Here’s How to Make Stunning Social Media Videos (Without Being a Tech Wiz)

Video content is king, but you don’t have to be a technology expert to create it.
January 8, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Unsurprisingly, video content has quickly become an essential part of social media branding. According to research from Renderforest, video content on social media generates 1,200 percent more shares than text and images, and 90 percent of viewers state that a video helps them determine whether they will buy a product. But if you have a small marketing team or lack professional equipment or know-how, the idea of creating a stunning social media video can seem impossible.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. In reality, even those without any tech-savvy can create engaging, well-crafted video content that drives social media engagement. You just need the right process — and the right tools. Here are some guidelines for making it happen.

Related: 5 Ways Social Media Video Will Benefit Your B2B Business in 2020

Leverage existing content.

For many who are new to creating video content, even the idea of coming up with topic ideas can seem intimidating. The good news is if you’ve been doing your due diligence in other areas, you already have a great source of video content ideas: your old blog posts.

Look at your most popular or most shared posts to get a better idea of which topics most resonated with your audience. Typing your blog URL into a site like BuzzSumo is an easy way to determine which entries generated the most engagement. Once you know what’s performed best in the past, you can start repurposing what you’ve already written to formulate your video script.

In a blog post for Social Media Examiner, Serena Ryan recommends creating videos that target different portions of the marketing funnel: brand awareness, building relationships and making the sales pitch. “Your videos might not use all of the content from your blog post,” she writes. “Your main goal is to deliver the material most relevant to each part of your funnel. Choose the best content to create a one- or two-minute video with the information your funnel requires. To pack the most value into each video, cut introductions and instead display text or titles in the lower third. What’s important is to get your message across clearly and succinctly.”

Set things up for quality recording.

You can certainly film social videos using only your smartphone, but to get good results, you still need to set yourself up with the right equipment. For example, a sturdy tripod will stabilize your smartphone to avoid shaky, handheld camera-esque footage. The right lighting will drastically improve image quality and make it easier to edit your video later on. Soft, natural light is best. Try to avoid harsh shadows or bright sunlight. If you’ll be speaking in front of the camera, arrange the lighting so that your face is evenly lit.

The right location can make all the difference. After all, if you’re filming a product video, you don’t want a busy background to distract from the product itself. If you’ll be speaking in front of the camera rather than dubbing in a voiceover, you’ll need to film in a quiet area free of excessive background noise. Speak directly into a microphone, and focus on your enunciation so that your voice is easy to understand.

Take advantage of user-friendly editing apps for polish.

Once filming is complete, you’ll need to edit your video to give it a quality look. Fortunately, editing is no longer limited to film experts. One tool that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is VideoBoost, a free app in the BoostApps suite that offers easy-to-use templates and animations that can integrate with your business’s logo, as well as trimming and formatting for various social platforms and helpful editing filters. You can add your own video and text or use stock footage and pre-written copy.

You should also be mindful of how different social media platforms can influence your video formatting. For example, Instagram videos have a maximum length of 60 seconds, and most users prefer a square 1:1 aspect ratio that matches the style of photos found in their feed. With Facebook, on the other hand, you can post videos as long as 120 minutes (not that that’s recommended). Landscape video in a 16:9 ratio is preferred. Don’t let the wrong formatting throw off your marketing efforts.

Related: What All High-Performing Social Media Videos Have in Common

Creating engaging video content that you can share on your social platforms doesn’t require that you purchase expensive film equipment or hire a video-editing tool. By following these practices and taking advantage of the resources that are readily available to you, you can create great, dynamic content without breaking your marketing budget.

4 Ways to Turn Cold LinkedIn Connections Into Clients (Without Being Sales-y or Spammy)

Try these tactics to turn LinkedIn into a client generator.
September 13, 2019 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With over 645 million global users (including over 150 million in the United States alone), LinkedIn has become one of the most important digital tools for making connections in the business world. While many use this to grow their network or to find new job opportunities, others are able to use it to grow their own client base.

Just like with phone calls or email, a “cold” LinkedIn connection can help you land new clients — but only when done right. By using a few best practices to avoid coming off as spammy or overly sales-y, you can have better success at turning these potential connections into revenue-generating clients.

1. Use LinkedIn to research.

According to information gathered by 99firms, LinkedIn has over 90 million senior-level influencers and 63 million decision-makers using the platform. This represents a key opportunity for B2B marketers who can get these individuals to adopt their product or services.

Just like in other marketing options, researching your sales prospects before you attempt to contact them is an absolute must. Learning more about the company and the individual you’re targeting will make it easier to identify common interests and potential pain points.

Related: The Biggest Mistake You’re Making on LinkedIn and What You Should Do Instead

Look at what the sales prospect talks about on LinkedIn to find conversation points. This will make it easier to reach out in a way that allows you to present yourself as a problem-solver so you can better illustrate your value to the prospect. Better yet, it will help you customize your messaging in a way that will encourage a positive response to your connection request.

2. Personalize each communication.

A generic LinkedIn connection request will rarely lead to the results you want. Instead, you should use your research efforts to personalize each message to encourage action. Mention something that you find interesting about the person (besides the fact that they are a potential client). Cite something specific from their profile or shared content.

Doing so greatly increases the chances that a potential connection will accept your request. But perhaps even more importantly, it will keep them from clicking “I don’t know this person.”

As Melonie Dodaro, author of LinkedIn Unlocked and founder of Top Dog Social Media warns in a blog post, “It takes only five people clicking the ‘I don’t know this person’ link in response to your invitation to land you in LinkedIn jail. As a result, LinkedIn will restrict your account, requiring you to know the email address of the person you want to send a connection request to. This will be the end of your LinkedIn lead gen and social selling efforts!”

Personalization won’t just increase your chances of starting off on the right foot with potential clients. It will also ensure that you won’t lose future connection opportunities.

3. Add value through content sharing.

Effective LinkedIn prospecting often requires that you don’t immediately jump into the sales pitch after someone accepts your connection request. Rather, you should provide value by consistently sharing content on your own profile that reflects your industry and the interests and needs of your prospects.

For best results, you should share relevant news articles, statistics or insights from your own work experiences. Don’t be afraid to share case studies about how your products or services have helped other clients! This information can be highly influential, as a LinkedIn survey found that 91 percent of marketing executives view the platform as the best place to find high-quality content.

Doing things this way provides prospective clients or buyers on LinkedIn with a more distanced, relaxed way to learn more about what it is that you offer. Furthermore, depending on the kind of content you create and share on the platform, it gives your audience a chance to — on their own terms, mind you — get to know you better. The end result? If things are done correctly, a heightened sense of trust and a more sales-centric conversation down the line about your core offering.

Related: 12 Ways to Make More Money Through LinkedIn

Don’t annoy your prospect by constantly messaging them with your content. Share the content on your own profile so they can browse through it at their own pace. Track engagement to see who is showing the most interest. Only send content-related messages when it is highly relevant and you can personalize it to the individual.

4. Plan to move the connection offline.

While LinkedIn can be a solid platform for reaching out to new prospects, it isn’t where you are going to finalize the sale. As such, you should always consider how your nurturing efforts are preparing a prospect to engage with you offline.

Depending on your sales methods and what would work best for your prospect, this means setting up a phone call, video chat or possibly even an in-person meeting.

Avoid the temptation to make this request immediately after they connect with you on LinkedIn. Instead, nurture the lead over time, allowing at least a week (or even a few months) before soliciting a more sales-oriented offline meeting. By taking your time and providing value initially, you will be more likely to get a positive response.

Related: How to Get Thousands of Views on Your LinkedIn Content

Cold contacting a potential client on LinkedIn can be ineffective, or it can be one of your best methods of gaining new sales and leads. By undertaking these efforts to “warm-up” the connection and form a more personalized link, you will be better positioned to use your LinkedIn profile to fuel future sales success.

How to Make AI-Driven Emails Compelling Without Being Creepy

Most customers are wary about AI, so don’t make it extra weird by incorrectly using your data on them.

October 15, 2018 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

AI is becoming more prevalent across digital aspects of business, but not every customer is thrilled with the new technology. In its fourth annual “Creepy or Cool” survey, RichRelevance found that only 32 percent of respondents felt OK about AI. The vast majority, 81 percent, believe organizations have an obligation to tell customers when and how AI is being put to use.

That means any company hoping to benefit from AI’s capabilities and retain customers needs to be transparent about the technology fueling its platforms. But companies shouldn’t fear AI. The biggest opportunity most organizations have is prioritizing their data to find the right balance of customization.

Related: Getting Personal: 3 Steps to Personalizing Your Automated Email Campaigns

There’s a sweet spot between overgeneralization and overpersonalization: It’s somewhere between blasting out 10,000 copies of the same email to 100 different targets and attaching a picture of the prospect’s house in an email. Companies have loads of data on their customers, and that will only increase. However, when that customer information is used incorrectly, it can be off-putting or downright unnerving.

Hitting the right balance

Prospects and customers are more than data points on a spreadsheet. It’s exciting to have rows of helpful information that can help engage people, but like a first date when one person has clearly Facebook-stalked too much, it can be overwhelming. Look at the audience critically to ensure you don’t flex an AI strategy that might cross the line for some readers.

The whole team should discuss what level of detail will be comfortable for readers. How would employees prefer their information to be used? What’s impressive to see in a targeted email? And which data points, when used, feel like they cross the line?

Just as with any other process, form a hypothesis and test it; isolate variables and qualify the responses received. Which audience members responded favorably? Which buyer persona do they most resemble? Are there any patterns within those buyer personas? These insights build and begin to inform future experiments, leading to better-informed strategies around which data to use as well as how and when to use it.

It might sound complicated, but there are a few ways to ensure that the process achieves the right balance. Here are three steps you can take to use AI for your emails in a way that benefits your company and your customers alike.

1. Organize and connect your data.

Data silos can kill an AI strategy before it gets off the ground. The entire point of leveraging machine learning is to uncover connections between seemingly disparate dots. If you silo those dots away from one another, your AI can’t use them to form links. And without them, the chance to collect real insights diminishes.

Related: 10 Ways Artificial Intelligence Can Help Your Team Increase Sales

According to an Evergage study, 98 percent of marketers agree that when implemented correctly, personalization helps customer relationships grow stronger, and nearly 88 percent report that their customers expect this type of customized experience. But almost half of marketers have four or more systems storing their customer information. These companies are limiting the insights they can derive to meet consumer expectations.

Ensuring that these siloed data sources are brought together will be a task for a technical role at a company, or perhaps for an outsourced hire. When my company, Sapper Consulting, was younger, we didn’t see the need for a full-time technical role. We leveraged our network and talent-sourcing resources like Upwork to tackle projects as they came up.

2. Test and measure everything.

Every aspect of a good email message should be tested and tracked. This includes subject lines, preview text, hooks, calls to action, body paragraphs, titles, industries, regional content, purchasing habits, content downloads, webinar visits — you get it. The more data points you’re able to test, the more future decisions those findings will impact. If all goes well, effective content patterns will emerge. But don’t stop testing even when some tests yield positive results.

The silver bullet subject line that got an 80 percent open rate will eventually lose its luster, so it’s important to have other effective strategies on deck. Allocate the budget and resources needed to hit KPIs, but never give up R&D. This testing can occur across the entire organization, from developers and product teams to front-line customer support teams. Measuring is partially dependent on the right software, but analytical minds are what transform spreadsheets into action — think data scientists.

Spotify excels at this type of iterative testing of new content types. Its curated Discover Weekly playlists are largely driven by an algorithm created by Echo Nest, a music intelligence company Spotify acquired in 2014. While Discover Weekly might not be perfect, it learns more about customer preferences from songs that get skipped and songs that get “liked” and added to a user’s personal library. This is one of the clearest examples of real-time small-batch testing using consumer feedback.

3. Listen to your customers.

If customers don’t like something, they’ll let you know. It’s not hard to imagine ending up on a Buzzfeed list of creepiest marketing emails if you leverage the wrong data points. If there’s a clear pattern of disliking the use of a home address in solicitation emails, don’t use home addresses.

“Personal” means different things to different people; true personalization means being aware of and catering to the preferences of individual recipients. Once personalization begins to work against the best interests of your customers, it’s a detriment to your marketing strategy.

Related: How Can Small Businesses Compete in the New Age of Email Marketing? 3 Ways.

