The demand for online video content from publishers and consumers has been growing steadily for years. In the United states, 78 percent of internet users say they watch online video. In July of 2006, a little over a year after YouTube launched, 65,000 videos were being uploaded every day. Now that number is in the hundreds of thousands. Over 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Cisco estimates that global video traffic, as a percentage of all consumer internet traffic, will increase from 70 percent (in 2015) to 82 percent in 2020.
YouTube’s library and reach are enormous, but it is just one platform. Publishers and individuals can upload video to Facebook and post Vine videos to Twitter. And YouTube also faces competition from services like Twitter’s Periscope, YouNow and Facebook Live, all of which offer live streaming services.
Advertisers have, of course, taken notice of these trends. According to statistics published by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), spending on digital video ads has increased 114 percent since 2014, and spending by marketers on digital video programming has increased 85 percent over the same time period.
Law firms face the same troubles as other businesses when divvying up marketing budgets. Traditional outlets like television and print-based advertising are reaching fewer people and are at the same time becoming more expensive as publishers struggle to make up for lost revenue. Online video is more cost-friendly, but it is difficult to build an online audience. Some brands have thrived. Red Bull, for example, has over 5 million YouTube subscribers.
Lawyers, however, face an additional hurdle: much law-related content does not translate easily to social media and blogs. Red Bull has built its extreme brand well, and it can post brand-relevant videos like record-breaking off-road truck jumps and gravity-defying cliff dives to social media. Lawyers encounter a bit more difficulty when picking topics, producing and curating both relevant and appropriate content.
On top of that, video is hard.
Writing is a craft attorneys understand. And while writing for the web is different than much of the writing a lawyer will do in his or her professional life, it is, at least, a familiar medium. Video on the other hand, when done correctly, takes a crew to carefully monitor lighting and sound, and a subject who is comfortable being filmed (or who can at least fake it).
This is not to say that lawyers should not use videos for marketing. People watch videos, and law firms can benefit from producing both original video content and video ads. But the investment should be made with knowledge of how to get the biggest impact from a video budget.
According to a study by FreeWheel Media, the type of video on which you are advertising matters. The study, which looked at video ad viewing in the first quarter of 2016, found that ads on long-form videos had a 95 percent completion rate. Mid-form videos delivered an 80 percent completion rate, and short-form videos a 71 percent completion rate.
Overall, that is good news. Even the lowest performing segment, ads on short-form videos, saw a 71 percent completion rate, a positive statistic for anyone thinking of delving into video advertising.
The study also looked at how video content was being delivered. It found that ads watched on over-the-top (OTT) devices, like internet connected TVs, were completed at 93 percent. And, ads on live videos saw a 94 percent completion rate.
The difference between short, medium and long-form video
Short-form video is what comes to mind most readily when people imagine digital video. Short-form videos are zero to five minutes long and usually made for web. Music videos, short how-to tips and clips of longer shows are examples of videos that fit into this category.
Mid-form video is five to 20 minutes long. Some mid-form videos are extended clips, others are full web series shows.
Long-form video is any video over 20 minutes. Long-form videos can be live streams, full seminars, full programs, movies or sporting events.
Streaming video is a growing trend that offers a potential opportunity for law firms, although it is not without its drawbacks. Three platforms have emerged as leaders in the streaming video space: Facebook Live, YouNow and Periscope. All three let users broadcast live from pretty much anywhere in the world with only a recording device, like a cell phone, and an internet connection.
Opportunities for attorneys
The study released by FreeWheel media, in conjunction with online video viewer statistics, reveal several video opportunities for lawyers.
1. In-stream advertising. In August, Facebook reported that it had started testing mid-roll video ads on it’s Facebook Live platform. Since ads before and during live streaming content see a high completion rate, this is a potential opportunity to reach new clients.
Other streaming opportunities are available. Twitter offers in-stream ads and has heavily invested in relationships with big sports leagues, like the NFL, for live stream content. Google also allows advertising within live events. And services like Amazon Video offer in-stream spots.
The caveat to in-stream advertising is that firms must take care to screen the types of videos on which ads are placed. Some live videos cover controversial subjects, while others would simply be inappropriate for a law firm advertisement. The potential for an ad to be displayed during the live broadcast of socially sensitive material has caused some brands to opt out of in-stream advertising entirely until controls are more concretely tested and established.
2. YouTube remarketing. Remarketing campaigns show ads to people who have already visited your website. You can target remarketing ads to very specific segments, like people who have visited a certain page or filled out a particular form. Remarketing ads have a higher conversion rate than other types of paid ads, since the user had already expressed an interest in your services.
Remarketing traditionally takes the form of text and banner ads, but Google also offers retargeting for YouTube videos. This gives your firm another opportunity to explain why people should hire you. The video format lets you to talk directly to potential clients, and remarketing filters allow you to tailor the subject to match very specific user demographics.
3. Streaming content. It may seem a bit scary, but lawyers can take advantage streaming by producing their own live content. Since the content is live, viewers are more forgiving of quality issues like lighting and sound, which makes live streaming more accessible and affordable.
Live videos let you cover up-to-date topics and interact with viewers, who can comment during the stream in real time. In fact, you should encourage watchers to comment. This gives you insight into people’s concerns, which can be valuable for creating other types of marketing content. Live videos also make you appear accessible and by extension trustworthy. You can even create a series of live videos, or post regular “thoughts” rather than always posting written content. Regular publishing is more likely to draw a following.
4. Long-form video content. Producing long-form content will take more time and cost more than live streaming, but it can be worth the investment. Produced video allows you to showcase your firm and your knowledge in a controlled environment. And long-form video provides the opportunity to cover a topic in-depth, something in which internet users consistently express interest.
5. Non-traditional television advertising. Consumers are increasingly using apps like Hulu, Amazon Video and Pluto.TV to watch television at home. Many of these services offer in-stream videos. Advertising on an app like Hulu is less expensive than paying for a cable television slot and with the right planning can deliver an ad to a more precise audience.
The internet has changed the way people do many things, including the way by which we consume video. Law firms can and should take advantage of the exposure offered by video content and video ads.