before you start shooting it. Writing a detailed video script is the best way to accomplish that. Note shot by shot what you want, making use of storyboards if need be to better visualize the finished product.
  • Make it short. For maximum shareability, shorter is better. More people will be interested in watching your video if the time investment is small. There are a few exceptions to this rule — mostly based on the genre of video you produce. For example, an instructional video can be longer that a product commercial, and a documentary can exceed the length of a music video.
  • Make it fit. As mentioned above, genre is an important consideration. The beauty of marketing with web video is that you are not boxed into a certain style. You can make an offbeat commercial, a short documentaryshare useful tipscreate a branding piece or give a product demonstration. All of these formats work — just be sure to choose the best fit for your business and audience. And as the videos linked to above demonstrate, a small production budget can accomplish a lot. You just have to have a bit of creativity to spur it forward.

Producing your video

  • Emphasize quality. As a small business, you probably are lacking a big budget. But that is no excuse for videos that are too dark, audio that is almost impossible to hear or editing that is sloppy. Each of these issues is fairly simple to fix with a bit of know-how. Read up on video production basics at sites like and Creative COW. And if you have no video experience yourself, you can hire video producers here on oDesk.
  • Get good advice. As with all marketing activities, ask for feedback before releasing the final product. Input from others can help you refine and improve your video. Also, check out YouTube’s Creator’s Playbook. It is designed to help content producers — like you! — learn to make better web videos as well as learn to better utilize the site.

Promoting your video

  • Choose your outlet. YouTube is a good first choice. But there are also many niche sites that appeal to certain audiences. VimeoVeohDailyMotion and Blip.TV are just a few of the options. And remember to add the video to your web and social media outlets as well.
  • Use the right keywords. You would be amazed at how many online viewers are just looking for something — anything — to watch! You want your video to show up in search results. To improve your rankings, write an SEO-friendly description and tag your video with the appropriate keywords.
  • Promote your video. Share the link to your video in newsletters and emails, embed it on your website and blog, and send it to relevant bloggers and journalists. If given the option, make your video embeddable so others can easily share it with their circles. Be sure to comment on your own video and ask others to rate it. Also, add it to social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Delicious.

Video is a powerful medium and a wonderful creative outlet. A question for the oDesk video producers out there: What other advice would you offer? Share your input in the comments section below.

Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to Upwork a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.