Thursday, July 21, 2016

Remove Glare from Glasses: Video Tactics for Bespectacled Talents

***We are so grateful to have a community of video and marketing experts to teach us all about the tricks of the trade. As the Wistia Community migrates to Slack, we’ll be documenting some of the most useful conversations from the community on our Blog. If you’re interested in learning from this group, sign up to join the fun!***

Lighting for people with glasses can be pretty tricky, whether you’re shooting video or photos. At Wistia, we’ll usually raise our two key lights up as high as possible and angle them slightly away from the camera to minimize glare. Check out the silent video example below to see the difference it can make! A lot of times this will fix the glare problem, but it can also cause other issues. Watch out for harsh shadows on the talent.
Another tactic is to increase the size of the light source hitting the talent. The larger the light source, the less glare you will have on the glasses. Since our experience is limited to our own shoots here at Wistia, we compiled a list of tips and tricks from our community members to help you out next time you find yourself in a scary (glary) situation.
The discussion all started with Chris Pollack, asking a question that many of us can relate to: “Hey there Wistia community… In shooting my video yesterday, I found that I was fighting a lot of glare in glasses. Are there certain tactics for dealing with this?” ###### Daniel Crowe: “If I see glare on glasses, I usually ask my talent to slightly raise the back part of the glasses frame that goes behind the ears. That slight change of angle on the glasses usually doesn’t look weird and removes the glare for me, but I use soft Kino Flos with my lighting.” - @dcrowephoto ###### Siobhan Cork: “Polarizing filters can go a long way. These puppies can remove reflected light, but they also limit the amount of total light hitting your camera, so you’ll have to account for that. Indirect lighting can also help.” ###### Ryan White: “A lot of times, cheaper glasses manufactures will not use actual polarized lenses, but rather an ‘antireflective coating’ on the lenses, which reflects back a ridiculous green (terrible for keying out a green screen). The bigger the light source the better—it’ll wrap around thick glasses. So if you’re using the Wistia DIY-style lights, you’re going to have some harsh shadows around the glasses vs. if you were using a bigger soft box.” - @ryanwhitehq
If you’re having trouble getting rid of that last bit of glare, don’t have the talent take off their glasses, just roll with it. As we see it, the main goal of business video is to convey a clear message in an authentic way. In most cases, your audience will forgive (or not even notice) those little details. Do you have your own techniques for getting rid of pesky glare on glasses? Share 'em in the comments!
Lighting on the Fly
A minimal and flexible philosophy for lighting your video on any budget

from Wistia Blog via production studio
from Tumblr

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Why You Should Buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. I think every video producer should own a 50mm lens. If you don’t already have one, you should consider picking up the $125 Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM lens for 3 reasons: #### 1. Image quality Fixed lenses like the 50mm are typically sharper than zoom or traditional kit lenses that will come with your DSLR camera. #### 2. Wide aperture Compared to a kit lens that might have a maximum aperture of around 3.5 or 5.6, the 50mm has a really wide maximum aperture of f/1.8. This means it’ll be great shooting in lower-light situations and will create cinematic shallow depth of field. #### 3. Price For the money, you can’t get more bang for your buck. Because this lens is so simple and contains so few lens elements, the manufacturing price is lower, making for a killer bargain. ### Updates on the original lens The new 50mm STM is a replacement for the original ‘nifty-fifty,’ a plastic 50mm f/1.8 lens that sold for around $100. The new 50mm received some welcome updates to make it a truly awesome addition to a video producer’s camera bag: - New focus ring for smooth manual focus - Updated STM stepping motor for smooth autofocus - Improved minimum focusing distance at just over 1 foot - Updated aperture blades for prettier bokeh - Metal mount for added durability ### Applications Different lenses have their strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve found that the 50mm STM lens works well for: #### “Talking head” interview shots Although we use a 35mm lens for shooting on “The Wistia Screen,” the 50mm will help you create crisp images and a pleasant bokeh effect (the area of the background that is out of focus). #### Interesting b-roll angles Shooting with a fixed lens forces you to move your body instead of just zoom in and out, helping you find new perspectives in your video. #### Shooting in low-light situations If you’re shooting indoors or at night, the wide aperture of a 50mm is almost a must-have. #### Capturing lifestyle travel footage I bring this lightweight lens on almost every vacation I go on, because it packs well and takes gorgeous portraits.
If you’re curious what types of shots you can get with this lens, take a gander at this silent loop that we shot in the Wistia office:
While the lens did receive an upgrade from it’s plastic predecessor, it retained a crazy-low price point of $125, making it the perfect entry-level prime/fixed lens. This “nifty fifty” might just become one of your favorite lenses, so give it a try!
Get Creative with Lenses
Learn how to get the most out of interchangeable lenses on your DSLR.

