With 1 million subscribers, Lumen5 is a customer-centric platform where you can create videos more easily

By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur. 
Vancouver-based Michael Cheng is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and one of the three founders of Lumen5, which I’m a massive fan of. He joined me in the latest episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur podcast and explained how their video creation platform helps entrepreneurs get noticed.

Image from LinkedIn

Lumen5: The PowerPoint for Videos

Video is one of those things that everyone wants to get into right now. Everyone wants to watch videos but not everyone knows how to create them. 

For many people, video production is very daunting; it seems like a complicated thing. Lumen5 is an online platform that Michael considers as the PowerPoint for videos. In PowerPoint, you can easily make a presentation, slide by slide, through point-and-click and drag-and-drop actions. He and his co-founders created Lumen5 as the video counterpart so that anyone — even those without experience — can create engaging video content for their brand.

Lumen5’s Beginnings

A lot of the best origin stories involve co-founders coming together from diverse backgrounds.

In Lumen5’s case, co-founders Chris Bowal and Nigel Gutzmann both have a software background. They come from the world of engineering and building digital products. On the other hand, Michael has a background in multimedia and interactive design. He studied things such as video design, video editing, video production, and 3D modeling among other complicated creative tools.

He cited Adobe as the brand that has largely defined that software industry for the past 10 to 15 years. Many of their tools, including Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere, were made for video professionals. Together with Chris and Nigel, he saw that there was something missing. What about everyone else? 

This wasn’t really relevant until around five years ago when video content really took off. Today, there are different formats for this content. For instance, there’s Instagram Stories wherein you can post a video that disappears after 24 hours. In this regard, it no longer makes sense to go out there and hire an agency to produce something that goes away after a day.

How Lumen5 Works

Lumen5 only requires very basic skills. If you know how to use Microsoft Word or PowerPoint (which entails point-and-click and typing text actions), that’s all you need for you to be able to use the video creation platform. 

Screengrab from Lumen5

Michael shared that Lumen5 users who are busy marketers or entrepreneurs love to use their nifty feature that turns blog posts into videos. They can simply copy and paste a link from their blog, and then drop it straight into the Lumen5 system. Their system lays out the storyboard for them. They can pick and choose sentences directly within the platform. 

Lumen5 also offers stock media (they have partnered with Shutterstock and Storyblocks). This way, users won’t have to go out and capture some footage. They won’t need a camera or a microphone. They simply have to search for a topic (e.g. coffee beans, cups of coffee, and baristas if the video is about coffee), then drag and drop the stock videos. This already takes care of the visual component of the final video output. 

Generally, the average user can complete a video that they’re satisfied with within 10 minutes. Meanwhile, first-time users can get it done in under 20 minutes. 

If you use their platform, you’ll get a bit faster with every video that you create. Over time, you can become a power user and familiarise yourself with all the different tools that Lumen5 has to offer. 

Keeping Your Lumen5-Produced Content On-Brand

According to Michael, Lumen5 does a lot of work with Fortune 500 companies, which have branding requirements. Most of their work is divided into two major categories. First is the creative side — How you do create enticing and engaging videos and make the production really easy? The second one is branding. 

Within Lumen5, entrepreneurs and business owners like you can upload your own fonts (including proprietary fonts, as long as you have the font file). All of their colours are also customisable to ensure that every video you create on their platform appears as your brand. 

Image from Lumen5

Lumen5 also offers a number of themes and templates for you to choose from. If your brand requires the design elements to have rounded or hard edges or the transitions to be smooth or quick, you can also choose such options in the platform. This way, they make consistency really easy. And this is how teams come to collaborate. 

If you have 20 to 50 different people creating videos, they can tap into these same brand settings. They’ll be able to use the same font and same template to produce similar-looking videos together. They can localise them for a particular geographical location as well.

Localising for Language

Michael shared that Lumen5 is also designed to be somewhat like a text editor. It’s easy to get rid of or type text, and in this sense, using the platform is very different from using something like After Effects. In the latter, you’ll have to navigate a timeline and find a certain element at a precise point in time. 

Going back to his analogy that Lumen5 is the PowerPoint for videos, he emphasised their goal of designing a simple video creation platform. 

