"Video is the medium of the future" Cisco Social Media Expert Announces

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John Earnhardt from Cisco at Blogwell In this article we'll describe the take aways from John Earnhardt's presentation at BlogWell (http://www.gaspedal.com/blogwell) about the development of Corporate WebTVs and Vlogging and I will also establish a comparison - in part two of this post - with our own experience on the launch of our own WebTV at http://orange-business.tv 

Video usage on the way up
There has been a lot of talking about that for a long long time, and by dint of spreading the self-fulfilling prophecy we are now witnessing an incredible development of video usage on the Internet. I am not afraid to say now that WebTVs and videos in general are an absolute must-have for website owners. And it's not just about YouTube and other social media websites. Of course videos are used and disseminated through this kind of websites. But there are also private WebTVs being set up by enterprises and there are good reasons for this. Big logos are now using this new means of communications to send more direct messages, less top-down, easier to record and understand.

Cisco's John Earnhardt who was speaking at the BlogWell (http://www.gaspedal.com/blogwell) conference at the end of October 2008 in San Jose, California (BlogWell was an event organised by GasPedal, Andy Sernovitz's company, and took place at the conference centre of San Jose on October 28, 2008. Andy Sernovitz is also the author of Word-of-mouth Marketing: http://www.wordofmouthbook.com) praised this new medium quite extensively and gave us insight as to how Cisco is making the most of its use. John is in charge of multimedia on behalf of the American equipment manufacturer.

Image_056 Earnhardt definitely thinks that one should use social media and WebTVs in general but he also sends a few clear warnings: "you will run into problems" he said "but you should get things up and running anyway". At the beginning, John sort of felt a little bit left on his own "we started blogging 3 1/2 years ago. Our main subjects were expertise and advocacy issues. The problem was that nobody blogged except me (lol)".

John went on explaining that there was good feedback on the blog and the process. To him it was all similar to press releases. "What really matters is not how many people you were trying to reach, you just need to reach that ONE person that would make a difference". So it took a while and not everybody agreed to be a blogger at first. And this is why John thinks that vlogging is better (vlogging stands for Video blogging).

When talking about vlogging John explains that "the guy who speaks is the one who is making the content". This is all about "sharing what's going on". The history is the following: Cisco started with John Chambers "in his voice" (http://tools.cisco.com/dlls/tln/page/executives/chambers). John says that "it's really him who speaks, it's authentic". Plus, I would also add that John Chambers is very well known and respected which also accounts for the success of this kind of videos.

John then insisted on the transparency factor: "Video enables connections with a different kind of relationship". The tone of voice is different: "one can see the person talking. The tone of voice is more transparent" he added. So in his mind there is no issue about Video being the medium of the future.

Ok, but video is costly ... or is it not?

Against all odds, Cisco didn't go for an expensive technology or even tried to build its own technology to disseminate its videos. They went straight on to leverage YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/ciscovid): "it is not at all expensive" John said at BlogWell and besides "not all expensive videos get seen more". He can't be more true. It doesn't mean that because you spend tens of thousands of dollars on a video that you will be more seen than using cheap media and YouTube with a very suitable web-orientated message, on the contrary.

However, shooting and editing videos can cost a lot if you use third-party. I've even seen some vendors -- either dishonest or perfectionists according to whichever interpretation you feel fit -- propose videos for the price for €15,000 each (of course this is a very high number but it happened to us once). There is no need to explain that this kind of investment is never going to help you achieve any positive return on investment. Cisco's numbers are much more interesting. Not only Cisco's WebTV on YouTube "cost [them] zero dollars", but if your videos are produced internally, the cost per video is really going to be much lower. You have to account for "$30 per video and falling" adds John Earnhardt from Cisco. On average, each of their videos has been seen 700 times. Although these numbers are not staggering, one has to remember that we're talking about business to business, they serve our purpose of demonstrating that the cost per view is approximately four cents per video. If you were to extend your scope towards more popular subjects such as videos describing the usage of a Blackberry Curve device - to quote a relevant example to our kind of activity - then you could easily reach tens of thousands of views on the same video. Besides, the persons viewing your videos will be pertinent and relevant to your subject, which is a lot different from TV commercials aimed at viewers who are more passive and not forcibly part of your segment for instance.

Image_055 The rules of the game

However, John warns us that the rules of the game are very strict. "Sound is imperative" he describes. Indeed it is very important that you get your sound recording right, mostly if you're shooting your videos in a noisy background such as an exhibition hall for instance. Exhibitions and trade shows are an almost endless source of new subjects but recording sounds in this kind of noisy environments can be very tricky.

