Regardless of the excuses you keep coming up with for not including video as part of your marketing plan, if you’re serious about growing your business, you can’t put it off any longer.
According to Lou Bortone, thought leader and video pioneer since the launch of YouTube, video is must-have marketing. You know the saying, “a picture is worth 1,000 words”? Well, video is worth even more. It’s creative, it’s inexpensive, it’s easy, and it’s incredibly powerful when it comes to connecting with your audience in a more personal way.
Rich: My next guest is known as the “Video Godfather”. I’m not exactly sure why, and frankly I’m a little afraid to ask. What I do know is that he’s been a pioneer and thought leader in the video space since the launch of YouTube in 2005.
He’s helped thousands of entrepreneurs and companies create and leverage online video to build their brands and dramatically grow their audience. His history predates YouTube, he spent over 20 years as a marketing executive in the television and entertainment industries, including stints as National Promotion Manager for E! Entertainment Television, and Senior Vice President of Marketing for Fox Family Worldwide in Los Angeles.
A popular speaker, author, and ghost writer of six business books, he’s also the author of Video Marketing Rules – How to Win in a World Gone Video. I’m very excited to be talking to Lou Bortone. Lou, welcome to the show.
Lou: Thanks Rich, I appreciate you having me on.
Rich: So how did you transfer from traditional TV to YouTube? Did it happen overnight, did you see the writing on the wall, or was it more of a slow transition?
Lou: I’d like to say I predicted the future, but it was really more of an accident than anything else. Disney, which pretty much is buying everything out in LA, purchased my division of Fox and I thought at that time that this might be a good time to go back and do a dotcom thing on the seacoast here in New Hampshire.
So I did that. Needless to say the dotcom blew up. But at the same time I sort of discovered YouTube and was doing a little sketch comedy show with some of my friends and putting the episodes on YouTube and saying this things got legs. That was around 2005 or 2006. So I just sort of transitioned to it that way.
Rich: Wow, alright. So there are a lot of channels for video these days, but YouTube is still a critical platform. What do you see as new on YouTube, and what are some trends in general that you’re seeing?
Lou: Wow, YouTube is just a beast, it’s crazy. I think it’s now up to 300 hours of video that’s uploaded every minute. So I think the thing with YouTube is, at least from my standpoint when I see what my kids are doing, they’ll go first to YouTube to search, so I know it’s really become the second largest search engine. It’s sort of the “go to” for search engines, which means that “how to” videos are really popular and “how to” searches are increasing by 70% every year. So if you’re a small business owner, you really have to have a presence on YouTube.
Rich: It’s really interesting that you mentioned your kids, because when my kids when they’re doing the “how to” videos, they’ll often go to YouTube. One of my daughters loves to draw, so she’ll often go and learn how to draw certain body types. But I found that they’re completely fascinated and sucking up all their time on TikTok these days. Have you noticed the same?
Lou: Oh, I know. Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s sort of the trend of micro video, where every things is short bursts and TikTok obviously is huge. I know that Facebook is coming out with Lasso, which is their answer to TikTok. There are others like Caffeine, which is really more of a gaming platform. But people seem to love – especially the younger folks – they seem to love these short burst videos.
Rich: Yeah. I mean I watched a few TikToks back when it first came out, I thought it was incredibly funny and entertaining, and all of a sudden it was 7 hours later, so I totally understand the addictive quality of these.
You work with a lot of different businesses as a consultant on video, have your businesses started to look at TikTok as a channel, or does it still feel too focused maybe on kids or just a little bit too new for them to be paying a lot of attention to?
Lou: Yeah, they haven’t really dipped their toes in the water too much because a lot of my businesses are small businesses – accountants, lawyers, yoga teachers – and for them it’s still a little too young and too new and hasn’t really been mainstream enough.
I remember when I did goofy videos sometimes and my kids would come home from school and say they watched my video in class and thought it was really funny. And that does me absolutely no good at all because they are not my target market.
Rich: Right. No, but it is still nice to hear. Like last night my daughter said she was flexing on my popularity on Twitter the other day. Because apparently there’s a kid in her school that has like 100,000 followers on YouTube.