Lumen5 offers two ways to do localisation. First, someone produces an original English-language version, then it gets distributed to localised teams or to a different individual who knows the target location better. These people can then simply edit out the text with their own language and tone. They can also tweak the settings to make sure that the colours reflect what the geo-demographics require. 

The other way is more of a Canadian thing. Because Canada is a bilingual country (they speak English and French), users create two tiers of text to produce a bilingual video. 

Through Lumen5, you can clone a video multiple times without interrupting the original version. 

On Sonic Branding

According to Michael, Lumen5 supports audio in four ways. 

First, they have a music library for all people out there who are stressed out at the thought of music production and are not quite ready for it. Similar to stock media, they’ve partnered with Storyblocks to offer thousands of audio tracks built right into their system. You can search it by mood (e.g. happy, bright, dark, ominous). Whatever it is, keyword search will allow you to find the music that you’re looking for. 

For those who have their own tunes, Lumen5 also supports audio file uploads. It could be a jingle that you can put as an intro or outro of your video. 

Image from Unsplash

With Lumen5, you can also record a voiceover for your videos. Once you hit their voice button, you can read the script of your video out loud so you can give your audience that audio angle. 

The last piece is Artificial Intelligence (AI) voiceover, which is still in its beta form. With Google Home and Alexa, most people are familiar with AI voices. Currently, Lumen5 is experimenting with different Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to see which is going to work better for the users. Now, there’s only one voice available for you to add to your video but over time, they plan to add more. This feature is something that they’re creating themselves because creating a voice is a business in and of itself. 

More Efficient Content Repurposing

Lumen5 has been around for about five years now. And Michael remarked that much of their time has been invested in solving problems like exporting your video into different sizes for different platforms. How do they make it easy for the average marketer and entrepreneur to be able to do such repetitive daily tasks?

When you create a video for desktop viewers, it will have a landscape orientation. You also want a square for your social feed. You may also want a vertical video for Instagram Stories, Snapchat, TikTok, or for mobile audiences in general. 

On Lumen5, there’s a tab on the left side of the system once you’re done creating your video. You can change your video’s dimensions using this one-click aspect ratio switch feature. It’s a very important and unique value proposition that they bring to their users. If you were to use Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere, or iMovie, it’s not going to be that simple. You’re going to have to change the entirety of your video and shuffle everything around. 

Lumen5 is beneficial because it has a structured approach to video creation. There are templates and building blocks. And when you switch aspect ratios, your video will automatically adapt to the aspect ratio that you chose. All of the images and the texts will be resized and moved to make them fit in the new aspect ratio. This all happens with a single click. 

Image from Lumen5

You can republish your video if you want to create a square version. You can also opt to duplicate your video, change the aspect ratio of the duplicate, and then publish. You can repeat the process to change the aspect ratio to vertical. After that, what you’ll have are three project files for each different platform. 

If you want to adjust the length for some of your project files to adapt to the local channels (e.g. YouTube videos should be longer, Instagram Stories should be 15 seconds or less), simple editing in Lumen5 also allows you to do that. 

The Best Technology is Invisible

At Lumen5, Michael and company have always believed that the best design is invisible; the best technology is invisible. You can go through the entire video creation process and not know what happened. 

For example, with regard to scene length, users have control over how long each of their video’s scenes will be. But it’s actually automatically calculated. Lumen5’s design philosophy is all about great defaults: If they create great defaults, their users won’t be able to feel the need to tweak those things. 

Talking about scene length, Michael mentioned that as users compile their story and add a bit of text, Lumen5 calibrates all of that with the average reading speed. The magic really comes when the words-per-minute differ from language to language. Using their approach to design, you can create a video in Chinese, Japanese, or English, get different words-per-minute defaults, and still feel like all the videos are natural (i.e. you won’t feel the need to change the scene length). 

Another example is scene composition. Scene composition is something that you might study in photography school. But with Lumen5, the system will automatically position things in such a way that they look good. If you drag a photo as a background and the photo features a human face, then add text on it, the text will never be placed on top of the human face. Their system recognises that the human face is a visual subject and that the text is the content subject. They will be automatically placed on somewhat opposing ends to make them complement one another. 

