We’ve come a long way from the days where I’d recommend a small campaign or organization skip video altogether. Granted, if you create a YouTube channel and post video to it and don’t have a plan to build that audience, your content may sink like a stone.
But with the advent of social media, not only is it easier than ever for your video to find an audience, the various platforms often favor video over all else. You’re leaving your campaign or organization at a disadvantage if you don’t do video, and there’s always the chance you’ll strike gold and go viral. My video holding Trump to account for blocking me on Twitter while trying to take away my health insurance ended up reaching over 20 million people. That’s an outlier, but we’ve seen some compelling TV ads introducing candidates go viral, and compelling issue-related footage from events go viral too.
So you want to do video, now what?
If you have a really compelling story or are a good public speaker, consider releasing a video when you announce your campaign – or release your first “tv ad” online-only. It’s a lot cheaper to pay for online views than broadcast or cable TV views. Note that unless your video is really compelling or you are some kind of a rock star, people other than your friends and family are probably not going to watch this video though. Don’t waste your time and money on a ho-hum video that will only reach a couple hundred people at best. It’s not worth doing a stand-alone video unless you can make it great.
If you’re going to be doing video on a regular basis, set up a YouTube channel. This way, people will know where to look for your video content. If you’re a c3 non-profit, be sure to apply to the YouTube for Non-Profits program (part of the Google for Non-Profits program, along with Google Grants for AdWords etc.). Once accepted, you’ll be able to add free call-to-action overlays on your videos (including donation asks), you can use their production studios in Los Angeles or New York, and more. If YouTube becomes a key part of your online strategy, don’t forget to add a link to your website so people can find your channel more easily.
The easiest way to work in video organically to your digital strategy, is to Facebook live stream any important event. Candidate is giving a speech? Organization is holding a protest? Have somebody with a phone streaming it live to Facebook. Even if (or especially if) the media doesn’t cover it, you can make sure your supporters feel involved and included. You can also download that footage later and polish & edit it, and upload to YouTube etc. Note that I’m recommending Facebook over Twitter for your live video because the potential audience on Facebook is many times larger.
Make sure your mobile device is fully charged and you have a spare battery and/or charger. Shooting video takes a lot of power, and can drain your battery pretty quickly. You do not want your phone to shut down in the middle of an important event.
If possible, test the cell phone signal in the area beforehand. Better yet, make sure you’re connected to a wireless network at the event. You don’t want to wind up in a cellphone dead zone, or if it’s a huge event, cell towers may get saturated and you will have trouble getting through.
Decide ahead of time whether you’re going to film in portrait or landscape, and stick to it. If you flip the orientation of your phone, your livestream does not automatically adjust – so your audience will be viewing the content sideways.
Look around for visual obstacles, make sure that nothing unexpected and unwanted will make its way into the frame. Also make sure that everybody knows when you’re recording – and when you stop. You don’t want a “hot mic” situation where people are being filmed when they are not fully aware of it.
Consider that people will be coming and going from your livestream. This means you can’t assume everybody has been watching from the beginning, and you’ll periodically want to narrate to catch people up on events.
Don’t forget the ask: you can put a link to an email signup or a petition or something in the body of the Facebook live description (or in the body of the YouTube description etc.). You’ll want to convert viewers into action-takers, so don’t forget to ask them to take action.
If you are planning in advance to livestream an event, then make sure to email your supporters and post on social media beforehand so people will know when to sign on to join in.
Brief your partners beforehand too – so that other non-profits, or perhaps the state or local Democratic party can share your livestream, and gain you additional viewers.
After the event, consider reaching out to outlets such as NowThis or Act.tv with your footage. Just like blogs, they are constantly scrounging for content. If your content is a good match, then maybe you can work together. Also outlets like your state Democratic Party or national issue groups may have interest in processed or unprocessed footage too.
Make sure when you’re polishing your clip, that you keep it short and to the point. People have short attention spans, and so you need to edit down your footage so it flows well and consistently. You also can’t assume that all viewers will have in-depth background knowledge on your campaign or issue, so make sure you avoid acronyms and spell out any background detail they need to know. Narrate images that might be confusing without context, and consider adding captions for people who have sound turned off or are hearing impaired.
If you feel like your video is really great, but it just hasn’t reached a large audience online, you can target YouTube self-service through Google ads. Also it’s very affordable to promote video via Facebook and Twitter ads too. But make sure your video is serving a purpose before you promote it: what is it you want viewers to understand or do? Does your video help you reach your campaign goals?
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