Ever heard the expression “In a world of pigeons, be a flamingo”? I’ve seen it on birthday cards and a hundred inspirational Instagram posts and today, it’s echoing in my ears. I’ve been on the phone to Staunch Digital’s Paul Finn speaking about video traffic and our ever growing digital world of content.
What I want to put to you is “In a world of grey, bland video, how can your videos be hot pink? (Note: eating shrimp is not the answer.)
This is the crux of a long conversation I enjoyed with Paul, where we examined the essential elements of great video and Paul’s belief that video success rests largely in your ability and willingness to experiment!
“I don't believe there is one way to do this. I believe there are great ideas that you can tap into but the jury is out! I don't know what the answer is except for really good and engaging content. Except that if you ask the question ‘what makes engaging content?”, who #%&!ing knows, until you put it out there!”
- Paul Finn
Meet Paul Finn
Paul has over 15 years of experience in his field. He’s the director of Staunch Digital and plays the part (crushingly well) of Viral Marketing Specialist. He’s curious, relatable and he drops video knowledge bombshells with alarming regularity. He’s not fancy about it. He’s not doing that. He just knows so much.
When I speak video with Paul, it’s layered in psychology and practicality. He has a genuine interest in human behaviour and the drivers that profoundly impact the world - the content world - and how/why your videos end up sailing, or for some people, sinking. He tells me that good marketing IS experimentation and that if people were to take a more scientific approach to their videos, they’d find their flamingo sooner.
“There is no single format or silver bullet to making great content. The success of content comes down to many different factors. It’s about experimenting and coming up with things that work for you.”
- Paul Finn
“TikTok (a short-form mobile video app) is teaching millions and millions and millions and millions of kids how to engage on video, which means in the next 5 years if you’re not engaging and creating interesting content then you're going to be putting effort into video and getting nowhere. You have to make really good content that your potential buyers and audience would want to follow you for.”
- Paul Finn
Paul’s essential ingredients for engaging video content
Below are Paul’s essential video ingredients. He applies these liberally to his own videos (and all forms of content for that matter), and helps his Staunch Digital clients build their own great video recipes.
Video experimentation (‘If not this, then what?)
According to Paul, to play ball in our video world, you have to be willing to experiment. Period. Let’s look at his theory, and then some.
- Step 1- You must be willing to receive feedback on your videos.
- Step 2 - You must assess the data. This includes the positive and negative feedback, the comments, engagements, shares, hopefully conversions and the all round attention your video did or did not receive
- Step 3 - You must be willing to post a video again, with the feedback practically adjusted in your next creation.
- Step 4 - Repeat the above again and again. You will learn. You will get stronger and your content will improve
And here’s the ‘then some’ part…
“We are putting content out to reach people. For every single piece of content you produce, you need to ask yourself,
‘why would someone share that?’ - that's the start of your strategy!”
- Paul Finn
Paul uses the above bolded question for every piece of content he produces. If you want increased engagement, then this is the question that you need to ask and answer. If you don’t, then your video strategy will be lacking which means your ‘pre-production’ work is right now more important than your actual video ‘production’.
Be wary about pressing record if you’re going out into the video world willy nilly and answer-less. You might get lucky but you might also end up with little engagement. Make this question the start of your video strategy! We now have Paul’s #1 tip and experiment steps, so ... tick, let’s move on!
Informative vs transformative content
Imagine a triangle with three layers.
- The bottom layer is theory i.e. a person’s thoughts.
- The middle part is information, i.e. the theory turned into information.
- The top layer is transformation i.e. transformative information!
The top of the triangle is when the information transforms an audience. People watching feel that they have somehow changed or are better off for having seen your video.The point Paul is making here is that if you want to be that pink flamingo, then you need to be experimenting in the top layer of the triangle.
Take Tony Robbins as an example. He is a PRO at transforming information. He makes his audience feel elated, hope, fear, torn, and thousands of his participants, for better or worse, are forever changed because of the information they now have and can take out into their world.
Here's the thing though, Tony isn’t a psychologist - he’s actually ‘not your guru’ - and he isn’t coming up with any new ideas or information. Tony is reproducing them and presenting old ideas and information in a new and transformative way.
