Always be sharing: using social video for sales and education

This is a fully-referenced write-up of the talk I gave at Video World Expo earlier today.

You can’t talk about selling online without talking about social media.

Remote controlIn the beginning, television (together with cinema, an even older delivery platform) was the only way to use video for sales. Commercials, sponsorships, placements: they were all ways to get your pitch in front of an audience, so they could see you and understand what your product was about. Over time, we moved to marketing videos – but it was still a one-way broadcast medium.

Out of technological necessity, our pitches became broadcasts: one way messages for a large audience Some of the audience may have been shouting back through their television sets, but there was no way for us to hear them, or to target them.

In the Internet economy, as we all know from the Cluetrain Manifesto, markets are conversations. Today, we can hear our audience loud and clear, and target specifically to them. Social media is becoming an important part of everyone’s sales strategy.

We still use TV ads – but they serve as a conversation starter; the most successful campaigns focus on engagement, not reach, and people aren’t necessarily watching them on TV. TV advertising is now just part of a broad spectrum of video media that can be used to help sell products.

You don’t just pick one medium to convey your message: computers can handle all kinds of content, all at once. Choosing between text, video, audio etc is a false choice dictated by legacy technological barriers. (TV can’t be audio-only; the radio can’t show pictures.) In 2012, you can have all of these, and you should. Ubiquitous Internet means that people consume media on all kinds of devices, in all kinds of places.

Video is leading online use.

According to Cisco:

  • In 2011, over 50% of mobile data was video.
  • By the end of 2012, there will be more mobile devices than people.
  • By 2014, over 80% of all Internet traffic will be video.
  • By 2016, over two thirds of mobile data will be video.

Meanwhile:

Of course, these figures don’t mean that most content is video: video is intrinsically bigger and more bandwidth-intensive than most other kinds of communication. However, they are undeniably significant – and video use is growing.

The trick to selling with video, as with all social media, is engaging the audience – and that means providing content that the audience wants to engage with.

Buyers report that less than half of vendor-produced social media content is useful, and that “22% of the buying process is wasted with ineffective content”. Even worse, sellers who create content that buyers don’t find useful, and who are perceived to be wasting buyers’ time, are 27% less likely to be placed on the buyer’s short list – and are 40% less likely to get the sale.

So what kinds of content are people looking for?

It turns out that “good” content has these properties:

  • It’s concise
  • It’s entertaining (i.e., not too dry)
  • It’s low on promotional bias – too much of a hard sell is a turn-off
  • And most importantly: it’s contextually personalized for them.

Note what’s missing: viewers aren’t necessarily looking for production values. They want content, and they want to feel like it was made for them.

This is probably a hard pill to swallow for people from the traditional media industries in particular, who are used to prioritizing production. And, they might not believe me.

Here, then, is My Drunk Kitchen, one of the post popular shows on YouTube. The first episode has been seen over 2 million times alone, and its star, Hannah Hart, is a bona fide celebrity who’s been featured in places like Time.

When used correctly, video is a strong sales tool. Just ask Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a revolutionary site and community that allows new products to be crowdfunded by the public. Product developers make their pitch, and set a funding goal to build their product. The public votes with their wallets, pledging amounts that are often as small as $5 to $25 in return for rewards that can – but don’t have to – include the final product. If the funding goal is met, the product developers get the money.

Kickstarter projects have a 15% chance of being funded – unless they include a video, which more than doubles their chance of success to 37%.

Here’s the pitch video from the most funded ever project, Pebble, a new kind of connected watch:

It’s slicker than many videos – certainly more so than My Drunk Kitchen – but still a world away from the production values we’re used to seeing in traditional media. Pebble had set a funding goal of $100,000 and ended up raising over $10 million. It’s far more important to get your story out there.

And it’s not just sales.

Last year, Stanford University created a new online course, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and made it open to anyone. This was a flagship course, heralding a new era in open education – a massive PR win for them, which attracted over 160,000 students from around the world.

Here’s the introductory video:

The course was considered a massive success, but production values weren’t front and center. Content was.

Finally, internal communications can also benefit.

According to the Aberdeen Group, 52% of organizations using social media tools internally achieved Best-in-Class performance compared to only 5% that didn’t. What’s more, organizations are saving money by sharing content more effectively internally: Sabre alone saved $500,000 by implementing a social intranet.

Video is a key part of social media. It’s worth pointing out that latakoo is the only social intranet tool designed specifically for managing video – but what are useful features of a platform designed for video sales?

Make it for them.

Remember what people respond to: contextually personalized content.

Rather than creating slick video designed for a mass audience, I contend that you will receive a better response from authentic, personal video shot for niches, groups, and even individuals. That means writing great content, making a video and sending it fast – to the right people.

That yields specific software challenges. YouTube is a great site, but video doesn’t have to be public. We talk about Content Delivery Networks for mass delivery of public video – but sometimes, niche delivery of super-targeted video can be far more effective.

That sometimes means sharing videos with systems that have access controls. Access controlled video also means you can include sensitive information relating to a specific sale or product – and then have a private conversation around it. That same use case makes it hugely useful for internal resources. You can share without fear, while making those content-rich resources, knowing that only the right people will see it.

This isn’t just for sales and training – you can use private, internal video to demonstrate products between departments, recording meetings or talks for future use, and so on.

We built latakoo to do exactly this – and of course, full access control means that you can still make a resource public when you need it to be.

Video is hard.

Video has many inherent problems: big files and lots of different, proprietary formats make it very difficult to share. Simply put, it’s hard to move video around.

Initially for our own purposes, we built latakoo to solve this problem through clever use of compression, a simple interface, and technology to eliminate worries about video format compatibility.

In a world of i7 processors, gigabytes of RAM and large bandwidth pipes, managing video should be as easy as managing photos and status updates. You certainly shouldn’t need proprietary hardware or super-expensive file transfer software – and you don’t. We’ve made sure of that.

We also need to make consuming that video as simple as possible, which means, ideally, just using a web browser on the user’s choice of device.

Lower the barrier to entry to consuming content-rich, useful video: become more efficient and increase sales.

The latakoo team is split between Austin, San Antonio and Silicon Valley. After some false starts and software trials that didn’t quite work out, we’ve landed on using Google+ Hangouts extensively to bridge the gap. Almost all of our videoconferencing meetings are done this way. It’s never quite the same as face to face, but we’ve found that we have more productive conversations than we would over just the phone, and it’s both reliable and extremely affordable.

We use join.me to share live video of our product demos in sales calls. Even when we’re just going through a sales proposal document with clients, we’ve found that looking at the same screen provides clarity that is hard to achieve using just voice.

And then, of course, we use latakoo to deliver pre-recorded video demos, pitches and walkthroughs.

In all of these cases, the barrier to entry for video consumers is low: you can access them through just a browser, and can get started instantly.

That’s the real future of video sales: access, personalization and ease of use. We’re proud to be a part of it.

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