from Wistia Blog via production studio
from Tumblr

Friday, July 15, 2016

Our Community is Moving to Slack!

Don’t have the time to read this blog post? Listen to it whenever you’ve got a free 5 minutes!

We are excited to announce that as of today, we are evolving the Wistia Community from an online forum to a real-time conversation powered by Slack. If you’re excited, and you should be, you can join the fun by heading to Margot will give you a brief rundown in this video:
### Why the switch from a forum to Slack? Over the last two years, the community has facilitated a ton of amazing connections and extremely interesting conversations. But we also noticed that over the last two years, the number of people reading and participating in the community never really changed, which was odd. It was particularly puzzling, because those people who participated in the community told us that it had done wonders for their careers and businesses. Many people in this core community are huge advocates of Wistia, and we’re incredibly thankful to have them on our team. As we thought more about how to grow our community, we realized that perhaps the design was discouraging participation. Perhaps we shouldn’t center the conversations around specific posts. Instead, maybe they should be centered around people and general topics. Perhaps the community should be set up more like a casual snack session at our favorite conference, WistiaFest. This led us to the idea that Slack, the chat app we use at Wistia, could be a good tool to facilitate conversations with the community in the same way that we use it internally. We started a beta of the Wistia Slack Community at this year’s WistiaFest, and so far it’s been amazing! ### What’s new? The new Wistia Community is already starting to hop, and we are seeing way more conversations and stronger bonds between community members. We believe that part of the reason this is the case is because many of us are already in Slack, and it’s much easier to hop into the community and ask a question than it’s ever been before. Sharing videos and images is simple and intuitive in Slack, and since it’s built for lively, fast-paced conversation, momentum can build naturally and quickly. We have created #channels in our community for topics like #marketing, #production, #video-feedback, #wistia-feedback, #dog-photos, and more. Feel free to join as many or as few channels as you like. You can control your notifications, so you hear about everything in a particular channel, or you can turn all notifications off and stay passively involved. Whatever is best for you! One of the benefits of a forum that we are losing with a Slack community is the permanence of topical threads. To counteract that, we’ve created a Community Wiki to record information shared about various subjects (e.g. choosing and licensing music for your videos, understanding video metrics, etc.). We’ll also be highlighting interesting conversations and topics on the Wistia Blog. ### We are super excited Selfishly, we are also extremely excited to have a closer and faster connection to our customers and community. We’ve already seen a different form of conversation than we saw in the forum, in support, or on twitter. By lowering the friction to communicate, it really does make it easier to connect and learn from one another. ### How does this work? To sign up, head over to You’ll get a Slack invite in your inbox, so you can jump right in. Go ahead and download the Slack desktop app—that’ll allow you to connect quickly and stay in the loop with conversations. We’ve recruited 9 Wistian admins to help you get started and answer any questions. Their usernames are: @sarah, @ian, @philwesson, @bcarmichael, @matt-uh-lyn, @mvpompa, @stevenhowe, @engetdang, and @margotmazur. Read through the Community Guidelines to learn more about how our group functions and how to get the most out of Slack. I can’t wait to see the conversations and collaborative projects that will come out of this new way of communicating. It’s going to be great. See you in there!
You’re invited.
Join our Community!
Jump into Slack and start learning from the best in the biz.