The challenge here? Thinking you need to mimic Tony Robbins, or say, Gary Vaynerchuk or some other famous or successful viral content creator. You need to discover your own ‘shrimp’.
Don’t forget that not everyone resonates with the Tonys or Garys of the world. People engage with content that speaks to them, so get experimenting, reshape your videos from the feedback you receive, carve out your voice and discover the audience that you have chemistry with!
Improving your video skills; the 1% theory
Paul has summarised a theory from ‘The Slight Edge’ that focuses on improving what you do by just 1% … each time you do it. Small improvements over time will eventually result in a dramatic increase in quality.
The theory also reinforces that it's never too late to start - any new skill - because can’t we all improve on (almost) anything by a small amount? So, if you’re a nervous video starter, next video, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever area you’re trying to improve. That’s it!
Below are some prompters I’ve created, I challenge you to improve just one of the these by 1% !
- Presenting: find ways of relaxing to help you let go of some of those nerves.
- Location scouting: find better environments to video in, seek out excellent lighting and sound control.
- Framing: set up your camera, tripod and angle it better.
- Editing: add some b-roll or create a better thumbnail.
- Scripting: improve your writing and make your video script more succinct.
- Posting: create a more engaging post to go with your video on social.
- Scheduling: plan your videos better and experiment with batch filming.
- Branding: brainstorm ideas, visuals, words, values to define your personal brand further.
Going from 0-100 in one video is unrealistic. However, if you apply the 1% theory to your video practice, you’ll see an overall improvement in a healthy amount of time. Your new skills will have more longevity having been acquired through practice and repetition.
Video quality and the ‘natural’ video
Shaky, hand-held ‘selfie’ videos are distracting and frustrating to watch. As a result, your viewers often don’t hang around to hear your message out.
“What looks natural isn’t ‘natural’. The shaky videos are not natural. Our eyes and head stabilise vision so a natural video is actually one that is stabilised or using a tripod. This is mimicking the way we see and experience reality. We would probably get very motion sick if every time we walked, everything we experienced in the world was all shaky.”
- Paul Finn
Stabilisers and tripods help your audience feel like they’re not on safari. Remember, you want to reach people and you also want to hold their attention. Don’t give your audience a reason to tune out. The aim is to spread your flamingo wings, not clip them!
A note on algorithms
Having an overall video strategy is essential and Paul goes further to say that if you’re going to be hitting multiple platforms (like he does with his 1-min videos), having an adaptive strategy for each one is imperative. Maximising business results from your videos on each platform means understanding how the algorithms of each work and knowing what they favour.
But, Paul is also careful to stress that algorithms can change at any time. So today’s strategy could be redundant tomorrow. Eeek! So always focus on creating engaging content and experimenting. Don't make content for algorithms, make content for humans.
Be open to new recipes!
Outside of Viral Content Marketing, I know that Paul is a musician and he knows that outside of my VideoMyJob role, I am an actor. These two expressions have been a strong foundation in our roles and so, as his fellow creative, I know that he must have something up his sleeve, some project that's itching away.
It turns out he has a few, which will be released in video form on LinkedIn soon. No spoiler alert here I’m afraid but what I can share are the video goals he is currently setting himself! He’s thrown a few new ingredients into the Paul Finn mix:
- How can I have more fun?
- How can I make more transformative content?
We discuss how infectious fun, play and joy are on video and highlight the work of comedian Diana Nguyen. For those who don’t know #dancingdiana on LinkedIn, her videos are joyous, raw and brave. She uses dancing in her storytelling and karaoke to interview people (I’ve had the pleasure of doing both with her!)
Diana is a flamingo. Her videos are a flock of them! Her fun vibe is on par with her brand and it 100% works with her video strategy. Paul acknowledges that this strategy would probably not work for him, hence why he is exploring his own ‘fun’.
We’re not saying you have to dance or sing, but having a voice that aligns with your identity and values, can help with brand recognition and video engagement.
There’s no magical one ingredient for the perfect video. And simply creating a flock of ‘pigeon’ videos is not enough for you, your brand or your business to stand out. You need to define your voice, your video style, experiment, take on feedback and consistently improve by 1% until you’ve created the right recipe for your own video success.