Lou: Oh, it’s crazy. The biggest star on YouTube is that 8 year old kid that does toy reviews. But that’s the other thing that’s interesting I think as a trend, having come from the television industry or what’s left of it, is that especially for anybody younger than us TV is YouTube, YouTube is TV. They make no distinction between the screens whatsoever, it’s all just content.
Rich: I agree. And to be honest, I’ve got Roku on all the TVs in my house, and very often when I don’t feel like sitting down and watching a long form content sitcom, I’ll often just throw up videos that are already in my account so I’m able to catch up on “how to” videos when it comes to marketing, as well as I’m a huge comic fan so I’ll watch breakdowns of what’s going on in comics, too. It’s just another way of getting content. So for me, YouTube is TV because it’s actually on my TV.
Lou: Yeah, and that’s the other thing with all these OTTs, I don’t need NBC anymore, I have Hulu, and Netflix, and YouTube.
Rich: Absolutely. So let’s get back to your clients, because I can talk about this stuff all day, it’s fascinating. But in terms of helping businesses grow, are you doing a lot of live video for your clients?
Lou: Yes, I am. Yeah, definitely a lot of live video. And I know it’s not quite, the bloom may be a little bit off the rose when it comes to Facebook Live, but the fact remains that it is still the low hanging fruit of video. And I think the very easiest way for anyone to get started in video, especially if they’ve never done it before.
Rich: Wait, you think live video is the way to jump into video if you don’t have a lot of experience in it?
Lou: Yeah, absolutely, especially Facebook Live. And the reason I say that is because Facebook Live tends to be a little bit more informal and it’s on the go, on the fly. Maybe the expectations are a little bit less because you can be on your phone and just a couple taps you’re live.
Rich: Ok. Because it’s funny, you and I were talking before we started recording that we had just done that press release on Facebook Live, and we had some fun with it, we pretended it was a real press conference. I guess it was a real press conference, right? But to me, going live is so terrifying. There’s no second take, you stumble over lines and everybody knows it. I’m just thinking as a small business owner or marketer, I want to be as professional as possible, so it’s interesting to hear you’re starting off a lot of people with live video.
What are you sharing with them or talking about when it comes to live video, to make this a really good marketing tool for their business?
Lou: Well I like to start them by saying, “Hey, you can do a Facebook Live to a private group”, so it gives them an opportunity to practice a little bit before their sort of off-Broadway sort of thing. But I also tell them that once they’re ready to sort of go live across those platforms, to treat it like an event like you did. I mean it’s like a webinar, like anything else, you promote it ahead of time, you make sure folks know you’re about to go live. Now Facebook has watch parties which is another way to get people to the broadcast.
So I really encourage my clients to do that because I think it’s a really good way for them to dip their toes in the water before they go do their YouTube “how to” series or before they start doing videos on LinkedIn. Facebook, I think, is a good training ground.
Rich: Ok. Lou, talk to me a little about how you help your clients when doing consulting. Are you just giving them strategies or are you actually in the room doing the videos with them, or does it vary by client?
Lou: It depends on the client, but a lot of times they’ll come to me and say, “I need to do video.” Well don’t think of it that way, think of it as you need to engage and connect with your clients, and video is a way to do that.
So a lot of times I’ll help them with the overall strategies and the big picture kind of thing, like let’s look at what you’re doing now and how video can enhance that and integrate video into your existing marketing plan.
So you’re doing email, great, do some video email. If you’re doing teleseminars, then do webinars and add the visual aspect. So it’s usually things like that. I don’t typically travel and shoot videos with folks, I’ll usually take their raw footage and edit it. Although I just came across this software called Open Wheel, which is kind of like, they should call it Zoom for…it allows me to remotely be at a client’s site while they’re on their phone and direct it remotely. So I can adjust the lighting, I can adjust the composition, and all that other really cool stuff. But again, it’s very new so I haven’t delved into it too much. It may give me the opportunity to direct a video shoot from anywhere in the world.
Rich: That is really interesting. Just a side note, so every month I go on the local NBC affiliates here as the “tech guru” – I’ve been doing this for maybe 10 years – and a few years ago all of a sudden I walked into the studio and none of the cameramen were there. It turns out that the cameras are now all remote controlled. My only questions is, is it the guys in the booth who are controlling that, or did you outsource that to Korea or Russia or some other country? Because the bottom line is, you could really be anywhere. So it’s interesting to see the physical tools now that you can control even remotely.
