Originally published by The Erie Reader on February 4, 2014.
What do you get when you cross ever-advancing software engineering with interactive video making? After over twenty years in the industry, Red Hat has recently been exploring that intersection to highlight both its technology and its consumers. Mike Esser, Red Hat’s Digital Media designer, has been creating videos for the company that market their products through story telling. According to Esser, Red Hat has already changed the software world, and their videos are the next step in selling their products, and receiving consumer feedback in return. Esser uses videography as a way to tell the stories of the people behind the software and the people who use the software. Now that he has mastered Red Hat’s video strategies, he is traveling to Erie for the Erie Art Museum’s Digital Salon Night, where he will discuss the particulars of how to use videos to sell a brand and tell the stories that matter to consumers.
Ellie Hartleb: What is Red Hat and what is your primary purpose for creating so many digital videos for Red Hat?
Mike Esser: Red Hat® is the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, using a community-powered approach to provide reliable and high-performance cloud, visualization, storage, Linux®, and middleware technologies. The primary purpose for our videos started as a way to share our story, highlight our mission and talk about the way in which we were changing the world of software development through the use of open source. While we still create videos that do this, we’ve evolved our video strategy to not only share our story, but market out products, highlight our people, give a glimpse into our events, and help strengthen and maintain our company culture internally.
EH: Red Hat is a technology company with a product that is basically software. How is video used to demonstrate your products?
ME: Red Hat has two major assets: our people and our technology. We do our best to highlight both. While the technology/software part of our story is compelling in itself, showing off the latest GUI (Graphical User Interface) is only half the story. It’s our people and the community around us that make Red Hat and our products so great. We like to highlight the engineers behind the software and capture their passion for the products. Screencasts and software demos are easy to make, but we always try to find the story behind it with a quick interview.
EH: Is it a production challenge to work in short video lengths?
ME: Yes. But it forces us to be more mindful of the piece. Who is this for? What is the take away? What is this video trying to get the viewer to do? All these things, plus many others, play a role in what the final length of the piece will be. When people ask me how long the video should be, my typical response is, “As long or short as it needs to be.” People don’t generally like that answer.
EH: Your videos appear to get a lot of views, and better yet, many receive quite a bit of commenting. How did you achieve that successful interaction?
ME: Interaction begets interaction. Video was very much a “push” medium early on, but it’s now become a venue for engagement so we look for those opportunities. We started small initially, with one channel on YouTube, as many do. It was important to me early on that if someone commented, Shadowman replied. If there is a question, I made sure it was answered. People want to know there is someone on the other side, and we definitely want to make sure they stay tuned in.
EH: In what ways has mobile impacted your video strategy?
ME: Everything is going mobile, so of course we’ve made sure are videos are: a) rendered at sizes that are consumable, and b) the codecs being used are as user friendly as possible and work across most devices. It’s my humble opinion that these two technologies haven’t quite caught up to each other. Streaming video via mobile device or email is still not where it needs to be for most marketers, but we’re getting there. I wouldn’t think we are within a year of seeing videos playing right in your inbox when you open up that email. Can’t wait right?
EH: As technology continues to advance, where do you see Red Hat going in the future? Will videos play a long-term role in your marketing strategy?
ME: I hope so. I just don’t see a day when this medium goes away. There is power in sharing a story, and I think the way you tell it continues to evolve alongside the technology, and quite frankly, we’re just getting started.