from Wistia Blog via production studio
from Tumblr

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

360 Video Is More Like Theater Than Film

360 video has forced us to disregard many things we know about filmmaking and start thinking about video production from scratch. By allowing the audience to define the framing of the camera and change perspective at will, 360 forces us to think of our visual storytelling in a post-shot way. Instead of controlling the viewpoint of the audience, you must build an environment that encourages exploration and allows a story to emerge through a process of user-driven discovery. This shift represents a seismic change from traditional filmmaking, where skills in photography and a keen appreciation of fine art tend to drive the expertise of the most competent directors. However, it’s my contention that 360 video is, compositionally, more like theater than film. ### An innovative ancient art form In recent years, there have been many innovations in the theater world that represent a 360 or VR experience, but in a physical rather than a virtual space. Companies like Punchdrunk have created many pieces where the audiences have (mostly) free run of a performance space across multiple floors and rooms. Audience members are able to choose which actors to follow across individual storylines, which occur synchronously in different parts of the space. In Punchdrunk performances, audience members watch the shows behind masks, which turn them into passive observers, rather than actors. Audience mask from Punchdrunk On the other end of the spectrum, companies like You Me Bum Bum Train have chosen to create works where the audience is the object. They are spoken to directly by the actors and immersed into a series of worlds where they are the protagonist, forced to react to unusual situations where they are the only non-actor in the space. dreamthinkspeak, a site-responsive company that works with a lot of mixed media, sit somewhere in the middle of these two approaches. Audiences are usually given free rein of a wide and undulating space, but unlike Punchdrunk, they’re accorded the ability to interact with the performers and scenography by default. One can imagine 360 and VR video following similar models in terms of the role of the audience and the space. We can be passive observers in a foreign world; we can be present individuals in this world, noticed by the characters; or we can be the main focus of the action, experiencing the narrative through a first-person framework. More broadly, I think we can learn a lot about how to produce 360 video by taking a deeper look at theater practice. ### Think in terms of scenes, not shots With 360 video, each cut feels like a shift of location for the audience. As with theater, the audience shares the space with the performers, and while they are passive observers, they are still “present.” Your narrative therefore needs to be driven by “scenes, rather than shots,” in which each scene takes place in a single location, typified by a single placement of the camera for an extended period. You can’t really do fast-paced cuts or quick perspective changes within a single space with 360. Rather, you have to rely on movement from the performers within a single space to tell the story. Your goal is to encourage the audience to autonomously choose to follow a specific line of inquiry. As with theater, however, it’s possible to have two different pieces of action happening simultaneously, forcing the audience to pick which one to watch.

