A View to a Killer Business Model

In the last three years, Web 2.0 technologies have brought innovations to the entrepreneurial and small business markets that have enabled creativity, productivity, growth opportunities, and, yes, fun. We’ve watched as Facebook morphed from an Ivy League hangout into a social networking site with growing business functionality; and we’ve seen burgeoning business moguls take advantage of audio tools to launch radio shows that complement their businesses. No question, then, Web 2.0 is moving fast. So what’s the next step? Well, if you’ve passed around or commented on any of the thousands of user-generated videos online, then you might have an inkling.

“Video is a critical component of any corporate communication today, and it’s a great way to market your product early on, while it’s still inexpensive to do,” says Mary Spio, 37, president and co-founder of Gen2Media Corp., a technology, production, and marketing company based in Florida with offices in New York.

With the rapid growth of sites such as YouTube (www.youtube.com), Hulu (www.hulu.com), and Vimeo (www.vimeo.com), which let users upload and view original content and create their own channels, entrepreneurs are finding creative, innovative, and inexpensive ways to market their businesses. And this trend is expected to grow: According to eMarketer, a New York-based market research and trend-analysis firm, more than four out of five Internet users will watch online video ads in 2012, up from two-thirds in 2008.

“There are a lot of ways to market with video that three or four years from now, people are not going to be able to afford,” says Spio. Gen2Media (www.gen2media.com) was formed in 2007 as a partnership between Spio’s company e360 L.L.C. and Media Evolutions, a video production company. The company has a full-service production house; provides the Digital Video Publisher software, which lets users produce and publish their own video; and has a network on which they sell advertising. The company posted $1 million in revenues for 2009 and features a client roster that includes major corporations, celebrities, and small to mid-size businesses.

Gen2Media was recently tapped to design and produce live digital video content for Black Eyed Peas concerts worldwide. They have also worked on the Billboard Music Awards, Sprite’s campaign for its Sprite Green launch with LeBron James, and the Toyota Scion campaign for the Hispanic market.

Spio, a graduate of Syracuse University and Georgia Tech who started out building satellites as a deep space engineer, sees video as a natural evolution of what has been occurring not just in mainstream media but also in the social networking space. But she admits that there has been a reluctance to adopt video as an additional strategy.

“A lot of people don’t quite understand how they can take advantage of video,” she says. “There are a lot of people saying they’re going to use video, but they have not educated themselves about how to do it the right way.”

Spio says this is an issue particularly in the African American and small business media spaces. “We have not seen a widespread use of video and social media there; although you have a lot of African Americans who consume the media, the African American media is not addressing them. The consumers are there but the businesses are slow to adopt and communicate with them.” And as technology and the market evolve, this could put African American-owned companies at a disadvantage.

This is unfortunate, Spio says, because the benefits of using video as part of a marketing strategy are significant. For one, “It increases credibility,” she says. “We have seen 13% to 15% sales lifts for clients when they use video.”

So how can companies include video as part of their marketing arsenal? For starters, it’s important to consider your objectives and plan carefully. “You have to lead with your marketing ideas,” says Spio. “What [experience] are you trying to create for your audience? You have to match your brand’s need to the right application,” she notes, adding that it can be easy to lose your message by not engaging the right strategy.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but video is worth a million,” says Spio. And in today’s market, when the cost of entry is still relatively low (some free), “a million words” can translate into tremendous benefits for your business.

This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.