In the competition between digital natives – Gen Y, which has grown up with online technology and digital immigrants – those of us who can remember typewriters and phones with cords attached – for primacy online, it seems that the digital natives have gained the upper hand.
Think Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, and a billion dollar online empire by the time he reached his mid-20s) vs. Rupert Murdoch (MySpace, phone hacking scandals, declining dead tree media empire). Or Natalie Tran (24-year old Australian vlogger with 156,000 Twitter followers, more than 400 million YouTube views and a cozy career in the making) against say, Tony Abbott (50-something Australian politician with 56,000 Twitter followers but no YouTube channel).
If you read the media reports on what’s hot on the web, there appears to be a strong relationship between a lack of history and Internet success.
But it’s not that simple.
It can be useful to have a long-term view of the online world, which only a seasoned digital immigrant can have. If you can combine that with knowledge of traditional, pre-Internet business principles, you can look past current fads and build a business model that’s sustainable.
For example, the current obsession with whatever is the latest online application exploding in the public consciousness ignores the fragile nature of web success.
With all the current talk of community-building and developing personal relationships, you’d think the concept was invented by Facebook. Digital natives may be too young to remember, but digital immigrants will recall that when MySpace burst on the scene, it was seen as the long-term future of social media. That is, until Facebook came along.
Early digital immigrants can go back even further and remember GeoCities, an online community where people could create personal pages and create a following of fans, which was all the buzz way back in the 20th century.
And consider the power and ubiquity of the Google empire. It may be hard for digital natives to fathom a time pre-Google, but digital immigrants can remember when Yahoo! was seen as the impregnable leader in search (As an aside, it used its cash reserves to buy GeoCities back in 1999), a crown it took from the equally-invulnerable Alta Vista.
A recent study by psychologists at Rice University has revealed that the content of an online video, not its technical quality, is its most important feature.
The study “The Effect of Content Desirability on Subjective Video Quality Ratings”, appears in the journal Human Factors.
The researchers showed 100 study participants 180 movie clips encoded at nine different levels, from 550 kilobits per second up to DVD quality. Participants viewed the two-minute clips and then were asked about the video quality of the clips and desirability of the movie content.
They found a strong correlation between the desirability of movie content and subjective ratings of video quality.
Study leader Professor Philip Kortum said, “At first we were really surprised by the data. We were seeing that low-quality movies were being rated higher in quality than some of the high-quality videos. But after we started analyzing the data, we determined what was driving this was the actual desirability of the content. If you’re at home watching and enjoying a movie, we found that you’re probably not going to notice or even concern yourself with how many pixels the video is or if the data is being compressed.”
How embarrassing, an online content consultancy that doesn’t update its own blog. I’ll eschew all the obvious analogies such as the plumber who doesn’t have time to do the plumbing at his own house, and instead just point to some of the things that have kept me away from the blog:
Zazoo was asked to put together a workshop article for NETT magazine on how to promote your business online using video. The article has been published in this month’s issue (see a PDF version here).
Here are a couple of excerpts:
“Online video is no longer a nice-to-have addition to your marketing mix: it’s becoming an essential tool for small businesses trying to stand out in a crowded market. Yet, often the biggest challenge for SMEs interested in creating online video is taking that first step. Your dream may be to create something that goes viral, but where do you start? How do you make it interesting enough to get people to watch – and then spread the message? The good news is, creating online video is getting cheaper and easier to do.
“….The biggest challenge for businesses, especially SMEs, is taking the first step. Video can confound people who are only familiar with traditional marketing. Developing an interesting concept is the next challenge. Viewers have been conditioned by years of television watching to expect video to be entertaining as well as informational, so that talking head presentation from your MD is an online video no-no.
“….Each video and each campaign is different, so work out ways you candetermine the success of your video in meeting your goals.How can you tell whether increased sales are due to your video? You do things like link from the video to a particular landing page on your site instead of the home page. Measure hits to this page and add a call-to-action…. As you produce more videos, you can see what type of content gives you the most business impact.”
Keep on the lookout for future articles in NETT and other publications.