In the questions and answers session, a person from the audience asked a question about whether Cisco was using this medium as a "two-way vehicle, or a one-way vehicle only"? The Cisco representative replied that "Cisco is very gifted for using new media, but we haven't reached social media status" (social media is now the new terminology replacing Web 2.0 since approximately the end of the Summer of 2008). "We're getting better but it's more difficult for a Corporation" John Earnhardt added. This is a very pertinent comment. All experts who were present either at the BlogWell meeting or at the Blog Council conference which took place in San Jose one day later (October 29, 2008) do agree on that point. But there was also some sort of consensus on the fact that we are all making efforts and good progress.

Learning a new language

At Orange Business Services, we have also embarked on the same kind of project since the end of the summer of 2008 and the launch of our new Web TV http://orange-business.tv (at first in French and then in English at the beginning of the next year. For a sneak preview of our English WebTV you can click here but be aware that we're not there yet, this is very much work in progress) is a radical change and a very exciting one too. The basic principles on which we have started working are absolutely fundamental and very precise: each video lasts 2 to 3 minutes (5 minutes at the most), they are all shot in one take only, and editing is absolutely ruled out. The latter point is very critical not only to preserve the directness of the quality of the videos that we are broadcasting, but it also serves the legal purpose of not letting the people interviewed revise their commitments regarding the authorisation for the broadcasting of a video. Our new editorial guidelines for shooting videos are also radically different from traditional Corporate video-making. The aim is not to deliver standard messages but to share our experience, and to describe best practice as close to the field as possible, including client testimonials, partner advice and opinions, external expert advice, news and the use of these videos to demonstrate directly what can be done with a product or service: For instance an expert explains everything about a BGP hijacking strategy from the hacker point of view and how an enterprise network security administrator could respond to the threat and thwart it. Another example is that of a product manager showing his product, describing his vision and also how it works concretely through a live demo. And very shortly we will be uploading the video-based user manuals for our most popular mobile devices such as the Blackberry Curve for instance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7muOwXPyo4).

Progressive download: the YouTube limitations

Of course, as John says, YouTube is free. But the Google service has a number of limitations, and this is not just about the size of videos which are accepted by YouTube (by the way this limitation should be lifted shortly as per the following announcement: http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/10/07/googles-youtube-increases-video-upload-size-by-10-times/)

The main limitation related to the Google service and the most important one with regard to business to business, is that most enterprises will prevent this kind of videos to be seen behind firewalls (YouTube, dailymotion and other services). And this is due to the very technology which is used by Google, i.e. progressive download. As a matter of fact YouTube does not read videos online, it does not stream them either, it downloads them and forced and this is why most network administrators will prevent users from viewing these videos. The burden which is put on the network and which prevents other users from carrying on with their usual activities is too high and therefore network supervisors will filter out all video usage as a precautionary measure. As a conclusion, if you're only using progressive download you will have a hell of a problem trying to reach your target users, and the viewing of these videos within your Ecosystem will be very restricted.

It was therefore important for us to find a solution if we wanted to be able to target our users much more easily and much more directly and use video as a real enhancement to our web traffic. This is why we decided to opt for a new technology entitled Streamlike (http://www.streamlike.com). The advantage linked to this solution are numerous: you're not limited by the size of the quality of the video and access is made available anywhere in the video, regardless of its length. Firewalls will not stop the viewing because Streamlike is using a typical HTTP feed and the impact on bandwidth is minimum or nil. All videos will be accessible from anywhere with a relevant adaptation of the quality with regard to bandwidth and screen size. Last but not least, a very precise and all of statistics which enables the viewing of statistics second by second each video is made available, which is not possible when using progressive download.

Vlogging as a means of boosting your traffic

The impact on our traffic was almost immediate. Previously we had only displayed a few hundreds of videos in a few months and we jumped up to more than 2000 in a couple of weeks. Now that we have demonstrated how useful this mechanism is, we will be able to multiply and develop it on a wider scale and this will make our site more visible and more dynamic. We won't reduce the effort regarding the YouTube channel that we have created; on the contrary we will go on updating, maintaining and tracking it. But at the same time we will upgrade our own private WebTV platform so that's we add the functionality which is missing and bring it on par with YouTube. (Video sharing, ranking and HTML inclusion namely will be made available very shortly).

As a conclusion I would add that for Cisco as well as Orange Business Services but most enterprises in general which want to embark on a more direct commutations experience -- web 2.0 and social media -- WebTVs are now a must-have in everyone's Web toolbox.

Yann Gourvennec

I specialize in information systems, HighTech marketing and Web marketing. I am author and contributor to numerous books and the CEO of Visionary Marketing. As such, I contribute regularly on this blog for Orange Business Services account on cloud computing and cloud storage topics.