Lou: Right. So again that just comes down to there’s no excuse not to have a video presence online because it’s just so mainstream and so easy to do that.
Rich: Absolutely. Now I’m guessing it varies by industry, but what type of content should a typical business be creating, and how do they come up with their ideas, and how are you assisting them with that?
Lou: Right. I usually talk about 5-7 must have videos. Obviously you want to have a video on your home page of your website just to be discovered and to tell people that we’re a business and this is what we do and who we serve. But it’s also important to have a presence on YouTube, or actually “how to“ videos just to ensure your credibility. It’s important to have a live presence, whether that’s Facebook Live or YouTube Live.
So there’s a lot of ways where you just have to have those videos at every touchpoint. Any time a client contacts you they should be able to see and hear you and connect with you and engage with you, and really get that “know, like, and trust” factor.
Rich: So that’s interesting in terms of there are different types of videos and different channels, that sort of thing. How do you help people with the content? Like, is that video on the homepage? I’ve seen people who use videos like they pull them into YouTube, and they tend to be either informational or maybe even kind of a sales commercial thing.
For the Agents of Change website, you go there and you see clips from our most recent conference. So it’s almost like a background video. So what are you thinking people should consider when putting a video on their homepage?
Lou: It always comes down to the context. Where is that video going to be? Is it going to be next to an opt-in box, in which case the call to action should be to sign up for a free whatever? So it’s really in terms of the context.
If it’s a video on Instagram is obviously going to be a lot different than video on your homepage. So think about where does that video live and how does it relate to the other stuff on that page or on that platform.
Rich: Now you offer a number of online courses for video, what can you tell us about those?
Lou: Well online is such a great way, again, it’s funny because I’m an introvert and I don’t tend to go to a ton of events so I feel like I can reach a lot more people by doing the online learning platforms and by doing courses. Folks like it because they don’t have to travel to go to a seminar or an event and they can watch a video series at their own pace and learn how to di it step by step. So I really enjoy the teaching part of that and I like to do it by video just because if I’m talking about video, then the lesson should be video lessons.
Rich: Absolutely. And so what are the kinds of things people learn when they go check out your courses?
Lou: I have a bunch. I have some on Udemy, and then some that I sell on my own site and platforms. And they tend to be content creation classes, how to create video content, sometimes I’ll do a 10 day YouTube challenge or a 7 day Facebook Live challenge. People like that because there’s accountability and I’m doing it live with them and sort of going through it step by step and they’re doing it along with me.
Rich: Perfect. And if you get me those links after our interview. I’ll make sure they’re in the show notes, both at your website and at Udemy.
Coming up with content is something a lot of small businesses struggle with. In fact you mentioned that a lot of times people just come to you and say they need to do video. How should business people come up with ideas for the videos? So like what are the content ideas they should be using, or what are the methods they should be using to figure that out?
Lou: I think in a lot of cases it’s a matter of reverse engineering it and starting at what is the goal for this video, what’s the goal for this initiative, and how can we back into it. When you guys did that fun live video today that was sort of like a mock press conference. So I think it’s ok to have fun with it. And with the content again I try to reverse engineer it and say, what’s a creative way to get this message out and connect and make sure that the content is meeting the goal.
So rather than just say we need to do a “how to” video, or why are you doing an explainer video, are you trying to launch a new product or promoting an event. So the content really depends on the ultimate goal.
Rich: Ok. And we talked a little bit about this, we talked about YouTube, we talked about the fact that TikTok seems to be taking off with millennials and Gen Z. What channels do you recommend for small businesses to use when it comes to video?
Lou: I think YouTube obviously for the discoverability, and just because it’s the 800 pound gorilla. Facebook again, depending on the demographic. Most of my businesses are fairly new and their audiences tend to be middle aged, so Facebook is good for that. And also LinkedIn. LinkedIn was late to the game in terms of video, but they definitely are doing a lot more video now.
Rich: Do you help with the promotion of how businesses can get more views on their videos? And if so, do you have different recommendations for each channel? Like I would assume that YouTube and Facebook have very different approaches to getting more views, but is LinkedIn so different than Facebook?
