Every business with a Web site (that’s probably you) can benefit from tutorials on how to use and navigate the site. This includes a real estate broker Web site.

Not only are tutorials helpful in training agents and employees on using the site (and showing others at trade shows and Tupperware parties), they make it easy for potential clients to see the site’s value. A potential client who does not know how to use your Web site to its fullest potential, or experiences frustration navigating it, will likely never be a client. And they’ll probably never come back to the site.

Traditionally, companies have relied on text instructions on the Web site, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and static screenshots to explain a site’s benefits. There are three main problems with these methods:

1. Copy. It is often difficult and costly to produce text that effectively communicates how to use a Web site. Even if it is well written, like bicycle instructions, most folks get frustrated reading them. (Most bikes are bought pre-assembled for this reason.) In any case, it’s often trial and error for the Web site visitor, with less trial and more error. Even screenshots don’t solve the problems, because many are normally required and it’s time consuming to click them all.

2. Information retention. Despite your best efforts to communicate in words and images, folks don’t absorb it all. Scientists say we retain only about 20 percent of what we read, 30 percent of what we hear and 40 percent of what we see.

3. Time. Folks just don’t have it. And the instant gratification of the Web has decreased attention spans. If people get confused on your Web site, they’ll leave in seconds.

There is an easy and cheap solution: screen-capture-recording videos.

Screen-capture recording records your desktop, or lesser defined area, and every mouse click as you navigate your Web site, in real time. Audio recording allows you to speak to your audience as you cruise through the site, pointing out all the goodies inside. (Wow, so that’s how you use a heat map?)

After recording and saving, simply copy and paste the embed code anywhere on your Web site or blog,  or upload it to your YouTube channel. Visitors need only sit back and enjoy the lesson. If you make it short (between 2-3 minutes), they can replay the video. Because of the audio-visual sensory learning experience, visitors will retain more information. The end result is a happy and educated camper. Koumbaya!

There are several screen-capture recording tools out there. The one I prefer is Screentoaster.com.

Screentoaster is Web-based. You do not have to download any software. It is also very easy to use:

1. Choose the area of your computer screen to record.
2. Choose the audio record option.
3. Click to record (you can pause the recording at any time).
4. Do your wonderful walk-through of your Web site.
5. Click to stop recording.
6. Preview the recording before downloading to Screentoaster (chose the public or private viewing). You’re done. (You can also download the video to your computer.)
7. Copy and paste the code to embed the video or just get the link URL.

No kidding, it’s that simple. After recording, you have other options, including tagging and subtitling your video. …CONTINUED

Other great features include the ability to upload your Screentoaster video directly to YouTube and share it on a number of social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed. You can also e-mail the video. Screen-capture recordings are great for updating your client base on new features you’ve added to the Web site.

It is a good idea to upload instructional videos to YouTube in a special channel devoted to tutorials. Google Webmaster Central maintains such a channel to help folks see behind the curtain of the Great Goog. Zillow does this too.

Screentoaster is compatible with Windows PC, Mac OSX and Linux.

Best of all, Screentoaster is FREE.

Some tips on making screen-capture recordings:

  • Prepare before you begin. Outline the main points you want to cover.
  • At the start of your demo, explain to your audience what you will be demonstrating.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Let your cursor pause on the location before your click it.
  • Explain where you are clicking. Even though folks can see your cursor, your voice reinforces it.
  • If doing a full-screen capture, remove toolbars that have information you do not which to share.
  • Keep videos short, between two and three minutes.
  • Demos should cover no more than a few major points. Do other demos to cover more.
  • If you make a mistake (you will), don’t stop. Treat it as a test run.
  • Relax. Because you are not burning film or money and retakes are easy, don’t sweat it.
  • Update your demos as your Web site features change.

You’ll find that making screen-capture recordings becomes easier over time.

Another screen-capture tool I’ve used, and like, is FastStoneCapture. It’s almost free ($20 for a lifetime license). I use FastStoneCapture for screen-capturing images, but it also records. It is lightweight and very versatile.

Joseph Ferrara is publisher of the Sellsius Real Estate Blog and a partner in TheClozing.com, a real estate news aggregator site. He is an attorney with 25 years of experience in New York, and he also coaches agents on the use of blogging and social networking.


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