Video has exploded on social media in the last couple of years. Are you using video marketing in your business yet?
My guest is Jason Hsiao, the founder of the Animoto video maker. In today’s episode, Jason shares how to leverage video to build relationships and sell more (without tons of technical knowledge or expensive equipment).
listen to this episode
- What makes video unique from other content marketing platforms
- Why you don’t need to spend thousands to create impressive videos
- The essential social media platform to use when you’re getting started
- How to discover what video style will captivate your audience
- The secret behind how long your video content should really be
- Why it’s okay if 50% of people don’t make it to the end of your video
- How to transform your text-based articles into exciting videos
- Why you must tease your best content at the beginning
- The reason why an authentic brand is more important than being funny
- Jason Hsiao on Twitter
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
- The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick M. Lencioni
- Avoid Marketing Best Practices at All Costs with David Darmamin
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! Welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com. The marketing podcast for marketers, founder, and tech people who are just sick of shady aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. In today’s episode, you will learn how to leverage video so you can sell more stuff. All of that without expensive equipment, or technical know-how.
My guest today is the co-founder and Chief Video Officer, which is the first time I am ever mentioning this type on the podcast, of Animoto. Which is an online video maker that makes it easy for anyone to create professional-quality marketing videos. I see them to be like the Canva of video, which is an easy way to create images, but for them it’s video. So, it’s a quite interesting angle.
My guest founded Animoto with his high school and college friends back in 2006, which is like eleven years ago, man. That’s a long time. Now, more than one million businesses are using the tool. And prior to founding Animoto, he was a producer for MTV Networks and Comedy Central.
Jason Hsiao, welcome aboard.
Jason: Thanks, Louis. Thanks for having me on the show. It’s a real pleasure.
Louis: Why is video so important? And let me rephrase. Why is video that different from, I don’t know, tech’s based article, or a podcast like ours?
Jason: Well, certainly, we see video everywhere right now. I think it’s just because video is that much more interesting and captivating. You think about what video is. It’s visual, it’s audio. It includes text, pictures. It’s moving. It’s everything.
I think, at the end of the day, we are visual creatures. If there’s a great image, that’s great. But if there’s video, something moving, it just really captures their attention.
I think, especially in the last few years, there were all these stats about the performance. Like video versus text, or video versus images. One of the super interesting things is people just tend to — there’s a stat — people remember six times the amount of information from a video than from text.
I think there’s just something for everyone in video. And it’s kind of like a one plus one equals three thing. Because it has so many different dimensions to it.
Louis: Where is this study coming from? Can you remember?
Jason: No. But there’s been a lot of different studies over the last two or three years. About how video with your website, or video with landing pages, or video when used with email, or video on social media, just tends to perform better.
There’s another stat. 64% of people are more likely to make a purchase online after watching a video. Or video’s shared twelve times more than text and images. But I think the bottom line is this is how people increasingly want to consume their information.
So we, as businesses, need to learn to communicate in a way that people out there want their information. That’s really why, at the end of the day, we’re seeing so much video these days.
Louis: Do you think it’s here to stay? Or is it going to be replaced by something else? It’s difficult to predict the future, obviously. But when you think of the virtual reality coming up, is it hard to state that marketers rely on video for the next five, ten, fifty years?
Jason: That’s a great question. I think the answer is, we’re only really in the early days of video, and we’re just only seeing the importance of video grow. And it may take different forms. Now people are experimenting with square and landscape, but there’s always going to be some version of video for me.
If we look at what’s happened over the last ten years, I think some of the trends of what social media platform is the hottest, that stuff may change. But what we’ve seen is really with video, with mobile, and cloud, and all the different social platforms, that video has really only become more and more important.
We’ve had folks, like Mark Zuckerberg, say that they’re going all in on video because they really see that that’s how people want to communicate. Ten years ago, it was what? We’re talking about MySpace, and there wasn’t even the iPhone, ten or eleven years ago. And here we are where everything’s on our phones.
Things are changing quickly, but it seems like video is really just getting started and becoming more and more important.
Louis: It feels like it mimics the best real life. I know it sounds a bit stupid to say it this way, but we are talking to each other via Skype. We’re recording this conversation right now. I see you, but I don’t see you. Yet you are real to me. So, it feels like it’s mimicking real-life interaction quite closely with video. When you go towards virtual reality, then it gets to the almost mimicking the entire situation.
It’s no surprise that you have to learn to watch a video. You have to learn to read. It’s no surprise that the effort needed to watch a video and remember stuff is maybe higher than reading an article about this interview.
Jason: Yeah. And that’s actually funny that you mention that. I speak a lot at conferences. I used to actually say stuff like, “You know, video is the next best thing to getting to talk to someone in person.”
But now, I actually realize that video is actually way more powerful. Even if we recorded this and put it out there. All those people that could not join us this one second, or could not be with us in person, can enjoy this for weeks or months, listen to this for weeks or months to come.
