How to Create Video Content that Actually Works
By Adria Saracino | Published: October 9, 2012
Video is taking over the world, with more than 4 billion hours of video viewed each month. In fact, YouTube is now the second most used search engine, right behind Google (market domination much?).
Unfortunately, integrating video into your marketing campaign isn’t as easy as simply creating a video and putting it up on YouTube. Creating a video that is effective, relevant, and successful can offer big rewards, but how do you integrate it successfully?
Here, we’ll take you through the basics of video as a media type, discuss issues you will want to consider when brainstorming video content ideas, and suggest some types of content that typically work well for video, using case studies to highlight these points in action.
Understanding video as a media type
The most common mistake made by companies creating video is thinking of video content as being identical to blog posts or infographic content, rather than as a unique and independent media format. Where blog posts and infographics may consist of text and image content, video utilizes text, moving images, and sound simultaneously, making it a more media format.
Video, then, is not an appropriate medium for all content goals. If you ever find yourself trying to “convert” content into a video, rather than developing the video idea organically, that’s an indicator that your creative process has gone awry.
Signs that you are, indeed, trying to convert ill-suited content into video include:
A lack of a story arc: Your video should naturally lend itself to a narrative curve, including a climax and resolution. If you have a product or service you are trying to sell, don’t use the entire length of your video making a sales pitch. Instead, create a narrative context around the product.
A complex call to action: If you are trying to convince your reader to complete a complex, or prolonged action, you need to consider breaking up your content into smaller pieces — each with one, specific call to action. In contrast, videos should have a very simple and direct call to action.
Too much content to share: The ideal length for video is under four minutes. If you have so much content you have to draw your video out to 10 minutes, it won’t be nearly as effective, because your viewers will likely lose interest. If this is the case, you need to use a different media form.
Questions to ask when creating video content
There are two questions you can ask your marketing team that will easily determine whether or not an idea will work well as a video:
1. Would this content lose meaning if it were in text and image form? If your content would lose meaning or relevancy without being accompanied by visual or audio information, chances are video is a viable option. However, if you can easily imagine your message getting across effectively without the use of video, you might want to decide whether the additional time and effort required to produce a video will be worthwhile.
A great example of content that would lose much of its humor and meaning outside of video is the Do.com video. Do.com is a social productivity app for managing tasks and projects. The video puts a humorous and personal spin on its product by showcasing a child running for student body president — and succeeding because of its app.
This video includes character dialogue, narration, and emotive music, and there is also a very simple call to action through on-screen text. Moreover, the content in this video would not be nearly as personable and funny if it were communicated through another format. The moving images create humor by portraying a child running for student body president as a professional adult. The same scale of humor could not have been achieved with static images alone. The moving images also create a successful story arc.
Takeaway: If you have content that requires visual, text, and audio elements to create meaning, your content is likely well-suited for video.
2. Does the content require aesthetic as well as conceptual engagement?
In the first question, we discussed whether content would lose meaning if it takes a media form other than video; in question two, you need to ask yourself if your idea requires a visual or auditory element in order to be engaging. For example, for content where you need to describe a complex process, using a written format might be too dry or difficult to understand without the benefit of accompanying sound and visuals.
Example: Google Analytics Qualification Test
Below is a video for those practicing for the Google Analytics Individual Qualification test (GAIQ test).
Though video is certainly a nice option to have, the information imparted here is ultimately not appropriate for video form — it’s text heavy and primarily conceptual, rather than visual. It is also poorly paced for the primary purpose of the content, which is comprehension and learning. The visual display adds nothing to the experience, as it is just a list of text. The GAIQ videos (sorry Google) would work better as text blog posts with accompanying images.
Takeaway: If your content does not require visual or auditory components to be useful or engaging, then your idea is not ideally suited for video.
Content goals for which video works well
In addition to self-filtering content ideas by applying the two questions above, you can use this list of case studies as a guide for what types of content typically work well in video form.
1. Promoting a physical product or service
IdeasByNet launched a product video for its iPhone Gravity-Defying Holder:
Takeaway: Keep your product promo videos focused on demonstrating your product, rather than just talking about it. Make sure your product is showcased in a relevant, useful way.
Example: Allstate Insurance “Mayhem” series:
This example is from Allstate Insurance, and is part of its “Mayhem” series:
Takeaway: This video is a great example of creativity and relevancy. It’s relevant to viewers because most of us have dealt with the frustration of an outdated GPS, and this video portrays that in a humorous light.
2. Creative or funny content
Example: Dollar Shave Club
In this advertising video put out by Dollar Shave Club, the company’s CEO discusses the benefits of its product and service.
Takeaway: This video is a great example of creative and unique content. The dialogue is pithy, while the content is very blunt, which makes for an entertaining and interesting video. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your marketing content, because funny or unique videos will attract the most viewers — no one wants to watch a video that is just like a thousand other videos on YouTube.
3. Giving life to a news story
Example: L’Oréal Paris
In this video, sponsored by L’Oréal Paris, the company releases information and statistics about ovarian cancer:
Takeaway: Don’t make a video full of statistics and information — content that would be just as easily suited to text-centric content formats. Make sure your news release works well with video content (i.e., there is a strong need for visuals).
4. Providing instruction
Example: Simply Business
Here is a tutorial on how to create a consultancy business, from Simply Business, a UK based insurance company:
Takeaway: Your instructional content should include all three of the key components of video: audio, visuals, and text/dialogue. Do not simply show your viewers something without explaining it. Tutorials have a tendency to be long and drawn out, so vary your content with personal interviews or product/service reviews to make it more engaging.
5. Relaying information
Example: Olympic athletes
This video delivers information about U.S. Olympic sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross:
Takeaway: This video provides viewers with great, autobiographical information; yet even though a lot of information is given, the video is able to hold viewers’ attention because it is short, concise, and has a simply story arc. Remember: If you are presenting informational content, it helps to use a short, linear narrative to keep viewers interested.
6. Covering live events
Example: The SearchLove conference
This video is from Distilled includes live interviews, speakers, and commentary from one of our SearchLove conferences:
Takeaway: The above video engages viewers because it uses a variety of content types (interviews, commentary, speakers, etc.). If the video had simply recorded one speaker for five minutes, viewers would likely have quickly lost interest early on. Video works well as a compilation of snippets, rather than as an extended event recording.
If you’re in marketing and you haven’t tapped into the power of video yet, you need to start now. With more than 800 million unique visitors each month, YouTube proves that people love video. But with so many videos online, yours needs to be top-notch in content and creative value.
If you want more information on how to create a great marketing video, download Distilled’s video marketing guide.
Looking for more content marketing case studies? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.
Author: Adria Saracino
Adria is the Head of Outreach at a creative internet marketing agency. When not connecting with interesting people on the web, you can find her writing about style at her personal fashion blog The Emerald Closet. Follow her on Twitter @adriasaracino and stay in touch.
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