Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

The power of web videos

originally published in Profit Magazine

Web video isn’t just for clips of cute kittens. A fast-growing number of firms are using the medium as a serious business tool for everything from product demos to customer testimonials. New York-based eMarketer, an Internet market-research company, forecasts that the online video marketing spend of U.S. firms will jump by 40% in 2010.

Companies such as Toronto-based 2nd Site Inc., whose FreshBooks software lets users manage invoices online, are using this tool to recruit staff who will fit their culture. CEO Mike McDerment says 2nd Site’s takeoff on a Saturday Night Live skit attracted good job candidates as his staff count grew from 20 to 40. In the video, McDerment asks employees why people should work at the firm. The answers are a mix of silly (e.g., we have high ceilings) and earnest (e.g., we have a start­up atmosphere and stability).

“It’s hard for people to understand your culture before they arrive,” says McDerment. “If they see this video, better-targeted people show up at our door.”

Other companies are using Web video as a low-cost marketing tool. Toronto-based I Love Rewards Inc., a provider of business-incentive programs, is launching six webisodes formatted like a TV talk show. In them, CEO Razor Suleman takes an educational approach—such as citing research that shows employees care far more about recognition than pay—to make a soft sales pitch.

Business is rapidly adopting Web video because it’s “one of the best ways to quickly tell a compelling story,” says Benjamin Yoskovitz, CEO of Montreal-based Standout Jobs Inc., which helps firms use social media for recruitment.

It’s also cheap. I Love Rewards spent $2,400 on its webisodes, which have decent quality but aren’t ready for prime-time TV. That might not matter. YouTube’s ubiquity has conditioned Web users to overlook imperfect production if they like the message. Even for business purposes, “the most-viewed videos aren’t necessarily those with the most polish,” says Yoskovitch.

Authenticity may trump lustre. That’s why McDerment’s staff wrote the FreshBooks script. “They get your culture,” he says. “You need people who are excited and passionate about this, and then unleash them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lame corporate video like everybody else’s.”