Level the playing field with targeted video

Competing with the big brands? Video is the great equalizer. Find out how to push your message to the right audience.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

Done right, video is the great equalizer, turning upstart organizations into Davids that slay their Goliath competitors.

Done poorly, says Justin Allen, head of production and video strategy for Ragan Consulting Group, video is the ultimate waste of time.

In his session, “Visual storytelling: The great brand equalizer,” Allen provides pointers on producing videos that audiences eagerly watch and share.

These days, few communicators doubt the importance of video. After all, 74 percent of online traffic is video, and 500 million viewers watch a video online every day, Allen says.

Still, too many brands approach video wrong. Here are a few ways to get it right:

Understand your viewer.

Ask yourself, “Does your brand understand me as a person?” and “How do I understand my audience? How do I talk to them?” Allen says.

One hears a lot these days about quick smartphone videos, but Allen advises organizations not to skimp on production. Consider the Dollar Shave Club. When the company wrote an amusing video script, it hired a camera crew to do it the right way, Allen says. The budget was $4,000.

“The best part of it is this wasn’t just one video,” Allen says. “They kept going. They launched an entire lifestyle content brand.”

The video drew 25 million views and launched the brand, selling skin care products, pomades, travel kits and, er, “peppermint tingling, flushable butt wipes for men.” (You first.)

The company boasts 621,000 monthly page views for a site that has become an information hub—”and by the way, they have a product that can help you.” The Dollar Shave Club was so successful, Unilever bought it for $1 billion in 2016. Bloomberg noted that “Dollar Shave Club’s appeal is not so much its online prowess but the fact that it built a powerful brand in four years.”

“And it all started with a stupid video that they spent $4,000 on,” Allen says.

Target your content consumers.

Audience acquisition means striving for awareness (the right audience) rather than reach (the greatest number of viewers), Allen says. “Reach” means as many people see your video as possible, whereas “awareness” means that a targeted audience remembers your name after they see your video.

The only reason to buy ads boosting your reach is if you’re a political candidate or you are promoting a charitable cause.

“Your video has to show up in my newsfeed, and to do that you have to spend money,” Allen says.

Understand your audience.

When you start out, stop fretting about lead generation, conversions or getting customers to install that app of yours. Look for engagement—starting a conversation with your customers.

When consumers run across an unfamiliar brand, Allen says, they think: “I don’t know you. You haven’t provided anything good. You haven’t proven yourself to me as a valuable provider of content and entertainment and distraction.”

To get conversions, you must prove you understand your audience.

Know your platform.

Every digital platform has rules for success, Allen says. Here they are in brief:

YouTube: To get noticed, produce a great thumbnail and strive for search engine optimization.

Instagram: Allen sums it up thus: “Show me something cool.”

Twitter: Make it timely and short. Twitter is a raging ocean of noise, and by the time someone scrolls halfway down the feed, another 25 new items have popped up. Engage people quickly.

Facebook: “Make me feel something.” The space is more reliant on emotion than hard logic.


You have three seconds to grab viewer’s attention, but those are non-auditory seconds. Remember, many people mute the sound their devices or computers.

“Sound cannot be required,” Allen says.

Consider the eye path.

First, viewers start by looking at your video, Allen says. Captivate them in the first three seconds. Then they will wonder, “Wait, what am I watching?”

Next, they glance up at the headline or video title. Does the topic sound interesting, or did the video maker mislead viewers with a clever opening that has little to do with the subject?

Finally, they check out text that gives insight into whether they should unmute and keep watching.

Check out video maker Casey Neistat, Allen says. His video, “THE $21,000 FIRST-CLASS AIRPLANE SEAT,” reveals what it’s like to get an upgrade most of us only dream about.

Time to upgrade your video strategy.

There’s more to this session. Subscribe to Ragan Training.



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