The great thing about the Internet in 2007 is the ability to integrate several different types of media into your site. Faster internet connections, cheap bandwidth and free third party multimedia hosting services have made it easy for even the smallest of small businesses to work multi-media into their sites. Since it's well known that different people absorb information in different ways, smart small businesses are looking at the best ways to leverage social media and Web 2.0 technologies to better serve their customers.

Scott Baradell has a nice post over at Marketing Profs today exploring the best ways to integrate video into your site. Scott's article is targeted at public relations types, but his concepts apply to general small business marketing as well.

Take a look at the factoids he's put together:

  • Most Web users watch online video today. In fact, 1 in 5 say they stream video every day. (Source: Pew Internet)
  • Americans don’t get their news from static print sources anymore. Only 13 percent say they get their news from newspapers and magazines, compared to 40 percent who use the Internet and 32 percent who watch TV. (Source: Zogby)
  • The media has a high demand for video content. Use of video by newspaper Web sites is expected to double over the next 12 months. (Source: Borrell Associates)

I'm not surprised to read any of those facts, but they do serve as reinforcement that well-integrated multi-media can only improve the usability and stickiness of your site. Heck, the new iPhones tout the fact that they have YouTube capabilities built right in. If that doesn't tell you the techies are interested in video, I don't know what would.

What do I Gain From Adding Multi-Media

There are quite a few benefits to adding audio, video and images to your site.

  • Increased Search Presence - With universal search growing in popularity, things like video clips hosted on YouTube give you yet another chance to get your brand into the search results.

  • Stronger Sales Pitch - Sometimes, you really need video to share the full experience of using your products. Why simply tell them about the wonders of your latest widget when you can show them?

  • Portability - When you use sites like YouTube and Flickr to host your multimedia, you make it easy for bloggers to pick them up and share them with their own readers.

  • You Spark Conversation - YouTube and Flickr, the two most popular sites for hosting your media both have strong communities and community features surrounding them. You can subscribe to a user's feed and you can comment on their work. Small businesses who tend to these community features build up a more loyal following and gain valuable input from those who comment. Plus, if you serve up enough interesting content, folks are likely to sign-up to get notifications when you upload new things. These services basically act as another feed outlet for your work.

It Doesn't Have to Cost a Fortune

When small businesses hear "multimedia" they tend to think "I can't afford that." Not true. Multimedia creation is pretty cheap nowadays. A simple microphone and a free program like Audacity can have you putting together a podcast in no time. Digital cameras are now quite affordable and many will also shoot several minutes of video. With free software from Picasa to manage your photos and your videos, it's easy to get them optimized and uploaded to sites like Flickr and YouTube.

It Doesn't Have to be Fancy

While you certainly don't want to put up blurry pictures or shaky video footage, you also don't need to invest in a professional production company to get something of value. Millions of site owners around the world are now leveraging sites like Flickr, YouTube and Yelp for little more than the cost of their time. Upload photos of your storefront to local search engines, join a relevant Flickr group and add to the conversation, upload video clips of people using your products to YouTube. Then make sure to stick around and take part in the conversation.

Once you discover the potential, you'll be hooked.

November 20, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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