Really, video is able to really scale. Be in multiple locations. Really be convenient to whoever’s watching. They don’t have to be at a certain place or a certain time. They can watch at their convenience. They can come around or whenever they want to watch these.
Just as a business, to be able to create a video and let it take a life of its own so that it can do the work for you — that’s probably one of the most powerful parts of video in terms of its cost efficacy.
Louis: I actually mentioned that when we were talking before the show the fact that we’ve never talked with video on the podcast, which is quite odd. But it’s a good thing because you can talk about it for the next forty minutes.
Together, I’d like to go through a step by step method that people can use, starting now. And after listening to your podcast, to leverage video a bit more. And without a salary as you said. Like technical equipment that costs a fortune, or without a lot of knowledge of how to make it happen.
I know it depends on use case. There might be different use cases. And I know you have a few to share. Maybe you can pick the use case that you tend to see the most often, the one that has the highest impact, the one you think is probably the most relevant to our audience today.
Jason: Got it. I’d say, that’s probably the question I get asked the most. How should I get started? Because I see a video everywhere. There’s all sorts of things you could do, but where should I get started? I’ll answer that in a couple different ways.
One is, some people think they need to go out and hire someone to do their big company video. People will spend ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollars to make these videos. You don’t need to spend that kind of money these days to make a quality video.
I think the first mindset is that, you can actually create a great video yourself, with basically, exactly like you said, with Canva. There are tools that, like Animoto, that allow you to actually create professional content yourself without having to go and hire these folks.
I’d actually specifically say that the best place to start because people are like, “Well, you know, you’ve talked about Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook and YouTube, and it seems like there’s all these. Where should I start?”
Really, the best place to start is Facebook. It’s the biggest. They have the most specific tools to get you targeted in front of the right folks. I’d just say, if you’re going to start somewhere, the best answer is wherever your audience is. But for most folks, Facebook is the place to start.
Probably the one that’s growing the fastest is Instagram, so maybe after you feel like you’ve mastered Facebook, you can move on to Instagram.
Louis: I’m just going to cut you there because it’s an important thing to mention here. You said the most important thing is wherever your audience hangs out, right? And I’m hoping that this podcast visit can be listened by people in two, five, ten years, and still be relevant somehow. Not everything, but somehow.
So, you made this very good point. Yes, as you said, Facebook, Instagram, are growing a lot right now. But the concept remains the same. It’s really about where your audience hangs out online. There is a good chance — whatever you’re selling — that your audience hangs out online unless they are at the edge of society. Or let’s say old, or certain generation, and all of that, right?
So, this is why you’re mentioning Facebook and Instagram.
Jason: Yeah, because some people feel like they need to be on the super cutting edge of whatever the latest and greatest social media trend is. But often times, those are just getting started. So you as a business, if you want to be successful with your initial efforts, just go to where most of your audience is. That’s a great place to start.
Then people are just like, “What kind of videos should I make?” And people have all sorts of worries, like, “Well, I don’t know why type of video to start. I don’t want to be in front of the camera. I’m not comfortable.” My general rule of thumb is if you’re trying to figure out where to get started, think about what already works for your business.
You probably have something, either a message, or a testimonial, or a stat, or something on your website that already works for you. You can take that, and you can make that a video. Because you know that your audience already resonates with that. Start with something that already works.
For example, there’s this great company, Buffer, which makes social media tools. But they’re also known for their great blog content. How they got started with video is they started taking their top blog posts, and either making them short videos that summarized, top five tips for whatever, or teasing some of these blog posts that were maybe longer episodes. That was a perfect way for them to get started with video.
I just say, think about what already works. What already resonates with your audience, and make that a video. I think a lot of people get nervous about video because they think it’s this whole new type of marketing to learn.
But if you just think, “Oh, no. It’s actually not a whole new type of marketing. It’s just a way to really amplify whatever works.” I think that’s an easier way to think about how to get started with video.
Louis: Very much like this approach. I think step one is once you figure out where your people hang out, right? So, that should be step one. I’m not going to touch on that today because we’re more interested in the topic on the video side that we need to talk about.
But step two then is really identify the things that are already working for you, right? What pieces of content have you created that have resonated the most? And from my small experience, it tends to be the eighty/twenty, right? Twenty percent of the thing you have is having eighty percent of the impact.
Why not start with the biggest, most impactful thing you’ve ever done, and just turn that into video? Whatever it is.
Jason: Exactly, yep. That’s the best place to start because you already have proof that that piece of content resonates. It could be a photo, it could be a quote. Your first video doesn’t have to be a three-minute masterpiece. It could be fifteen, twenty seconds.
Really, especially on social media, the best videos are ones that just make one point. It doesn’t need to be a whole production. It can be something that makes one or two points, and you have yourself a video, and you can see how that does.
