Online audiences are getting sharper at quickly judging what content is worth their time and what isn't. The well-publicized Microsoft study citing the average person's online attention span as eight seconds — a second less than that of a goldfish — is humorous... as long as it's not your content they are supposed to absorb. As content publishers we all have to up our game.
It's both intuitive and statistically documented that visual content is more engaging than straight text. According to Ekaterina Walter, author of The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand, "Viewers spend 100% more time on web pages with videos" and "Information presented both visually and verbally has five times the retention value of text alone."
Assuming we have agreement on the power of video and utility of visual content, let's examine the rapidly growing and exciting medium of animated video: when to use it, why to use it, where to use it and what are the best practices.
When to Use Animated Video
Animated video has a multitude of applications, pretty much whatever your imagination allows. Here are a few for you to consider:
- Product launch - You're introducing a new product and want to make a splash on your website, blog and/or social media.
- Corporate Launch - You're a start up and you want to get people excited about what you do and the value you provide. A 30-second, fast moving animated video is a great solution.
- Corporate Branding or Rebranding - A natural storytelling tool, animated video is both a visual design and a messaging medium; add motion to the picture and you have the Trifecta.
- Training - Breaking content into a visual series of ideas or steps, with fluid motion, conveys instructions in a way that will be retained.
- Distilling Complexity - By distilling complex content, animated video can be used as a nurturing tool to present your key concepts, which will encourage your audiences to want to dig into deeper levels of your content.
Why to Use Animated Video
- To reach a particular audience - When crafting any form of online content, start with the audience you are trying to attract or influence. Be sure you understand their needs and wishes. Put yourself in their shoes.
- To solve a particular problem - Animated video is an excellent tool for "showing" rather than "telling" how you solve a problem.
- For strategic visual storytelling - The act of creating a storyboard is similar to a great writer with the ability to edit her writing to it's essence, leaving only what is necessary to convey the concept; nothing extraneous.
- To define "value" - Think less about providing detailed, step-by-step explanations and more about using imagery and voice over to give life to your value proposition.
- To explain a new concept - A sub-genre of animated video is known as the "Explainer Video," which can be anything from the "whiteboard videos, to screen-capture videos using Camtasia or other tools to the often cartoonish "how-to" videos we've all seen. But it is also a terrific medium for introducing a new idea about a company, product, service, etc.
- To motivate - A great story with a beginning middle and end, guided by a powerful voice, is highly engaging. Maybe that's why "animated videos increase conversion rates by 20%," according to Unbounce.
- To save $ - It's generally less expensive and easier to edit and update than conventional video: no actors, no locations, no permits, no weather, no fuss.
- For Easier Multiple Language Integration - For global organizations, with good planning, the process of creating multiple language versions of an animated video is simpler and less expensive than with conventional video.
Where to Use Animated Video
- Website Design - While it's obvious that the website is prime real estate, an animated video can serve many purposes such as: big branding splash on top home page panel; product presentations on interior pages; About Us page to tell the corporate story; the blog in which you're building thought leadership.
- Social media - Repurposing animated video for social media is an effective way of expanding your audience. The rule of thumb here is "shorter is better." Lengthy explainer videos are not what people are likely to retweet.
- Tradeshow - Capturing the attention of passersby or educating booth visitors are two important applications. Cutting through the clutter and telling a concise story is exactly what is needed in these environments. Often, just catching someone's eye creates the entree to start a conversation.
- Sales presentations - A real way that marketers can help sales is by providing compelling visual messaging tools to aid the sales process. Beginning a sales presentation with a quick animation to establish high-level value will help an audience be more receptive to a subsequent sales conversation.
What are the Best Practices?
- Always make sure there is a direct correlation to any words appearing on screen to those being spoken in the voice over. If the voice over is saying one thing and you're trying to read different phrasing on screen, it's confusing.
- Minimize the amount of actual text that appears on screen. It will make it easier to reuse across media and to create multiple language versions.
- Animated videos are often linear in construction. While they don't have to be, there does need to be a setup (of the problem), and a punch. Begin by communicating a problem or issue that resonates with the viewer, make a nice transition and then hit the viewer with the solution (punch).
- Think conceptually, focus on large ideas you need to convey, rather than details and minutiae, which are more easily handled in real conversation.
- For social media applications, consider making a closed caption version that works without sound.
With the Why, When, Where and What of animated video, we've presented a lot of idea-rich content in text form, albeit with a few images — exactly what we advise against doing! Time for me to drink the Kool-Aid!