Lou: Not necessarily. Now I’m starting to tell folks you need to do videos customized for each platform. Because again, an Instagram video is going to be a lot different than a Facebook video. Not only in terms of length but in terms of the way people watch it. Instagram TV is vertical and you’ve got to start thinking about making videos that are specific to the platform.
And in some cases Facebook Live tends to be a little bit more casual, a little bit more laid back. But LinkedIn may be a little bit more corporate. I do a lot of goofy videos with my puppy or weird costumes and things like that, and that’s good on Facebook. I’m wearing the elf hat and doing Christmas videos, and it’s good because a lot of folks on Facebook are watching with the sound off so if they see something that intrigues them they click on it. But I probably wouldn’t dress up as Santa with the pug in my lap on a LinkedIn video. It’s just a little more buttoned up.
Rich: And I wonder how much of that really depends also on the type of business you want to be perceived in. Do you want to be corporate or do you want to be more of a small business irreverent and whatever the vibe may be, as well as the difference in channels as you mentioned.
Lou: Exactly. Yup.
Rich: So video is marketing, there’s no doubt about that. But do we also need to be marketing our videos for views? And if so, what kind of things should we be doing out there? I think you’ve touched on some of the things already.
Lou: Yeah, it’s interesting because a lot of folks get really hung up on the views on YouTube, and it’s a little bit of a vanity trick and it’s harder and harder to compete on YouTube just because there’s so much content there. So rather than focus on views, I try to tell my clients to focus on watch time. Try to keep people on your YouTube channel, the average viewing session on YouTube is 40 minutes.
So again, that means little things like putting an end screen at the end of your videos so people can go to the next video. Or using playlists which play in sequence like Netflix, so that keeps them on the channel longer and YouTube is going to reward that watch time even more than it’s going to reward the number of views.
And the other thing I tell them is don’t get so hung up on views. Make sure that you’re getting the right viewers. I’d rather have 20 views in my niche than 1,000 views from high school students.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. What are some other ways that you’re seeing video being used? I know that you’ve talked about emails and stuff, for example. Are there different ways that we can be using videos that perhaps people aren’t thinking of if they’re only thinking about YouTube or only thinking about Facebook Live?
Lou: Yeah, definitely. And I was looking at some different trends and predictions for 2020, and personalization comes up time after time. To me personalization means videos are an excellent way to do that. So I think of things like video emails, connecting with video rather than creating business cards at a conference. Or if I get a business card at a conference I’m going to go back and I’m not going to email that person, I’m going to do a quick 30 second video and try to make that personal connection.
Rich: That’s really interesting. And it’s interesting that you use that word, this is something that’s come up a few times. I believe there’s a difference between “personal” and “personalization”. So when you started to say earlier just a few minutes before we got on the air, somebody sent me a video that’s of this Christmas party that I’m like the star guest. And every time they show a name, it’s my name. So somehow they worked the name “Rich” into this video. And to me, I’m like, well that’s neat. But honestly that didn’t do anything for me. It just felt like somebody plugged in the word “Rich” and it showed up a couple times on the screen and they consider that to be somehow personalization, which I guess it is. But it wasn’t personal.
I think what you’re talking about here is you’re talking about one-on-one videos that really are meant to connect and engage with your audience members, correct?
Lou: Yeah, exactly. And I like those Vidyard videos where you can put the names in, and they’re fun and definitely grab attention because somebody sees the name. But that’s not the same as knowing one of my clients has a pug and I have a pug and I make that connection, and if I do a video email in that case, I’m absolutely going to pull the pug into the video because we have that connection. So it’s about what do I have in common with this person and how do I connect with them on a deeper level.
Rich: Yeah. And I agree with you. It was a Vidyard video that somebody sent me. For me I’m like it feels no more – and I guess this is where I differ – I felt no more personal than if they had used a mail merge. However, I just refinanced my mortgage and they have videos that show step by step where I am in the process and they personalize it with my name and address throughout the video. That to me felt like a really good use of the technology. So I think it’s about how you’re going to use it versus just using it just because it’s a cool feature.