Last week I interviewed Rebecca Lieb, US vice-president for the digital marketing research and publishing company Econsultancy, for a HotHouse podcast on the topics of search engine optimisation and content strategy. Her main message: Like it or not, the evolution of search on the Internet now means that every company is a publisher - people are going to come straight to your website for information about your products/services and about your category in general. As a result, you need to “think like an editor” and create fresh, engaging content for your website - constantly.
The podcast has now been published on the HotHouse blog - you can listen to it/download it here. I’ll also provide links to related articles that will be published on the HoHouse blog as soon as they’re published later this month.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller writes this week in the Internet Business Examiner about a cost-effective way to drive more traffic to your site - turn your existing text content into video content.
She writes, “Turning your written content into short (2-3 minute) videos can be a very effective way to repurpose your content.
“You can break up the content of a long article or post into two or three short videos of you talking about the subject and then upload these to YouTube with appropriate keyword tags. Next you can embed the videos on your own site and leave the video link on other places around the Web.
“Of course, it’s a good idea to include your site’s URL on the video itself so that anyone seeing the video can instantly connect to you.”
While I think repurposing text content as video can be very effective, I would caution against just producing a talking head video of someone reading out your articles verbatim. You need to be a bit more creative and think of how you can tell the story visually, using pictures and graphics, rather than just someone’s face. That creative touch can mean the difference between traffic arriving at your page and bouncing off, and traffic that stays and moves down the conversion funnel.
Across nearly all of the categories, entertainment rated as high as marketing (see above). Solving problems and offering incentives to buy were the highest rating expectations, on average.
The survey, conducted among nearly 600 US new media users, demonstrates the strength of online video and shows how consumers’ perceptions of marketing and advertising are changing, as the line between content and promotion becomes increasingly blurred.
“Digital video content, whether delivered through a computer, mobile phone, handheld device or TV monitor, has the potential to ignite two-way conversations between consumers and brands,” said Tobi Elkin, author of the report.
According to an eMarketer summary of the report: “Putting a hard number on the dollars spent by consumer packaged goods marketers on online video content is difficult, as outlays are not included in measures of paid advertising spending. Assessing its effectiveness is likewise a problem for marketers. The same metrics issues that bedevil marketers trying to assess the effect of online advertising on their brands also plague the ability to evaluate the performance of video content.”
A recent article in MarketingProfs has some insightful comments about what sort of content you should put on our website to engage people and get them to keep coming back to your site.
Bob Knorpp, president of the advertising, marketing and social networking consultancy Cool Beans, makes the point that your website should be about the future, not the past. He says, “I could have easily filled my website with descriptions and photos of my past projects. But I hated that option,” because perusing a list of past accomplishments at a website is like “reading a history book and calling it cutting-edge thinking.”
He creates weekly podcasts and video clips related to the podcasts, tweets about site updates, and has a Facebook and Wikipedia page. Although the amount of effort sounds exhausting, he says it helps his business in three ways:
It establishes him as an experts
It provides context for clients.
It makes him better at his job.
“Having your customers engage with a growing body of content is one of the surest ways to raise the perception that you are expert in your given field, and create a path toward ongoing loyalty and advocacy with your brand,” Bob says.
Shameless plug: If you want to emulate those efforts but don’t have the time/internal resources, Zazoo can help you create relevant, up-to-date, optimised content.
To those of us who remember school as a distinctly low-tech experience, it may come as some surprise that teachers are turning increasingly toward digital content to make education more engaging and effective.
A report on THE Journal highlights a recently-released study showing that more than 75% of K-12 teachers were using digital tools in the classroom last year, up from 69% in 2008. Meanwhile, 72% of teachers reported they stream or download content from the Internet, up from 65% in 2008.
According to the study, “A majority of preK-12 teachers indicated they strongly agree that TV and video content is more effective when it is integrated with other instructional resources in the classroom. A majority of teachers are more likely to use five- to 10-minute video segments rather than entire programs. This is one indication that teachers are becoming more strategic in their selections and targeting use for specific purposes.” Or it could just mean that they are reacting to the fact that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter.
This means that companies will need to rely on digital content more and more as the next generation graduates into the workforce. I’ll avoid the obvious pun about an Apple for teacher…
Blogger T.J. Philpott has published a good summary of how you can create content and re-work it in several ways for use in marketing your business online.
