If video is the new text, it needs different story-telling skills

By Yeoh Siew Hoon, Editor, Web in Travel

Once upon a time, there was a guest who stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. His name was Philip Bloom and his website lists him as a film maker and director.

He shot a time lapse film of Sydney Harbour Bridge filmed over one night – his blog tells the making of the video which he uploaded onto Vimeo.

Titled “3513 A View of the Sydney Opera House”, his video was watched by someone who alerted Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts about it.

The hotel group’s agency, Ogilvy, then approached Bloom who sold the rights to the company. Ogilvy then condensed it into a 60-second version which it uploaded onto YouTube, to make it more marketable.

Personally, I like the original version with the Puccini “Madame Butterfly” score but I can see how it might be too long for consumption in today’s age of shrinking attention spans.

I like this story too because it shows how content is being generated online. Once videos were made by amateurs in the hope they’d go viral. Now professionals are getting into the game and discovering they can make a decent income from it, and videos are thus getting better in quality.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that video is a powerful marketing medium.

In a recently published Social Media Examiner study in which over 3,800 marketers were surveyed, it was found that 76% of marketers plan on increasing their use of YouTube and video marketing.

The survey also found that:

• Use of optimized video increases the probability of first-page search engine results by 53%.

• 68% of people who watch online video will pass the links on to friends.

• 53.5% of the population and 70.8% of Internet users will watch online videos in 2012.

• Videos are shared 12 times more than links and text posts combined.

• 100 million users per week take social action on YouTube videos.

So back to Shangri-La which has also recently introduced video tours of its properties – see this footage of Shangri-La Hotel, Paris which allows you to click and pan as you “walk” through. 

According to Michael Leong, Shangri-La’s director of corporate digital marketing, the group is looking to create more video content to support various areas in digital brand communications.

“The fast pace of global internet bandwidth growth, high speed mobile communications protocols(3G and 4G), as well as the proliferation of smartphones and tablets worldwide, rich media content are now being consumed much more than ever before and are fast becoming an expected medium for consumers.”

Added Leong, “We want to move beyond the usual vanilla hotel videos and decided to add an interactive element to them. Our interactive videos allow users to turn around to view the hotel facilities from different angles and perspectives.

“This is akin to someone walking into a grand hotel lobby for the first time, turning her head to look at the surroundings around her as she walks. And instead of a background music soundtrack, we used the hotel’s ambient sounds. This gives our videos a lot more life, perhaps the closest experience to actually being there – which is exactly why consumers choose to watch a video, as opposed to viewing a still and reading text descriptions.”

As to whether videos convert better than stills or text, Leong said, “In theory, we think that having videos do help conversions in that having a richer immersive experience should help in the consumer decision making process.

“However, actual conversions depend on a lot of other factors such as pricing, seasonality, offline/online buying behaviour, etc, and thus we are not able to definitively conclude that our videos are driving higher conversions.”

When I asked him where he sees the future of hotel content going, he said, “I believe that for the hotel industry, consumers are expecting a visually richer type of web content such as larger high definition stills, videos, etc, to get an immediate impression and feel of the hotel and facilities.

“Text content should be kept to a minimum and only in areas that are necessary, such as factual information like opening hours, menus, etc.  As more users migrate towards viewing websites on their mobile devices, this will become more important.”

The key though lies in the story-telling and as with any new medium, new skills are needed in hotel marketing departments. Remember when the Internet first came about and hotels just put their brochures online, and then websites evolved as people understood the nuances of a new medium. The same will happen with videos – when hotels realize they can’t do with videos what they’ve always done with stills and text.

That, to me, is the beauty of content on the web – it’s a living, breathing organism that is constantly evolving, and we have to adapt with it.

Note: Watch out for “The Future of Content: Beyond Words, Even Reality” session at WIT Conference Oct 15-17 in Singapore.