I first learned of Stone Temple and their great work in SEO and digital marketing through an acquaintance, and interviewed CEO Eric Enge for a post on Maximize Social Business awhile back. Then, I met Mark Traphagen, who participated in my panel on branding and thought leadership at the Social Tools Summit in October (where he won a Social Guru award).
Through this collaboration I learned of Stone Temple’s very creative use of video. On the face of it, the idea of using video for B2B marketing in 2017 might not seem that groundbreaking. But how do you do this well and consistently if you are not already a huge company? How do you make the topic fun and interesting? It would not seem to have “next YouTube video stars” written all over.
But these guys clearly got it down, and consistently produce compelling segments (one example – they actually duplicated the deck and garb of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise in this one about Why Enterprise SEO is so Challenging). The team also clearly have lots of fun doing this – and get great results too.
I had to learn more, and asked Mark if he’d entertain some questions for the blog. He agreed; see the Q and A below.
How did you get the idea to use videos to promote Stone Temple?
By 2014 it was obvious that video was the rising star of content marketing. More people were showing a preference for video content, and we were hearing the first rumblings from major players like Facebook that they would be giving preferential treatment to video content, I guess that’s why the prevalence of companies like Explainly and more is increasing in this day in age. Plus we knew it was something we needed to develop firsthand expertise in because our clients would be asking for it. We decided to try something different from the typical “how to” marketing videos, so our Here’s Why series episodes all incorporate a quick skit (usually with zany costumes and props) that introduces and closes each video. We believe that adding an element of fun (especially making fun or ourselves) humanizes our topics, and our audience seems to love it!
How often do you post them?
How long does it take to produce a video, from conception to final version?
I’m frightened to ty to calculate that! We are currently about three months ahead on episodes ready to publish. We film then in groups of 4 to 6 episodes at a time, so I’ll estimate the time investment per group: About 3-4 hours for ideation, 6-10 for script writing, 2-3 for filming (we have it down now so we can film an episode in under 30 minutes), an hour or two of post-production work by our videographer per video, and probably another 2 hours per video spent on promotion once they’re published. Please, nobody add all that up!
How many people are involved? Can you walk us through the process?
Four people, with occasional help from others, such as extras for some episodes. Eric Enge and I are the main performers/presenters, and I also write the scripts and handle social promotion. Kiki helps with acquiring props and costumes, prepping the scripts for the teleprompters, and creating the blog posts and YouTube uploads. Finally, our videographer Jon films each episode, does post-production editing and adds captions.
Each video starts with a script (we used to do them off-the-cuff, but found scripting made them tighter and better), usually prepared a couple of weeks before filming. Once the script is delivered, Kiki procures any costumes or props needed, and formats the script for our teleprompters (we use three now-one at the camera and one on each side of the “stage” so Eric and I can talk to each other more naturally). During the week each month that I’m up at our Massachusetts headquarters, we usually schedule 2-3 one hour sessions, and film two episodes in each session. Jon then edits and sends us a draft video for approval. Kiki sends this to a transcription service. Once a transcript of the video is received, Jon creates captions for the video. Kiki uploads the final video to YouTube and schedules it for publication. She also uses the transcript to create a post for our blog with the YouTube video embedded. When the video and blog post publish, I begin paid and organic social campaigns to promote them.
How do you come up with ideas?
Most of the Here’s Why videos are repurposed from other content we’ve already created, both for our own site and for guest posts elsewhere. Sometimes we can get three or four videos out of one piece of content, as the five-minute videos can focus more on one aspect of the content. More and more I’m trying to come up with original ideas for the videos, but that’s a lot harder. For those, I usually try to pay attention to questions people ask online about digital marketing, and we also brainstorm with our senior consultants. Many video production services out there work like this to come up with organic marketing video ideas on the fly.
Do you have a topic calendar?
We do! Once I have titles and outlines for the next group of videos we’re going to shoot, Kiki adds them to a calendar for production and when they will publish.
What was your most popular video?
Our most popular video ever was not a Here’s Why video, but amazingly enough a very rough video we shot at the last moment to include in our first major study that went viral. It’s a summary of our test of how good Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri were at answering questions. It now has over 160,000 views and proves that you don’t need expensive production values if your topic is great!
Our most popular Here’s Why video is “Why Micromoment Content Will Increase Your Marketing Wins” with almost 20,000 views. We now have 25 videos with over 4000 views on YouTube, and over the past year all our videos averaged over 3000 views each.
How do you promote them?
We post the blog version of each episode to our social channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. We also typically do a paid boost on Facebook, and occasionally on Twitter. We also run paid campaigns on YouTube, and have found the increased watch time those paid campaigns give us has also increased our organic reach there. We also encourage fans to sign up to get an email notification of each new episode.
Is there a certain persona or funnel stage you target?
We consider these videos to be mostly top-of-funnel, brand-awareness builders. They are meant to build our reputation as helpful experts in our industry. While our primary target is digital marketing decision makers at larger companies, we’re happy that these videos have broad appeal to anyone trying to do better digital marketing, even small business people who will never become our customers. Their love for what we create tuns them into tremendous evangelists for us, and increases our social proof and organic authority that helps bring us in front of the people we really want to reach.
What impact have they had on your business and/or web or social footprints?
While it’s hard to measure with data because we typically have a long sales cycle (several months to years before closing a client), we know from a lot of anecdotal evidence that our videos have played a significant role in keeping Stone Temple top-of-mind along the customer journey. As our primary regular content, and because of how widely they are shared and viewed, they have had a significant impact in expanding our social following and reach. And we’re told all the time that in addition to being great educational resources, the humor and personality of these videos make us seem like people our prospects want to do business with. If clients want to zone in on any data, especially if they’re looking to target a particular market, they may be better off looking into Command software from Sureshot. That way, they can use the data collected to target a particular market with any upcoming marketing campaigns.
Can you share anything about costs to produce these or ROI?
It’s not insignificant, but has come way down since we are mostly through with the fixed costs of building our studio, and we now have more streamlined processes to reduce the time investment per video. Since these videos are not aimed at a direct conversion, we don’t track ROI, but we do know the value of customers we’ve gained with the help of the videos far exceeds their cost.
Do you do any live video or native posting on various channels? Plans for this?
Because of the investment we’re already putting into these videos, we’ve only dabbled with live video recently. We did a lot more of it in the past when we used to produce two live Google Hangout shows a week. If we were really going to get into it seriously, we would definitely make sure that we were using one of the best webinar platforms of 2021 to ensure as smooth an operation as possible! We do occasionally still do live shows, now using YouTube live, for special programs. A recent example was a panel we put together with several other top marketers for a live (and lively!) discussion of weird Google results we had observed. You can see the recording here.