“You have to rely on movement from the performers within a single space to tell the story.”
This structure enormously affects pre-production, where instead of planning for a sequence of shots that will then be pulled together in post, you instead need to think about building a scene that offers a rich tapestry of visual detail or symbolism. In practice, this means thinking of each shot scenographically, e.g. the way in which visual elements throughout the environment can contribute to the storytelling. Changes in lighting can be used to denote environmental shifts, the movement of objects and props throughout the shot become very meaningful, and the space that actors occupy in relation to one another takes on amplified symbolic significance when compared with traditional film. Common knowledge regarding camera shots is also thrown out of the window with 360. No longer can you have wide shots, close-ups, etc… but rather the framing needs to be considered in relation to the overall space and how close the actors are to the camera rig. With 360, you can choose to craft intimate spaces (e.g. in a closet), wide open spaces (e.g. in the middle of a football pitch) and play with everything in between. Using a wide selection of spaces adds variety to multi-scene shoot and can be used to create dramatic effects. Similarly, having actors change their distances from the camera during the course of a scene is an effective way to shift your audience’s focus. ### The audience controls the frame and focus In regular video, the viewpoint of the audience is limited by the choices of the director, and this has benefits and drawbacks. The benefits are that you can be highly prescriptive in terms of what the audience sees, and thus structure a very clear message and narrative journey, which is likely to be largely understood. The drawbacks are that this restrictive format tends to leave less room for ambiguity and abstraction than theater, where “experiential” productions are more commonplace than with film. 360 video is more in the theatrical mold here. Because audience members define the framing and perspective, they create a unique journey for themselves, and (as with site-specific theater) no audience member will experience exactly the same thing.
“Because audience members define the framing and perspective, they create a unique journey for themselves.”
The artwork is revealed on a much more individualistic level—the perspectives and intentions that the audience brings to the table will significantly impact the experience they have. ### Sound changes according to position in the space Surround sound—technology roughly 70 years old—now also has its chance to shine with 360 video. In traditional cinema, surround sound can be used to create the illusion of a depth of space, at odds with a 2D image on a 16x9 screen. With 360 video, the aural and visual elements can be in sync. More interesting though, is 360 sound, where what the audience actually hears can change depending on where they are looking in a space (as with the visuals). This, again, feels far more theatrical than filmic. London Coliseum In proscenium arch theater, often an actor may appear on the balcony or in a box and force the audience to turn around to hear and see what’s going on. In immersive site-specific theater, the sound is woven into the fabric of each space—something that shifts according to location as much as the visuals. ### Content is likely to be more dialogue-heavy My expectation is that many narrative-driven 360 videos will end up being far more dialogue-heavy than traditional counterparts. Since you cannot rely on subtext and counterpoint provided by changing shots, narrative and plot need to be created in other ways. Most theater has traditionally achieved this with dialogue. Since Sophocles, characters often arrive onto scenes with the explicit purpose of explaining what’s happened in a different imaginary space, off stage, and this old device will likely be of equal value in the world of 360 film. Greek Theater of Syracuse in southeastern Sicily With 360 video, there’s no guarantee that your audience will see close-up facial expressions, which means that you cannot rely on the subtleties and nuance of acting to necessarily communicate important plot points. For this reason also, I think 360 video will include more dialogue (or internal monologue).
Film script writers may need to start thinking more theatrically than they ever have, and I for one think this holds a great opportunity for the resurgence of the value of traditional theater making skills.
How to Stitch GoPro Footage into 360 Video
Our technique for producing immersive video with a 7-camera 360 rig from 360 Heroes.

