There are 25 billion videos watched each month in the US alone. That's billion, with a "B." So it should be no surprise that web video offers an important opportunity for small businesses to connect with a wider audience. For small business owners, online video represents a chance to reach thousands or potentially millions of people using a relatively simple and inexpensive format. All it takes is a video camera and a little time, and your message could very quickly be spread to a large number of new customers.
As with anything, it pays to look at those who have come before and learn from what they've done. Here are five successful uses of web video for business and the key point that you can take away from each.
1. Mattress Dominoes World Record Attempt
Benson's for Beds, comes the "Mattress Dominoes World Record Attempt" video, which has racked up around 700,000 views. In the video, which is a lengthy single shot with no cuts, Benson's employees form a human-and-mattress dominoes chain that extends throughout their entire warehouse. The video is playful, has a humorous ending, and makes Benson's for Beds seem like a great place to work -- just the kind of place you'd feel good about spending money with as a consumer.
The "Mattress Dominoes" video certainly took some planning and I wouldn't be surprised if it took a few tries to get it right, but what's great about it is that Benson's created their viral video by using materials that were native to them. They didn't set out to try doing anything fancy; they made a statement using the products they work with every day in their warehouse.
Lesson: Get creative with what you have.
2. Giant Stuffed Snake
The "Giant Stuffed Snake" video is, quite literally, a hand held video of a very large, 18-foot long, plush stuffed snake sitting on top of a Dodge Neon, while the cameraman talks about the snake and asks a man (presumably the owner of the car) to demonstrate just how large this stuffed animal really is. The video is the work of over-sized stuffed animal retailer BigPlush.com and it has received over 225,000 views. Why has it done so well? That's hard to tell -- viral video is an inexact science -- but it probably has something to do with the sheer absurdity of the size of the snake and the way the camera man anthropomorphizes it by expecting it to reply when he says hello. The video literally only took a few minutes to make and cost virtually nothing, proving that you don't have to spend a lot to make a splash with viral video.
Lesson: Viral video doesn't have to cost a lot.
3. Fit Yummy Mummy
Holly Rigsby sells a workout routine ebook and DVD set targeted to new moms wanting to burn their baby fat called Fit Yummy Mummy. One of the key ways she promotes her routine is via a YouTube channel, on which she uploads short exercise demonstration videos, as well as other quick videos with tips for busy moms. Though none of Rigsby's videos have gone broadly viral (she has a number with 10 to 20,000 views, however), she has very smartly targeted her core audience, which is people seeking workout advice. Her low-budget, short video clips show off her expertise and give potential customers a look at what her paid products will be like.Because navigation on YouTube is largely search based, her videos will be found by those seeking workout advice, and specifically by her target audience of moms. Each video serves as a product demo that points people toward her more detailed, paid products.
Lesson: Know your audience.
4. Will it Blend?
The videos have certainly gotten a little more flashy since they debuted 3 years ago, but the idea is essentially still the same simple formula: blender + common object (that you wouldn't normally put in a blender) = viral video hit. Why have these videos worked so well and had so much staying power? In no small part, it is because Blendtec has clearly had a lot of fun with their products. Stodgy sales pitches don't work on the web, but goofy, wacky, and unexpected almost always does. Blendtec's videos cleverly show off their unique selling point -- how powerful their blenders are -- in an entertaining and unanticipated way.
Small home appliance maker Blendtec's first "Will it Blend" video featured a man in a lab coat turning a handful of glass marbles into dust using one of the company's home blenders. That video has received over 3.8 million views since it was put online in 2006. Since, the company has created over 90 "Will it Blend?" videos, and served up tens of millions of views. Their most popular video, the iPhone, has well over 7 million plays on YouTube, and Blendtec even launched a Will It Blend? web site, turning the viral clips into a regular video blog.
Lesson: Have fun with your product.
5. Penny Pranks
Though the "Penny Pranks" series of videos was actually created by a large chain store (Office Max) and not by a small business, there is still a lesson to be learned from their successful viral campaign. The series of hidden camera videos follows the trials and tribulations of a man trying to pay for goods and services with a bag full of pennies. Predictably, most business owners are not amused, and each video ends with a come-on for a penny sale at Office Max.
The videos, many of which have racked up several hundred thousand views, work because they use humor to push a simple idea: that Office Max is unique in actually wanting your small change. That's a lesson that can be replicated by any business. Figure out what you do that sets you apart from your competitors, and exploit that notion with simple humor.
Lesson: Highlight what makes you unique.