What small business can learn from the Verizon-AOL deal

Verizon is betting on online content and distribution with its $4.4 billion AOL acquisition. According to the New York Times, with the purchase of AOL, Verizon will add a layer of entertainment, advertising and services to its vast network of smartphones in order to attract more customers and find new sources of revenue. The deal is expected to close this summer, pending regulatory approval.

This tactic to preserve the value of Verizon's distribution channel – their mobile service – by developing exclusive content is not new. Prior to the AOL offer, Verizon had already been investing in its mobile video services and said it plans to launch its own mobile video service later this year, reports ZDNet. AOL has been making original video for a number of years, often viral and reality-TV based, and this content will likely be added to the Verizon offerings. 

Verizon is not alone in its focus toward video content and distribution. In the NYT report, "Verizon is following other big media companies down the same path. Comcast, the biggest cable operator, acquired NBCUniversal, the big television and movie studio group. AT&T, Verizon’s nearest rival, is in the process of acquiring DirecTV, the satellite television business. And Sprint, another wireless operator, is making its own forays into content."

It isn't just big business that can gain by focusing on video in their marketing. According to The Guardian, small businesses should pay attention to this trend: "With online video quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs, small businesses that fail to include it in their internet marketing strategies will do so at their peril."

The Guardian makes a good argument for using video in content marketing campaigns: "Engage viewers and they will share the video with others. They will spend longer on your website and more time interacting with your brand. For any social media campaign, any SEO exercise, video is without doubt one of the best tools in the kit."

The Guardian reported some interesting statistics to bring home the point:

  • By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic (source: Cisco) 
  • Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trippled by 2017 (source: Cisco)
  • More than half of companies are already making use of video marketing 
  • 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their marketing strategies in the near future (source: Nielsen) 
  • YouTube receives more than one billion unique visitors every month
  • If a picture paints 1,000 words then one minute of video is worth 1.8 million (Forrester)
  • Seven in 10 people view brands in a more positive light after watching interesting video content from them (Axonn Research)

In the past, video content development has been expensive, difficult to create in-house, and often beyond the budget of most small businesses. The Guardian argues that today most businesses can take advantage of the popularity of video to reach consumers because production costs have fallen and video is easier to produce. The report also suggests that apps such as Twitter's Vine, with its six-second maximum clip length, have dramatically increased the opportunity for businesses on a limited budget to participate. 

There are several considerations to keep in mind should your business want to maximize return on a video marketing campaign investment, advised The Guardian:

  • Know the audience you are trying to reach and make sure the content is relevant 
  • Consider whether online video is the most appropriate means of getting your message across
  • Use social media and be sure to promote your video across multiple channels – make it easy for users to find and share it 
  • Don't neglect mobile - 10% of all video plays happen on mobiles and tablets, and it's a growing segment 
  • Be creative with the video content as well as the campaign and its delivery

There is no one "silver bullet" to create a successful content marketing campaign, however data show that video – when done right – can be a powerful vehicle to engage customers and distribute your message.