Guest Post by Suzanne Lagerweij
When we started our 360 video production company - Field of Views - in 2015, we were lucky to find quite a few clients during the first year. I’m not sure if it was simply good luck, or just being in the right place at the right time. Then again, maybe it was the way we presented our 360 videos: in person, using a VR headset? And it worked! But for some strange reason the new clients we were hoping for didn’t show up during our second your.
It wasn’t just us, though. Speaking with colleagues in the field of VR/360 video production, both online and in person during meetups and events, I’ve realised that we are all faced with the same challenge: how to get this market going.
With the arrival of all the VR headsets in 2015, such as the Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, we had all expected that Virtual Reality and 360 video would have become more mainstream by now. And with so many affordable 360 consumer cameras on the market right now, creating 360 videos is also becoming much easier. Then why don’t we see that many 360 videos online? The answer is clear: there is no great distribution platform for 360 content. Yet?
The 360 video distribution conundrum
While we create 360 videos that people seem to love, they cannot be easily found online. Of course, there are platforms that support 360 videos like YouTube, Facebook (which is hard at work to improve their 360 video support) and Blend Media. Those channels are not all very easy to use, either for a publisher, or for the audience. And they’re also not easy to combine with channels that do not yet support 360 video. So it’s not surprising that using 360 video on social media is not a common thing for most companies.
So, even with all the data surfacing about 360 video advantages in capturing your audience, many companies are not truly convinced they should use 360 videos. For now. So it is our job to educate and convince them. To do that the Field of Views team has, for instance, created wordpress plugins to help clients embed their 360s on the web. Also we started to create ‘flattened’ 360 video for use on twitter and instagram. We make a point of offering all the tech support they could ever need. A good proposition, but we had to find a way to get that across.
A possible solution
After 6 months of visiting companies directly, and trying to convince them by showing our 360 videos on mobile devices and VR headsets, we thought it was time to reflect. We knew showing the content in a face-to-face setting was most convincing, but this didn’t scale. We looked back and realised that we needed to get out more and visit those places where we could meet a collection of potential clients.
Searching online led us to many marketing and tech conferences/events. To test our idea, we thought it would be great to offer one of them a free 360 video shoot of their event. So we contacted many nearby events and offered them our services in exchange for free publicity. This would give us the opportunity to find leads while being at work. I usually get a lot of attention and interest during my 360 shoots, and being at such events would be a great way to get noticed by future clients.
At these events I have experienced that most companies love it when they show up in the event video, of course. But they are not likely to book their own 360 shoot straightaway. So whenever I get the chance I shoot some extra footage and also create a teaser video for them, giving me a direct lead to follow up on.
Simple, right? To start a business with a new technology and become successful, is all about creating opportunities. So as long as there is no clear platform for 360 content, you’ll have to find your own way to develop your market.
If we all keep sharing our enthusiasm for VR/360 video content with the rest of the world, we will manage to convince them all! Just keep on pioneering and don’t give up! :-)
Tips for a successful 360 video / VR business
- Contact your client to set the right expectation. Make sure you know who will be in charge of posting the videos on social media. Try and call this person to explain how you work. For instance, they need to know about the time necessary for post-processing (stitching, editing, etc.).
- Be prepared. Check the event’s website to see what you can expect. Maybe there’s a map or list of sponsors that you can try and contact in advance to see if they would like to get filmed.
- Check the event’s schedule and make a plan. What and who do you want to film? It really helps if you prioritise, you’ll never be able to capture everything.
- Take enough equipment with you (extra memory card, battery, charger, stand, tie wraps+knife!). And bring the right camera. The Vuze camera seems to be the perfect camera if you want to shoot and deliver on the same day.
- Make sure people see you! Wear a t-shirt with your logo and hand out as many business cards as you can. The camera will attract attention. In fact, one of the few disadvantages I found in using the more compact Vuze camera that it’s less conspicuous!
- Talk to people. Make eye contact and invite them over to have a look at one of your 360 videos on your phone. Explain how your camera works and why 360 videos are a great eyecatcher to show off online.
- Offer a ‘free shoot’ during the event. Create opportunities for future business by handing out free teaser videos. And don’t forget to get the contact information of the marketing person.
Suzanne Lagerweij is an educator, writer and entrepreneur, and CEO of Field of Views, the 360 video provider founded in 2015 in Amsterdam. She always has an eye out for getting the right shot and has an infectious enthusiasm for spreading the word on the joys of VR and 360 video.
Over the past two years Suzanne has shot footage in the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. She’s walked fairs with the camera on her head, hung it out of ferris wheels, stuck it on both New York and London Taxis, and bounced it off a Las Vegas highway. And then there was that male strip show in Amsterdam…
To help spread her content, she’s found she needs to help her customers apply it on all the channels they use to reach their customers. She’s had wordpress plugins developed to create impressive impact on websites. Apps to publish virtual tours. And new ways to still give the 360 ‘being there’ experience, even on social media platforms that don’t support it (yet), like Instagram or Twitter. Anything to bring the advantages of high engagement, and immersive experience, to the masses.