February 11 2013 11:16 AM
Everybody seems to think these days that video is the ultimate tool for content marketers. I have new for you. It's not – and this is why.
It’s all about time. And the lack of it. Look around you in the B2B marketing space and you get a pretty clear picture what is happening. Everyone is talking about content marketing. The majority of marketers have stopped investing in interruptive marketing (advertising etc) and started putting their cash into creating content. I don’t have to tell you why. Buyers are in control. Searching for information on their own terms. Self-selecting targeting, etc etc.
There is little doubt that this is a good idea right now.
And strangely enough this is the very reason why video, as a content tool for lead generation, is getting weaker, not stronger.
Red Warning: information avalanche imminent
It is getting so difficult to find GOOD content that buyers are getting frustrated. In short, there is too much crap out there. Flimsy whitepapers written by inexpert writers, as campaign managers crack the whip demanding quantity over quality. We need another content piece. Quick. Get it out. 5 ways to improve… Three things you should know about… The secret to…
The information avalanche is well documented by commentators like Mark Schaefer, Doug Kessler and Jay Baer.
But take their views on information overload to the next stage, and you realise that buyers will lose patience because it will become too difficult to find the content they want. They may find an interesting link that promises much but, as the amount of “crap” (Â© Doug Kessler, 2013) increases, the chance of that link fulfilling their information needs is getting smaller. Like the dying man in the desert, they will find mirage after mirage, each promising to quench their thirst for information, and each revealing itself to be a cruel hoax. Instead of useful information, they get flimsy, hastily prepared ‘prospect bait’. Hopes dashed time after time.
Video will be squeezed out because it takes too long to assess its value.
People skim-read headlines
This is the big problem: video is a format that you cannot skim-read. The busy user has to quickly assess whether they will gain from investing their time in a piece of content. Expecting a busy person to choose a 10 minute video over a piece of text/image they can scan in seconds? Forget it.
There are good videos out there. And video is such a great format, bringing multimedia personality and engagement that a flat page cannot. But there is an increasing amount of very poor videos out there. And as everyone reads more and more articles predicting how brilliant video is as a marketing tool, the percentage of decent videos will reduce to almost nothing. We will drown in a mire of B2B B-movies that are not worth the data center space they occupy.
This is why video is becoming less powerful, not more. Unless we start to think about reputation instead of content…
Interviews with a nobody?
One consequence of information overload (and downward quality spiral) will be a huge loss of faith in the random web, and a return to trusted channels. Why risk Google and a fruitless search for decent content? Marketers need to do one of two things:
- create the “go to” place
- connect with the “go to” people
We know influencers are important. But they are about to become even more important - especially where video is concerned. A video promising insight from a recognised individual, or found on a trusted source will still work - and it will work well because video is such a powerful format, provided you can convince people to invest their (irreducible) time in consuming it. Try to use an interview with a nobody as something to generate leads and you’re backing a loser.
Friend of a friend
A possible alternative is of course personal recommendation. If the nobody interview is recommended by a respected colleague, they are no longer a nobody. Google searches already reflect the opinions of your peers (if you let it). In fact, if marketers continue to ‘game’ Google by SEO-optimising their content, personal recommendation will be the only way to separate the wheat from the chaff. (As an aside, this is not SEO-optimising but SEO-gilding, in the case of the valueless content that will swamp us very soon, because the search terms do not reflect the usefulness of the piece - SEO is often nothing more than a Google-readable veneer.)
As Google increasingly appropriates our personal lives and assumes the role of friend manager, it will tell us if that content is any good. Initiatives like Google Authorship (https://plus.google.com/authorship) are also emphasising the importance of knowing and recognising the people behind the content.
No recommendations? No recognition? Forget it.
So what is video good for?
I don’t mean that video is not a great format for B2B. In later stages of the buying cycle, or in situations where your audience trusts you enough to devote an incompressible period of their precious time to you, it can be immensely powerful. People like movies as well as books, after all, and there is every indication that producing video-based marketing material will help you towards your objectives.
But it is not the panacea that video production companies claim it to be. Its Achilles heel is that it is not suited to the unfathomably complex information landscape where potential consumers have milliseconds to assess its usefulness. So if you are hoping to use videos to generate leads - unless you are preparing to invest in respected channels and respected people - be prepared for disappointment.
2013 is not the year of the video - it’s the year when we woke up to its limitations.
Vine and the 6-second video
What I failed to note in the above post is the arrival of Vine, the new video service from Twitter, which is key to addressing this problem. For those who don’t know it, Vine is a way of sharing video in the same way that Twitter shares text - ie in bite-sized pieces. By forcing video producers to compress an idea into 6 seconds, Vine helps alleviate the problem of ‘scannability’. If it is only going to take 6 seconds out of your precious time - many people will take a look (whereas they might not have bothered viewing an incompressible 10 minutes video). Clearly, a six-second ‘taster’ could lead onto a fuller video. A trailer, if you like.
The jury is still out on Vine (it’s only been around since January) but I think it is very interesting that Twitter sees a market for videos that are so short that they get around the scannability issue.