Louis: That’s another very interesting insight because whether it’s social media or anywhere else, people have less and less time to spend on stuff. They are busy, they are anxious with their life and personal lives, and professional life.
What you said works for video, as well as anything else. One message, simple, straight to the point. And it works for anything. It’s amazing how marketing is simple when you do it this way.
Jason: Yeah. And if you think about [it] more and more people are on mobile. Which means they’re usually on the go. Sometimes they’re not even watching with sound. You have to think about using text or using captions.
But the most important thing is since they’re on the go, you have to keep it short and make sure you make every second count.
I usually remind folks, this is not a theater. Going to a movie where you know the audience is going to be there in their seats ninety minutes later. We’re talking about folks online, where you’ll probably be lucky if half the people are still watching at the end of your video. So, you have to really make every second count.
Typically, I think, for people getting started, just remember less is more. If you start off making something sixty seconds, think about how you can make it thirty seconds. I love to just say, “You could probably cut in half the amount of time of whatever it is that you’re trying to communicate the first time.”
Louis: From your experience, what are the type of formats that work well to repurpose? Maybe you can give a specific use case. You mentioned Buffer, who used their most popular blog post into video. So, maybe start with that.
Let’s say we have a blog post that is very popular. We know it’s resonating with people. How do you go from the text-based article that works, to a video that also works?
Jason: There’s so many different ways you can. If you think about the basic building blocks of what could go into a video, it actually doesn’t even need to include any video clips. Which I think sometimes is an ah-ha moment for folks. It could be top three ways to get started with video, and it could just be text.
With tools like Animoto, you also have access to stock images and video clips. If you want to make it more visually interesting and put something behind it, that’s relevant. You can do that. But it can just be text.
I think about either. If you happen to be a type of service or business that has great content. Maybe you’re in a podcast. Take some of the most interesting parts, maybe some of the best quotes, or if there’s a way to summarize it in a list form.
Or if you just want to tease it. Just say, this week my special guest is so and so. Play one of the best parts just to tease it, like movie trailers do for movies. There’s a lot of different ways you can create videos to promote or support or point people to your content.
Louis: So a teaser, I think a lot of people would be familiar with this concept. Then you said turning that into a simple list, where you can basically have a frame per item. Just go through that in twenty seconds, boom, it’s easy to digest. Then you lead them to the next blog post, to the main blog post. Then you mentioned also something at the start. Maybe a quote or two?
Jason: Like a highlight, yep. Just like a movie trailer does. You pick out some of the most interesting parts, and people are like, “Oh, I want to hear the rest of this.” Or, “I want to read the rest of this.”
Louis: What else can you do with this? With the blog post? That’s three that you mentioned. Maybe there’s other stuff that you’ve seen that are quite nice you can start with.
Jason: A blog post can really cover a range of things. In fact, this is actually just a really good point in general. Which is, I think sometimes people think like, “Oh, video is like this.” They think of it like a one-off item on their marketing to-do checklist. They’re like, “Okay, I have a video. Now I’m done.”
But really, if you think about it, video has become a form of communication. Which means we need to, I like to say, we need to learn to speak video. Meaning we need to communicate regularly with video. Just like what we’re doing via email, or blog posts, or anything on social media where we’re regularly communicating. Any of that type of communication can be, actually I should say, should be a video.
If you think about what you’re doing, already doing on your blog, or already doing via email. You are teasing, announcing new things. You are inviting people to do something, or join something, or join an event. You are recapping something, maybe recapping something that happened. You’re demoing something. You’re explaining something. You’re teaching people.
All these different things that you’re already doing, whether it’s how-to’s, or recaps, or interviews, or announcements, or teasers, or newsletters, or overviews of something. That’s all perfect fodder for video. Whether you’re replicating that whole piece of content or using video to tease where they should go.
Louis: You gave quite a long list here, which is nice. Going back to use case, blog post, you can do a lot of stuff on it. Now, I know that one objection that keeps coming back. It’s usually also linked to the fact of repurposing content is:
I’m afraid the people will get bored because I’ve already posted something on the same subject. I don’t want to re-share a video that basically has the same content because people will just think, “Oh, shit, I’ve already seen this.”
What are your thoughts on that?
Jason: That’s a great question. I think we, as businesses, we need to be able to offer our content in messages and in multiple forms because really there are times and purposes and preferences for certain types of.
Just because video’s becoming more popular doesn’t mean people might not still be in their cars, driving to work, listening to podcasts, or needing to be on the subway and reading through something.
People aren’t going to force themselves to read something again. Or listen to something again if they don’t want to. So, you’re not doing them a disservice. You’re doing your audience a service by providing your message or your content and your information in multiple forms.
And listen, when you think about all the different people a lot, people are wired differently. Some people really want to spend a lot of time. Some people still prefer reading things, and so it’s great to have stuff in written format. There’s a lot of folks that also like video, or like visual content. There’s some people that really learn best by listening. I’m actually very audio oriented, and so I do best listening to stuff.