from Wistia Blog via production studio
from Tumblr

Monday, July 11, 2016

Quick Tips to Boost Your Video Play Rates and Drive Action

As I’ve explored the world of online video over the last several months, I’ve noticed one underlying problem that spans across many of our customers’ accounts. They’re creating beautiful content, but not paying attention to how it’s packaged and presented to their audience. When you ignore critical factors, like your video’s surface appearance, you can unintentionally discourage viewers from engaging with your content. And then there’s the video itself. The content might be engaging and well-produced, but what actions is your video driving? You likely have a goal in mind for each and every video you produce. Are you trying to collect more leads to fuel your marketing automation platform? Are you encouraging employees to become more engaged with your career development resources? Raising brand awareness? If your video is entertaining, but not driving action, chances are it’s not helping you take steps towards your goal. In this post, we’ll dive into two main topics: - How to improve your video play rates. - How to drive action directly within your videos. ### Part #1: Getting more people to play your videos Play rate is the percentage of page visitors who clicked play and started watching your video. The ideal play rate is not a flat number, and it varies from business to business, industry to industry. It’s also dependent on factors like where your video lives. Is it high up on your homepage, or is it hidden seven clicks into your website at the bottom of one of your thousands of landing pages? At Wistia, we are pretty psyched when we see play rates over 70% on high-traffic pages. #### Optimize your thumbnail image One major factor that will determine whether or not someone is likely to play your video is your thumbnail image. Out of the videos below, which video would you be more likely to play? Video A. Video B. The answer is obvious, right? The thumbnail of Moz founder, Rand Fishkin, in a birthday hat looking overly enthused is much more effective than a dull screen, complete with bulleted lists of text. #### The science behind a smile There’s actually a whole science to smiling that dates back to the genius of evolution, Charles Darwin. Oddly enough, he’s never caught smiling… Darwin found that as you see another person’s smiling muscles contract, a feedback loop travels through your brain, reinforcing the feelings of joy and bliss. “Smiling is the outward manifestation of happiness and serves to begin to connect us to others,” says Dr. Adrian Furnham. While smiling can improve the quality of our everyday lives, it can also help us market our businesses and drive engagement. Take this example from Wishpond. After running a 5-week A/B test of two ads—one with a smiling individual and one without—the smiling image increased the software company’s profits by 10.7%! ###### Takeaway: Use a custom thumbnail of a smiling human face whenever it makes sense for the video. #### Change that player color Another factor that has a shockingly high effect on play rate is the color of the player button. When you’ve uploaded a new video into your Wistia account, the first thing you should do is head over to Video Actions, and select Customize. Under the Appearance drop-down menu, you’ll notice you can change the player color away from that boring default grey. Perhaps your brand has a specific color or hexID? Throw that in there! Can you tell how much I love that grey button? This might seem like an insignificant change to make, but at Wistia, we’ve found that videos with a custom player color have an 18% higher play rate than those that stick with the grey default. This small change can go a long way, if you’re trying to increase your play rate. ### Part #2: Driving action within your videos If you’re not directing your viewers to a relevant landing page or asking for their email to follow up, that could be your last touchpoint point with them. In Wistia, there are three interactive elements you can include in your video to drive further action: our email collector form known as Turnstile, calls to action, and annotation links. You might be unsure if Timeline Actions are relevant to your videos goals, but I can assure you that there are several use cases and relevant ways to use these features that will ultimately help you reach your video goals faster. Let’s start with Turnstile… ### Collecting emails with Turnstile Are you looking to grow your subscriber list? Are you in need of more qualified leads? Turnstile gives you the ability to collect email addresses at any point in your video. This feature is especially powerful if you’re using a marketing automation platform like HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, or SalesForce. With one of these integrations set up, you can push new contacts directly into your nurturing process. If you don’t have an integration with one of these services, our email collector still allows you to identify individuals, understand the viewing behavior tied to them, and export a spreadsheet of new contacts—all within Wistia. #### To gate or not to gate? The most common objection I hear from customers about Turnstile is that interrupting their viewers leads to a poor user experience. While there are instances in which this objection holds true, there are also times where the value you’re providing to your viewer is worthy of this brief interruption. The harsh reality is: If you’re giving away everything for free, you could be missing out on a whole market of leads that you’ll lose to competitors. So, when is the right time? Luckily, I’ve created a set of questions to help you make these difficult decisions. - Is your video reaching people at the top of your funnel? - Is your video >50% promotional? - Is your video short and sweet? If you answer yes to any of these questions, DON’T gate your video. On the other hand… - Will the viewer save time or money by watching your video? - Will the viewer learn something new? - Can you promise (and deliver) the viewer something of value after or during your video? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then there is likely a relevant place for a Turnstile to be incorporated into your video. #### Where should you put your Turnstile? The placement of a Turnstile can make a pretty drastic impact on conversion rates. At Wistia, we analyzed 15,000 videos with Turnstile to determine the most effective location for this tool. Drum roll please… placing a Turnstile in the first 10-20% of the video leads to a 43% conversion rate! While this data point is pretty astounding, it also makes sense. Provide a quick and compelling introduction, in which you tempt the viewer with just enough information that leaves them wanting more, and then present them with a super quick email collector. #### Should you make your Turnstile optional or mandatory? In the same study, we looked at data comparing Turnstiles with the option to “skip” vs. no skip option, and found the conversion rate to be 20% higher for mandatory forms in comparison to those with the “skip” button present. Moral of the story: If you’re going to ask for an email address, go all in. After accumulating some traction, you can assess your video’s engagement graph, and reassess. ### Driving action with CTAs If collecting emails isn’t your thing, incorporating a powerful CTA could be your best bet for nudging your viewers to take the next step towards the goal you’ve set. While there’s an entire data-packed guide in the Wistia Library on using calls to action, I thought I’d highlight some of the most noteworthy takeaways related to copy. #### The power or language The effect powerful and actionable language can have on driving action is substantial, and this is one area where most are slacking… If someone asked you: - “Hey, want a bagel?” OR - “Hello! Do you want to try the most incredibly delicious bagel you’ll ever eat?” You’d be 100% more likely to eat the bagel when tempted by option b. Well, perhaps you’d go for both, but you’d be more excited about trying the second option because of this powerful use of language. This remains true for CTAs as well. Power words like you, now, new, and free, drove conversion rates on CTAs far above the average. The same goes for action words, with the exception of “buy.” Yet, both power and action words are underutilized in CTAs. Around 68% of CTAs do not have power words, and 58.3% do not use action words. Yikes! There’s so much opportunity to increase action by using compelling language. ### Provide additional resources with annotations Perhaps you’re using video to teach a course or train your employees, and you want to give your viewers some additional resources that pertain to the content of you video. This is one of the many instances in which adding a subtle annotation link works wonders. Similar to CTAs and Turnstiles, annotations can be added anywhere within your video. There’s something really wonderful about being able to add a subtle link to your video. You’re not disrupting the video, you’re providing more content instead of making your video painfully long, and you’re driving action that’s easily trackable within Wistia’s analytics. ### Make Timeline Actions part of the production process Timeline Actions will become substantially more powerful if you plan ahead, and decide where you’ll be adding a CTA, Turnstile, or annotation link. This way, actors can interact with these features. Are you recommending an e-book that relates to the topic being covered at the 1-minute mark in your video? Have the actor encourage the viewer to click—point up to the annotation link or pull the CTA over the screen. This is a strategy we’re consistently using at Wistia. Check out the example below from a video I made for an unengaged customer. How could he not book a call after seeing this? Now that you’ve learned a bit about driving plays and engagement after uploading and embedding your videos, check out our Guide to Video Metrics to continue becoming a Wistia power user.
Guide to Calls to Action in Video Marketing
The data behind highly effective video CTAs has arrived. Learn what makes some CTAs stand out from the rest.

