Posted by Darrin Wasniewski, Organization and Promotion Specialist

power of videoThe Power of Video
The medium of video has remarkable power to inform, entertain, persuade and captivate. For evidence of this, look no further than our children. It was an eye-opening moment when I realized that for my own children, it wasn’t movies and shows on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon that were mesmerizing them the most—rather, YouTube was their platform of choice. They’ll watch anything from others playing video games, to product demonstrations, to filmed experiences where they can live vicariously through the screen. As it turns out, our kids are not much different from the average consumer. According to Google, 60 percent of people are watching video when choosing where to travel. In short, video is a must in promoting your district—but I understand that it can be paralyzing for those who are new to the medium. For this reason, I wanted to share some of what I learned in a recent #tourismchat on Twitter that covered incorporating video into your destination marketing strategy. Leroy Bridges of Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater led destination marketing professionals from around the world in an hour-long conversation of video best practices.

Where to Begin
The practitioners on the chat recognized that there both video shot on a mobile device and professional footage have their uses. All agreed that video is storytelling, so planning in advance is crucial to effective communication of a message. In general, the larger organizations are the ones that utilize professional videographers, whose copious footage can be edited and recombined to tell different stories. Mr. Bridges, however, shared that he, “loves local teams who can run & gun for cheap. Too polished = ad.” However, the spheres of mobile and professional are converging, as today’s mobile phones have the capability to shoot high-quality video, especially when paired with accessories to enhance production values—as in this example shot on an iPhone 7 with the aid of gimbal stabilizer, or using a wired microphone to capture voice. Those on #tourismchat suggest that organizations use a professional videographer when possible, but don’t hesitate to use video at all just because budget doesn’t allow hiring a pro. The power of video is too important to ignore, and amateur videos’ authenticity and rawness—qualities appreciated by viewers—make up for what these videos lack in polish.

Platforms: Facebook vs. YouTube
Participants all agreed on the value of both platforms. When you upload a video directly to Facebook, as opposed to sharing a link in a post, it is considered native to Facebook. This yields better results for Facebook’s viewing algorithms and maximum reach. In fact, there was unanimous consent that little value exists in sharing links to videos hosted elsewhere (e.g., sharing a YouTube link to Facebook). YouTube’s strength, however, is better discovery on the internet and search engine optimization (SEO) results. Remember, YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world, and is owned by the #1 search engine, Google. So, there is value to having videos on YouTube—but if the same video is posted to Facebook, it should be uploaded there directly, rather than posted as a link. When planning videos to share on Facebook, keep in mind that those with the most views (measured as anyone viewing for 3 seconds or longer) are under two minutes long and have captions. YouTube users will usually tolerate longer videos as long as the content is engaging. Note that YouTube counts a video as having been viewed if the user watches for 15 seconds or longer. Within the larger platforms, there are also different opportunities for video presentation: standard Facebook video, Facebook 360 video and Facebook Live, for instance. Each allow you a targeted opportunity to share your story.

What Should You Share?
Remember, video is storytelling, so place yourself in your visitor’s shoes. What would they find interesting about your downtown or district? A while back I shared on the Wisconsin Downtown Development Chatter Group about Airbnb’s approach to experiences, which the company highlights on its website homepage as value-added services. A quick glance at the highlighted offerings shows a focus on experiencing a destination as a local would: shopping at a local market, a tour of local dance clubs, a bike tour of neighborhoods. These services easily translate to your community. Just ask the question: What types of experiences would you highlight for visitors that would entice them to visit?

Now Get Out There!
As with social media itself, video delivery is evolving. These changes can be challenging to keep up with, but we must not let that stop us from trying. You do your district, and yourself, a disservice by not developing a video strategy. In the early days of social media when I was hesitant about creating a page for my Main Street America organization for fear of messing it up, a wise colleague prodded me to just dive right in. You are not going to do anything that would create a worldwide backlash, she said, and I guarantee that you will learn something new each time. So that is my advice to you, take that first step.