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Splitting hairs: making online video work

Hair salon owner Jose Bryce-Smith is looking to revamp the websites for her salon and range of dyes and hair care products. Is online video the answer? Does anyone want to see Hugo Weaving get his hair cut?

Starting a conversation

Jose: We’re redoing our Atlantis Hair salon website at the same time as launching our Original & Mineral website, which is a range of ammonia-free colours and hair care products.

We want to create an online community of salon owners who use the products and to start a conversation with us and each other.

So the idea was to do videos, like a confession booth… ‘I’m Jose. I’ve been ammonia-free for the last seven years.’ We will have forums where people can post why they are interested in ammonia-free colour. There are a lot of myths around it – you know, it is not as permanent, it can’t do blonde as well.

Shonagh Walker (lifestyle and beauty writer): I think that kind of interactive web content works extremely well. Perhaps a forum or chat room where members or visitors can swap ideas on trends and opinions on the latest looks of celebrities and the like. A Q&A forum is also good. Ask the experts – perhaps have a senior stylist do a live chat once a week or a colourist live chat.

Jonathan: Is there enough material to keep a conversation going for as long as you need on the bulletin board?

Jose: Hairdressers are highly passionate and creative people who like to give their opinions.

Making video go viral

Jose: Will the videos get the message out there?

Jonathan: Video is fast becoming one of the biggest things online. I read recently that people under 35 watch on average two hours of streaming video a week. Your video idea definitely has legs because it is what a lot of people are looking for online. But it also means you are going into a very busy marketplace where there are millions of videos. You have to make sure yours does not get lost in the shuffle.

You can submit your videos to sites like Digg, Twitter or Facebook and have links back to your website.

The aim is to get your video off the site and as far out there as possible, in a way that people will know where it originally came from so they will hopefully come back.

Owen Lansbury (interactive designer): There’s no definitive secret to why viral videos take off online beyond being a good laugh. Most marketing-driven viral videos fail because they’re too conscious of pushing the product.

The most successful example in recent years is the video of someone breaking into an air force base and spraying “Still Free” on President Bush’s plane. It was a brilliant, million-dollar hoax that caught the media’s attention because it was topical, controversial and had no blatant product tie-in. It totally captured the counterculture essence of the brand behind it. OK, so Jose doesn’t have a million dollars, but it was the idea that was captivating as opposed to the complexity of the production – the ‘wow, I can’t believe they did that moment.

Host with the most

Jose: Is it better to host the video on our own site or through YouTube?

Jonathan: Hosting your own video can be expensive. Most hosting packages limit how much information you can store on the server and also how much can be accessed each month. If you get a lot of people watching a video that is a couple of megabytes in size, that quickly uses up your quota, whereas a web page is a handful of kilobytes.

Some businesses fall into trouble because they don’t understand the differences between those file sizes and they whack a video onto the site. If the video is popular, suddenly they’ve got a huge hosting bill they didn’t expect.

A lot of sites host their videos with an external company like YouTube. Of course, with that, you have a YouTube logo in the corner of every video unless you pay. There are similar services, such as Viocorp which is based in Sydney, that do video hosting but they are more expensive.

Owen: Viral video is all about handing over control of your campaign to the masses. Once it’s on YouTube and successful, there’s no pulling it back in. If you use a corporate hosting service, the illusion of it being an authentic video is diminished, but you have more control.

Hugo Weaving’s hair video

Josh: Are any of your customer’s famous people who might agree to be included?

Jose: I was just actually thinking that. We have got a few. So I could do a video featuring whoever and then if people searched on their name, my video would come up?

Jonathan: That sort of thing works, although of course, you have got to remember if they are a famous person, there will be a lot of entries of them in Google. But it could really help if the title was ‘Hugo Weaving’s hair video’, rather than just ‘hair video’.

Owen: It all comes down to the strength of the idea and getting that idea across in a short amount of time. One of the funniest fly-on-the-wall viral videos I remember was of women’s facial expressions while they were getting Brazilian waxes. But would the celebrities be up for that?

Jonathan: I’ve seen websites do a wonderful piece of content that goes viral through the web, there are people emailing it everywhere, but it doesn’t actually sell their product. At the end of the day, they’ve had a million people hit their website to see the video, but sales didn’t go up because the people watching the video weren’t in the market for the product, they just found it funny. It is about finding a balance between appealing to a wide range of people and getting the product information in there in a way that converts to sales.

Owen: Define your brand essence and use viral video as an element to support that as part of a wider campaign. Remember that if you’re lucky, people will watch it once and forward it to a friend or post it on Facebook, but that’s about the limit of engagement you’ll get. Make sure this is supported by a broader campaign and mechanisms to help your audience to engage with you directly. #Read the full article here.

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