Content Marketing is an area that I wanted to dig into for quite some time now. Any online business needs to use content marketing to be able to build a relationship with customers. Any move that I do online without having a clear content strategy will risk to fail or at least not be as effective as it could if I used the tactics of content marketing.
A couple of months ago I stumbled upon a video series on Shopify’s YouTube channel, that explains it very well and breaks it down into steps that are easy to follow and apply. Starting today and for a few days from now, I am planning to watch the series, take notes, and test to apply the tactics myself. Since I am running a couple websites already, I could use one of the websites as a guinea pig to test on.
The website that I decided to use for testing is in the fashion industry, with the main goal to provide fashion advice and outfit ideas for women. It doesn’t get a lot of traffic, and would benefit from a boost that my efforts will hopefully generate.
Ezra Firestone, the host of the video series, recommends using video content as the main format, mainly because it can be easily transformed into other media formats such as images and text, but also because video generates the best user engagement.
YouTube Video Production
I have never created a video before and was very excited to get started. The idea was to create a “top ten summer outfits” video slideshow. The only thing I needed to do was to select 10 outfits from my website and play them in the video, with some background music to make it more fun to watch. Sounds easy enough, and I thought it would take me an hour or two. Well, I was wrong… I have spent about 5 hours and have gone about half way so far. As it often happens, I have underestimated the amount of effort a small project like this would require.
To begin with, I went to my website and selected the ten outfits, which took about 5 minutes. Then I proceeded to write text for the blog post that will accompany the video. Ezra advises to transcribe all video content and add it to the blog post so that people who don’t want to watch the video can read it. More importantly, the text will be accessible to search engines and will help the blog post to appear in Google’s search results. Since I wasn’t planning on doing a voice over, I had to write the text for the blog post, which took about an hour.
For the video, I decided to use iMovie that came pre-installed with my Mac. I settled for one of the video templates that came with iMovie, that had cool effects and transitions. Since I have never used iMovie before, it took me awhile to figure out how to add the images, music, and learn where all the controls were. After a couple of trial and errors, I decided to watch a YouTube video tutorial, which was very helpful.
I realized that the image format that I used for the outfit images wouldn’t work for the video. My images were in a portrait orientation, and a YouTube video is, of course, in the landscape, so the images had ugly black borders on the sides.
I could leave it that way, of course, but since I wanted to create a good production quality video, I decided that I needed to create images in the right format. That would require opening up the original Photoshop files, and re-arranging the items to fit with the video format.
The next step was to add background music. I didn’t want to pay for music and did a search for royalty-free music that could be used on YouTube. I found a great site that provides free music that can be used even for commercial purposes, as long as I added a contribution message in the video, which I will be happy to do.
Another task was to add a watermark to the video. Again, I had to do research and watch a video tutorial on how to do it. It was surprisingly easy: I had to create a file in Photoshop with the same size as my video (1920 by 1080 pixels), with a transparent background, and place the logo of my website in a corner. Then I saved the image as a PNG file, and added it to the video, stretching it over most of the video duration. Since the image had a transparent background, the main video content would show through, and the watermark would appear nicely in the corner. I actually went back and added a bit of transparency to the logo, so that the video would show through the logo.
Then, of course, I had to create an “outro” – the part of the video that shows at the end, usually with links to previous videos, “subscribe” buttons etc. I created a simple image, with a pretty background, logo, and a website URL. Since this would be my first video I didn’t have any previous videos to link to, so I kept it simple.
This is where I am in the process so far, I am going to call it a day and continue tomorrow. I will have to spend several hours tomorrow to complete the whole thing. Of course, this first video took longer because I had to do research, and create assets such as watermark and outro that can be re-used in consequent videos. So hopefully the next video won’t take that long.
Today’s experience with video production is actually a great example of the tendency to under-estimate the time efforts that we all are guilty of. I am working for myself now, and I don’t need to fill out time reports or billable hours for clients. But I am making choices on what to spend my time on, and every hour spent on an activity has a price tag on. The price may not realize itself in hourly fees and such, but it doesn’t mean that my time is free. At the very least, every time I choose to work on an activity, I automatically reject working on an alternative activity. For example, by choosing to work for myself, I chose not to work for my employer and basically rejected the salary that I was being paid at my day job. Hence, my last salary is the minimum price that I should put on my time.
If you look at it this way, it becomes very important to track how much time I am spending on all these activities. So I decided to use a time-tracking tool and track the time I spend on every task.
Harvest App for Time Tracking
The implementation is quite easy: I am using Asana for all my tasks, and Asana has an integration with Harvest, which is an online time tracking tool. The only thing I needed to do was to sign up for a free Harvest account, and then enable the Harvest app from within my Asana settings. This adds a little clock icon to every task in Asana, and when I click the icon, I can start tracking time directly from within Asana. Very convenient!
I can choose to either start a timer or make a manual time entry. So far I have been using a combination of both. It will be very interesting to see how many hours I will spend on various tasks, and put a price tag on every “free” activity.
Today was a productive day, I learned the basics of content marketing, and started creating video content for my website. I will finish creating the video tomorrow, and will proceed to the next step in the Content Marketing lesson series.