Five Myths About Making Web Videos

04/21/2011 06:48 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2011
  • James Kotecki Manager of Media and Public Relations, Automated Insights

You've heard online video is hot. You want online video for your business, nonprofit, and/or world domination attempt. Awesome -- but before you dive in, let me debunk a few common misconceptions.

1. Video is really hard -- I need professionals right away.

Videos don't need complexity or polish to be effective. Do you care that "David After Dentist" wasn't shot in HD? 88 million viewers don't.

I started my video blog in a dorm room with a cheap webcam, free editing software, and no technical experience. My "webby" production values imbued me with a raw authenticity I couldn't have achieved otherwise.

Sometimes you don't need professionals -- you just need a MacBook.

2. Video is super easy -- I'll just have my nephew do it.

Just because your nephew strapped a parachute to a cat and put it on YouTube, doesn't mean he can replicate The Ellen Degeneres Show on his iPhone. There's a reason Ellen's credits are so long -- that kind of content requires significant resources.

Could Ellen conduct interviews by holding an iPhone at arms length? Yes. Would that be funny? Yes. But it would also be a totally different show.

Video is not a monolithic marketing tool. You have a huge range of quality and cost options. Think carefully about what you want and what it will actually take to produce.

3. Lighting and audio will magically take care of themselves.

Just because you can see and hear your subjects in real life, it doesn't mean your camera can. Please. Check. On. That.

I know it seems obvious, but it's an easy mistake to make. Look at this Mike Huckabee video from 2007. Maybe turn off the fountain next time, guys. (Side note -- why is a self-described "poor college student" hanging out in a suit by a lavish pool? Authenticity, people!)

4. Our generic corporate marketing video will go viral!

Um, no.

The mere existence of your video is not enough to ensure its worldwide popularity. Most videos don't go viral, just like most books aren't bestsellers.

Viral means lots of people want to watch it. The key is content: authentic stories, hilarious jokes, dead aliens, cute kittens. People like that stuff. There's not a huge appetite on YouTube for talking head interviews with your senior executives.

Plus, "going viral" shouldn't necessarily be your goal. Maybe your target audience is one thousand influential viewers and not one million random ones.

5. People will watch our video if and only if we keep it under two minutes.

People watch long videos on the Internet all the time -- Hulu is counting on it. One of Barack Obama's most popular campaign videos was his 38-minute speech on race.

Then again, you're not Barack Obama.

Two minutes isn't a bad rule of thumb, but only because it forces you to focus on tighter, more interesting content. Arbitrary brevity for its own sake won't save a boring video. Forget two minutes -- I'll click away after ten seconds.

And by the way - Obama's most popular YouTube video? His 86-second dance with Ellen Degeneres.