It’s been a couple of years since I caught up with Tyler Lessard, Chief Video Strategist for video platform Vidyard, to hear how B2B-focused organizations are utilizing videos in the sales and marketing efforts. So when I saw the company’s recent 2021 State of Video in Business study that was recently released, I had to do a LinkedIn Live convo with him to get his take on some of the key findings.
Interview with Tyler Lessard of Vidyard
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. We went pretty deep into it, so to hear the whole convo click on the embedded SoundCloud player.
Video Study Backgrounder
Brent Leary: Why don’t you just tell us about the background of the benchmark report?
Tyler Lessard: Here at Vidyard, we’re a suite of video technologies for marketing and sales teams. Our primary customer base tends to be companies in B2B markets. So it’s those who are using video content to support their online marketing programs, their go to market programs, their sales efforts, not so much using it for advertising or paid media, but more so as a content medium to deliver their messages.
And a number of years ago, we decided to anonymize the data in our platform. So all of our first party data looking at, at that time hundreds of customers using Vidyard to host and manage their videos and to slice and dice it in different ways to take a look at some of the year over year trends in how that use of video was evolving. So we started off looking at things like on average, how many companies within our base of users, how many videos were they publishing on average and looking at year over year trends, slicing it by industry, things like that.
We looked at the average engagement in videos of different lengths across the platform. So all videos that were less than a minute or two to five minutes or 10 minutes and above what was the average engagement time in those videos, given all the data we have available to us and, and, and many other things. It’s something we’ve been looking at year over year based on our own primary data in our platform.
We’ve added in a lot of information about the use of video in sales teams and not only the uploading and sharing of produced videos, but also the use of one-to-one recorded videos or user user-generated videos, as we might call them people that are recording using video cards, tools, and sending those videos out as, as one-offs. So it’s been really interesting to see that dynamic as well. And, and here we are with a lot of great year over year data to see some of the trends from the last two years. And even beyond that.
Brent Leary: Are there any overarching key themes and takeaways?
Tyler Lessard: When the pandemic happened and many other things that we don’t need to talk about here, but it was the year where business went truly virtual, truly digital first, remote and whatever way you want to put it. And so it was actually a really interesting time for the shifting use of video. And in some cases we expected that we might see less video creation because all of a sudden teams were distributed. We weren’t necessarily in the office where we could shoot in a production studio, even agencies were having trouble producing a lot of content because of restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
In fact, we saw quite the opposite. We saw a huge surge in the numbers of videos being created by businesses in 2020. Part of that was actually an increase in the number of produced videos, but anecdotally we saw a lot more authentic shooting style of content instead of heavily produced. But we also saw this huge surge in the use of video by sales teams for one-to-one video messaging to their clients. And so that again, in hindsight, maybe isn’t a big surprise because we all adopted Zoom for customer calls and then things like one-to-one recorded videos for quick updates, custom demos and things like that. But it was a huge surge in 2020, it was more than double. The number of videos created on average for companies on our platform compared to the year before. So that was the really big thing that we saw in 2020.
Professional Produced vs. User-generated Videos
Brent Leary: All right. I’m going to dig into some of these graphics because they’re just really great numbers. So you’ve mentioned, you know, the, the, the nicely produced versus the user generated, but it looks like across the industry, are these numbers, you said they’re pretty significantly up year over year. Are you surprised at any of the numbers, particularly when you look at specific industries?
Tyler Lessard: What was really interesting in 2020 was this rise of industries where sales teams and go-to-market programs were traditionally field sales types of activities or more in-person engagement. So high tech is the leading producer of videos. On average, within our customer base high-tech companies created and shared 583 videos in the year on average. And that’s a combination of produced and user generated, but financial services and education, media and entertainment, and professional services. Those all saw a huge spike in 2020, particularly because of a growth in the use of user-generated videos. And we saw that as a reaction to the shift where sales teams in those organizations had to move to an inside sales model. But traditionally they were very relationship based.
The need for using video to clearly communicate ideas, to put themselves in front of their customers, it was still very, very important. And many of them shifted to this use of video pretty significantly in 2020.
Brent Leary: Financial services … Interesting. That they grew so much because you think of like, financial, insurances and that kind of stuff kind of, kind of boring. But then you think the ability to leverage video makes it a little bit more appealing to their target audience to actually listen and take in what they’re talking about.