Video is now another way we can communicate and make sure that we can offer our content. I wouldn’t worry about people thinking, “Oh, why does he have an audio version of this and a video version of this.” They’ll find what works for them, and you’re providing value for them, and catering to their preferences.
Louis: Give me another use case beyond this. So repurposing content seems to be the lowest hanging fruit. The one that it’s simple, you can get started right now. And to summarize what you said, keep it simple. One message, one video.
Summarize a video into a list of things. It doesn’t have to be a live video. It could actually be stock photos, images, just simple text with animation, right? That would work. Or, as you said, as well it could be a teaser.
Let’s say now, we have that in our repurposing checklist. We do that every time. We republish. We put that on YouTube and Facebook and whatnot. What is, from your experience, the second use case you like more businesses or more people listening to do with video?
Jason: I think, once people have some confidence with video, and they start to see, “Oh, it really delivers real results, and I can do this.” The next area I love to recommend folks to think about, what are those things that you’re already repeating often in your day to day business.
These tend to be the most important things that people need to know, right? Because you’re talking about it all the time. So the most basic, right, is what is your business? What is it that you offer? How are you different? Or how are you unique?
Maybe you find yourself telling that story behind why your business exists. That sometimes gets to the benefits of what you offer. Whatever those things are about your business, those become more evergreen videos because they really cover the foundation of what you want most of your audience to know. Which is what you offer. How you’re different. And how they can benefit from that.
When you have that video, you can use that in all sorts of ways. On various social media platforms, you can pair it with email. You can make it as part of your email signature. You can include it on your homepage or landing pages, or about us page.
What’s great about those videos is they really have multiple uses and they can last a long time. Until you feel like however you talk about your business changes or evolves. So, think about those things that you talk about all the time, and realize that those are important things.
Another benefit for us as business owners, because we’re all really busy, is if we can capture some of that content in video, then maybe it helps reduce in our day. Having to reduce a lot of this repetition of stuff that we’re talking about. Let’s let video do the work.
Louis: That’s an interesting use case. It’s more like the foundation of your business, or the foundation of your marketing stuff. So, as you said, your brand story, it could be a very proposition. It could be benefits. The key benefits, the key reasons why you should buy from us. It could be an introduction to the business from the CEO perspective, who they are. So, there’s a lot of things.
Apart from the four I just listed, anything else that springs to mind when it comes to the foundations? Anything that you’ve seen that works well?
Jason: Certainly, those are the foundational things. But also I think foundational, but in a different sense is making sure that your audience is being kept up to date with what’s happening. If you’re the type of business that has regular new products, or regular new services, then you should make sure that you’re using video to make those announcements or to make that news.
Introducing our new spring catalog of whatever furniture, or fashion line, or whatever. Basically, similar to how you do a catalog or a newsletter is making sure you’re keeping people updated on all the new things that your business has to offer if that’s the type of business that you have.
Louis: To summarize, first use case, repurpose what you already have. A second use case, the foundations of your business, the things you stand to repeat about your business quite a lot. And the third one being more about newsletter type of video, new features, new things you are launching, new products, new events, and whatnot.
Jason: Yep. If we just created a video out of what we just talked about, you could create a fifteen-second out of what you just said. The top three ways to get started with video. Just repeat what you just said. So there you go.
Louis: Exactly. And this is the way to think about it. This is why I do this exercise whenever I interview interesting guests. It’s like trying to summarize things because I know listeners just forgot what you said ten minutes ago, which is fine. They have other stuff to think about, so it’s a nice way to repeat the message, right?
Which is important. Because in marketing, the more you repeat the message, as long as it’s clear, the better it’s going to be embedded into people’s mind, and the more likely they are to remember in the future to make, when they make a decision, right?
Louis: There is something I want to talk to you about. This is an ongoing battle I have in this space, the marketing space for the last few years. I even spoke at conferences about this very topic. I fucking hate stock photos, right?
Louis: And it’s something, I know I’m making too much of a point out of it. Some people don’t have the money resources to think about something else. I know your tool — like Canva — enables you to basically pull any stock photos, any stock videos from anywhere.
What is your advice when it comes to using stock photos, especially when you get started? What is the balance between stock photos versus your own stuff versus just text-based are your thoughts?
Jason: I actually have a lot of opinions about stock photos. In general, I think most businesses out there actually already have content. If you think about stuff that’s already on your website, or already on your Facebook page, or already on social media.
Especially if you’re any kind of business with anything physical or visual, you probably already have great photos of something of your business.
I’d say, there’s nothing more important than starting with showing what you really are about. I think the problem with stock stuff. If you overuse it or misuse it — it comes across whatever the opposite of genuine is.
Jason: Disingenuous. Fake. Right.