from Wistia Blog via production studio
from Tumblr

Friday, July 8, 2016

Building an Online Community Using Video

The top question on any community manager’s mind is “how do I engage my community members?” A community that is strong and thriving depends on constant engagement and learning. The members must feel close to one another and tied in as part of a well-knit group. It’s the community manager’s job to foster that engagement—not an easy task. ### Why video Using video in your community can make that job a little less daunting. Your community members are your most active and engaged customers. Video allows them to connect with one another on a personal and relatable level, quickly and easily. You can use a video project as a way to bring those crucial folks together and develop relationships that will last for years. According to HubSpot, 80% of users remember a video they’ve seen in the last 30 days—your community is a great place to start including videos and keeping folks engaged with your site. ### No need for a fancy camera Creating a video doesn’t have to be a huge hurdle that requires thousands of dollars of equipment. The camera you need to make great community videos is right in your pocket. You can use your smartphone to create videos that will engage your community members, and inspire them to start making videos on their own. You can even use your MacBook (or PC!) camera to record short responses to community members, and encourage them to respond back on video. That face-to-face interaction makes it easy for your members to relate to one another, creating a community that grows stronger by the day. ### The benefits of video analytics Community videos can be low-risk, as they are relatively easy to produce, and the analytics that come with them are helpful metrics for community managers. Having videos in your community will allow you to see how relevant and valuable a subject is to your members, how much they care about personalized responses and introductions, and how to improve your videos as you go on. Those analytics can also be brought back to the larger team and used to advocate for your community’s growth.

A free e-book!

