Remember your parents complaining about the “new math” being taught in school? Well, there’s a video equivalent, based on the impact of social media video storytelling.

When I started making videos for businesses and government agencies 20 years ago, the work followed a typical pattern. A pattern that stagnates today – but doesn’t have to.

In those days, most video pros designed content to fit 5, 15, 30 or 60 minute VHS tapes and most clients designed their video budgets to fit a 2 to 5 year plan. So they’d set aside all the funds they could afford to invest in one video that would serve multiple purposes for multiple years. It might be a sales video that went out to both prospective customers and to established customers. Or a promotional video that showcased successful projects that also met grant requirements. The expectation was also that the video would be “evergreen” meaning it was designed to look fresh for years of viewing. We often would use phrases like “over the last few years” instead of “in 1998” so that it wouldn’t appear dated.

In the early 2000’s this turned into the ‘home page video’ for most websites. Same concept, different medium. One budget allotment for one high stakes production to create one long lasting video.

It is a clunky way to make media. We were constantly trying to predict how audiences 5 years in the future would react to a video based on current (or old) info. It also created a certain kind of pressure for everyone involved. After all, this one video represented a huge part of the organization’s budget. So people’s jobs were on the line. If the video worked for 6 months before it became outdated – then someone had ‘failed’ at their job. When company employees appeared in the video, that stress often showed up on set and on camera.

Flash forward to the present day. Now most clients understand why 3 little videos are better than 1 big one. However, the old mentality still slips through sometimes. Here are some of the pitfalls to avoid – and some more modern approaches.

We’re spending all of our marketing budget on this video becomes We dedicate a percentage of our marketing budget to ongoing video content. 

We’ll make one video for Youtube, Facebook, & Instagram becomes We make different videos optimized for different audiences on each platform. OR We target our audience with videos on one platform that matches our marketing goals.

We know the video we want to make, but we’re not sure yet where we’ll put it becomes We plan for impact/measurable outcomes before we start any video project. 

We want one video for all audiences/customer demographics becomes We know our audience and create videos that are customized to them. 

We have to get ‘everything’ in this one video becomes We’re excited to have ongoing content so that we can cover more ground in the next month, quarter, or year. 

We made a video, put it online and are disappointed with the results becomes We used several different versions of video to test impact. Then, we used those results to plan for the next video. 

All of us who work in marketing, sales, and online messaging have to grow and adapt to the ‘new math’ of social media video. It’s revolutionizing the work. We can now see the impact of a video by checking views, search engine results, and conversion rates. So why would we design a video plan that doesn’t incorporate that data? Why wouldn’t we create multiple versions of the same video to learn more about our customers and audiences? Design video series that build engagement and amplify impact?

We are living the future today, as long as we’re willing to grow our understanding of the ‘new math’ and incorporate it into all of our work.

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