Louis: Fake news.
Jason: Bullshit. And in today’s day and age, where it’s just exactly what I said. Just over information, lots of misinformation. I think that one of the most important things today as a business is to make sure that you are genuine because authenticity equals trust, right. And there’s this great quote by Zig Ziglar. I think is his name.
He says, “If people like you, they’ll listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”
I think that’s totally true. I think he said that twenty years ago, but it’s especially true today, right. Back to wherever you can figure out how to be authentic in your videos. And there’s nothing more authentic than showing you. Making it human and showing yourself. Whether that’s you, the founder, or you the business owner, or someone on your team, because I think that just offers a lot of authenticity.
But if you’re not comfortable or you don’t have people, find some of your customers that love you. Your raving fans. Or someone willing to talk about it because three’s nothing more genuine than hearing an actual customer, right. Everyone hates marketers, so what’s better than hearing an actual customer talk about your business? That’s great too.
To me, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a place. But sometimes you just need a piece of stock image to compliment something because you don’t have that picture of whatever it is you need. So, that’s fine to use. But I think, don’t overuse it.
The other thing I hate when marketers do — and you see this with stock all the time — is when they try to be funny, and they’re not funny and their brand isn’t supposed to be funny. I say, authenticity is more important than hilarity. Don’t try to be funny or cute if that’s not you, that’s not your brand.
Because there’s nothing that smells like bullshit more than when people are trying to be funny and they aren’t. It comes across really fake and I think it can actually have negative consequences to your brand when you’re trying to be funny and you’re not.
Don’t be tempted to go down that route. Unless that’s part of your brand or unless you know that you’re already hilarious. Then great. Embrace that. But I see way too many companies trying to be funny when they definitely should not be, and it actually makes me think worse of them.
Louis: So how to stay authentic, I guess, is what you mentioned. Making sure that you don’t try to be funny when you’re not. Making sure that you show your face, and you be authentic in the way you show that. Using customers, is the third one you mentioned.
Jason: Yeah. Humanizing your message or your content however you can. Either with you or someone on your team. Yeah, and if you can get customers. There’s nothing more powerful than hearing customers rave about whatever your product or service is.
Louis: The fourth thing you mentioned is not to overuse stock photos. To be cautious with them. It’s okay to use when you have a gap. Let’s say you have a video and you want to illustrate a point. You certainly don’t have an image for it. You can find it, and it’s okay to find one.
But I may add a tip there. When it comes to stock photos, is making sure that you don’t simply just Google Image the fucking, whatever it is that you want. And grab the first one from Google Image because chances are it’s been used tens of thousands of times by other brands. And those other brands might have a shitty reputation.
The association in people’s minds, and might have seen something in another website, it could be very bad. Try to find some stock photos that are rare, or that you have to pay for. I think that’s one of the main things, right. If you have to pay for it, right, even if it’s two dollars or something, to bury the rest of it have better higher.
Jason: The great thing with a lot of these tools, like Animoto is, there actually is access to a whole library around Getty stuff. So you don’t have to pay extra for it. But I think your tip is really important, which is, I think we talk about stock. It has a little bit of a bad rap because there is a lot of shitty, cheesy looking stock stuff. But not all of it is bad.
There’s more and more, because I think people are recognizing this need. People don’t like all that cheesy looking stuff, like a cat against a white background, with a fake product looking thing. I think more and more people are really trying to offer more “real” looking stuff.
Take the time to pick something that not only doesn’t look cheesy, but that doesn’t look stock. But maybe even something that looks like you might have even taken it, or that looks like it could be part of your company’s stuff.
And I think there’s enough variety out there that it might take a little bit of extra effort — but not that much. Find something that looks not cheesy and not stock that might fit your look and your brand.
Louis: We mentioned a pet peeve. You mentioned yet a shitty one. What are the other big mistake you see companies, individuals, doing when they video? You mentioned a few, but maybe you can repeat some of them. Maybe new ones that you have.
Jason: We’re getting into best practices or things to avoid when making your video. We talked about keeping it short. We talked about keeping it authentic and trying to humanize it. I think a couple more tips are, remembering that people are on mobile, mostly on mobile these days. Is make your videos square.
If you think about the difference of a square video compared to a regular landscape video is that you actually take up 78% more space in your feed. Just the fact that the video is that much bigger means it performs better. People watch more of it. It gets more engagement. Use square video.
I think by this time next year, we might be talking more about vertical. But I think people are still a little bit in experimental mode with vertical. So again, I don’t think most of us as businesses need to be on the bleeding edge of experimenting.
Even if you watch movie trailers now on social, they’re actually doing them square. And you would think that if anyone was loyal to the widescreen format it would be movie houses. But they know that square performs better, so that’s why they’re doing them square.
