Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series.

If you’re not promoting your listings using video, you’re missing a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition, provide a higher level of service to your clients, and reach the hot Gen X and Gen Y markets.

According to NAR, only 1 percent of all agents used video in their businesses in 2010. This year, the number is 8 percent. If you want to edge out your 92 percent of your competition, creating fun and engaging videos is a great way to do it. Below are nine simple tips that can help you to shoot great videos for your business.

1. Perfect quality not required
If you were shooting a video five years ago, most people expected commercial quality. With the advent of YouTube, this is no longer the case. YouTube has made amateur videos shot with a cell phone or a Flip camera acceptable. While there are definitely times when you will want to use a professional videographer (e.g., when you have an expensive listing or are shooting a video about the area that is expected to have a long shelf life), shooting your own videos can be a great way to attract more business.

The key point to keep in mind is that people today expect your video to inform, entertain or to provide value for the time they spent watching it.

2. Play and learn
Perhaps the most challenging question is where to begin and how much to spend. If you own a smartphone or a computer with a built-in video cam, these are great tools to begin your learning process. In most cases, all you have to do is point and click and you’re shooting video. Rather than worrying about being perfect, look at it as an opportunity to play and learn.

3. Length
In terms of the length, 60-90 seconds is optimal. The research from YouTube shows that their users are much more likely to open a short video that is under 90 seconds in length. Videos that are two minutes or longer have significantly lower open rates. While people are willing to commit to a minute or so to watch a video, most won’t even open the video if it’s more than a couple of minutes long.

4. Purchase a tripod
To make sure that your video isn’t too shaky, purchase a tripod. My personal favorite is one that looks like a three-legged octopus that allows you to mount your video camera on a variety of surfaces.

5. Wear a microphone for better sound quality
To provide the best visuals and the best sound quality possible, it’s smart to shoot closer in to your subjects rather than too far away. While the sound quality on your camera or phone may be acceptable, it will be significantly better if you use a second microphone when you record.

While people tend to be forgiving of the visual quality being less than perfect, the sound quality must be good for two reasons. First, your viewers will go elsewhere if they can’t understand the sound track. Second, Google now has technology that converts audio into searchable text. If the sound is not clear, you may fail to generate the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits that video can provide.

6. Visuals do matter
Whenever you shoot a video, you must constantly be aware of light sources. While the natural sunlight may look wonderful to the naked eye, it can create washed-out areas on your video. If you’re shooting a video outside, overcast skies are often better because the light is more even. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about shooting into the sun or how harsh shadows may obscure the picture.

7. Check the background
It’s also important to pay attention to the background where you’re shooting. For example, we recently shot a video of a live role-play during one of my speaking engagements. Because of the room setup, the only place we could conduct the role-play was in front of the projector screen. The woman that I role-played with has blond hair just like me.

The result was our blond hair completely disappeared into the white background. While the result looked pretty funny, it was a great reminder to always check the background. Additional guidelines include avoiding sparkly jewelry or fabrics. These items may cause strange light reflections on the video.

8. Where are the windows?
When you’re shooting indoors, windows (even when they are covered) can cause major issues. For example, you may have the Roman shades closed in a room, yet the direct sunlight shines through the sides of the windows. Again, small rays of direct sunlight can wash out part of your video. The challenge is that you won’t notice the issue until you play the video back.

9. Green-screen challenges
Many professional videographers use what is known as a "green screen." This technology allows the videographer/editor to add almost any type of background. If you’re in front of the camera and are using a green screen, avoid wearing red. The camera will read it as green. The result is anything that is green or red disappears on camera.

Also avoid wearing patterns. The checks on your shirt or jacket can create clownish-looking results. As a rule of thumb, solid dark colors or jewel colors (with the exception of red or green), usually work best.

Most of these issues can be avoided simply by shooting a short sample video to check for light, sound and other issues. This allows you to spot the problems and to correct them before they ruin your work.

Need more help with creating videos for your business? If so, see Part 2.

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