With over 800 million unique users visiting YouTube each month, Vine users sharing more than 110,000 videos over a weekend, and consumers watching over 11.3 billion online video ads in December 2012, video has become an essential marketing tool. It’s a great way to engage with your audience, show your brand’s personality, tell your story or convey potentially complex messages via an easy-to-watch channel.

If you’re not already using video as a marketing tool, this infographic makes a pretty strong case for you to start:

If you’ve thought about producing a video for your small business, but you’re not sure where to start, here are some tips on the basics to point you in the right direction.

Getting started

Brainstorm. Figure out what your message is, and whether you’re trying to reach existing or potential customers (or both). Is your message promotional? Educational? Do you want to ask/answer a question? Pique people’s interest? Tell a story? Or do you just want to get a conversation started?

Once you’ve got a clear message, you can pick the style of video you want to produce. Some cool examples of different styles include:

  • Dollar Shave Club – a promotional homepage video that uses humor to tell their story and convince you of their value.
  • Xero’s Cloud Computing Guide video – this was a project we produced using interviews with real people – which shows trustworthiness, gets people talking and engages our audience.
  • Time to Hire’s testimonial videos – filmed using user-generated video service Bravo – a great tool if your customer base is geographically diverse.

Both the Xero and Time to Hire videos use real people. This a great way to show that you are genuine and establish trust. It makes you relatable and approachable, and is an easy way to introduce a message to your audience and allow them to identify with the people they are seeing. It’s also cheaper than hiring professional actors!

If you want to tell a story (à la Dollar Shave Club), find a great angle. One of the reasons video advertising is so cool is you can use it to link almost anything together. Ask a friend, family member or customer what they find the most interesting about your product or service – they might help you uncover the perfect hook!

What channel will work best for you? Facebook? Youtube? Your website? Figure out who your audience is and how long your video is likely to be. Twitter’s new Vine app has seen people come up with some amazing six-second clips – check out this funny selection of actor James Urbaniak’s vines. If it’s social sharing of a quick message you’re after, Vine could be the channel for you.

Host the video on your company’s website if the content is relevant long-term. This is a great way to make your site more engaging and informative, and an all-around better experience for visitors.

Don’t let a budget stand in the way

Audiences love a low-budget production. Not only does it project a message of authenticity, some of the best viral videos are produced using basic equipment. Think Charlie Bit Me, David After the Dentist or Sneezing Baby Panda.

In 2006, Blendtec spent $50 on props first five ‘Will It Blend?’ videos, which were a viral success, and resulted in a whole series of informercial-style advertisements. They feature Blendtec CEO Tom Dickinson, who entertains viewers by blending anything from glow sticks to an iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 – with well over 9 and 7 million YouTube views respectively.

“The campaign took off almost instantly. We have definitely felt an impact in sales. Will it Blend has had an amazing impact to our commercial and our retail products.” says Dickinson.

So why not do what Blendtec did, and look at your tight budget as an opportunity to be creative and make a video that really stands out from the crowd? If they can sell truckloads of their product on a shoestring, you can too.

Technical tips

If you’re not ready to invest in video equipment, you can use an iPhone or android – they may not be able to survive a blender, but they do take quality videos!

Things to be mindful of include:

  • lighting – it’s always best to use natural light. Watch out for harsh shadows and reflections, especially on people’s faces. Whatever you do, don’t use lamps from the office or from home, or it’ll up looking like a hostage video. If you need to, you can rent good diffused lighting gear – it makes a huge difference and doesn’t cost too much.
  • sound quality – this is the most important part of the video. People can watch grainy and choppy video, but if the sound is bad it becomes unwatchable. Eliminate all background noise and if you’re outside, make sure it’s a windless day or you are in a sheltered spot.
  • shaky camera – if you don’t have a tripod, get creative – blue tack your iPhone to a desk if you have to
  • frame – make sure you’re close enough to see the whites of your subject’s eyes, but not so close that you’re cutting of the top of their head
  • background – a plain white background is boring, but you don’t want your set to be distracting either. A good example is this Kindle ad, which uses settings that are directly relevant to the product and the people it is designed for.

When it comes to editing software, there are plenty of easy-to-use, free or cheap downloads available, including Apple’s iMovie and Microsoft’s Movie Maker.


Keep it short and sweet. Think of your video as a movie trailer – it’s a teaser, the purpose is to drive people to find more. It should be concise and punchy.

Consider using two cameras. This will give you more than one angle, which makes the video more engaging, less static and easier to watch.

Before you publish the video, use a test audience.
Show the video to your friends and family and ask them some questions. Some good questions to ask include:

  • Is it missing anything? boring? too long?
  • What was your favourite part?
  • Would you recommend it? if not, why?
  • Do you ‘get it’ straight away?
  • Is there anything you would change?
  • Does it show who you our company is and fit with our branding?

Ask them to be honest, and give their best constructive criticism.

If you want to hire someone to do your filming and editing, make sure you shop around to get a good deal. Is there a local college or university who may have film production students looking for the chance to get some experience for a cheap rate? Can you offer a company a discount on your product in exchange for a discount on their service? If you do decide to go with this option, make sure you see their previous video work to make sure they’ve got the skills and their style is aligned with yours.

Check out VentureBeat’s 10 best viral videos you missed in 2012 – they’re relatively low-budget, but managed to hit the mark in terms of views. They tend to be cute, funny, sentimental, inspirational or visually dynamic.

Have you thought about creating a video for your small business?