Lou: Exactly. I had a client who does vasectomies, and he would create videos about there’s what to expect 24 hours after. It said,”Hey Bob, hope you’re feeling ok today.” I mean, that’s really taking personalization to another level.
Rich: Absolutely. So Vidyard is one platform that people are using for that. Are you seeing that more and more where people are creating those personalized videos for their audience?
Lou: Yeah. Again, it comes down to its hard. Because if I do a video where I can share my screen and really speak directly to that person, it does take more time and it is more work, because I’m actually using that on a one by one basis rather than sending a video to 20 or 100 people.
Rich: Yeah. It’s not scalable to do the one-on-one on some level. But the counter argument is, that’s what makes it so impressive, is that it’s not scalable.
Lou: And Vidyard, or maybe its Wistia or Soapbox, everybody is coming up with these sort of personalized videos, I can share my screen and even have them redirect to a website. So they’re getting more sophisticated in terms of what you can do with them.
Rich: Yeah. And I think I’ve even seen some examples where you can send people’s faces there and then have the faces along with everything else that you’re doing, too.
Lou: Yeah. It’s like the old JibJab videos with people’s faces in the video back in the day to personalize it.
Rich: One thing I’m seeing more and more of is high production value in video out there. And this is both from brands as well as just from individuals. Do you feel that there is still a place for a quickie video anymore, or are how production values now the table stakes just to get into the game?
Lou: That’s a great question because what I usually do with my clients is I make the distinction between what I call “quick videos” and “keeper videos”. Quick videos are those little Facebook Lives, and I think you can get away with using your mobile phone on the fly as a quick video.
But the keeper videos, the ones that are going to have some shelf life, would be video on your homepage. Those really have to have better production values because those are your brand videos.
Rich: I think you’re absolutely right and I think that also may drive where you end up putting those videos, whether they go on IGTV or Facebook Live or Facebook versus a high end production value that might go on a YouTube channel as part of a “how to”. Videos that are coming out of Social Media Examiner are a good example of those.
Or in the next iteration of our website – which should be coming out soon – we have a lot of video of our team here at flyte working with clients. We’ve even got some drone footage coming in over the bay right into our offices and stuff like that. That we sourced out to somebody who specializes in that kind of higher quality work.
So I think it really does depend where you are planning on sharing those videos in terms of what the production value needs to be. But I think as everybody continues to up their game, this does mean that we continually need to up our game as well.
Lou: Yeah, absolutely. And I think fortunately there’s still a lot of you can do it yourself with an iPhone. I’m sure you’ve seen the recent iPhone promotion with the kids and the snowball fight that’s all theatrical and that was shot on a phone.
Rich: Shot on an iPhone, but I’d love to see the behind the scenes where they have these incredible camera rigs all set up so you have the perfect shot and stuff like that. But still, the quality of the video was perfect.
Lou: True. And the other thing I always tell my clients is if Skype and Zoom and those things are good enough for CNN and MSNBC, then they’re good enough for me.
Rich: Right, yeah. So a lot of it does come down to context. Are there any mistakes that you see small businesses making out there in video today, or are there any things that when you look at your trends for 2020 that you’re like, people should stop doing this?
Lou: I think one of the things is they should stop trying to chase every platform. They say I’ve got to be on TikTok, I’ve got to be on Caffeine, I’ve got to be on Snapchat. Well where is your audience, meet your audience where they are and go to the platforms that they’re at. Just again why I tend to focus on Facebook because most of my audience, regardless of whatever problems they have, are still on Facebook.
Lou: I was just going to say, I think the biggest mistake is waiting or not getting started, or waiting to have certain equipment or a certain amount of production value. I think the main thing is just to get started with video.
Rich: That’s a great way to enter into 2020. I love it! Lou, where can people find y9ou online?
Lou: I’m at loubortone.com, and @LouBortone at all the socials.
Rich: Fantastic. We’ll have the full transcript and all the links on our show notes, so be sure to check them out. And Lou, thank you so much for your time today.
Lou: Thank you Rich, appreciate it.
Lou Bortone has been honing his video skills ever since the start of YouTube, and knows firsthand the importance of using video in your marketing strategy. Check out his website for more information on how he helps businesses succeed with innovative videos.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.