Maybe you know someone who has lost whole afternoons to YouTube. What is it about those videos that’s so hard to resist?
Matthew Pierce has some ideas. He’s a learning and video ambassador for TechSmith Corp., a company that makes visual-communication software. In his Content Marketing World talk, How to Make Your Videos as Engaging as Possible, Matthew covers ways to make irresistible videos. I touch on 10 of them here.
1. Tell a story (including conflict)
Give your videos a story structure. Matthew identifies story elements as setup, confrontation, and resolution. You may think of them as setting, conflict, and denouement. Rising action, climax, and falling action. Beginning, middle, and end.
However you think of your story structure, include conflict: tension, something at stake, something to overcome. Here’s an example Matthew gives.
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2. Evoke emotion (appropriately)
While tugging at heartstrings can backfire, many of the most effective videos from brands include an emotional appeal. Think of the Super Bowl ads, Matthew reminded us. Are you picturing horses? Puppies? Babies?
This Budweiser commercial goes straight for the heart. The company clearly expected the audience to relate to the main character, a stranger in a sometimes unfriendly land, someone passionate about his vision for the future. Oh, and he loves beer. Meet Adolphus Busch.
Matthew offers a similar point made by Jodi Harris in this CMI article: “Video can convey an appropriate emotional tone in a way that text alone can’t manage.”
Matthew’s advice: Figure out which emotions make sense for your brand and for the purpose of your video, and plan accordingly. He mentioned his company, TechSmith, as an example:
I work for a software company. I don’t want people crying in association with my product. What I want them to feel is excited, accomplished, like ‘Man, look what I created. I can take on the world.’
3. Use humor (advisedly)
“Humor is hard,” Matthew says. “It doesn’t always go well. You’ve got to know your audience.” If you’ve ever told a joke that no one laughed at, you know what he’s talking about.
One brand that got humor right, he says, is Kmart with this 2013 Ship My Pants commercial, which racked up some 13 million views on YouTube in one week.
Getting the humor right – making people laugh – doesn’t guarantee business success, though. It’s not clear whether this video achieved its mandate: to boost the use of Kmart’s shipping service.
If you’re going to use humor, Matthew says, “make sure that it leads to customer action.” No matter how entertaining your video may be, if it doesn’t inspire people to do something in line with your strategy, its value to the company is questionable.
4. Pay attention to audio (even though some viewers won’t)
Yes, lots of people watch videos with the sound off, but take care with what they’ll hear if they listen. Bad audio can kill the experience of watching a video. And, Matthew says, it’s easy to get bad audio.
He has three main recommendations:
- Record in a quiet room.
- Use a good microphone.
- Use the right music – or none.
If you’re going to use music, unless you’re unusually talented at creating your own, buy it. And, because it so powerfully sets the tone, choose it with care. “Music has consequences,” Matthew says.
To illustrate the dramatic impact of music, Matthew points to an episode of the web show Film Riot, an online filmmaking-education series. This episode, How to Manipulate People With Music, delivers a short scene – one man handing another a package – twice in a row. Only the music changes. The music alone transforms the scene from “death time” to “sexy time.”
5. Use color intentionally (as filmmakers do)
How you use color can detract from or enhance people’s experience of your videos. For example, Matthew points out, the filming of O Brother, Where Art Thou? happened in Mississippi in the summer when everything was green. Since the fictional events occur in the drought-stricken era of the Great Depression, the directors digitally altered the film to change the greens to browns, as shown here, to create the mood the story demanded.
For lots of examples of the use of color in movies, including more details on O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2:24 to 3:20), see this 13-minute video: 10 Best Uses of Color of All Time.
As you plan your videos, even if you don’t aspire to an Academy Award, choose colors with care.
6. Keep things moving (a lot)
You probably don’t need to be told to keep things moving in your marketing videos. But how much movement is enough?
While there’s no rule, TV shows and movies change angles or scenes every two to three seconds. Viewers have come to expect frequent changes between scenery, close-ups, background activity, and so on.
Modern screen-based expectations aside, humans are simply wired to pay attention to movement. As Matthew says,
Our lizard brain says, ‘Keep scanning, there’s going to be danger. Where’s the danger?’ We’re tuned in to things that move. It could be a lion or something else dangerous. Maybe it’s a source of the food that we need to survive. When you’re making a video, tap into that old brain to draw people in.
Matthew helped make this video about Chad Jordan, the creator of a popcorn shop in Lansing, Michigan. Notice how much the camera moves and how often the scene changes. As Matthew explains:
Even when Chad’s talking, we’re not staying too long on him. He’s the subject. He is the focus of this story, but we’re showing him only in bits and pieces. That’s more interesting than Chad sitting in our studio chatting at you. I loved listening to him, but you want to keep things moving and changing.
7. Include faces (friendly or not)
From the time we’re born, we’re drawn to faces. We see faces, Matthew notes, even in things that have no face, such as the moon. When faces come into video, people are attracted to them. Thus, he offers this advice:
Put some faces in there. We have this inclination. Oh, there’s a face. I need to look at it. Is it a friendly face? Is it not a friendly face? What is an insurance company going to show you to represent its brand? Papers? No. They’re showing faces.
When you hear the names Progressive and Allstate, two companies Matthew mentions, do you picture insurance policies? Or Flo and the Mayhem guy?
8. Use captions (created by humans)
Matthew recommends adding captions to all your videos – burning in text overlays that spell out what people are saying – because some of your audience may not listen or may not be able to listen.
Even those who do listen absorb spoken information more readily when it’s reinforced visually.
Resist the urge to plop in the captions generated automatically by YouTube, Facebook, or other applications. If you use automated tools as a starting point to provide text, have someone savvy with language rewrite it or at least correct it.
Here’s a screen shot from a CMI video showing an overlaid caption that highlights something being said by Cleveland Clinic’s Director of Content Marketing Amanda Todorovich: “If you don’t have time for content creation, maybe you shouldn’t do it at all.”
I’d call that a statement worth calling attention to.
9. Include a call to action (that you plan for)
However great your video, it serves your organization poorly without a clear, relevant call to action – and not one that you tack on as an afterthought. As Matthew says:
Plan for the outcome. What do you want people to do when they finish watching? If you wait until the end and say, ‘Oh, now that we’ve made this video, we should have people fill out an email address,’ that doesn’t work.
Consider building in interactivity. There are simple ways and complex ways to do this. Simple ways include going to YouTube and creating hot spots. “You could put links right in your video or give people something to click to open an email or go to your social channels,” Matthew says. “It could be as simple as that.”
The main thing is to leave people wanting to do something – and knowing what that something is and how to do it. “Give it to them on a plate,” he says.
10. Follow through (to keep people engaged)
After people see your video, then what? “You might want to retarget people, have pixels follow them around,” Matthew says. “Or you might want to show them another video, or take them to a landing page, or take them to your store.”
Think about the follow-through options you might build into the experience. What would your ideal viewer want to do next? How can you satisfy that desire?
That next thing doesn’t have to be part of the video; use your creativity to explore ways to help people discover that thing. Whatever it is, make it, too, irresistible.
These 10 points touch on only a portion of the advice that Matthew shares in his two talks at Content Marketing World. There’s no end to the ways that marketers can make videos engaging.
What’s working for you? What gets your viewers hooked on your videos and keeps them coming back for more?
Here’s an excerpt from Matthew’s talk:
Want to get all of Matthew Pierce’s tips. Watch his presentations through Content Marketing World’s video-on-demand access for 2017. And make plans today to attend Content Marketing World 2018. Register today.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute