You know you need video to promote your business. It adds pizzazz to your website and can start conversations on social media and other channels. But where do you start? Well how about right here. By the end of this article you’ll know how to make top quality videos for your business for free, with just a smartphone and your wits.
If you’re the kind of switched-on, clued-up business guru that reads our content 😉 then you already know the importance of videos for business. It’s the most effective way to build a brand, attract prospects and nurture leads.
And the value goes far beyond biz dev. The right video in the right place at the right time can validate someone’s first impression after a face-to-face meeting, or encourage them to pick up the phone. There’s no faster way to demonstrate your company’s personality and build an emotional connection with your audience.
All this you know. And yet you’re still not doing (enough) video for your business. Why? Let me guess: you think it’s for B2C only…you think you can’t afford it…you think you don’t know how…you’re afraid a making a fool of yourself.
Well it’s not…you can…you do…and you won’t.
Sometimes the best way to try something new is to dive straight in. More and more small business leaders are communicating directly to their audience via simple videos that don’t cost a penny. What are they filming? Themselves. Why? For any number of good reasons:
— Offer their ‘hot take’ on an exciting piece of industry news that’s hot off the press.
— Provide a simple tutorial on how something works, be it their product or a more abstract concept.
— Demonstrate thought leadership with a finely honed argument that offers a unique and expert perspective on a topical subject.
Most important, they are adding value to their audience’s day and helping them do their job better. They’re explaining something they didn’t know but need to – or challenging an established view.
All this with just their personal smartphone along with a few bits and pieces that you can buy from Amazon for the price of lunch.
The longer you leave it, the further you might get left behind. So here are a few simple tips to making the right impression.
Decide what you want to say
Attention spans are short and only 1 in 20 pieces of content lands its audience so don’t waste people’s time. Write an outline of what you want to say and focus on short, punchy sentences that will be easy to remember. Try and tell a story with a beginning, middle and end (ideally a call to action).
When the time comes to press record, don’t try to recite it word for word like a script. Focus on the structure and emphasising your key points. Feel free to summarise at the end, and signpost what you want people to take away with them.
Know where you want to post it
The best video in the world is a waste of time without an audience to watch it. You need to know where to host (broadcast) the video so it has the best possible chance of grabbing eyeballs.
For most businesses, LinkedIn has the right audience profile and can be a great way of promoting your content (especially if you pay them). For some, Instagram and Youtube are a better bet.
This matters because you need to know whether to shoot your film in portrait mode (Instagram) or landscape (LinkedIn, YouTube). It also informs the tone you should use and look you’re going for.
Think of the right place to record
When it comes to video production it’s all about location, location, location. Feel free to shoot indoors or outside but always remember the impact of these three crucial variables:
Too much and you’ll be squinting at the camera and over-exposed (a featureless white blob). Too little and the audience won’t know what they’re watching.
Natural light (aka the sun) makes you look better but is difficult to control. Artificial lights can be switched on and off but can make you look terrible (especially overhead fluorescents)
You want your audience to concentrate on what you have to say, not what’s going on around you. The great outdoors can provide a great backdrop but watch out for airplanes overhead, cars whizzing past and gossipy passers by.
You might think a meeting room is the answer, and it might be. Unless it has the annoying hum of an air conditioning unit or your colleagues laughing at you through the glass door.
Again, try to avoid any distractions. If you’re outside, try to use a backdrop that enhances your message or at least doesn’t have people pointing at you.
If you’re inside, find something more interesting than a white wall and less obvious than your company logo. Plants are better than nothing but even better is a whiteboard full of relevant charts or an office of busy, interesting-looking people.
Think through the first 3 seconds
Just think how you scroll through social media feeds. Your thumb is in constant use as your brain analyses and digests the content in front of it. It takes something different, entertaining or interesting for you to pause and ‘lean in’.
Think hard about what would make your customer stop with the scroll. Is it your face? Have that front and centre. A provocative viewpoint? Have a title card spelling it out in kinetic text. Also think of the thumbnail: a still image that sells the video hard.
Cutaways help the viewer pay attention
No offence, but people might not want to watch you talking for very long. It’s not that you’re not great to look at, or have anything interesting to say, it’s just – boring – to look at one thing for more than a few seconds at a time. Something more interesting is just a thumb-swipe or click away.
That’s why you need variety in your video. All it takes is to cut from your primary footage – say, your face talking – to the ‘B-roll’: other moving images that bring your words to life. So if you’re talking about an event you just left, show them what they missed. If you’re talking about a customer win, cut to footage of the customer’s operations or at least some interesting photos from their website.
Top notch visuals
Okay, to the nitty-gritty. First, put your phone on some kind of tripod. It’s the easiest way to stand out from the shaky-cam footage elsewhere in the audience’s feed. Stability and a professional look go hand in hand.
You can lean your phone against something but sod’s law says it’ll fall over just when you’re getting going. Smartphones are expensive so don’t take the risk. All you need is a clamp and tripod that will stand on a desk, table or even grip onto a tree! They also double as a selfie-stick if you need to walk and talk.
Next, open your camera app and switch to video mode. Here’s the crucial bit: choose your own exposure (adjust the brightness) and lock the focus (so the subject is pin-sharp). This couldn’t be easier – just tap on the person you’re filming (or ask someone to tap on your face).
The focus is now locked so if something moves inside the frame the camera will know to stick with you rather than re-focus on your colleague walking behind you.
Now a little slider will appear on screen. Drag it left (or down) and the picture will get darker. Right (or up) makes it brighter. Find the setting that looks best to you and take your finger away.
You’re ready to go!
Actually, stop right there. There’s one more thing to do before you press the red button and that’s to sort out the sound. We already talked about the need to minimise background noise (traffic, air conditioner, etc) but your video is still going to sound amateurish if you rely on the phone you’re filming with to record your audio.
A basic rule of thumb is that the closer the microphone is to the person talking, the better the video will sound. The smartphone you’re filming with is likely to be too far away from your mouth to properly record what you’re saying.
So you have two options.
— Use another smartphone. Borrow someone else’s phone and ask them to download a simple voice recorder app. Then you can set up another tripod (or ask someone) to hold that phone just out of shot but much closer to you. This works well but does mean you’ll need to sync two files (the audio and video) in an editing app later on. This isn’t hard to do but if you want the simpler option, you can just
— Plug in an external mic to your phone. They are cheap, small and easy to use. The audio will sound much better than the smartphone mic and records straight onto the video so there’s no need to sync later.
Finally, don’t forget to switch all the phones to airplane mode before you film. Getting a call from Clive in sales just as you’re about to nail your monologue is seriously frustrating.
So you’ve filmed your video and are happy with what you said and how it came across. The visuals look good and the audio sounds great. You have two choices:
Upload it to LinkedIn (or another platform) straight from your phone. They make it super easy from their mobile app and you can have it posted in seconds.
Or you can take it to the next level by adding filters, graphics, titles, captions and music. For this you need an editing app.
If you have an iPhone it’s hard to look past iMovie, Apple’s free editing app. If you’re on Android, try FilmoraGo, Premiere Clip or VideoShow. They’re designed to be easy to use and are a fun way of helping your video rise above the noise.
Finally, remember that most people won’t be listening to your video, at least at first. Hopefully the first three seconds is enough to grap their attention, but they’re likely to be in the office or on a train so will be scrolling through their feed in silence.
If you’re posting to LinkedIn or somewhere else you’ll need to find an alternative. You can either do it from within a special video camera app (Clips is good for Apple users) or send your video to someone after it’s recorded. Rev do it for peanuts and send it back within 24 hours.
That’s it! Like everything else in life you’ll get better with practice so the sooner you start the better you’ll be.