4 Mistakes to Avoid when Creating Online Video

Last week I was asked to do a video for a start up company that I really didn't feel comfortable doing.  The company has very limited resources and they wanted to create a video for YouTube that was not core to their business.

Over and over I see businesses get excited about video content that is completely off topic to their business.  

Many of these businesses spend time and money creating videos that are not viewed.  

Granted, sometimes these videos would be viewed if they had a launch strategy.  But most people post and wait for viewers - they don't have a strategy.

In this post I'll cover four big mistakes I see businesses do when they create video to share online.

In the case of this start up company, their event was newsworthy but when it comes to YouTube, this type of content wouldn't help the company leverage the power of YouTube.

There are so many different ways to share content that are easier and less expensive than video.  So I really work on helping my clients focus on creating videos that they can leverage.  We focus on specific objectives and craft content that ties into their core business.  Client can use other means, like PR or an infographic, for content that is not ideal for video.

The software company that contacted me wanted to create video of their efforts to give back to the community.  They planned to give food and socks to local homeless near their place of business.  It is a gesture that comes from real gratitude for the success they have had after moving to San Francisco.

Why do I think this event is not video-worthy?

Well, first off, their company provides software solutions for the healthcare industry and they planned to serve food that is well known in their native city, but which happens to be on the unhealthy side of the scale.

Secondly, the event does not relate back to their core business.  They are in the software business.  People doing searches on YouTube are looking for content that addresses specific questions related to problems they are trying to solve.

Their prospects won't be searching for software companies giving back to the community.  

This is a great event to document but it is much more easily done through photographs, a blog post, a newsletter mention and PR outreach.

In my perspective, video-worthy content is going to help move your business forward.  It is going to help you get more business.  It will help you build awareness for your solutions.  It will help answer questions and get people excited about your solution.  Or it will help your audience take an action that will bring them closer to working with you.

If you also believe that you want your investment in video to result in moving your business forward, here are four mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1:  Creating Uniquely Unique Content

What do I mean by unique?  Here I mean content that isn’t aligned with your overall marketing messaging, with your product strategy, or with your service offerings.

The best brands create videos after they’ve tested their concepts and are certain that the message speaks to their audience and ties back into their overall marketing communications plan.

Video is a great way to amplify your messaging.  Doing video well is generally not cheap and not quick. So if you are going to spend time and money on video, make sure your video message is a message that is already working with your audience.

Combine the power of amplifying your message with the power of being always available and you maximize your investment if you create evergreen content.  What is this?  It is content that people will be seeking for months and years to come. 

Evergreen content is king when you have a small budget.

Unique is a red flag.

Mistake #2:  Overlooking the Details

Details matter.  Video is a very immersive medium.  It acts on many different sensory levels.  And if something is off target, or something is on target, people will both see it and feel it.

This is something I’ve experienced over and over with my own YouTube series.  Some people are afraid of allowing comments on YouTube but I find that I learn if my message is on point based on the comments.

And people notice the littlest things.  In one of my videos about biking in the rain, there was one 2 second clip of a bike going up a hill in the rain.  The tire happened to be low. I had so many comments about the bike tire being flat.

To get that clip, the cyclist, Kristin, and I waited weeks for the rain to finally come down in San Francisco.  On the day of the shoot, we decided at the last minute to use one of Kristin’s bikes that had fenders but it was a bike she didn’t use often so the tires had gone flat and we didn’t notice it when we left the house.

Having a flat tire didn’t impact the story but people noticed.

Not everyone will like everything about your video and that is okay, but as much as possible you should make sure the details and the message convey the meaning and feeling that you want people to walk away with after seeing your video.  In the case of the healthcare software company, many viewers will overlook the unhealthy food and just recognize the gesture.  However, enough of their potential client base might notice this detail so I’d recommend to either change the food or publicize the event in a different way.

Details matter.

Mistake #3:  Expecting to go Viral, organically

Sometimes I think the impulse to create a video about something unique is driven by a desire to go viral.  There is a thought that, wow, this is cool, maybe this will go viral.

But going viral isn’t as simple as putting up something unique.  

The best example I’ve heard is about The Dollar Shave Club video.  It is a humorous video that outlines their offering - men can subscribe and get fresh razors in the mail each month.

It was a brilliant video and a brilliant launch.  Their strategy is outlined in a recent Inc. Magazine article.  

To summarize, Dollar Shave Club coordinated their YouTube launch of their video to correspond with their announcement of receiving $1 million in seed funding and timed it to appear just before South by Southwest.  South by Southwest is a yearly festival that features the best in original music, independent film. and emerging technology - it is where the cool kids hang out. 

Viral is a strategy, it is not an accident.

Mistake #4:  Not Mapping the Message to the Results you want to Achieve

There are many ways to measure the impact of your video.  You can simply look at the number of views your video gets.  Or you can dig deeper.  YouTube will show you audience retention, or how much of your video you audience is watching.  

There are other metrics to measure including channel subscriptions, email newsletter sign ups, and purchases.  Or you might want to look at the number of embeds on external blogs.

On different platforms you’ll have different objectives because people come to each platform with a different set of expectations and a different type of engagement.

You want to produce for achievable results.  Start by defining your objectives, then look at where you audience is hanging out (where will you launch your video) and then strategize your content.

There is no formula for what will work and how you can achieve results but being aware of your business goals, of user behavior (how do people consume content on each platform and how do they engage differently on different platforms) and of your own target audience's expectations will help guide you in the right direction.

Be thoughtful with what you produce and you can avoid these common mistakes and create content that gets you results.