According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 71 percent of American Internet users are visiting video-sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo – up from 66 percent in 2010 and 33 percent in 2006. The study also shows that 28 percent view an online video on a daily basis, up from only 8 percent in 2006.

In addition to creating and developing content-rich, customer-focused Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, business owners should incorporate video into their social media marketing strategies to effectively connect with customers and prospects – and rapidly expand awareness.

While the prospect of producing and possibly starring in a video can make even the most confident business owner shaky, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. A good entry point is the video bio. Video bios provide a great way to bridge the offline-online marketing gap, and enable prospects to place a face with a name.

Video bios can be posted on company websites, shared via social networking sites, and linked from email footers to increase views. This solution helps promote the expertise and personality of business owners, and has the proven power to garner trust.

Every second counts

After becoming comfortable with the process of producing and sharing a video, business owners should experiment creatively. Remember to keep the end goal in mind: producing a video that will both resonate with your customers and prospects and inspire them to be social about it afterward with comments, reviews and sharing.

The most successful (and viral) online videos have been the most simple. Obviously, most videos don’t go viral, but it’s a good idea to stick to the basics as far as production processes and costs are concerned.

“You don’t need a production of 50 people. You can move the world with three,” explains Joani Wardwell, the global public relations director for Wieden & Kennedy Portland, Old Spice’s agency of record, which created “The Old Spice Guy” viral videos.

By nature, people don’t have long attention spans. Videos two to three minutes in length have proven to be the most popular, and this length increases the likelihood videos will be viewed to completion. So plan carefully, and be succinct – every second counts.

The subject of the video can be very direct, such as product demonstrations, office/site tours, question/answer sessions and customer features. However, those that are indirectly related to your business – if at all – can often prove to be the most memorable.

Peter Adee, the president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Relativity Media, described the soft sell of online video in a New York Times article: “You are getting your message across, but it’s tangential; it’s not a direct frontal assault. You don’t have to make it perfect; if anything, that would hurt it. It has to feel organic. It has to feel original.”

Don’t be afraid to try a comedic approach (see Millennium Integrated Marketing’s latest office spoof at or try your hand at creating a planned series of related videos, which has proven to be a popular social video strategy for building buzz and increasing online brand followers.

Once your video is ready for the masses, post it to YouTube (and any other online video site, such as Google Videos, Vimeo or Yahoo! Video) and your company website to drive traffic there. It is critical to include relative keywords in the video title to increase search engine results – and remember to always include your website’s URL in the video, too.

After you’ve posted your video, make the big announcement via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with an HTML link. You’ll be receiving likes, followers, and video commentary in no time.

While businesses cannot rely solely on social media and video to increase profit margins, they are important aspects of a successful integrated marketing strategy. Social media and video can prove even more powerful when combined with other online marketing efforts (like search engine optimization and ad placement), and can be integral to transforming a business’ Web presence – resulting in increased lead generation, top-of-mind brand awareness, and improved sales.