Video marketing is trending as the must-do tactic for 2018—and for good reason. HubSpot reports that 78 percent of people watch videos online each week, and 55 percent watch online videos each day. But is video marketing as easy as posting a smartphone video to Facebook? Short answer: no. Some videos are more effective than others. And, if poorly executed, video marketing can be downright harmful to your brand.

Says Beth Allen, senior director of brand activation at Collegis Education, “When viewers feel that content is not relevant to them, they quickly learn to ignore certain brands. And, once you’ve lost your viewers, it is difficult to earn back their trust and interest.”

Another challenge is in the amount of video content available to audiences. According to Hubspot, 48 hours worth of video content is uploaded to YouTube each minute. Additionally, it is predicted that by 2020, for every second of time, a million minutes of video will be on the internet. With so much to choose from, viewers have already become more discerning. So, it’s important for marketers to understand that as popular as video is, there is a void of never-watched online content grows larger each day.

Allen advises that in order to break through, colleges should resist the urge to start shooting video before having defined their overall marketing goals. This should include not only key objectives, but how each marketing tactic will work with the others. Additionally, colleges should consider the specific needs and interests of each specific audience it wants to reach.

“The most effective video campaigns fit seamlessly within the college’s overall marketing strategy,” says Allen, “and fill a gap among the college’s array of marketing content.”

Once a marketing plan is well defined, a college is ready to explore the many executional variables that also impact a video’s effectiveness. Length, placement and authenticity are all critical components, as well as the need to be mobile-friendly. Below are tips on how to harness the potential of this medium.

  1. Keep it short

A lot can be communicated in a 15-second video, and even the lengthiest videos you create shouldn’t be more than 1–3 minutes long. If you have a lot of information to cover, consider breaking the content apart into multiple stand-alone videos.

  1. Customize for Each Platform

Understanding where the video will be placed should influence how the content is created. Whether the video will be on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat or your college’s website, consider what types of messaging, storylines or lengths work best on each:

  • YouTube is great for “how to” videos, promotions interviews and user-generated content.
  • Facebook is great for cultural content, such as clips from Homecoming or other campus events.
  • Snapchat content is typically viewable for only 24 hours, so use it for reminders or ads—but perhaps not for mission-critical information. Snapchat also offers an array of special effects, such as filters and lenses, to help engage viewers and make content more shareable.
  • College websites are great for testimonials, or resource libraries. A series of videos that help prospective students with various parts of the college or financial aid application process could be just the help they need. Additionally, prospective students might find it useful to see videos that delve into individual academic programs. Others that portray the types of jobs that certain academic degrees can lead to can help prospective students visualize their future.

Both Facebook and YouTube offer information sites for video creators. The bottom line is that one approach usually does not fit all platforms, so think through your goals and consider how to make the most of each platform.

  1. Be Authentic

Marketers are under pressure to make their institutions shine, but keep in mind that videos that are too polished may not be as appealing to your audience as a genuine, authentic delivery. Consider forgoing a studio shoot in favor of capturing students or faculty in their usual spots on campus.

  1. Be Mobile Friendly

Load time and aspect ratio are details to note as they will impact viewability from a mobile phone.

  1. Add Text

Many viewers watch with the audio muted, so help viewers follow along by including helpful words or closed-captioning.

  1. Optimize for Search Engines

Consider how viewers will find your videos. What search terms will they use? Integrate these into the title and description.

  1. Tell a Story with the Thumbnail Image

One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make is to use a thumbnail image that doesn’t tie-in with the video’s content. A logo or a general image doesn’t offer much information, so, viewers are likely to pass it by. Think of the thumbnail as a book cover—will it attract viewers?

  1. Promote Your Videos

Will viewers find your video even if you don’t promote it? Possibly, but it could take months—and you may not get the number of views you’d hoped for. We recommend promoting videos through email marketing, links on your website, social media and ads. One tactic to use to attract views is to send a link to your email marketing list.

Include a call to action to share the video in your messaging. The more views you get from contacts, the more you influence the search engine algorithms that are constantly assessing the relevance and popularity of content. This, in turn, helps make your content more findable among audiences that are newer to you, such as prospective students who are just getting started with researching colleges.

Risks and Rewards

Video offers both risks and rewards. While Video can be a wonderful marketing tool, jumping into this medium requires thought and care. Some marketers may think that they can learn as they go, but not only is it difficult to earn viewers without a thoughtful content strategy, you could lose credibility with your audience if your content lacks quality or relevance.

As with any new college marketing effort, be sure to take the time to ensure that your video content will help prospective students through their college selection journey—then think through what will be needed for viewability, platform, optimization and promotion.