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Technology to Build Successful Online Video

Online video can further differentiate a business in a competitive market, but advisors must have a purposeful approach in order to project the image they desire.

Bill Winterberg, 07/12/2012

The use of online video is exploding. Each month, more than 3 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube alone, with 72 hours of video uploaded to the leading video site every minute. In response, many financial advisors are beginning to include online video in their overall marketing and branding strategy.

Although creating and posting video online is easier than ever before, advisors need to be certain that the quality of the content they produce communicates their intended message. Technology also plays an important role in creating a high-quality video experience while revealing the overall effectiveness of content produced for a specific audience. I spoke with several producers who specialize in video for the financial-services industry to identify the keys to creating and distributing content that conveys an advisor's desired message.

Before You Begin
Creating effective online video content involves a lot more than just setting up a camera and uploading footage to YouTube. Experts recommend that advisors first create a strategy for their overall marketing and public communications, in which video represents an important component.

"Video should complement other collateral, including an advisor's website, brochure, business cards, social media profiles, and blog," said Steve Biermann, president of Advisor Studios, a video production company specializing in content for financial advisors.

For example, Advisor Studios incorporates an advisor's existing logo and color scheme into the videos they produce, mirroring what appears on the advisor's website and marketing materials. When the final product is watched, viewers should easily recognize and identify the advisor's brand no matter where the video is located, be it on a website, embedded in a mobile app, or even in a Facebook Timeline.

Advisor Studios also leverages technology like Quick Response (QR) codes printed on business cards. Scanning the QR code with a camera-equipped smartphone or tablet launches a Web page with a short introductory video featuring the advisor.

"When QR codes are part of a marketing campaign, we are able to look at website hits, [event] registrations, [email] subscriptions, and even sales calls generated," added Biermann.

Components of Quality Video
With a complete strategy defined, advisors should next focus on the tools and technology needed to film high-quality video. There are far too many high-definition video cameras to address in this column, but producers caution not to overlook audio quality while exploring various equipment.

"People will generally sit through a poor-quality video if it has good audio versus a good video with bad audio," said Brandan Fisher, owner of FishDawg Productions, whose services include onsite video production for financial industry conferences and events.

Advisors looking to purchase equipment should opt for cameras that have audio input connections to use with external microphones, rather than using a camera's built-in microphone. High-quality audio can also be recorded using a separate device such as a Tascam DR-100 (MSRP: $599.99), recommended by Biermann, and then added to the video during the post-production editing process.

In addition to high-definition video and clear audio, advisors should consider scripting what they will say instead of improvising. "From a compliance standpoint, it's very important to script and storyboard what you're going to say and get approval in advance." said Biermann.

When possible, scripts should be read using a teleprompter located directly in front of the camera, minimizing the amount of eye movement. A number of do-it-yourself teleprompter kits are available through Internet retailer websites, including ones that work with external computer monitors or even an Apple iPad tablet.

"Most advisors are not trained to be in front of a camera," added Biermann. "Saying lots of 'ums' and 'ahs' or seeing their eyes move back and forth is distracting. It makes the video look unprofessional, and pretty soon their audience isn't following what they say." Production companies such as Advisor Studios coach advisors through the filming process to help them project their best image on video.

Editing and Post Production
Most software bundled with video cameras is capable of uploading video directly to sites like YouTube when the camera is plugged into a computer. But again, producers advise that some simple post-production editing can go a long way in projecting a consistent brand and professional image.

"In post production, less is often more. For most video, a simple fade up, a graphic with your logo and name in the lower-third portion of the screen, and fade out is appropriate," said Fisher.

Biermann uses both the pre- and post-production processes to adhere to the overall strategy defined before filming any video. "If we're producing multiple videos for a client, we use pre- and post-production to tie all of them together, allowing viewers to recognize common themes or brand elements across all of the media," he said.

Basic video editing can be performed with software such as Apple's iMovie '11, available from the Mac App Store for $14.99, or Windows Live Essentials (Free in Windows 7). These editing programs are adequate for adding basic transitions between video segments, simple title screens, and lower-third graphics. For advanced editing features, including support for multi-camera video clips, extensive transitions, and color correction, advisors may want to upgrade to more capable software like Apple's Final Cut Pro X ($299.99) or AdobeĀ® PremiereĀ® Elements 10 ($99.99).

Hosting
Distributing video online is considerably easier now than ever before. As mentioned earlier, YouTube is the website synonymous with online video where advisors can upload and share their media for free. However, many alternatives to YouTube exist that offer additional features and useful benefits to advisors.

One feature Fisher recommends for any hosting provider is the ability to format video playback for mobile devices. "YouTube is free, and they already format videos for mobile devices," he said. "Vimeo is another service similar to YouTube, but it is focused on high-quality HD video."

Vimeo offers two premium plans. Vimeo Plus ($59.95 per year or $9.95 per month) increases the limit on the number and size of videos that can be uploaded to the service each week and provides video playback statistics. Vimeo Pro ($199 per year) provides 50 GB of file storage, unlimited uploads, and customizable video players.

In addition to supporting video playback on mobile devices, Biermann recommends advisors seek hosting providers that offer detailed analytics and metrics for video playback.

"Good metrics tell the story of how effective a video is," he said. "Basic data shows how many people watched a video, but it's better to see how many people replayed the video and whether they're rewinding to a specific part. If viewers replay one of your main talking points, you can provide even more info on the subject in subsequent videos."

In addition to YouTube and Vimeo, Wistia is another popular hosting provider that formats content for playback on mobile devices and generates detailed analytics.

What Providers Can Do
Today, a basic equipment package consisting of an HD camera, external microphone, simple lighting, and editing software can be acquired for about $1,000. With a nominal investment, advisors can significantly enhance their marketing collateral and highlight their ability to connect with clients and prospects using various channels.

But just because video can be created for low cost, producers caution advisors from jumping in too quickly and subjecting themselves to unintended mistakes. "Just as advisors add value in how their clients' manage personal finances and investments, professional video producers do the same for their clients," said Biermann. "Our challenge is to create the look the client wants that delivers an effective message, all while adhering to the budget and marketing objectives outlined at the beginning of the engagement."

Fisher agrees, emphasizing the importance of consistency across all of the video content produced for advisors.

"I always encourage others to hire video professionals because it promotes quality control," he said. "If you hire a company to help, they can quickly come in to film, edit and produce video ready for the Web. That's a lot less work for advisors to have to deal with on their own, potentially saving a lot of money."

That's a Wrap
Online video is quickly becoming the standard way service providers across all industries interact and engage with their audience. Financial advisors can leverage this medium to demonstrate the way they communicate, educate, and empathize regarding all types of wealth management issues.

But without personal experience in producing high-quality video, advisors risk publishing content that communicates a message that is different than what was intended. Fortunately, the number of providers creating content specifically for financial advisors is growing, and with their guidance, advisors can be confident in their ability to publish successful video materials that can differentiate their business and attract more prospects to the firm.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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