Animoto gives businesses an easy way to create social videos

Animoto is launching a new product for businesses that want to post their own marketing videos for Facebook and other social networks — but don’t necessarily have the team or the skills needed to create something slick.

The company already offers products that automatically assemble your photos and videos into a video slideshow, and it’s been adding more tools for businesses. However, Animoto President Jason Hsiao said the team saw an opportunity to build a new product designed for this specific need.

“We’ve been adding business-related features to our existing product, but it really kind of got to this tipping point a few years back, where we decided to just step back and see all this activity going on with business videos,” Hsiao told me. “Everyone’s now trying to create their own videos, so we really wanted to try to tackle this head on.”

CTO Stevie Clifton added that the new product was inspired by drag-and-drop website builders — in the same way that companies like Squarespace and Weebly allow you to create a website without any coding, Animoto’s Marketing Video Builder should allow you create a video without a big production budget or extensive editing skills.

The key to this approach, Clifton said, is realizing that most marketing videos can be broken down into a number of common “components,” which can then be stitched together into a video. That means the Marketing Video Builder’s interface looks pretty different from the other video editors you might have seen.

“People who aren’t video editors, they don’t want a timeline,” Hsiao said.

So he and Clifton demonstrated creating a video for me — it took only a couple of minutes to create a professional-looking marketing video. You choose from a number of possible templates, which are basically storyboards built from those smaller components. For each component, you just follow the instructions, which might mean uploading a certain number of photos or videos.

The text and fonts can be edited, you can add voiceover to each piece and you can also customize the video by adding or removing components.

“You don’t want it to look like a cookie-cutter thing,” Clifton said. “We got that direct feedback from our customers who were  worried about starting from a storyboard: ‘I don’t want mine to look like everyone else’s.’ It’s really easy to make customizations that totally depart from what the storyboard is, and [tailor] it to their own needs.”

Once you’ve created the video, you can upload it to any websites and social networks that you choose. While Animoto doesn’t offer any specific tools to customize the video to different services — say, creating one cut for Facebook and another for Instagram — Clifton said, “We’ve started to look at that problem. We don’t know exactly what our solution is going to be.”

Some customers have already been testing the new product, and they’re not just small, mom-and-pop businesses — they include Crate & Barrel, Mighty Leaf Tea and Nu-Era Bakery.

And while Animoto’s focus does seem to be shifting to businesses, Clifton and Hsiao said the existing slideshow product isn’t going anywhere.

“If you’re doing anything heavily photo-based, or if it’s a consumer video, [the slideshow builder] is still better than anything out there,” Hsiao said.