How Lumen5 Grew Their Subscribership

Michael and his co-founders started the company five years ago. Recently, they celebrated reaching the threshold of a million users. Back in the day, there used to be zero users. It was just him poking around the beta version. 

Image from Unsplash

One thing that they’ve always been passionate about as a product and design team is prioritising customers. During their first two years, they didn’t really think at all about how to get a lot of users. Their emphasis is how to make five or 15 people really happy with their tool? 

In the early days, what Michael did was tap into communities. He went into Reddit and Facebook groups of entrepreneurs and founders who were just starting their projects. He started simple conversations about how their Lumen5 can help these entrepreneurs create videos for their kickstarter campaigns. It’s almost like being an unpaid contractor. 

Before he knew it, he got 50 to a hundred people asking how he was able to do video content in just 10 minutes. Then, the conversation shifted from him creating videos to Here’s how I did it. Here’s an account, go ahead, and check it out. 

This customer-centricity has created a lot of advocacy over the years. A lot of Lumen5’s growth can be attributed to folks like myself who enjoy and appreciate the platform and tell their friends and family about it. 

Lumen5’s Freemium Pricing Model

When companies reach a certain stage, they start thinking about building on what they’ve previously had. 

One of the things that Michael and his team did was to deploy a freemium pricing model. This allowed them to hit two birds with one stone. 

Image from Lumen5

The freemium model has let them offer Lumen5 for free — anyone can create videos without paying anything. The trade-off is that when you create a free video, it will have a Lumen5 watermark on it (the end part of the video says, Video created using lumen5.com). 

While people can call it a public relations strategy, it’s also a sort of viral growth strategy. All of the free users can then create videos, post them, and share them with their followers. If thousands of their followers watch the video, they’ll be able to see that the video was made using Lumen5. At least one of those followers will undoubtedly think about making a video for their business just like what they saw. 

Through the watermark exposure, Lumen5 has virally grown, gaining users that, in turn, bring in more users. 

How Many Videos Should You Make?

Michael and his team find it hard to keep track of the content being made on Lumen5 because their users create unique videos. For example, there are many repurposed videos with different aspect ratios. But according to their estimate, the amount of content created through their platform is now in the 7-million range.

Often, he gets asked by clients about how many videos they should create. He usually answers one of two things. Number one is that every audience is different. So you really have to know your audience — How often are they spending their time on social media? How much content do they consume? The other thing is that you have to know yourself. Don’t commit to creating 10 videos a day if you’re not going to have time for it. You’re only going to burn yourself out. 

In the end, the best strategy is the one that’s consistent over time. As a brand voice, you want to be consistent and persistent. You want to be able to do what you do and deliver value. You won’t be able to do it if you over-commit and you only have fewer resources than what you need to actually deliver on those promises. 

Image from Unsplash

Lumen5’s Affordable Pricing

By far, Lumen5’s free plan is the most popular. They’re able to offer their tool for free because they’re confident about the product. If you try it for free, you’ll see for yourself that they’re not trying to deceive anyone. 

They also have three different plans apart from their free one.

Creator plan. This is designed for individual creators. It starts at $15 per month and removes the Lumen5 branding. It’s a very simple upgrade. It’s suitable if you love creating videos and you want to take a bit more control of your brand, removing the “Created using lumen5.com” phrase at the end. 

Premium plan. This is for professional video storytellers and is available at $79 per month. It gives you access to a lot of their system’s premium stock media. You’ll get the premium library courtesy of their Shutterstock partnership. You’ll also be able to get a lot more control over colours and styles. Additionally, you’ll be able to start storing what they call brand kits. If you’re an agency producing videos for multiple clients, you’re going to want to save multiple brand kits for different brand guidelines.

Business plan. This is for brands that are running a team. At $199 per month, you can get a lot more enterprise features. These include the ability to add multiple team members and to implement workspace permissions for editors and administrators. This plan is more collaboration-focused. 

Apart from these plans, they also have custom offers for bigger Fortune 500 enterprises. 

To learn more about Lumen5, a product that has liberated me and a number of other entrepreneurs, visit their website.

This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.

Cover image by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

The post With 1 million subscribers, Lumen5 is a customer-centric platform where you can create videos more easily appeared first on EASTWEST Public Relations.

About Jim James

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.

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