So, where do you get started? We’ve partnered with Vanilla Forums on an e-book that will get you started on your first community video! Whether it be a how-to, introduction, or support video—you’ll learn more about using this powerful tool successfully in your community.

from Wistia Blog via production studio
from Tumblr

Thursday, July 7, 2016

From Headlines to Home Runs: The Evolution of Content Marketing

As with any new skill, content marketing has a learning curve, and getting started can be daunting. Luckily, all expert content marketers were once beginners, scrambling to learn best practices and create successful strategies. No matter where you fall in your growth path, it’s always worthwhile to listen to passionate content creators who are helping to define and grow the space. Cara Harshman is a Content Marketing Manager and Managing Blog Editor at Optimizely, a software company that makes it easy to test and personalize your website or mobile app. Put more simply, Cara Harshman crafts stories. Cara speaking at Unbounce’s Call to Action Conference With experience in journalism, video production, webinars, case studies, and more, she is an accomplished and multitalented content creator. We asked her all about the evolution of content marketing, her favorite examples of quality content on the web, and how to get started with A/B testing. ###### Wistia: Is there an evolution for content marketing? In other words, what kinds of content should companies begin with and move toward? ###### Cara Harshman: Yes, an evolution exists, and I think you can split it up in two buckets. The first bucket consists of the necessary information your sales team needs to sell your product. This is the content you should begin with. If you don’t have a sales team, then it’s the necessary information the consumer needs to make a decision about buying your product. The thesis for these content pieces is: here’s a problem, here’s why you should care about that problem, and here are solutions for you to fix the problem. In the solutions section, you include the thing that your company offers—not explicitly, but you mention the solution in general. Once you create these pieces, your sales team is armed with answers to questions like “How can your company help me increase leads?” The format for this content could be case studies (“How [Insert interesting company] did [Insert common business challenge] with [Your product]”), blog posts, or pages on your website that address the frequently asked questions. This all falls under the umbrella of “evergreen” content that has a long shelf life and gets used often. To source this content, sit with your sales or support team. Have recurring meetings to understand the questions they’re getting and what they need. At Optimizely, we put all of this content in a spreadsheet called the “Content Matrix” and organized it by selling stage and intended audience. That way, we could see we had all of our bases covered.