That’s another tip. And then I think my last big tip is, just remember that those first few seconds, I’d say even that first second, really counts. Because you think about what people are doing. They’re flying through their news feed. Mark Zuckerberg calls it thumb stopping. Basically, you need to have something in that first second, or that first half second, that really catches people’s attention.
What I like to say is don’t save the best for last. Save the best for first. This is not like a movie, where you know that you can save the big grand finale for the end. Take that most important part, put it up front, and make sure that every second counts so that you can get as many people watching that video as possible.
You’ll hear some people out there saying, “Think like a movie director. Think like Steven Spielberg.” Definitely, do not do that. This is a totally different world. You’re about catching and keeping people’s attention. Value their time. Make it efficient, and hook them with that first second.
I think those are probably some of the most important best practices to remind folks.
Louis: That’s a really nice point. I hadn’t thought about it, so I think it’s a nice thing to dive into a bit just for a second. You save the best for first but I know there must be some examples you have in mind. Or specific things you need to do to make sure that this first second is really something that people pay attention to without being sleazy or aggressive in your video.
Apart from the best first, which makes sense, how does it look like? What should you do to make this first second stick?
Jason: I’ll give a few examples of things I’ve seen off the top of my head that may be able to spark some ideas in folks. There’s a lot of businesses out there where they provide some kind of service or there’s always this great before and after.
Whether it’s something beauty related, or renovation related, or home related, or whatever. I think one tactic you see is people will start that video with a quick before and after, so you see that transformation. Then you’re hooked. You’re like, “Oh, I want to see how this person got from this to this,” or “How this kitchen got from this to this.” Then you’ll take the time to watch it.
You start with that payoff for the first second or two. Then you get into it. That’s one example. Starting with the best to hook people in. Another way which is just slightly different. You start with some text or start with a question that just hooks people’s attention.
Start with a question because people will then want to know what the answer is. Something related is, the reason why I think lists are so popular, like Top Three Ways, or Top Five Ways To Get Started With Video, or the Top Five Tools for Marketing Your Business. People just want to know what number one is.
Don’t start with number one. You start with number five, but you’re basically saying top five. So, that hooks people in. Then you start making your way to one. It makes people want to watch more and more. But just that hook of either that question, or something that you’re going to get to, is a great way to keep people interested in watching.
Then I think just another tip is — if it’s not obvious — if you have ten photos in your video or if you have a long video clip. Just find that one best photo, or that one best two or three seconds of whatever video clip, and just start with that. Even if you repeat it later. Just start with that.
In the same way we listen to podcasts. Sometimes hosts will just preview a bit, kind of tease some of the most interesting stuff. And that just gets you hooked so that you keep watching. So, take some of those interesting parts and put them up front.
Louis: One thing that I would recommend. And that’s not my idea whatsoever — it’s based on the most successful direct response marketers in the world, like on TV and all of those people. They all say to keep a swipe file.
If you see an interesting video that caught your eye, and you actually stopped to watch it. Save it. Save the link. Put it in a text file. I use notes for Mac and iPhone. Whenever I see something, I put the arrow.
And it actually forces, you can see patterns. You can get ideas. It’s obviously difficult for you. It’s a difficult question for you, Jason, to come up with stuff like this. Because there are so-called bast practices. And best practices are past practices in a sense.
Instead, definitely look into what hooks you. What things you find interesting. And trying to reverse engineer the process. So you can come up with ideas yourself. Because, yeah. Following best practices has its limits. You can only reach local maximum after a while.
Jason: I would say, since we’re talking about things that we hate that marketers do, there’s a lot of similarities of what people do. You hear all about click bait. There’s ways that you can do it that just feel again, disingenuous, or like you’re just trying to trick people to click or keep watching.
When people, “You won’t believe what this girl did after taking this picture.” Or whatever. There’s gimmicky ways to try to hook people in. So, don’t fall into that trap. It’s very similar to other people’s content. Just think about what genuinely is going to be interesting and valuable for your audience. If you stick to that, in the long run you’ll win as a business.
Louis: Yep. I’m into that. I think we’ve covered a lot of ground in 37-38 minutes. So thanks, Jason, for that. For going through this exercise, and I think listeners have a lot of stuff to take home and get started straight away, which is nice. I like those small steps. People can get started, and they can use your software, Animoto, to do that if they want to.
I’m not getting any money from you, just we’re clear on that. I’m mentioning that because I think it fits quite in our conversation. Talking about Animoto as a business, now. How many employees do you have so far right now?
Jason: We have about a hundred folks here in New York City.
Louis: That’s quite impressive. And you strike me as someone who’s genuinely nice, but very driven, I would say. Or busy to keep a company for ten years, 100 employees. To develop a software with the sea of competition out there. It must be quite tough every day.
I’m curious to hear your story. And this story can be answered, I suppose, in one question. If you have to pick one event, one thing that made you the person, the entrepreneur you are today, what would it be?