Tyler Lessard: I think it’s a particularly interesting industry when you think about the use of video and we saw the greatest shift in 2020 compared to previous years in their use of video. And I think what makes it interesting for me is when you think about financial services, number one, it’s a highly competitive market. You come to the brand relationship they have with their clients, the personal one-to-one relationships that individual advisors or brokers have with their downstream clients. And there’s also a lot of topics and ideas that are relatively complex for us humans out there, us lay people, who don’t necessarily know all the nuances of how different terms affects things or how different interest rates work and so on. And so I think you bring those three things together and you think about the importance of brand, the importance of personal relationships and in the importance of explaining complex ideas clearly. And that’s like a perfect storm for the use of video in today’s world.
Where before they relied much more on in-person engagement that you could walk into the branch, you’d feel the brand, you’d meet your advisor face to face. They would explain things to you. Now that that’s becoming more and more virtual, video now becomes that kind of next best thing to being there in person. And so we had always seen this sort of climbing of the use of video, but 2020 was absolutely a huge accelerant to start to fill that gap.
And more and more of those clients that I speak with are saying this was in many ways, a very positive thing for our business model going forward, because it forced us to start to embrace these sorts of digital first mentalities. And we’re now set up to be able to do this in the future and scale how we engage clients, whether they prefer to be in person or whether they prefer to be engaged online. I think that’s the really important thing that that foundation has now built.
Small Business vs Large Enterprises
Brent Leary: The total number of videos is interesting, but the breakdown between user-generated and more produced video when you go from small to large companies is really, really interesting.
Tyler Lessard: We define produced videos as any video that is uploaded into the Vidyard platform. User generated are videos created by our customers’ employees. And we measure that by those using Vidyard specific tools to record and send a custom video because we have tools to do that. And those tools you can use to record your webcam, record a screen-share and then send or share that video.
User-generated, which are largely done by people in sales, some in marketing, but they’re individual people recording and sending a video without any professional production behind it. And what you see here is certainly some interesting trends that are starting to emerge in smaller companies. The majority of the videos they’re creating are actually user generated. They’re ones where individual sales reps, sales, engineers, marketers account managers are recording a quick video and sending it off to a client.
And that could be a quick demo or a walkthrough could be an answer to a question they’re largely videos that are meant for more or less one-time use. And as you move up into the larger companies, you see a more even split and them doing more produced video content. And I think there there’s some reasons why we’re starting to see this, I think for smaller companies, there’s a lot more freedom in terms of individuals being able to create their own content and share it. And we’re seeing a lot of those smaller companies actually take advantage of that. It’s kind of almost a competitive advantage for a lot of smaller ones where their sales reps can record and send somebody a video without worrying about the brand police coming after them or having to get legal approval; just like I could type and send an email or make a phone call.
Whereas in larger companies, there isn’t always that same level of enablement or empowerment, but it’s starting to catch up. We definitely saw throughout the year that larger companies were starting to open these things up. And that’s where you saw still almost half of the videos being shared by, by those organizations or when being recorded and sent by their individual employees.
Brent Leary: There’s a reason that the smaller companies rely more heavily on these user generated, you know, from a cost and a production standpoint as well, right?
Tyler Lessard: Yeah, absolutely. When you think about the large companies, 5,000 plus videos, vs 738 produced videos in a given year for smaller companies like the one I’m a part of, that would be an astronomical budget. – A huge part of my marketing budget If I were to pay for all of those to be produced. So we do see a significant amount of production happening in those larger companies. I think as a related trend in those bigger companies is it’s actually more and more in-house video production as well. So it’s not only are you paying to outsource, but they also have more resources internally to produce professional grade videos.
Brent Leary: Yeah. I guess it is nice to have a, you know, a little bit more of a budget. It gives you a little bit more options. But user generated can be as effective as if you were doing some high budget kind of production.
Tyler Lessard: Well, what it really speaks to is this almost like diversification of the kinds of videos being used now within the marketplace. So would I have somebody just record a video themselves that I’m going to post up on my homepage? Of course not. Right. That’s not the place for that kind of a video. And so I think what’s happened is you’ve still seen, you know, even the number of produced videos was still up year over year. There’s still companies producing more and more content using professional producers for everything, from videos on my website, explainer videos, educational videos, going out on digital channels, YouTube channels, videos for promotional campaigns, things like that, right through to demos and customer stories.
