If you’ve ever done a bit of reading on body language and communication, you may have stumbled upon the ‘7%-38%-55% Rule’. This principle dates back to the 1960s and the research of Professor Albert Mehrabian and states that only 7% of communication is carried out through your words. The remaining 93% is split between tone of voice (38%) and body language (55%).

If you’ve done a bit more reading on body language and communication, you’ll probably have learned that this is one of the most widely misinterpreted studies on the internet (and there’s definitely some serious competition there). After all, you read thousands of words online every day and (hopefully) take away more than 7% of their meaning. But what Mehrabian’s study does show is just how powerful the spoken word can be.

While they may not quite account for 93% of your communication, your tone of voice, facial movements and body language can reveal nuances to your speech or add layers of emphasis and meaning that would be lost otherwise. It is these emotional insights that make a person-to-person conversation more engaging, funnier and more trustworthy than any email thread. This is a big part of why huge internet companies like Facebook are now focusing more and more on video, and why Youtubers can make millions of dollars reacting to videogames. It’s all about the relationship that you can only build when you can see a person.

If so much detail can be conveyed beyond people’s words, how can market researchers resist getting involved in the video revolution? Now that millions of people have access to high-quality video cameras in their smartphones, the old prohibitive costs of focus groups or getting ordinary people in front of recording equipment are gone.

an ape taking a selfie video, possibly for market research

Not only is video research through smartphone cheaper, it’s also much more personal than any of its alternatives. A focus group is an unusual and sometimes uncomfortable day out for most people but many of us, especially millennials, record some kind of video on our smartphone every day. It’s a private and comfortable experience. As a result, respondents don’t get hung up on their choice of words or trying to correct themselves. You just get honest, unfiltered insight.

Video research won’t work for every project- it doesn’t suit big quant projects for example- but this is mostly a result of its biggest strength: the amount of information it gives you. It isn’t as easy to analyse a selection of videos as it is to pull together statistics from an online survey, but that’s because it forces you to look beyond the words.

Video makes data points out of everything from a hesitation to a facial tell and can ensure that every respondent really makes their voice heard. It may not unlock an extra 93% of information for you, but it can add colour to your research in a way that nothing else does. It’s the reason we’ve focused exclusively on video from day one at Verbate and why we have so much fun with Bonjoro, our B2B video messaging app. Try out Verbate for free the next time you want to hear someone else’s perspective on something.