8 tips for creating videos people will watch

Create a hero. Remember the narrative curve. Hone your craft with Google Analytics. Great video—and great outcomes—are within reach if you follow these tips from producer Drew Keller.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. Click here for more on this session.

Video producer Drew Keller once did some consulting for some attorneys who wanted YouTube fame the easy way.

“We just want to game the system,” they cheerfully told him. Paid views, bots—whatever it took to run up the click count, they were on board.

Won’t work, Keller said. Sure, you can be sneaky, but YouTube will eventually catch you and punish you by taking away features such as analytics tools and the ability to post long videos.

“There’s really only one way to participate in this ecosystem. … You need to create really good content,” he says.

This video clip is taken from the Ragan Training session, “How great storytelling finds your audience, grows your business and blasts through the clutter of the video marketplace.”

“Storytelling” has become a catchphrase in communications these days, Keller says in the Ragan Training video, “How great storytelling finds your audience, grows your business, and blasts through the clutter of the video marketplace.” But it’s not about PowerPoint presentations converted to video. Great content—a great storyline—is the secret to any successful video.

Why bother when you can explain everything on a pdf or “about us” page on your website? Internet video traffic will grow more than fivefold from 2013 to 2017, Keller says. Video will account for 58 percent of all business Internet traffic in 2017, up from 31 percent in 2012. Yet your organization’s message is battling for attention against a landslide of videos of bar mitzvahs, skateboard wipeouts, and adorable tots feeding ice cream cones to pugs.

Here are some ways to win viewers:

1. Create high-quality content

It’s counterproductive to flood YouTube with videos of droning execs or screens full of statistics just to get your boss off your back. Consider this, says Keller: “If I don’t care about it, why do I expect my audience to care about it?”

The thing is this, though: Great content doesn’t necessarily mean perfect technique. It’s possible to shoot a successful video on an iPhone. Your audience doesn’t care what tool you use; they care about the story.

2. Create a hero

Put a character at the center of your video, not a product. “A hero doesn’t have to wear tights,” Keller says. “A hero is someone you can identify with.”

3. Remember the narrative curve

We all heard those lectures in middle school English about the beginning, middle, and end of a story, but are you putting old Mrs. De Groot’s ideas into practice?

Check out a successful use of Pepsi MAX video series featuring an old basketball player known as Uncle Drew (actually NBA star Kyrie Irving in makeup).

The production value is high, but consider this: “Great storytelling is always going to trump trying to create tricks,” Keller says.

4. Focus

No, not the camera (although that’s a good idea, too). Focus your concept. Simplify. Keep it short. If your CEO meanders through 16 points and somebody’s interested in the 15th, they’re not going to see the part they’re looking for.

“If you’ve got 16 points, you can break it into 16 different videos,” Keller says.

5. Write for the ear

Hands up if you’ve ever dealt with one of those bossy execs who have to control the video project everything right down to editing the script. Inevitably, such bigwigs write in ponderous tones.

You’ve tried to drop a hint: “Write in active voice. Keep your sentences short.”

These types think they know it all, though, so here’s a trick. Have that exec read the script aloud to you. (It doesn’t work if you’re the one reading it aloud.) Sure enough, bigwigs grow bored with the drone of their own voice. When they admit it’s a bore, avoid saying, “I told you so.”

6. Hone your craft with Google Analytics

“Your audience is not staying around very long,” Keller says. “One in five viewers is gone in the first 10 seconds. Two minutes in, two-thirds of your viewers are gone.”

Through Google Analytics, you can see where your audience is leaving. Conversely, if views go up at one point, it means they’re rewinding. What does that tell you about what’s working-and what’s not?

7. Use Quora to find the right topic

Where do story ideas come from? A disproportionate number of them come from bosses. But what are your competitors doing? How are they engaging? If not direct competitors, what are videos doing in your demographic?

Type your topic in a Quora search window and see what they’re looking for, Keller says. If you type “golf,” for example, the first topic is “golf etiquette.” If you’re a golf ball maker, how about a series on manners and rules out on the links?

8. Ask three questions

What’s my outcome?

Despite all this talk about narrative, this is the first question. You may think the goal is to get people to buy our company’s brand of shoes. Wrong. The outcome is an emotional one: “How do I want my audience to feel at when they’re done with this video, because will then take action based upon that feeling?” Keller says.

What’s my story?

Story comes second. That will determine the kind of video you make.

Who is my audience?

Your video can’t target everybody in the whole wide world. It needs to reach a specific group of people.

@r_working

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