“We put all of this content in a spreadsheet called the Content Matrix and organized it by selling stage and intended audience.”
The second bucket that you move towards is more opportunistic, timely, content that follows the news cycles, or is coordinated with an event. To get this type of content done (and I don’t think all content marketing operations get there) you need to have your ducks in a row, and your calendars planned out in advance, so you can quickly divert energy to something new when you need to. ###### Wistia: What companies are doing content marketing really well, in your opinion? Why do they stand out? ###### Cara Harshman: Three companies immediately come to mind, and their content shares three traits: it really empathizes with the customer/reader, it’s straightforward, and it’s easy to find. 1. Help Scout, a help desk software company. They have a gorgeous and incredibly thorough blog. They don’t post everyday, and by the design and quality of each post, it’s obvious that a lot of time, thought, and editing goes into each one. Their resources are also a great example of top-notch content marketing, because they are so straightforward. Take the “Brief Guide to Better Email” and its tagline, “How to write support emails that your customers will love,” for example. There’s no confusion on what this will be about. That’s a key part of effective content marketing in my opinion. 2. Betterment, a long-term investing platform. This New York company stands out in the financial services space as one that’s creating a stellar content marketing program. Even their homepage headline is a piece of content that doubles as a call to action: they ask you to fill in the blanks with your age and income to “Get Started” with your investment strategy. I like how their Resources drop-down menu on the homepage shows you the pillar pieces and saves you from unnecessary clicks. Like Help Scout, the topics Betterment covers are extremely clear. They just really want to help you learn how to manage and save your money, and their content shows it. Shameful plug: I’m in the process of switching from Schwab to Betterment, and their content has been a large driving factor in that decision. 3. Shopify, an e-commerce platform. Starting to sell stuff online is tricky and Shopify does a great job creating short and long-form content that respond to customer pain points. I know because I just started using it to host my mom’s jewelry business, and I have a lot of questions! The fact that their guides are all available as HTML instead of just PDF is delightful, and something we’re migrating to at Optimizely as well. They do a lot of case studies, which I think fits a product like theirs extremely well. We want to know what other Shopify stores look like and how they came to be. Great example of content marketing with empathy. ###### Wistia: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in content marketing? ###### Cara Harshman: Full transparency, I learned what content marketing was and how to do it completely on the job! I joined Optimizely straight from the journalism world, so I had a ton of experience blogging and designing things, but I didn’t even know what a lead was. As a journalist, you have to always have a beginner’s mind, since you are often writing articles about things you know little to nothing about. The key is being interested and curious and having some experts around to help answer your questions. The first “thought leadership” piece I read on content marketing was Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson. I devoured that book and really put its principles and strategy to work.
“The key is being interested and curious and having some experts around to help answer your questions.”
So I’d say three things to keep in mind are: - Have a beginner’s mind with everything; be curious and ask a lot of questions. - Get your advice on how to be a content marketer from experienced content marketers. There’s a lot of fluff out there. Try hard to sift the wheat from the chaff. - Learn how to conduct an engaging interview. This was a precious skill I learned in journalism school that has been vital in my content marketing career so far. ###### Wistia: In terms of optimization for content marketing, what are some ways to dip your toes in? What are simple ways for marketers to start? ###### Cara Harshman: Headline testing is a great way to dip your toes into the warm, welcoming A/B testing waters. Headline testing is simple, but can be extremely effective. It has come to be table stakes for big media companies like the New York Times – it’s a smart and ubiquitous practice that all content marketers can easily do. You can use Optimizely’s Wordpress plugin to get started. I would start by testing how you position a high-traffic blog post, an e-book, or a webinar. Use clicks to measure the blog post, downloads to measure the e-book, and signups for the webinar. ###### Wistia: How do you find the best opportunities to test? Are there quantitative or qualitative cues? ###### Cara Harshman: In order to find great test ideas, you have to be open and humbly accept that the current experiences you’re delivering may not be the best. With that, I have a few specific ideas… Quantitative data helps surface specific pages that need optimization love – for example, pages with really low time on page or high bounce rate, or funnel pages with high drop off. Google Analytics and other similar tools show you where to focus, but the qualitative data will show you what to focus on and why.
“Quantitative data helps surface specific pages that need optimization love.”
For the qualitative data part, you definitely need to be user testing. By user testing, I mean physically watching someone else interact with your website and talk out loud about the experience either in person, via a video chat, or a recording. You don’t need many sessions – just 5–9 to get really helpful verbal feedback. Hearing from actual users is hugely helpful because you can answer questions that a bunch of numbers can’t. Google Analytics won’t tell you why people aren’t converting, but in a user test, someone could take one look at the page and say “nope, I don’t trust it.” And now you have a thread of A/B testing ideas to pull from. Then there are heat maps – very interesting visualizations that show where most people scroll to, hover, and click on your site. If you are open to change and actively seeking input, the ideas will come naturally. Prioritizing them will soon become the hard part ;-) ###### Wistia: What are the most common mistakes people make when trying to optimize their content? ###### Cara Harshman: I’d say the top mistakes are: - Coming up with ideas out of thin air and expecting them to have a huge impact. Doing research to inform your test will absolutely increase its significance. - Making subtle changes and expecting them to have a huge impact. Especially if you don’t have a lot of traffic, you need to be more radical in your tests. - Failing to come up with hypotheses for tests. This goes back to the first mistake on running uninformed tests. Your testing program will be better if you have a hypothesis. ###### Wistia: Have you done A/B testing with video? What are some elements that you would try testing first? ###### Cara Harshman: Wes Fleming, our brilliant video producer, has performed some testing. I asked him what he has done, and he said, “The only real testing I do is in the timeline. For instance I will post a video, and if I see there is a certain drop in engagement somewhere, I will then inspect what is there (music, graphics, talking head, etc.). We’ve made a few editing adjustments based on this, and I’ve increased engagement by a few percentage points. One example is one of our product launch videos. I changed the music, and it improved engagement slightly.” Things I would recommend testing are: - Video thumbnail (measure which one increases play rate) - Play button style - Music (which type of vibe increases engagement) - Headline describing the video
A/B Test Your Videos. Here’s Why.
We split tested an onboarding video and learned some valuable lessons.

from Wistia Blog via production studio
from Tumblr