Jason: Wow. The first thing that comes to mind is, it’s actually before Animoto, when I was working in TV as a producer for Comedy Central. Actually, this was getting started working in TV. I had to do a lot of shit work.
In fact, the first show I worked on was called Cranking Gears. It was basically puppets re-enacting prank phone calls by all these comedians. Except for I didn’t ever get to work with these cool comedians. Literally, I drove a white van around New York City, having to make pickups and deliveries and go get puppet parts. And go to the grocery store for random men.
This one day, I had to go to the grocery store to go pick out stuff that would make good puppet vomit. I was sitting there trying to choose between frozen peas and frozen corn or vegetables or something, and I’m just like, “I’m twenty-five. I went to a good school. What am I doing?”
I started to cry. I’m like, “What am I doing with my life? I’m here in a grocery store picking out stuff for puppet vomit.” I think that moment for me, I just realized even in super sexy industries, like TV, or even starting your own business, there’s always shit work to do.
I just had to say, “Listen, I’m not going to be above doing anything. It doesn’t matter what I’m asked to do. I will do it in the same way that I would do something I thought was important.”
And I think what I learned along the way, and especially Animoto, is that if you’re just a person of your word, and you just know how to be reliable, and dependable. And if you say you’re going to do something, you do it.
You surround yourself by those type of people, that they don’t give you a bunch of excuses why they can’t do something because they think it’s beneath them. You just surround yourself by people who are reliable, dependable, are people of their words and get stuff done. That’s the most important thing.
For me, that moment, just stuck for my whole life. I could have just given up and gone and tried something else, but I just like, I’m going to treat the small things just as important as the big things.
Louis: Did you take a decision after this episode? Did you take a decision to leave? What was the next period?
Jason: No, no. I stayed and I said, “You know what, it doesn’t matter what I’m asked to do. I’m going to do it.” My goal was just to make myself as reliable and dependable as possible. What’s great about TV is it’s pretty meritocratic. I was able to make my way up pretty quickly in TV and become a producer and pitch my own shows and stuff like that.
It really is just saying, 90% of the work might not be that interesting or sexy, but I’m going to treat it like it is and just do my best.
Louis: What was the most successful program you pitched? What is the show in your past career that you’re the proudest?
Jason: There’s a lot of shows I’m not so proud of, but there’s a lot of crappy stuff on Comedy Central and MTV. But I got to work on several video music awards. A lot of the video stuff on behind the stage when people are performing. And before, when they’re showcasing the nominees and stuff like that. Video Music Awards is semi-respectful.
There’s some funny stuff on Comedy Central, like the Showbiz Show with David Spade. Or the Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, stuff like that. But certainly, I think the Video Music Awards is probably the biggest show that I got to work on for a few years. Which was fun.
Louis: Switching gears again to go back to Animoto as the business now. If you had to select the biggest marketing fuck up of Animoto today? So, it’s been ten years that you’re in business. Eleven years roughly. I’m pretty sure you made some major mistake marketing wise.
If you are to pick one that would be interesting, not only in terms of people maybe laughing about it inside, but also learning from it, what would it be?
Jason: We’ve never made any mistakes. No, it’s hard to choose. Certainly, there are a lot of crazy stories in the early days of Facebook. Where we’re experimenting, doing all these things with auto-generated videos, which we thought was a cool idea.
“Hey, why don’t people have photos and video clips. Let’s auto-generate videos, and send it to them.” And it turns out, they actually completely were freaked out by that. I think we got a lot of nasty emails about that. Where we thought we were doing something technically really cool.
I think probably the biggest learning along the way for us was learning about focus. Just a couple years into Animoto, we had so many different types of people using Animoto. Which for a few years we thought was actually great. Then I think we actually realized that when you have a little bit of everyone using you, it’s almost the same as no one really using you.
We were just being pulled in so many different directions because we just really have any real focus. We were just nerding out on the product and technology all day. At some point we had to — I’ll say grow up — and say, “Hey, listen. Would we rather be kind of good at a lot of things? Or best in the world at one thing?” If we’re going to be best in the world at one thing, we need to really choose that.
That’s when we really started to focus on social media and businesses, and we really relate to small businesses and their challenges. We took a lot of inspiration from businesses like Canva and Squarespace and Wix. We’re like, “Yep. You know what? We want to be the Canva of video. We want to be the Squarespace of video. And we’re going to embrace this whole builder paradigm.” Here we are.
So that whole story of just trying to be really be focused and genuinely customer-centric, because I think a lot of people talk the talk about being customer-centric, but we’ve really had to learn how to grow up from being technology nerds, to really actually being customer focused and customer-centric.
I wish we did that a long time ago, but in many ways having learned a lot of things the hard way is what really makes us value it today.
Louis: I think it’s a nice principle for people to use in marketing. That’s the basis of a marketing too. As you say, if you serve everyone you serve no one. And picking your battles. Saying no.
I think the stoicism makes it — I’m going to butcher the principle behind it. Basically, it says you need to take as much attention to the things you choose to do, as much as the things you chose not to do.
This is something I’m trying to do in my daily life work, personal life, career. I chose, for example, to remove all of the social apps from my phone, emails and stuff. I only keep the bare minimum. There’s many choices I make in my day to day that prevents me from basically not doing things.
What you said is important there, as well as marketing. I think, most companies, the ones that are most successful, they all picked the things they are not going to do as well as the things they are going to do. And that takes some guts.
Jason: Yeah. And there’s been a lot of benefits of that, too, because it’s not just running a better business. But even operationally, the fact that when we’re trying to prioritize what to do, or how to improve the product, we have a clear direction instead of being pulled in all these different directions. With sharks reflects on your product experience.
If you’re starting to just build this Frankenstein patchwork quilt of an experience. But even internally, we used to hear in our early days. I guess I’m admitting a bunch of stuff here but people would say, “Well, we don’t really know if what we’re working on is the most important thing.”
But now that fact that everyone has a singular direction, they can all feel confident that they are working on the most important thing because we’re all moving in the same direction. Just people’s energy and motivation to do their best work has increased a lot with focus because everyone knows, “Yep, I’m part of the big picture here.”
Louis: I think I know the answer to this question, but what do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next five, ten years, fifty years?
Jason: It would be bad for me to say it, video. Like I said earlier, I really do think we’re still in the early days of video. And it’s going to evolve, but just video as a form of communication. It’s like investing in learning a new language. It’s only growing in importance, and if we’re not starting now, then we might get behind the curve here.
Social platforms might change. Mobile’s going to get smaller. These phones are going to start folding up, and everything. But video is only going to keep growing in importance. So, investing in getting good at communicating with video will continue to be a wise investment ten, twenty, fifty years from now.
Louis: What are the top three resources you would recommend our listeners? It could be anything. Like a podcast, a book, a conference, a tool.
Jason: Let’s see. I’ll throw out a couple. Just in terms of getting focused, since I was talking about that, we use this framework called OKR’s. Which I think Google and other companies … But it’s basically objectives and key results.
We do it on an annual basis and a quarterly basis. You basically pick your objectives, your top priorities, and then what’s important. As you understand what does success look like.
And you have a way of actually measuring that. So, that’s the key results. At the end of every quarter, at the end of every year, reflect on what is that we said was most important, and how did we say we’re going to measure it. And how did we stack up? And it’s okay to not make goals all the time because you learn a lot that way.
I think a lot of companies out there are shy about making goals because they’re just like, “Well, I never done this before, so how do I know?” But you’re not going to learn until you just start doing it.
Then a couple books that are like Bibles for us here are, let’s see, one is called The Advantage. Which is the importance of organizational health, which I highly recommend. And then it talks a lot about how you can get your company to focus.
Then the other is called Radical Candor. Which is about basically creating a culture of candor and just being able to give people honest feedback. I’ve found at a lot of companies, people are shy about giving people feedback because they don’t want to hurt their feelings or whatever. But it’s really important to make sure you can be open and honest with everyone around you.
Those two books — The Advantage and Radical Candor — are like Bibles for us here.
Louis: I can vouch for the second one. I didn’t read the first one, but I can vouch for Radical Candor. People are sometimes scared of giving feedback but also the other way around. Sometimes people are very, way too aggressive about the way they treat others. Which is the other end of the spectrum.
Jason: And the book addresses both. How to do it tactfully, but also make sure you’re doing it. Yep.
Louis: Fantastic read. Jason, you’ve been absolutely fantastic. I think you were able to distill a lot of interesting tips and steps. Methods that people can use today. But also maybe in five years, ten years, fifty years, because I think they are relevant into the term of marketing principles, which I very much liked. So, thank you so much for going through all of that.
Last question for you is the obvious one. Where can listeners connect with you, learn from you, and maybe sign up to Animoto?
Jason: I work for Animoto, so animoto.com. I’m all over social media so feel free to get in touch. But I thought what I’d do is maybe I’ll set up a page, if people want to try to get my information. So how about we make it animoto.com/everyonehatesmarketers.
Jason: And I’ll put my contact information in there, and maybe some helpful links. Whether you’re just getting started with video, or you’re trying to figure out how to take things to the next level, don’t be shy about getting in touch.
I love talking to businesses, and just hearing your challenges and what you’re trying to do. Don’t be shy about getting in touch. I’ll set up that page. Animoto.com/everyonehatesmarketers.
Thanks for that. I’ll share the link in the email and newsletter. I’ll also share the link in the episode page as of today because this piece is published today obviously. You’re going to be able to grab the link.
Thanks again, Jason, for your time and all your insights.
Jason: Awesome. Thanks, Louis. It’s been a real pleasure.