There’s an interesting breakdown in the report of the different kinds of videos. Companies are actually producing with likely some budget behind it. So that’s still happening.
And then what’s happening in parallel to that though, is this rise of these user generated videos that are complimentary, that have very different use cases. They’re not the one to many videos that we’re publishing on our website. They’re largely the one-to-one videos where again, somebody wants to walk somebody through a custom demonstration of something or walk through a few slides or send a quick check-in to see how they’re doing. People are starting to record and send short videos as a way of doing that. So it’s kind of emerging as just a conversational or communication medium in addition to being this more promotional and marketing medium. So I think that’s what we’re seeing out there.
Rise of business culture videos
Brent Leary: So I definitely highlight live streams because a lot of people are doing them. Like we’re doing this right here. Thought leadership was interesting to me. And another one that is really interesting is culture videos. Could you explain how that is on the rise?
Tyler Lessard: More and more, we’re feeling a little bit distant from our customers. Culture videos are things that are just like celebrating milestones in the company. They may be again, putting out videos to, share some fun during a holiday moment. I think just about every company that I subscribe to send me a happy holiday video this year, and those are moments of connection with their audiences now.
A lot of marketers are getting over to that side of saying, you know what? We have to have a little bit of personality. We have to have a little bit more humanity with our audience, a little bit more fun and make them smile, take off the tie, undo a button here and be just a little bit more human, and fun with our audience. Sharing those on social media, sharing them directly through, email and other comms. So we are starting to see that happen more and more. And it’s actually exciting to me. Cause I think it’s nice to see a lot more companies trying to humanize their brand in today’s world and, and connect with people on a more authentic, personal level.
How long should videos be?
Brent Leary: So this next one is really one that I focused a lot on. How long should these videos be?
Tyler Lessard: Well, it’s a question we always get. How long should videos be? Right? It will be asking it for generations to come, Brent, because there is no silver bullet answer to that. The answer is always, well, it depends. What is the video intended for? You know, what channel is it going out on all those kinds of questions, but what you see here is of all the videos shared through our platform, which was 750,000 plus videos over the course of the year. This gives you a sense for the average length of all those different videos. And this includes both user generated videos, as well as produced and published content. And so what you see here is about, you know, 37% were.
Zero to 60 seconds. So less than a minute and another 23% were in that one to two minute Mark. So roughly 60% of the videos were less than two minutes, which is a pretty high number. But last, the previous year, it was almost 75%. I think we’re two minutes or under.
Brent Leary: Wow.
Tyler Lessard: The percentage has shifted a little bit where we’re still seeing a lot of short form content. Most videos are less than two minutes. However, there is still absolutely a play where you can see here. A significant percentage are greater than two minutes. And when you move into the top block, which is 20 minutes or more, about 10% of the video shared were, were more than 20 minutes. But again, this changed year over year, where in the previous year, only 6% of videos were more than 20 minutes. And about 75% were less than two minutes.
So the net net of that, what we’ve seen happening is while there’s more and more short form videos being used on the flip side, we’ve also seen this resurgence of longer form videos, which is largely things like webinars and on-demand recordings of webinars and live streams, right? So as the use of webinars and live streams went way up in the year. So too did the amount of on demand versions of that content. All of a sudden we started seeing all these 30, 40 hour long videos being shared in different ways, which are now being available on demand. So lots of different dynamics at play here for what we’re seeing in the types of videos being used.
Brent Leary: So I’m guessing this next slide will show us why such a large percentage of these videos are two minutes or less, right?
Tyler Lessard: Well, we all know the longer the video is the less likely people are going to stay tuned all the way to the end. This year on average, videos published that were less than 60 seconds, 58% of people watch that video all the way to the end, compared to ones that were longer than 20 minutes, only 24% of people stay tuned all the way to the end.
Now some of these numbers may even look demoralizing for some of you who go ‘wait a minute. I put all that effort into these videos. And even if they’re short, only 50% of people are watching all the way to the end”. But it’s always been these kinds of numbers where we don’t expect everybody is always going to click play and stay tuned, but these give you some benchmarks for what the average looked like in the markets. Of course, it’s quite a bit higher best in class videos. Under two minutes, tend to see about 75 to 80% completion rate for people who watch average. But the average tends to be more in that like 60% range.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.