Last year, Indianapolis-based building-restoration company Hays + Sons had a website and a Facebook and Twitter presence, but it tended to get lost amid a horde of competitors. Then tornadoes hit Kokomo, Indiana, and the company decided the time was right to try social video.

A Facebook clip documenting the tornado damage has clocked 9,500 views on Facebook--extra--­ordinary for a local business in an industry not known for its "clickability"--and, says co-founder Mark Hays, "it helped us communicate our message from the customer's point of view. It sets us apart from our competition when the user is trying to pick between companies." Facebook generates an average of eight billion video views per day, and YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable network in the U.S. Yet only around half of small-business owners have made a video, social or otherwise, in the past year. That opens the field for companies like Hays + Sons.

"In our industry, you've got everything from corporations like us to two dudes and a truck," says Chris Novotney, the company's director of business development. "Now when people go online and search, our videos pull up. It increased our sales." Joining the video vanguard is surprisingly easy. Use these tips to start shooting.

Know Thyself, Know Thy Video

Have a strategy before you shoot. If nobody in your industry is doing video, keep your budget low and your approach down to earth. At Des Plaines, Illinois-based payment-technology provider Integrity Payment Systems, founder and CEO Mike Ponder records straight-to-camera recruitment segments for potential salespeople with a Canon DSLR and a lapel mike. "Having my office as the backdrop personalizes it," says Ponder, whose top video has gotten 1,200 Facebook views and helped recruit 60 new sales staffers last year. Your view counts may be modest if you're in a specialized industry like Integrity's, but video can have a big impact with highly targeted audiences. When Fortville, Indiana-based Thursday Pools began posting 360-degree videos made by local agency MediaFuel, "it was the first time we'd heard dealers saying, 'This is something I'm going to show my customers,' " co-founder Bill Khamis says.

Pick Your Price Point

Video can have almost any budget these days. At the bottom end, you can shoot with your phone. "Users see the authenticity in it and they can really engage with it," says Miami marketer David Verjano. If your competition already has a video presence or you're trying to establish your brand, a high-end approach can set you apart. IceMule Coolers, based in St. Augustine Beach, Florida, spent $11,500 on the atmospheric clip "Bring the Party" and two shorter videos, limiting its shoot to one day to keep costs down. "Our video has garnered more than half a million impressions at a cost of 5 cents per view," says marketing manager Guy Barnhart. "Since creating it, web sales are 10 times what they were."

Be Quick About It

Short videos are good videos. "There's nothing better than capturing moments of passion in 90 seconds or less," says Jorge Rodriguez, founder of Fort Worth-based contractor Alliance Reconstruction, whose videos have gotten more than 11,000 Facebook views. "I introduce myself, introduce different parts of the company. They want to know who the owner of this company is." The visuals don't have to be elaborate. In February, South Florida restaurant chain Pincho Factory saw the power of social video when a bare-bones clip of its burgers grilling made it onto the Food Network's Facebook feed. It got more than 180,000 views and produced "a spike at all the stores in sales of the burger they saw us cooking," says co-founder and CMO Otto Othman. Such basic content is surprisingly effective. It "gives people a peek behind the curtain and makes a company a little more authentic," says Chris Kelley of V2 Marketing Communications. "It's almost mesmerizing to watch some of this stuff."

Choose Your Video Venue

Selecting the right social media site can have a big impact on the success of your video.


Best for: B2C industries, but its ubiquity means it's also a good way to reach B2B customers. Your approach: Go live--as in Facebook Live. You can broadcast straight from your phone. "More and more businesses are incorporating live video to connect with customers without spending the money larger organizations have," says ANKR Agency owner Brandon Hurtado


Best for: Companies that already have a Twitter following. Your approach: Post videos repeatedly (of no longer than two minutes 20 seconds). "The Twitter feed refreshes really fast. We're posting two to three times a day," reports Chris Kelley, marketing strategist at V2 Marketing Communications.


Best for: Retail, tech, media--any industry that trends young. Your approach: Combine photos and video to "paint a lifestyle picture," says automotive marketing strategist Laura Madison of "People consume information in different ways, so with every three or four posts, at least one [should] be a video. My favorite Instagram post [as a car salesperson] was from a girl standing in front of a truck she'd bought from me, which had a license plate from our dealership, and she was holding a huge fish she'd caught."


Best for: All industries, especially manufacturing or product. Your approach: Be informative. Do product demonstrations, how-tos, and brand-building narratives. Digital marketing strategist Tyler Holmes of MediaFuel says, "[People] forget about YouTube's power. It's one of the largest search engines behind Google, so if you're making things people will search for, YouTube is still the place to go."