He writes: “Useful information is always in demand on the internet. Assuming the content you produce is of good quality using content like this in multiple ways is a very efficient use of a one time effort.”
He outlines seven ways to use a single piece of content:
Distributing content to article directories
Creating info products by putting several pieces of content together cohesively
Compiling pieces of content into an ezine you can offer to site visitors
Newsletters - similar to ezines, but sent regularly to customers
A blog post is a good way to flag new content on your site
Online press release services can also be used to flag new content or services
Most new material starts out as website content
I would add video content to this list. You can often find a way to create compelling video content out of text-based content, such as interviewing a customer who has had an interesting experience, or a how-to video on whatever service you were discussing in the text content. Note that I did not say create a talking head video where your MD reads out the original piece of content verbatim - this will not get you anywhere.
Daniel Flamberg, managing director of marketing agency Booster Rocket, published his predictions for interactive strategies for 2010 on iMedia.com this week. One of them was about the growing use of online video for business. He wrote:
“Video is the meme of choice online. It seems that everyone has and uses a video camera to upload all kinds of content online. In 2010, if you can’t be found on YouTube and its competitors, you will be invisible. (my emphasis) Look for considerable competition among sites vying to rank second. Watch vertical video sites attempt to increase their visibility, if not their utility or viewership.
“….Also look for new ways to emerge to tell stories in video. There appears to be a very broad tolerance for homemade videos and video with very modest production value. Videos will be shorter and better tagged. Many will be clickable, and some brands will try to create (or re-create) a branded online serial aimed at their psycho-demographic target. The Holy Grail is still the video that achieves altitude and is virally passed to zillions around the world.”
As more companies realise the importance of Internet content to sustaining their business, more and more will turn to low-cost video content for their websites.
Jonathan Salem Baskin, who was the subject of the most recent podcast we produced for HotHouse, has written an insightful post about the continuing importance of text in online communication on his blog.
“If video killed the radio star, wasn’t video supposed to obliterate text?” he wrote. “It hasn’t. Not even close. Who would have thought that 2009 would witness instead the continued resurgence of the written word?
“As opposed to video, text is a ‘hot medium,’ if you buy into Marshall McLuhan’s theories about media (and I do, for the most part). Even when viewed online, words engage a single sense, and thereby establish a direct connection that is richer in specific information and meaning than more participatory, or ‘cool’ multimedia experiences.
He goes on to ask: ”Why do businesses use words so poorly?
“Maybe because words seem free when compared with the cost of producing a video or sound file. Perhaps because social media conversations are so fast and frequent that specific word choices seem less important. One of my pet peeves is that we still use words to satisfy ourselves; we talk to our aspirations for our brands, and not to make those direct connections to readers.
“I think the year proved that what companies say matters, whether as the inputs into social media, or as the tool by which they make those direct connections with their consumers. But it has to be accurate, honest, and credible. It’s harder to get away with a lie when it’s literally spelled out; conversely, if we use words to state truths (and avoid all of the nuances that distract or lessen them), then text is a powerful tool that transports across technology platforms, and works with all age groups.
“I believe that 2010 will give us great and useful opportunities to use video and other media to communicate with our customers, but I suggest that there’ll be even more, better, easier, and more cost-effective chances to wring more impact and value out of the lowly, simple, written word.”
Use of video is growing quickly, but there are some things that will always work best in text format.
OK, we’ve been skirting around this issue since Zazoo was first started, but now it’s time to tackle it head-on: to all of you who have forgotten to type the “.au” when looking for us, yes, we know that we share the same business name as a Belgian condom company (Should we have checked this out before buying the domain name and business name in Australia? Yes. Would that have changed our decision on the business name? Probably not).
Why mention this now? Well, a brand agency in the US has used a Zazoo campaign (the condom, not the digital content agency) as an example of using fear in advertising. You can view the ad below.
The brand agency, Woodbine, says the Zazoo ad “remind(s) us that functional purchases really can be driven by emotion. Revamping a brand so it connects on both an emotional and analytical level with consumers is an important step in revitalizing a faded brand image.”
By the way, I wonder if our Belgian name-sharers would mind if we co-opted their tagline for our business as well? Zazoo - fun, sexy, safe. What do you think?