According to a Periscope by McKinsey study in Europe and the U.S., about 40 percent of consumers reported that the messages brands send them are only sometimes personalized. Of the Americans surveyed, 31 percent said the emails they receive are typically relevant to them, while 23 percent reported seldom or never receiving relevant messages. Brands clearly have work to do, so listen to consumers when they give both positive and negative feedback.

Using AI is quickly becoming the norm across industries, but consumers expect brands to be transparent about how, when and why this technology is incorporated. The three steps above are the keys to wowing customers with AI-driven personalization instead of creeping them out.

How to Charm Rejected Applicants Into Being Brand Ambassadors

Delivering bad news doesn’t require being a mean person.

September 11, 2018 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Turning down a good job candidate is never easy. Whether you found someone even better or promoted from within, an applicant who doesn’t get a gig usually doesn’t feel great about the result.

Unfortunately, that’s the nature of business, but it doesn’t mean you have to leave rejected candidates with a bad impression. If you learn the right way to reject applicants, they might become ambassadors for your company without ever working there. With ManpowerGroup reporting that 45 percent of global employers struggle to fill roles, that extra help might pay off in a big way down the road.

Why you want rejected applicants to like you

Most companies market to two groups: potential customers and potential employees. The first group cares about products and prices, while the second cares more about innovation, culture and benefits.

With the talent shortage in full swing, businesses need every advantage they can get to attract the best candidates. A candidate who doesn’t earn a job might not be ready to join the team, but that candidate probably talks to and works with plenty of others interested in how your company does business. Those people might be just who you need, but if your rejected candidates come back with bad reports, you’ll never get the chance to interview them.

Word-of-mouth marketing is incredibly valuable. You can pitch your benefits package and great culture on social media all you want, but applicants won’t quite believe it unless they hear it from someone they know. They probably don’t know many people who work for you, but you can spread a much wider net by encouraging rejected applicants to sing your praises, too.

How many applicants did you get for your last opening? When you hire one person out of 20 interviewees, only one person is left with a positive impression of your brand. The rest are, at best, neutral about you. If you could transform those opinions into positive outlooks, you could exponentially magnify the number of people saying good things about your company — thereby attracting even more qualified candidates.

Related: AI Is How You Can Prosper Despite the Global IT Talent Shortage

So, how do you turn people you didn’t hire into ambassadors? Follow these tips to transform rejected applicants into enthusiastic brand ambassadors:

1. Write a personalized note.

Even in a talent shortage, candidates apply to multiple companies but won’t hear back from most of them. When they do land an interview and fail to get the position, they frequently don’t find out unless they follow up themselves. That discourages candidates and tells them the company operates more like a machine than a collection of real people.

Avoid that impression by sending personalized emails to candidates who make the interview stage. You can use a template, but make sure you address the specifics of the interview. For candidates who made it through multiple rounds, send a handwritten note to thank them for taking the time to interview. That personal touch could turn someone who almost worked for you into a long-term brand ambassador in his or her social circles.

2. Decide and communicate quickly.

No one likes to wait, especially for bad news. Once you decide which candidate to hire, let the others know as quickly as possible that they didn’t make the cut. Do this as soon as you make an offer to your top candidate.

And if your best candidate asks for time to think about the offer or wants to talk more about compensation, make the calls, anyway. Explain that you’ve made an offer to another candidate, but you were grateful for the opportunity to talk. Encourage that rejected candidate to apply in the future for another role if you truly want that; in these cases, mention a couple of traits you very much admired about the candidate. By following this process quickly, you plant the seed of brand ambassadorship and remove the awkwardness of later conversations if your first choice turns you down.

Related: This is the Right Way to Treat Candidates (Even Those You Reject)

3. Be kind and specific with feedback.

Recruiters, like all humans, want to avoid unpleasant conversations. Fight that urge by providing accurate feedback to rejected candidates if they want to hear it.

Start the conversation by asking candidates if they would be interested in feedback. Some might say no — that’s fine. If they really wanted the job and didn’t get it, they might not be in the mood to talk further. However, if they want to listen, be as honest as you can without turning your review into an attack on their professional qualities.

Was the winning candidate more experienced in certain areas or a better fit for the culture? Say so, then offer suggestions on how the candidate could improve his or her odds next time. Suggest certifications and areas of experience you value. Culture fit is a bit trickier because culture reflects on personality, so focus that conversation more on specific priorities at the company instead of particular faults of the applicant.

When rejected applicants feel respected, they’re far more likely to tell people in their social networks (some of whom might be excellent future employees) about how great your company is. Following these rejection best practices takes some time, but as you repeat these steps consistently, you create a large network of people eager to talk about your culture and professionalism. Here are a few other tips when starting a business.

Why Digitally Savvy Companies Focus on Being ‘in’ their Users’ lives — Not Seeing Them Simply as ‘Customers’

Legacy companies focus their marketing efforts on positioning their brands in the minds of consumers. Digitally forward-thinking startups position their brand in the ‘lives’ of their consumers.

September 10, 2018 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In our digitally connected world, what defines or makes a company successful? The brand design agency Siegel+Gale teamed up with SAP and Shift Thinking for a joint consumer survey study whose findings indicated that successful brands that had invested in a digital transformation both both thought and did things differently.

Related: User Experience Is the Most Important Metric You Aren’t Measuring

Specifically: Legacy companies focus their marketing efforts on positioning theirbrands in the minds of their consumers, while digitally forward-thinking startups focus on positioning their brand in the livesof their consumers.

Additionally, the latter often engage or interact with customers more as users than as customers. This means they shift their marketing-strategy investments from pre-promotion and sales to after-purchase brand loyalty. This builds brand-value advocacy in their consumers’ lives rather than accomplishing the short-lived benefit of a one-off sale.

Digitally savvy startup brands, in fact, obsess over experience, not revenue.

The online study described surveyed over 5,000 American consumers, asking questions about 50 different brands and mixing in products and services from both traditional, or legacy, companies, as well as from newer, digital ones.

The study revealed stark contrasts among legacy brands and digital startup ones. Participants were asked to compare their perceptions of two brands from the same industry — one a legacy brand, and the other a newer, disruptive digital brand.

In terms of whether a brand was one that people looked up to versus one that made their lives easier, participants said that they saw legacy brands as those that people looked up to, whereas newer, digital brands were more often seen as “making my life easier.” Some examples of these company pairs in the survey were:

  • Airbnb vs. Hilton/Marriott

  • Dollar Shave vs. Gillette

  • Tesla vs. BMW

The majority of survey participants agreed that people were more likely to have heard about an older legacy brand through traditional TV advertising and media, whereas they had discovered most digital startup brands through word of mouth from friends, and from social media.

The survey went on to categorize a number of companies into two specific groups, “usage brands” and “purchase brands.” Crieriafor those categories were:

Purchase brands

  • Focus on creating demand to buy the product

  • Emphasize promotion

  • Put a lot of emphasis and strategy into what they say to their customers

  • Attempt to shape their brand’s perception (in a consumer’s mind) along the path-to-purchase

Usage Brands

  • Focus on creating demand for the use of the product

  • Emphasize on building consumer advocacy

  • Listen to what customers are saying to one other

  • Care about and try to influence what is the customer’s experience at every touchpoint

Related: Facebook’s Latest Feature Highlights the Importance of User Experience and Website Speed

Real-life examples of purchase vs. usage brands

The study then presented scenarios using these marketing strategies. For example, most established ski resorts focus on giving discounts to incentivize ticket and season pass-holder sales or to market their snowmaking and park-jump capabilities.

But Vail is a resort that has taken a different kind of engagement strategy. The Colorado ski giant developed a social network mobile app called EpiMix for skiers that encourages social sharing of photos and performance data (e.g., how many vertical feet a skier rode). Gamification elements figure in, to persuade skiers to use the app and share their photos and data with friends.

This concept is akin to that of a Fitbit getting people to compete and take their daily “10,000 steps,” thus ensuring continued usage of the product.

Legacy brands reinvent their strategies

Not all of the brands included in the survey fell into the same group. A safe assumption would be that the legacy brands are purchase brands, and that innovative newer brands are usage brands. However, that is not always the case.

