Such a great post from Sarah, I thought I would post it again here. Great stuff!

Sarah Yaussi
Executive Editor – Big Builder

I was reminded of a blog post that I wrote last fall about the importance of video in the future of online marketing for home builders this week, as I was catching up on some of the things I missed last week during the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. I had pulled up the Powerpoint presentation that Myers Barnes, Jim Adams, and Tom Nelson had put together for an educational seminar titled, “Red Hot New Home Sales and Marketing Solutions,” when I ran across this factoid on page 15:

Google and YouTube are serving 10 billion videos a month

The take-away, as this sales and marketing trio so expertly pointed out, was that people online would rather watch than read.

So, I’ve been taking this insight to heart of late, even purchasing a FlipCam pocket video recorder and shooting some video on my own with the intent to integrate more of it into my news stories and blogs. (You can check out an example from IBS by clicking here.)

The tools may be cheap, as Monte Hewett’s Dina Gunderson told Builder magazine, and when you’re an expert, maybe posting video is a great way to blog when you don’t have time to blog (see #10 on the list), but there is definitely a learning curve no matter how easy the FlipCam software may appear to be.

So, here are a few “lessons learned,” if you will, from my experience with video.

Don’t try this on deadline. Looking to do something cool online in conjunction with a big event but a little cramped on time? My advice is for as easy as it looks, you’re better off playing around with the technology at home first.

For me, for example, I had no problem just plugging the FlipCam into my computer and accessing the files for preview. However, from there, I ran into a few snags. First, it took me downloading about seven batches of videos before I realized that the FlipCam software hadn’t been launching. Now, the software makes it super easy to share videos online–think post to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.–but I hadn’t realized what I was missing, so I was making things harder on myself.

Second, I was renaming the files so that I would better be able to recognize what they were. “VID0001,” for example, meant nothing to me. However, somehow in doing so, my FlipCam no longer has its full memory capacity even though the device says it’s empty of videos. (I’m still working on figuring that one out.)

Needless to say, running into these problems with limited time on your hands is something you truly want to avoid.

Keep it simple, stupid. Don’t try–at least at first–to string a bunch of clips together unless you’ve got some decent computer programs and equipment. Every time I try to create a more produced piece with multiple clips, Windows MovieMaker crashes my computer. And I probably don’t have to tell you how frustrating that can be. So, think of shooting a one-subject, one-shot video until you graduate from cameraman (or woman) to the producer level.

Short and sweet. You’ve heard it before, but let me just say it again. Keep the videos under three minutes–preferably two. To help keep it short, I suggest writing out your clip intro or interview question in advance so you not only have it engrained in your head but also so you can simplify it and make it more concise. This will also help your interview subject narrow down his/her answer.

And if you happen to be on the other side of the equation–as the main star–take a minute to put a simple, bullet-point outline together so you can sound like you’re as smart as you really are. I like the number three, but if you’re a fast talker you might be able to get through five major points in two minutes or less.

Smile, you’re on not-so-candid camera. Bust out the Vaseline or whatever other beauty tip you’ve got in your back pocket to make sure your (or your guests’) lips stay peeled from the fronts of your teeth during your video clip. It feels totally unnatural, but I promise you, you’ll be happier with the results.

Ask the experts. There are tons of people in our industry who do a seriously impressive job of using a ton of video online. (All you need to do is check out to get an idea of just how much you can use video online; Mike Lyon’s coverage from IBS was pretty much incredible.) So, don’t be afraid to ask.

For example, if I hadn’t been talking with Mike about some of my video troubles, I wouldn’t have found out that I’m probably better off uploading my videos to YouTube rather than Flickr because YouTube has a mobile application and when you’re in media, you want be to be able to access your info anywhere, any time. (I don’t think I would’ve ever figured that out on my own, to be honest.)

People are correct when they say amateur video is not hard. But there are definitely some tips and tactics to make shooting and posting video a much smoother experience. So, these are just some of the simple things I’ve learned as I’ve done more experimenting with video. Hope they help you in your next on-camera project.

And if you need more tips–or even more important–a really great example of how to use some of these strategies to leverage video for home builder sales and marketing purposes, I recommend checking out this video interview from Builder magazine with Dina Gunderson of Monte Hewett Homes in Atlanta. The video of Dina demo-ing her walk-in closet and upstairs laundry room really shows how a DIY video can turn into a powerful selling tool online.

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