Syndicated from source by Video Production Shop.
More than ever, user-generated video marketing content is stealing the spotlight. Why is this the case? I believe there are two primary reasons. The first, quite obviously, is that we are currently beset by a pandemic. The prospect of sending out production crews to interface with the wider world is not only officially restricted in most places, but is civically unethical. The second reason is something that you have most likely felt, but might not have consciously articulated: authenticity. There is no form of marketing that feels more authentic than that which has been generated by the users themselves; whether that be a company’s customer base, or their employee roster. This is great news for your business, as it means that engaging in effective video marketing at a juncture where marketing budgets have been slashed, if not buried, can be remarkably feasible and affordable.
What I aim at doing here is to provide you with insight on how you can successfully produce user-generated content for your business; however, defining specifically what I mean when I say ‘user-generated content’ is surely in order. Footage shot on consumer devices, within relevant, real-world settings, without the on-site assistance of production specialists: that seems like a fair definition of the concept. In example, here is a user-generated video that we, at Motion Source, recently put together:
The newsletter that we sent out containing the above sample garnered more click-throughs and engagement than any other newsletter we released over the past 12 months. And, I promise we didn’t cheat! Every snippet of footage within the above sample was either captured with an iPhone or comparable Samsung device. Still, I can almost hear you grumbling from the other side of the screen that we violated one of the specifics of my definition: the part about “on-site assistance of production specialists”; certainly there is some truth to that complaint, but I can report, firsthand, that capturing footage on an iPhone at home is a vastly different art than working with a digital cinema camera system, a grip-truck filled with lighting, and a trained production crew. Tackling this project was a very educational experience for our team, and I want to share the lessons learned, so that you might create something similar for your business.
HAVE A PURPOSE
As with any other marketing project, your user-generated brand video needs to have a definite purpose. For our video, the purpose was to illustrate that we are still being creative–personally and professionally–regardless of societal lockdown. This both underscores one of our primary brand values, as well as communicates to our audience that we are still capable of collaborating with them to accomplish their marketing goals. A manufacturer’s message might be that their staff is bravely continuing to work as safely as possible, to meet their market’s needs. While a bicycle manufacturer might engage their customer base to collaborate on a video that showcases how their product is allowing pandemic-stressed individuals to experience a sense of much needed freedom and release. Whatever your message, make sure that it is crystalline before your first participant presses record on their phone. If this isn’t the case, you run the very real risk of amassing a glut of footage that lacks coherence. So long as your purpose is concrete and focused, you can craft a powerful video, even with footage from various devices of varying quality. If your purpose is weak and ill-defined, you could shoot the entire project on $30,000 cinema cameras with a veteran team, and you will still miss the mark.
If you want buy-in from your staff or customer base, there is no better method than inclusiveness. When it was decided that we’d be producing a user-generated brand video, the first task that we ticked off was a team-wide Zoom brainstorm. Everyone had an opportunity to throw their two-cents into the mix, offering suggestions both creative and technical, and helping to refine their coworker’s concepts. By the conclusion of the call, it was obvious that the entire team was enthused to be collaborating on this project. As with any undertaking, some ideas had to be refined, with others jettisoned entirely; but, had we not engaged in a session of groupthink, we wouldn’t have ended up with the result that we did, nor would everyone have been as excited as they were to participate. Do the same with your team, get them involved, inspired, supporting one another in the grand act of creation. Use this energy, not only to stitch the best ideas together into a singular approach, but to increase participant engagement.
“That is all very well and good,” I can hear some of you scoff, “but what if you are working with customers to create a video? There’s no way that this inclusiveness will translate.” But isn’t there? Why couldn’t you identify your brand advocates, the ones that you plan on featuring in the video, and pull them together for a brainstorming session? People want to be included, they want to be heard, even if you don’t end up using the ideas that they come up with. This will get them on board, get them inspired. If bringing them together virtually for a large brainstorming session isn’t feasible, why not conduct miniature brainstorming sessions with smaller groups, or even individuals? At the very least, you can send a survey out, can’t you? In some fashion, it is valuable to get participants involved and engaged up-front. This will enhance the overall effectiveness of the project, and ensure commitment.
Once your purpose is firmly established, it is time to communicate it to your collected cast. The most obvious way to do this is via a short write-up with some sample images of what you are hoping to achieve. But, as we are in a video mood, why not leverage the technology to express your expectations to the group? Communication via video is always more personal, more effective, than a series of typed-up sentences. Fire up the ol’ cellphone and remind your participants the purpose that you’ve established for the piece–this is as close as you can get to being face-to-face, without being, well, face-to-face; and, it has a much better chance of getting everyone fired-up and on the same page than an email, even if spiced up with a handful of emojis.
But don’t turn the camera off just yet. There are a handful of technical expectations that you are going to want to illustrate. Show your collected team what a sequence might consist of by shooting a test of your own. When you watch our user-generated brand video and see Jeff constructing a shelf, that was actually created as a test to communicate to the rest of the staff the approximate length of shots and sequences that we expected them to turn in. And, that brings us to our last point…
You may have expected the majority of this article to contain tips and tricks on getting the most out of your cellphone’s camera. The thing is, you probably already have a good sense of how to do this. Don’t downplay the education you’ve unwittingly received via filming the pasta you made last Friday, or your best friend’s kid’s birthday party 3 months ago. We are a massively visual species, and our general aptitude with cameras reflects this. We all record. We all capture. We all–well, almost all–have a sense of what is aesthetically pleasing. And, mercifully, with the very nature of user-generated video being user-generated, it doesn’t need to be perfect. No one is expecting it to be perfect. In fact, if it is perfect, viewers might develop a suspicion that you secretly hired a slick advertising company to professionally produce amatuerness.
You still want tips and tricks, don’t you? Fine.
1.) Make certain that everyone films in a horizontal (landscape) orientation, as this mimics the type of media we are used to consuming, and will ensure a measure of uniformity. This, of course, goes out the window if you are producing content for Instagram. If that is the case, do the exact opposite of what was just instructed.
2.) Film during the day, when natural light is plentiful. Cameras are obsessed with light. They desperately desire as much of it as they can get. And there is no light bigger and brighter than the sun. If, instead, you record in a dim environment, you will inevitably end up with a noisy, unpalatable image. Again, a caveat. If you are filming outdoors in full sunlight, you risk some of the most unflattering lighting known to man, particularly when the sun is directly overhead, shading your eye sockets so that you look like some sort of ghoul. If you are going to be filming outdoors, consider doing so during the times of day when the sun isn’t directly blasting down on you; or, relying on shady areas that are illuminated via bounced, rather than direct light.
3.) Use the image stabilizer on your phone. Don’t worry, the image will still appear authentic even without an excessive amount of shake. If things are too trembly, you are going to look like a first year film school student attempting to make their footage feel “raw”.
Above all, don’t aim for perfection, aim for authenticity.
You can do this. You should do this. And if you require additional support, we are here for you. If you want to brainstorm on purpose, approach, or technical concerns, please feel free to reach out, and I will make time to help: email@example.com. I authentically mean that.
* This article was originally published here
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