Common Craft is a company specializing in creating "explanation" videos. Most of their videos are pitched as an explanation of something "in plain English," and include simple-but-cute hand drawn cartoons alongside a charming narration. Their website tag line reads: "Our product is explanation.”
Never heard of them? I think they're probably doing more right than most video producers I've come across… for a variety of reasons:
1. Filling A Need
"Content is king" is comparable to "drive carefully" for me: sage advice that is so overused that it's lost all meaning. But it really applies here. There are an awful lot of companies trying to operate on the business model of video creation. Most of them create an awful lot of unnecessary and uninteresting videos.
Common Craft, on the other hand, has a knack for choosing topics that really do need explaining. For instance, if you consult with small businesses on web marketing, as I do, you've no doubt run into the common brick wall of client ignorance. You try to break down the benefits of a blog to their business, but get waylaid by questions about what RSS means. You're trying to explain SEO, but first have to spend an hour summarizing how a search engine works. Clients know they want Twitter and SEO and a blog, but they need some schooling before they'll crack open the checkbook.
If you're an SEO, then you don't need to be told about how much of the average SEO's time is spent in explanation. At my company, we've just kind of assumed it was a necessary evil, and rolled some "teaching time" into our planning and standardized processes.
We did, that is, until we discovered Common Craft. I used to spend 20-30 minutes explaining what RSS is and how both users and content publishers can benefit from it—keep in mind that the percentage of users who knowingly use RSS is still frustratingly small—but Common Craft found a way to explain RSS in about three minutes. If you haven't seen it, check out their RSS In Plain English video:
They've created a product that was sorely needed for people like me—dead simple explanations of complicated topics—and have done it in a fun and unique way. Now, whenever I'm pitching a client on the benefits of having a business blog, I just show them the Common Craft RSS video, and they're sold.
2. Great Business Model
Common Craft has a fantastic business model. They put most of their videos on YouTube, freely available to those who need them. They also sell their videos to people like me who may wish to use one in a seminar presentation. Finally, they produce custom videos. If you're in a complicated industry dealing with new technologies or terminologies, you can hire Common Craft to create one of their patented explanation videos just for you.
3. High Quality Work
These videos are excellent. If you have ever seen the "Watch a video!" link on the Twitter home page, that's Common Craft's work (it's not there anymore). That video, "Twitter in Plain English," has been viewed millions of times and has even been translated in 69 different languages. How many languages has your video been translated into?
In case you haven't seen it:
Think about this for a minute… Common Craft did such a good job explaining what Twitter is and how it's used, that Twitter put a link to the video on the home page (rather than trying to explain it themselves). If that's not an endorsement of how great Common Craft is at boiling down complicated concepts into easily understood explanations, then I don't know what is. Whatever complicated thing it is that your company does, I can pretty much guarantee that Common Craft can explain it better than you can.
4. Oustanding SEO
Granted, it helps their SEO efforts tremendously to have so many links pointed at their site and their videos. But isn't that what we preach to each other at conferences all the time? Have great content, and the links—and by extension, the search placements—will follow, right?
I get a lot of clients that know enough to be dangerous. They want to use YouTube to promote their business, but the only video content they have is the piece News Channel 6 did on them last November. It does get old trying to explain why simply throwing your existing commercials and instructional videos up onto YouTube won't exactly translate into a number one Google rank.
Naming the video series "In Plain English" is just this side of genius. I'd love to get a peak at their analytics to see how much traffic they get from searches containing that phrase. The business model helps a ton, too, in terms of anchor text. Anyone who watches a Common Craft video that they find exceptional is likely to link to it—and do so using the perfect anchor text whether they realize it or not (such as "click here to see the single best explanation of Twitter I've ever seen.”).
They don't need to ask for anchor text, because they've built and named their product in a way that gets the desired anchor text inherently. Brilliant. Check out a search on Google for "explanation of twitter," or see the screenshot on the right. Their site is #1 organic result and their video #1 universal result.
They've clearly done all of the basic on-site SEO as well. Whether they hired someone or did it themselves, it's obviously something they considered early on. The code is very clean, and all the usual suspects (meta tags, alt tags, etc.) are there. Just the full package of SEO logic from business model to product name to keywords.
If you struggle to explain things to your client, I would encourage you to check out Common Craft... you won't be sorry.
Disclaimer: It's a shame that we're in a day and age when I have to do this, but here goes… I am not affiliated with Common Craft. They haven't paid me or asked me to write this. I'm an absolute nobody to them. I'm just a huge, huge fan and thought it was a fantastic case study of how to do video (and SEO for video) the right way.
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