Well, it was quite an endeavor, but the viral promotional video is now on YouTube. So anyone who wants to spread the word about HitTailing can do so using their “Share This Video” feature. It also gives the video a nice high-profile venue. It’s worth noting that I scripted the video, recorded the narration track and learned Flash in one week. It wasn’t easy, but was highly worth it! I’ll be collecting other examples of companies using viral videos to help spread the word. It seems to be one of the most useful tools for online word of mouth marketing.
Sorry to the beta testers who have been asking for features. I’ve been in constant communication with the development team during the demo creation, and we’re rapidly on the way to rolling out some new features. Highest on the list is downloading your keywords in Excel format. We’ve got a nifty way to mark all your keywords as deleted after your Excel download. But if your Excel download fails, you can re-download any block of keywords in your history. It sort of keeps a record of all your keyword downloads as discreet blocks of keywords that you can re-download at any time.
This has been important for one of our top beta testers, Gary Beal, or The Scuba Guy. He’s got some very interesting stories to tell about his use of HitTail. While we tend to position it as an alternative to PPC, it turns out that the HitTail keyword suggestions have the unanticipated effect of raising the effectiveness of PPC campaigns, bringing down costs and raising click-thru rates. In other words, the HitTail keyword list becomes the top performing keywords for PPC! FlyingRose also pointed this out in the very first days of the HitTail beta announcement. But the details are so interesting, I’ll save it for a dedicated post.
So, what made the YouTube video into such a big ordeal? The AVI that Flash exported was 300MB. YouTube only allows a 100MB upload, maximum. Going from a 1MB SWF file to a 300MB avi seemed extreme, so I investigated. YouTube recommended a 320 x 240 mpeg4 file encoded with Divx or XviD. Well, this started the giant encoder-enabled codec hunt (compressor/decompressor). The winning codec turned out to be XviD-1.1.0-30122005.exe. Once I had it, I needed the encoding tool, which turned out to be VirtualDub. But even with VirtualDub, the resizing of the Flash video was terrible quality. I actually ended up exporting the entire Flash as individual JPGs at full maximum quality. Quality was of the utmost important for readability of type at small sizes, and because it was just going to be re-encoded by YouTube.
But Flash’s resizing of the images was terrible, so I did PhotoShop batch converting. It was a challenge, because resizing and saving JPGs as a batch in PhotoShop required suppressing the save as dialogue box, but it was worth it, because the images were of top quality. Finally, VideoDub using XviD refused the source images as corrupt, and it took awhile before I realized the JPGs had to be exactly 320 x 240! They were 320 x 233 because Flash’s default size (which I used) was 550 x 400 — a logical size to get a flash demo centered on the still-existing 640 x 480 desktops, and a small filesize, considering all the bitmaps I was embedding. When it was all said and done, the file I ended up uploading to YouTube was 3.5MB, which got re-encoded for On2 or Sorensen’s playback built into the Flash 8 player. It seemed silly and ironic to go through all these hoops just to get back to Flash format!