2016 was a good year for video marketing. 2017 will be extraordinary.
Marketers know that video has become critical throughout the buying cycle, and sales teams are catching on as well. Brands are no longer asking whether video is a worthwhile investment; the days of "why video?" have given way to the who, what, when, where and how.
Over 90% of marketers say video content is important, and they're doing something about it: More than two-thirds of participants in plan to increase their budgets for video content creation, a Vidyard's State of Video Marketing study found.
We aren't the only ones confident in video's rising popularity and importance. "We're entering this new golden age of video," Mark Zuckerberg told BuzzFeed News in April 2016, adding that he "wouldn't be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video."
His fellow innovators and thought leaders agree (though not all). In his keynote at INBOUND 2016, HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan described the current combination of social and video as the perfect marriage—"scallops and bacon," to be precise—and opined that half of the content that marketing teams are producing in 2017 should be video.
It's clear: Both for content providers and for content consumers, this is no passing trend.
In 2017, three major shifts in how we create, promote, and measure video content will bring about the tipping point that changes the game and puts us squarely on track for Zuckerberg's "golden age of video."
1. From Passive to Interactive
Watching a video has been a passive process. Whether you're on your couch in front of Netflix or at your computer researching software, you click play, sit there, get bored, mess around on your phone, wait for the video to be over, and you walk away with a few nuggets of entertainment or information.
No more. In the same way that social media has revolutionized how we engage with brands, video is shifting from a passive to interactive experience. The process began with clickable URLs and annotations—"Visit www.whatever.com for more info" at the end of the clip—but it's quickly becoming integrated into the entire viewing experience.
We can now add embedded surveys, quizzes, and links to keep viewers engaged throughout the video while also providing additional content to retain their focus. We can respond to user actions, create 360 degree videos, and provide other immersive experiences, all of which bring the viewer further into the story and more invested in its outcome.
The same trend applies on the back end as well. We used to track videos with passive and relatively meaningless metrics, such as impressions and views. More interactive experiences mean that we can now track more insightful measures and provide more meaningful analytics.
The use of intermediate or advanced video analytics for understanding content performance increased significantly from 2015 to 2016, with 35% of marketers now using more sophisticated techniques. I expect that number to jump in 2017 as businesses invest more in video content across their business, and they become more aware of how well analytics can convey viewers' precise levels of interest and engagement in their content.
2. From Mass Audience to Hyper-Personalization
Video is still predominantly a one-size-fits-all proposition. Marketers create explainers and demos that show anyone and everyone how their products work. That's great, showing is almost always better than telling. But it doesn't address the myriad of buyer personas typically involved in the buying process, especially in more complex sales cycles.
Mature video marketing programs address this issue by defining their personas and catering video content to their particular needs. A CMO, for instance, will want a much different take on a product (and will have much less time to devote) than someone at an operational level.
A targeted, persona-based video strategy requires more content, but it delivers more bang for your buck.
2017 will bring the next stage of the personalization trend, and it's less a step forward than a giant leap: Forget personas... we can now customize videos on the fly for individual people or companies and do it at scale.
Video marketing technology now allows marketers and sales reps to personalize video content for recipients in a way that stands out, draws them into the story, and boosts their engagement in the content experience.
Early adopters are seeing extraordinary success with video personalization. Influitive, for example, recorded eight-fold improvement on clickthrough rates with a personalized video versus standard outbound email campaigns. For Reltio, open rates went up ten-fold. And 70% of prospective students who received a personalized video email from the University of Waterloo opened the message—a 1,000% increase over the school's average.
Such stats aren't flukes, and marketers are taking notice. As the results keep coming in and the technology becomes more accessible, personalized video will be all over inboxes in 2017.
3. From Outsourced to In-House
Among the biggest challenges businesses are still struggling with are the cost and resources associated with video production—largely because most video content is outsourced. In 2017, we'll see big investments in in-house video production to complement bigger-budget agency productions.
As HubSpot's Halligan mentioned in the keynote I quoted earlier, today's buyers want short, easily consumed, informal content. Attention spans are short. Cynicism is high. Consumers want videos that feel as if they were created by real people, and they want more of them.
All of which is good news for businesses. Technology now makes it infinitely easier to create in-house videos that meet those new criteria. Your sales team can create one-on-one videos to send to prospects that address their specific needs. Field marketing can shoot video invitations that capture the spirit of your event. HR can build video training modules, Support can show how to solve FAQ, internal communications teams can record executive presentations.
When you liberate video from its "professional" shackles, it becomes a tool not just for marketing but for the entire enterprise—and dramatically increases its ROI in the process.
Bringing video in-house applies not just to creation but publication as well. In 2017, companies will complement their YouTube channels with custom-branded video hubs on their own public sites as well as internally, within their businesses.
Hosting videos in-house allows for more control throughout the process, from how they are presented to the interactive features and analytics mentioned earlier, to integrations with tools such as marketing automation and CRM. It provides your brand with more ways to stand apart from an increasingly crowded market to capture the attention and engagement of your target audience.
The result? Video will play an increasingly important role at all stages of the buying journey, far beyond its current perceived confines of awareness and brand equity.
* * *
In 2016, businesses expanded their focus on video and begin to dip their toes in more advanced techniques. In 2017, that experimentation will bear fruit. Video will emerge from its passive, generic YouTube experience to become a dynamic, personal experience primed to make a serious impact on business results.
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