This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
You’ve seen videos of people doing ridiculous things on the Internet. But you probably haven’t seen too many videos of small businesses sharing their good work. Web video is more or less the domain of the ridiculous — whether that means something cute or something painful. Even top ads and commercials have a touch of the absurd (Old Spice, Dos Equis, I’m looking at you).
So how does a small business compete with disturbingly low attention spans and a whole Internet of viral videos? Read on for five ways that small businesses can take advantage of web video without blowing their budgets and let us know your own success stories in the comments below.
1. Request User Submissions
“Going viral” is a frustrating term both for its elusiveness and effectiveness. Viral videos can quickly get your product and brand out to a wide audience, but there is also practically no guaranteed way to “make” a video viral. Save yourself the trouble and get your audience to do the work for you.
Ask your fans or customers to send in videos of themselves using your product. For some, this can be a guaranteed hit. Such is the case with Michael Di Pippo, inventor of Pen Fishing Rods, a telescoping fishing rod that collapses to the size of a large pen. If that didn’t spark your interest, check the above video of someone actually catching a fish with it. Di Pippo bet that the shock value of it actually working would inspire customers to take videos using his product. The result was a motivated user-base and free publicity.
You might not be selling something as unique, but you can still encourage your clients to send in videos of them using whatever you’re selling. It’s a good way of extending the relationship past the point of sale and building a community.
Alternatively you can try to create a viral sensation like Blendtec’s Will It Blend? series. Rather than testing their blenders on tomatoes and walnuts, they started blending strange products like glowsticks, an iPad, and a crowbar. As a result, the videos (and Blendtec’s product) received millions of views and all it took was a little creativity. And a crowbar.
2. Replace Content
Try making a video instead of writing out your business updates. It’s easier for people to click play on a ~5 minute video than read a 500-word news brief. It helps to have some experience with basic editing and a decent camera, but people will ultimately tune in because your content is interesting or useful. Try offering deals or discount codes through your videos, while also talking about your product or service.
Using video to share business news or deals will help your business feel more personable as customers get accustomed to seeing you speak. This choice isn’t for everyone and every business, but it can help make your updates easier to digest and give your homepage a boost of personality.
3. Teach Them and They Will Come
Product demos are fun, but may not work for every type of business. For example, it could be tough to do a “demo” if you sell quilts or home garden supplies. Instead think of ways to teach and give back to your customers while also using your product. Selling quilts? Try a “How To” video on how you sew your quilts. Garden supplies? Make a video on how to plant a variety of bulbs and seeds using the products you sell.
If you’re business isn’t based around a physical product, think about doing a webcast or video on how to use your advanced features or set up the service.
4. Make Some Face Time
If you’re a small business, you can make your size work for you with video services, like Skype or even video calling on Gmail. Huge corporations like PepsiCo and Virgin are constantly trying to make their outreach more personal by attaching real people and real names to their customer service and social sites.
To get even more personal, create a business Skype or Gmail address (or any other service that allows you to video chat). Let customers know they can call you for some digital face time if they have any questions about your product or need help troubleshooting it. Doing so will help you build a stronger relationship with your customers and make your business feel more approachable at the same time.