Instructional videos that help do-it-yourselfers understand and overcome challenges are multiplying as brands try to find ways to engage customers and leverage the marketing appeal of video.
“By demonstrating how to use your product, what your product looks like in an end state or just demonstrating your expertise, you are offering value and enticing those who have a genuine interest in learning about your area of expertise or product," says Jason Hsiao, co-founder of New York City-based online video creation platform Animoto.
Instructional Video How-Tos
The fundamental formula for instructional videos is to identify a problem, offer a solution, show how to implement the solution and close with a call to action. Beyond that, however, are a number of best practices that businesses looking to use how-to videos would do well to consider.
A basic rule of instructional videos is to engage customers with images instead of words.
“Video is great for instructions but they actually show rather than tell what you do and how to use your product," Hsiao says.
Another Hsiao tip: Begin with the best part. Often this means starting at the end by showing what the final result of the how-to project looks like.
—Jason Hsiao, co-founder, Animoto
“Unlike a theater-going audience where you know people will watch a movie until the very end, viewers of online video have a much shorter attention span," Hsiao says. “So start with what's most important and ensure people see what the end state can be."
When it comes to customer engagement with video, as with most marketing messages, brevity is best.
“Making your video too long and going into too much detail is one pitfall I see," Hsiao says. “There is always a balance because there will be people interested in all the nuances, but for most of the viewers, they are just getting their head wrapped around how to even do this. Ensuring that you are keeping a high-level point of view when demonstrating your expertise is important."
Taking Mobile and Social Into Consideration
Audio can be the trickiest part of making a good video, but fortunately Hsiao says that audio can be optional for a how-to video that effectively engages customers. Many users will watch videos without the sound on, because they are watching on a mobile device.
“Try to achieve your first instructional video with just text and imagery," he says. “This plays better on social media since the vast majority of videos are viewed with sound off."
Hsiao also suggests devoting effort to making sure the lighting is good when creating instructional videos.
Robby Schlesinger, content marketing manager for New York City-based enterprise video creation platform Videolicious, urges businesses not to assume that social media is the only place customers will engage with their videos.
“Lots of businesses owners have the instinct to immediately go social," Schlesinger says. “But we're finding out that across the board through early to late stages of the purchasing process, customers refer to a supplier's website to make decisions."
Consider shooting your video so that it looks good when viewed in a square format if you expect it to be viewed mostly on mobile devices or on social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, Hsiao suggests.
For videos that will be viewed on YouTube or on a business's website, consider creating another version to display in horizontal or landscape format.
Are Instructional Videos Right for You?
Not every product or service is well-suited to how-to videos for customer engagement. Extremely complex processes, for instance, are less likely to make successful instructional videos than those that can be explained in a few minutes.
“I don't think medical students are going to be watching a YouTube video on how to do open heart surgery," Schlesinger says.
If a business's primary offering consists of a service that it provides using proprietary knowledge or techniques, a how-to video that gives too much detail could actually be counterproductive, Schlesinger says.
“You don't want to give away the farm," he says.
Instructional videos have proven their worth to food brands, crafter and maker brands and makeup and beauty, Hsiao says.
“These types of industries have the benefit of already having great visuals and a before-and-after type of story to work with," he says. “And software companies and technology platforms certainly can utilize instructional videos since learning new technology is a hurdle for most people."
Any business that offers a product or service that can show a before-and-after effect of applying its solution can potentially be well-served by a how-to video, Hsiao says.
“People like a transformation and they like to learn," he says. “Education and entertainment are two types of videos on the internet that people will even pay for because they find so much value there."
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