Thursday, November 15, 2012

When is Video Better?

Ok, I’m stuck, and I need your help.

At my company, we sell software tools that help Oracle application developers and database administrators see exactly where their code spends their users’ time. I want to publish better information at our web page that will allow people who are interested to learn more about our software, and that will allow people who don’t even realize we exist to discover what we have. My theory is that the more people who understand exactly what we have, the more customers we’ll get, and we have some evidence that bears that out.

I’ve gotten so much help from YouTube in various of my endeavors that I’ve formed the grand idea in my head:
We need more videos showing our products.
The first one I made is the 1:13 video on YouTube called “Method R Tools v3.0: Getting Started.” I’m interested to see how effective it is. I think this content is perfect for the video format because the whole point is to show you how easy it is to get going. Saying it’s easy just isn’t near as fun or convincing as showing it’s easy.

The next thing I need to share with people is a great demonstration that Jeff Holt has helped me pull together, which shows off all the tools in our suite, how they interact and solve an interesting and important common problem. But this one can’t be a 1-minute video; it’s a story that will take a lot longer to tell than that. It’s probably a 10- to 15-minute story, if I had to guess.

Here’s where I’m stuck. Should I make a video? Or write up a blog post for it? The reason this is a difficult question is that making a video costs me about 4 hours per minute of output I can create. That will get better over time, as I practice and accumulate experience. But right now, videos cost me a lot of time. On the other hand, I can whip together a blog post with plenty of detail in a fraction of the time.

Where I need your help is to figure out how much benefit there is, really, to creating a video instead of just a write-up. Some things I have to consider:
  • Would a 15-minute video capture the attention of people who Do people glaze over (TL;DR) on longish printed case studies on which they’d gladly watch about 15 minutes of video?
  • Or do people just pass on the prospect of watching a 15-minute case study about a problem they might not even realize they have yet? I ask this, because I find myself not clicking on any video that I know will take longer than a minute or two, unless I believe it’s going to help me solve a difficult problem that I know I have right now.
So, if you don’t mind giving me a hand, I’ve created a survey at SurveyMonkey that asks just three simple questions that will help me determine which direction to go next. I’m eager to see what you say.

Thank you for your time.


amy c said...

I think video is much more engaging. What about the idea that if you go with written explanation of something that you can also add a 2 minute elevator pitch on video. That way, people can watch it and decide if they want to delve into the reading.

Joel Garry said...

Do both. Different people learn different ways. Different people have different access. I have a smart phone, but train wifi only gives me text access, for example. Some people can't really stream vid at work (which is where one presumes you are targeting a product or service) - technically or politically.

I for one can watch tv for hours, but video product presentations, even from my heroes, ZZZZ within minutes. The human brain puts lots of effort towards video processing - but is it for logical thought or hunting and defense against predators?

People who claim to be able to multitask might want the video. If they can't multitask as well as they think they can, that might be a good thing for you, as you probably want to create an emotional desire for action to pursue your product. That is when video is better.

Be the fish.

Magnus said...

What Joel said. Both. Different people process info differently.

Cary Millsap said...

The preliminary results are in, and they're fascinating. Here are two comments (I'm not making this up) that pretty much sum it up:

"I'm an auditory learner like most geeks."

"Like most people I am visual...that is how I learn best"

The funny thing is that, just like me, I think most people feel that their personal preferences represent the preferences of the larger population, but often they don't.

So, here's what I'm going to do. I'll begin with a written case, because I can have something to publish much sooner that way than if I were to begin with a video. I pretty much have to write up the case anyway to begin the process of scripting the video. I might as well publish that when it's ready.

Then I'll do a video (or sequence of videos). I'll have to figure out whether the video will be an intro, an overview, a tour, a step-by-step, something else, or all the above.

Thank you to those who have taken the survey so far. Please keep the responses coming. It's pretty much a 50/50 tie among early responses, but perhaps the next few hundred people will be 90/10 or 10/90. I'll be eager to see how it goes.

Joel Garry said...

Fascinating indeed.

Which would you rather watch: this one or any of these?

I'll bet you have a bevy of communications majors at your local university who would be happy to be doing demos in your videos, to put on their resumes. Empowering to your female followers too.

Yes, just like any other project, you have to explicate the purpose. Watch your proxy.

Bob Rhubart said...

I agree with Joel Garry: Do both. Video can be a great teaser/intro to drive people to your blog post. But also give some thought to streamlining your process for creating video. A video with very modest production values can still be very effective at getting your point across.

Jerry C said...

I would do video. I think you can learn more in the same amount of time than you can reading. Me anyway.

Also, it seems to me that once you get the video-making process down, it would actually be quicker than generating text, formatting, proofreading, editing, etc. Again, maybe that's just me (I do type with two fingers!)

If you want to do both, you could point to existing marketing material that you probably already have.

Here's a great example of a video that I don't think could be done as well if it had been text only:

Good luck!

Cary Millsap said...


The problem with videos is that I have to do the same amount of text generating, formatting, proofreading, and editing as with writing. But with words, editing is a mostly frictionless operation for me. With videos, editing so often requires re-taping and resynchronizing, which takes me so much longer to do it (including finding a time during the day when the noise leaking in through my office walls will allow it). The main issue there is defining "good enough," which many have mentioned already.

I'm making good progress on the paper. I hope to have that out within a couple of weeks. Then I'll turn my attention to the video side of the equation.

Chris said...


With written content, I'm usually scanning - even lightly scanned small parts of your performance book for example. Some of us have some experience - so certain areas are always going to be redundant for a large part of the population.

If you're going to do video you're going to need to do parts: Part I, Part II and break those down into engaging and FUN bits that fit logically together and flow into the next bit. (probably obvious I know but thought I'd mention it)

The best videos I watch on YouTube are always to the point but not dull - they give me what I want without getting into the weeds.

It's really hard to skim a video to get the to most applicable parts :)


(FM)Charless said...

interesting post. i was a video editor for for about two years. video is always an interesting medium to add to your content strategy. cheif mate courses

nyb said...

Not a fan of videos. Some folks learn that way, but I much prefer reading. Faster, more efficient, and I can scan to parts that sound interesting to me. None of which I can do in a video.

If video is provided, I highly recommend a transcript also be provided (especially for those disabled folks that may have trouble seeing the video).

Cary Millsap said...

NWest, I feel the same way, although I find myself warming up to other people's videos over time. It's been interesting to see the almost exactly 50/50 split in opinions on this. For me, that just means that I need to do both.