Associations and other membership organizations can greatly benefit by using affordable and accessible online video technology. This Association Trends article gives some real-world examples of how groups are benefiting from utilizing videos on their web site:

The mass appeal and growing availability of online videos is changing the way people consume information on the web and savvy associations are trying to keep up.

The best online videos have a few common elements. They tend to be brief, entertaining, easy-to-share and are delivered in an easy-to-use format. Perhaps most important, they are personally relevant to the association's members. 

This is why links to online videos so often find their way into enthusiastic e-mails to friends, family and workmates. It is also why online video can be a powerful element of an association's Web marketing strategy.

Broadband a driving force

Driven in part by the rapid adoption of broadband, which is expected to more than double by 2010, online video has been growing like wildfire. A recent study by the Online Publishers Association found that 24% of Internet users access video at least once a week, while nearly half watch video at least once a month. 

The flood of web users exploring and adding to YouTube''s burgeoning archive of online videos is a big reason why Time magazine recognized the rise of online social networking by naming "You" its Person of the Year.

What are they watching? According to the OPA study, "news" leads the way in frequency of viewing, with 2% of online video viewers watching at least once a week, followed closely by "funny videos." About twice as many online video viewers are at home than at work.

Implications for associations

Clearly, the rise in popularity of online videos is proof that it can be a powerful way to deliver an association's messages to members, prospective members and the community at large. Just as Web users have grown accustomed to using search engines to find written content that satisfies their needs for information or entertainment, many are now searching for video.

However, it probably isn't as simple as posting the latest promotional video. As is the case with other social networking technologies that enable users to generate content, such as blogs, associations are encouraged to exercise caution when venturing into this arena. Associations that fail to fully disclose the source of their content or whose content is deemed to be too commercial could be subject to a backlash that can do more harm than good.

Below are a few tips that can help associations utilize online video as a marketing tool. 

  • Focus on the audience. While it is often a mystery what makes one online video more popular than another, the key is to make the information relevant to the individual who consumes it. Association members want to know what's in it for them, so learn what the target audience wants and deliver it generously.

    Gallaudet University Alumni Association (http://www.gallaudet.edu) focuses on its membership, deaf or hard of hearing graduates of the university, by posting its newsletter on YouTube delivered in American Sign Language (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjgNY4bppE8 ).  This communication method may not be understandable to the mainstream online audience, but hits the alumni of Gallaudet University with laser precision.
  • Capitalize on existing assets. Many associations already have video content that could be of interest to web users, such as recordings from a recent conference or luncheon presentation. As YouTube has taught us, individuals are the best sources of relevant video content. Encourage members to create short videos related to the association's mission and post them to the association web site or on sites such as YouTube.

    The ALS Association, a not-for-profit health organization dedicated to helping individuals with Lou Gehrig’s disease, re-purposes video clips from an episode of the television drama “ER” that deal with the ALS disease (http://www.alsa.org/news/article.cfm?id=881).  Behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with actor James Woods provide an interesting, relevant and informative video experience for members and site visitors.
  • Stay flexible. One of the advantages of web marketing is that you can experiment until you find something that works with relatively low incremental costs. It might take several months of testing the waters to arrive at a winning strategy, so help refine the strategy along the way by encouraging candid feedback from members and other web users. One of the great aspects of YouTube is the built-in "comments" feature that enables viewers to provide instant feedback. Ask members what they think and keep them involved in the process.

    The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (www.hkicpa.org.hk) took a creative approach at celebrating CPA Day with a special rap video emailed to their members.  When the video eventually made it to YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUcxvwAQ_n4 ) the organization took it in stride and achieved global recognition and overwhelming exposure for an otherwise quiet and unassuming association.  
  • Keep it simple. Many association web sites try to do too many things for too many people, which can result in the important thoughts and ideas getting lost. The same holds true for online video. To keep users from getting impatient, try to keep video clips between two and five minutes in length and have each address just one subject.  

    PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) runs a separate organizational video Web site (www.petatv.com) dedicated to offering hundreds of short videos for visitors to learn more about animal rights and vegetarianism.  These videos vary from celebrity interviews, PETA commercials and animal rights exposes – but all are concise and linked to other related videos and specific calls to action, to keep the user engaged and involved.
  • Don't focus on creating a blockbuster. The web might be an effective way of reaching a global audience of millions or even billions, but it also can effectively deliver a message with pinpoint precision to a narrowly defined audience of just a few. Decide who needs to be reached and how to catch their attention.

    Utilizing online video can put a more human face on an association. Online video can offer prospective members an easy, informal way to gather information about an association''s mission, vision and values. Likewise, associations that utilize social networking technologies to open a two-way conversation on the web might be surprised by how their relationships blossom as a result.


Katie Laird, a social media obsessed Web marketer with Schipul – The Web Marketing Company, helps associations maximize the effectiveness of their web marketing strategies through the latest and the coolest online technologies. Reach her at www.schipul.com.