Indeed, some legacy companies, like Costco, Lego, FedEX and Visa, have invested considerably into transforming their culture, product portfolios, product experiences, digital strategies and business models to evolve and qualify as a usage brand.

All have obviously started thinking of new ways to provide value and build ongoing relationships with their customers, treating them more as members or users than one-time purchasers. Even legacy brands like Marriott and Delta are realizing the value of delivering seamless experiences: This might include free text messages on a flight or mobile check-in capability as well as check-ins and checkouts to hotel rooms using mobile alerts.

Moments of truth

Another way to illustrate the differences between usage and purchase brands from a customer-experience design perspective is something McKinsey calls a “moment of truth.” This means that purchase brands focus on the “moments of truth” that occur before a sale or transaction.

Examples include a purchase brand showing up within the “awareness” sales-funnel phases of research, shopping comparisons and product purchase.

Alternately, usage brands care about improving the customer experience after the transaction, meaning factors like delivery, customer service support, education and sharing. Great customer-service companies have learned to be attentive to their customers’ needs when something goes wrong (a stolen credit card, a canceled flight, a damaged article of clothing); these companies can turn a skeptical purchaser into a committed loyal brand follower.

What are the benefits for a brand that makes the shift from purchase to usage strategies? According to the data from the consumers surveyed:

  • Consumers are more loyal to a usage brand.

  • They write more reviews and display stronger advocacy, by sharing recommendations with friends.

  • The survey respondents showed a higher preference for purchasing from usage brands and didn’t mind paying a premium on the transaction.

  • Consumers were likely to pay a 7 percent premium and were 8 percent less likely to switch; they were even twice as likely to recommend products online or in person .

Adopting a usage mindset

Management consulting companies help legacy brands make fundamental shifts by helping them redesign strategies, investments, company organization and methods for measuring success. In this context, the move to adopt a usage mindset requires a closer connection between a company’s product development and marketing teams.

In a digital world, a brand and the experience of using its products are becoming one and the same. “At the end of the day, a brand is not a ‘marketing thing,'” SAP CMO Alicia Tillman has said. A brand, she continued, “encompasses the value that a company delivers to its customers through solutions and services that help to tackle issues they care about and therefore is a strategic driver of customer loyalty and, ultimately, business success.”

Advertising strategies, in fact, are shifting more and more toward the usage model. Purchase brands have long tried to carve out a unique selling point or differentiating aspect of their product, compared to the products of their competitors, in hopes of influencing the purchasing phases of a sales cycle.

Usage brands, in contrast, focus more on how their products will enhance or make a customer’s life easier or better. Therefore, these brands’ marketing and advertising is focused on creating useful content and experiences withtheir customers.

Airbnb is a digital usage brand that builds content. Examples include “Things to do in NYC” which are host-recommended tips. Also created are guidebooks and “Community stories,” which are profile blogs and videos of Airbnb hosts. The idea, of course, is to entice other homeowners to rent their homes and show how this action may make their lives better.

Airbnb, in 2011, also had an “Aha!” moment during a customer journey storyboard session that changed its business direction. The company went from perceiving its booking app and website as the product, to a traveller’s experience during a stay in Paris as what people were actually buying — not the app. In short, the product is the trip.

Measurements for success will change.

Success metrics change when companies make the shift from purchase to usage. While ad impressions are useful for getting eyeballs, what companies should really be looking for is engagement stats.

A digital usage brand takes a wider view on types of engagement activities. Some of the most valuable activities happen outside of the traditional sales funnel. Are consumers finding the content that the brand created to be helpful and relevant to what they search? How are people actually using the product?

A usage brand marketer would probably rather have a four- or five-star rating in his or her online reviews than a nomination for a TV commercial advertising award at the Cannes Festival.

To become a usage brand requires thinking how someone quantifies brand equity in the first place.

Conclusion

Whether you manage a legacy brand or a newer start-up company, you should focus holistically on marketing efforts to position your brand in the livesof your consumers. Think of them as users of your brand’s experience, not just customers.

Related: Why a Good User Experience Is the Most Overlooked SEO Strategy

Sometimes, the experience is the product, and the superior experience of using a product makes turns customers into life-long brand enthusiasts. That, in turn, can lead to increased sales revenues and new innovations in the digital age.