It’s 9:22am. I’m 8 minutes out from my scheduled 9:30am dentist appointment. The waiting room is small and sparsely populated. It’s quiet, apart from the occasional glug from the water cooler and the distant hum of dental drills.
Seven minutes out now, and the small of my back begins to sweat. I hate the dentist, so I escape into my phone and distract myself with Facebook. I scroll and scroll, but just as I fall into a blissful Newsfeed hypnosis, it happens – I’m jolted awake by a surprise auto-play video.
“Here’s our list for our best and worst dressed at the Academy Awards! Dana-nana-na-na”, booms the video.
Everyone stares. I jump to kill the volume, but in a panic fumble my phone. It falls to the floor and I’m left with a cracked screen and a room full of people who now know I subscribe to Entertainment Tonight.
Enough is enough! We need to chill with these videos for a second.
While we all know dense paragraphs and content-happy websites are not the way to go, are videos really the best alternative? On the surface it may seem like it – they’re hands-free with no scrolling, they’re flashy and engaging – but they also present some serious pitfalls.
Will somebody think of the data!
Mobile data doesn’t grow on trees. There’s no better way to piss off your market than by draining their data plan with large video files. Sky-high phone bills aside, videos hurt your user experience by bringing browser speeds to a crawl. Remember your friend, good ol’ plain text? They never rang up your bills or your bandwidth.
Buffering? Ain’t nobody got time for that
Video is supposed to be convenient. But there’s nothing convenient about choppy playback and lengthy buffering times. Is it really a good idea to hitch your marketing to something as finicky as an internet connection? While your user is waiting for that video to buffer, your competitor’s blog is ready to read. Sure, it takes more effort to read a blog than to watch a video, but people are impatient. They need their content now!
People may prefer watching over reading, but I’ll take reading over buffering any day of the week.
There’s a time and place
I’m a big fan of nachos. They’re cheesy, they’re greasy, they’re spicy – what’s not to love? But I’m not out here eating nachos in the car. I’m not ordering nachos at the movies. Nachos are a production – they need a table, they need napkins, and I need to nap as soon as they’re gone.
Videos are the nachos of marketing tactics. They’re great, but if I’m hit with a video, I need speakers. If I’m in a library, I need headphones. If I’m grooving to Spotify, I need to shut it off. See what I’m getting at?
You can read content in a loud room, in a quiet office, with music, or without. If I trip on a sentence I can go back and reread it, I don’t rely on pinpoint dexterity to rewind to a specific second. Video requires users to be in the right place at the right time, while written content is low maintenance and accommodating.
If videos are nachos, written content is… a milkshake. You can set it down or drink it on the go. You don’t need cutlery or napkins, and it gives context to Pulp Fiction gifs.
Okay, so video stinks?
I didn’t say that. Video is great for engagement and entertainment, but like email, social media, and other parts of your marketing stack, it works best when used in conjunction with other tools. For example, if you post a video case study, include a written paragraph for those who can’t play video at the time of impression.
I binge YouTube at 2:00am like everyone else. I’m totally pro-video, but I’m also pro-text. This is the pendulum falling back to center, the video hype-train coming back to station. Show some restraint with your video. Film responsibly, think critically, and never, ever, set to autoplay.