Online video for content marketing beginners

Jul 24, 2017 | Create Confidently

When it comes to visual content, it’s hard to beat online video for vibrancy, impact and engagement.

Many startups and small businesses would love to add online video to their marketing efforts. They believe – rightly so – that video has the power to quickly explain a value proposition, generate leads, or engage prospects with educational content.

They’re not alone in their thinking. According to the Content Marketing Institute, recent studies by Wistia, YouTube, and Ooyala predict that video “will take up over 90 percent of the online content pie within the next decade.” And Hubspot reports that almost 52% of marketing professionals worldwide name online video as the type of content with the best ROI.

But isn’t creating video too complex for content marketing beginners? Fortunately, not anymore.

Online video tools have changed

In the past, videos were expensive and required a lot of equipment to create. The good news is that cost-effective videos are more achievable today than ever before.

Record what’s happening around you

New tools for creating powerful video content are emerging every day. Using nothing more than a good smartphone or a recorded video chat, marketers can capture relevant footage from events, interviews, customer visits, webinars and other interactions that can be shared with their target community. With modest editing, these assets can go a long way toward communicating a company’s thought leadership and brand.

But while valuable, this type of video footage tends to be both unscripted and long – and therein lies the rub. What if you want to be more intentional in your message, and get that message across in under a minute or two?

To do that, you’ll need to create a scripted, purpose-built video.

Animated videos are easier than ever

Several new tools are now available for creating animated videos that deliver just this sort of tight video content with surprisingly low effort.

Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses, and each is good at a particular style of production. Most have low license fees (about $20-50/month) and free versions are available so you can try them out before you commit.

They’re all relatively easy to use.


Animoto sets images and video clips to music, in a style I think of as “MTV-like.” There’s no easy voiceover capability, but instead you can intersperse text headlines to tell your story. It includes an extensive royalty-free music track library and a variety of pre-defined visual styles. The videos created by Animoto are particularly useful for evoking a brand image, but can also be applied to explainer-type videos that convey a more structured message – especially if your audience likes music!

Here are some Animoto examples:



PowToon is a toolset for creating animated videos from scratch, with a limited but useful set of pre-defined characters, actions, backgrounds and props. You can record your own voice track or import a professional recording. They offer a limited set of sound tracks or you can license your own separately and import them. This tool is highly recommended for explainer videos, promotional spots, education segments and other targeted content with a clearly-defined intent.

Here are some PowToon examples:


Online videos from screen and webcam recordings

In addition to using your smart phone or an animation program to create videos, you can also record material from your computer screen and/or your webcam. These are great for product demos, welcome messages, how-tos, testimonials and other short pieces of content.

Screen recording programs such as Camtasia and Snagit are available for low-cost license fees. There are also many free screen recorders; simply search for “screen recorder” in your favorite search engine.

To create footage from your computer’s webcam, both Quicktime Player and PhotoBooth have webcam video recording capabilities. These apps come installed on every Mac. I don’t use Windows, but there are likely similar free options that turn your built-in or add-on webcam into a handy selfie video recorder.

Wistia Soapbox

Wistia (the video hosting company that I use) just released a cool new online video tool called Soapbox. It’s a free Chrome extension that allows a Chrome user to create great-looking videos in just a few minutes.

What’s cool about Soapbox is that it records your screen and your webcam simultaneously, then allows you to switch between the two or take advantage of a unique “split-screen” view, all with some simple editing tools. This makes it incredibly useful for recording commentary to a demo or presentation, intermixing head shots of the presenter along the way to personalize the message.

Besides only working in Chrome, the early version of Soapbox is also limited to linking to your finished video. There’s no ability to embed the video directly on your website or blog – yet. The company says they’re considering adding this important function, however.

Here’s a quick Soapbox example:

What else is needed for online video?

Building an effective video takes more than just production. As a content marketing beginner you should consider the following key elements:

Persona-based message. You’ll need to identify which buyer persona to target with your video’s message. Since several people are usually involved in a business buying decision, what job function, department, job title and role do you want to address? Most importantly, what are the challenges encountered in his/her work? If you craft your message to highlight how you can help with those, you’ll have a better chance of getting and keeping attention with your video.

Script and storyboard. A script and storyboard detail how your video’s narration and action will deliver your message. A good script will deliver your message with minimum words and maximum impact. A well-constructed storyboard maps the audio narration (or on-screen text) to tightly-timed animation, reveals, transitions and other video effects to ensure that your story is seen, heard and understood simultaneously. Both are essential before you start video production.

Landing page. Once your video is complete, you’ll need a way to distribute it and convert views into action. That’s what a landing page does. While you could email a video to your audience as an attachment, that’s usually not advisable due to the size of the video file. You can upload your video to a hosting site such as YouTube (and should to increase exposure), but these platforms don’t allow you to manage associated messaging or calls-to-action. A landing page gives you a place to encourage video viewing, provide supportive messaging, and ask for a response in the form of clicking a link or submitting a lead form. Your video may be Academy Award material, but will only win if it gets votes in the form of market response!

Is online video in your near-term future?

If you’ve read this far, congratulations! It seems you’re pretty interested in video as a content marketing lever.

What do you want to accomplish with online video in your marketing efforts?

Have you tried any of the techniques or tools in this article? How’d they work for you?

What’s been your biggest obstacle to getting started with video?

Please share your thoughts with the Content Marketing Startup community!


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