The Company Image: Corporations Embrace Social Media
Posted Jun 3, 2011

In the first installment of The Company Image, I discussed how your skills as an event videographer can be applied to producing videos for businesses. I talked about the myriad opportunities to create short website videos for both large and small companies. Today, even a mom and pop store can post commercials online and have the same chance as the giant corporations that their videos could go viral.

When I was conducting research for my book, Corporate Video Production: Beyond the Board Room (And Out of the Bored Room), I visited the websites of the top companies in the country. Nearly every site had a link to the company's YouTube and Facebook pages. Internet market research firm eMarketer, Inc. reports an increase in shoppers making purchases after viewing product videos. The firm also says that "videos reduce shopping cart abandonment rates and diminish product return rates." Several companies post their TV commercials, but many firms also use social media to demonstrate their programs that benefit nonprofit organizations in their communities.

Social responsibility programs, in which a company finances a community venture, are popular among large corporations, and they use videos to document the projects. For example, Walmart's Community Action Network on YouTube displays videos that the company makes about its programs to improve neighborhoods. This helps the organization counter the negative publicity that sometimes accompanies the opening of a Walmart in a community. One of the YouTube videos features an emotional interview with a Chicago resident who wants a Walmart to open in her neighborhood and bring jobs for residents with it. Viewers watch her exclaim, "We all are praying for this Walmart." The video, which clocks in at 1:40, includes interview and b-roll footage about how a neighborhood with few jobs and little access to groceries could benefit from a Walmart.

McDonald's has a 4:17 video on its website that touts its "Road to Sustainability" program that includes recycling cooking oil and using reusable fiber packaging. The video consists of a simple montage with text and voiceover narration-a piece of cake for any wedding or event videographer. But the scriptwriter took time to carefully craft such statements as "sustainable agriculture production by addressing ethical, environmental, and economic challenges." A well-designed short video can reach viewers on an emotional level. Poetic writing, rhythmic camera work, and a compelling soundtrack create synergy
to grab the viewers' hearts and convert visitors to customers.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. is yet another corporation that created a YouTube channel to promote its community efforts. The channel is called Responsible Sports, and it features short clips from coaches who discuss the impact of sports on character building in children. Responsible Sports is the company's program dedicated to supporting volunteer coaches and parents. Each video is branded with Liberty Mutual's logo on the screen, and viewers see the coaches wearing shirts festooned with the company's brand.

Another area of opportunity is the production of how-to videos. Corporations, large and small, are posting short videos that provide information for do-it-yourselfers. Production values range from broadcast quality to teenager-with-iPhone quality. REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) has several low-budget videos that demonstrate how to operate its products. Want to learn how to use a trail GPS? Watch Ed at the Seattle store, simply framed in a medium shot, demonstrate the unit together with a compass. A few close-ups, dissolves, and some bulleted text complete this straightforward 4:52 video-a classic instructional video.

You can also learn how to cook with quinoa and other "super foods" from the corporate nutritionist for Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., a regional grocery store chain. The casually dressed presenter hosts such short videos as "Brain Food for Kids" and "Half-Plate Healthy." In addition to videos produced by the company, the website encourages viewers to share user-generated videos on any of the 60 sharing and bookmarking sites the company offers links to.

Here is a way to get your foot in the door with a consumer products company: Use the Overlay Video Editor from Overlay TV, Inc. (http://overlay.tv) to place clickable hot spots as layers on top of video you shoot. Customers will be able to click and shop directly from the product videos. Zappos.com, the online shoe dealer, did just that; website visitors click on a product and go directly to its landing page. There they find information on the shoe, watch video testimonials, and make their purchases. Overlay lets customers upload videos or record product reviews from their webcams. The system encourages users to post video links to their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages. They even have an online video chat tool.

You'll be a hero with your newfound corporate client when you demonstrate the additional social networking sites where customers share videos. Overlay has a More Options button that lets people (and corporations) post videos to such sites as LinkedIn, Myspace, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Blogmarks, Fark, and Technorati. To encourage users to post product videos on their own websites, some of the services have an embed or copy button that reveals the embed code and the link.

These social media tools work equally as well with large or small companies. Whether you're documenting the community support project for a major corporation, producing how-to videos for the local hardware store, or using interactive media to help brick-and-mortar stores to sell online, your skills in location video production and social media are welcome additions to businesses on the move.

Stu Sweetow  (sweetow at avconsultants.com) is the author of the recently published book Corporate Video Production. He runs Oakland, Calif.-based video production company Audio Visual Consultants. He taught video production at UC Berkeley Extension, was associate editor of Wedding and Event Videography, and was a contributing editor to Camcorder & Computer Video magazine.