Video: Makes Everything Better?

You’ve heard the buzz about Web 2.0 and the use of video. It will improve the way companies interact with their customers and the Web overall. Everyone’s watching video online these days. With Google’s $1.6 billion acquisition of YouTube, everyone’s talking about video. All you have to do is read the posts and articles from pundits and journalists about the impact video will have in 2007 in terms of Web site performance.

It seems everyone has a broadband connection to easily enable viewing video, so we should leverage the technology. Video is more compelling and can “get people excited about our offering,” a typical refrain in marketing meetings.

Last week, I went on a cross-country flight and brought along a recent “BtoB” magazine. One article featured a recent KnowledgeStorm study that reported “78 percent of B-to-B Executives surveyed said video makes online content more compelling.”

This set off an immediate alarm.

Who’s the judge of “more compelling”? The executives themselves? These are personal opinions. Often, these are the people who are furthest from the target audience.

If, in fact, nearly 4 out of 5 of the executives surveyed believe video makes online content more compelling, you’d assume either their organizations own a considerable amount of video or they plan to in the near future. I’m officially forecasting 2007 as the year of overabundant video on corporate sites.

Some of this will be positive for the businesses and their overall goals. But a considerable amount of this video won’t improve the visitor’s experience or the overall business.

So how do you ensure you fall on the right side of the video line — making sure it does, in fact, help your business not just satisfy your executives’ desire to “better leverage new technologies like video”?

Understand your audience. Based on your audience profile, determine the best ways to leverage video (and other new technologies) to better serve them.

Now that you have a plan of what you think is the best way to use video based on audience needs, it’s time to test your hypothesis. Whether you leverage A/B testing or multivariate, roll out a few versions of the same page, some with video and some without. How does that affect your overall key performance indicators (KPIs) and business goals?

In addition, you’ll want to survey the people who viewed both the video and non-video versions to determine their overall satisfaction and frame of mind. Are the people who were exposed to the same message with video more likely to convert (online or off-), and are they more satisfied with the experience? How did the rest of their visit session go?

This helps you understand how to best use video, as well as other new technologies. You may think it’s expensive to test video. If you’re going to spend the money to produce it, you better use it for that. But you’re better off scrapping that investment if it isn’t performing; in the financial world, this is referred to as a sunk cost. Go with what works and performs, not with what you spent the most money creating if it doesn’t perform the best.

I’m not saying video isn’t a great way to help deliver a message online. In fact, I’m a big fan of online video, when used in the right way, of course.

Does your executive team take the above approach? Something’s hot in the industry, so we hop on the bandwagon and start using it? If so, print a copy of this column and sneak into their offices at night, place it on their desks, or send an anonymous e-mail. If you get caught, blame it on something you read!

We all want to leverage new technology, but we must do so in a manner that helps better serve our site visitors and drives our key business goals, not just because it’s cool.

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