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How to Make A Compelling How-To Video

  • How-to instructions and video content are both immensely popular. Combining them powers up your digital marketing strategy.
  • How-to videos should focus on providing value rather than pitching products or services.
  • The best how-to videos are concise, visually interesting, relatable, and easy to follow. They use a conversational, entertaining style rather than relying on jargon or boring visuals.

Whatever your business focuses on, you’re likely an expert in at least one related topic. Sharing your knowledge is an excellent way to boost your digital marketing strategy and drive traffic to your business. And if you’d like maximum engagement from your audience, your best bet is to produce video content that matches their interests.

A whopping 86 percent of U.S. consumers say that they turn to YouTube to learn new things. For most people, it’s much easier and more convenient to watch a video, rather than reading through a long article. That’s why online video consumption has been rising steadily for years, making video marketing a great way to establish your brand’s authority on your chosen topics.

How-to videos are quite popular, and thanks to Google’s relationship with YouTube, they pop up when users type in a “how to…” query into their search bar. With a compelling how-to video, you can land in those top results and get people instantly engaged with your brand. Here are our tips for creating your video.

Know Your Audience

It’s Marketing 101, but it’s worth repeating: you must produce content that your target audience wants to consume. That means understanding their pain points and bridging gaps in their experience. Remember, your products and services should offer a solution to your customers, but their problems don’t happen in a vacuum.

Let’s say you sell makeup. You know that your customers want a foundation that won’t clog their pores or get creases. By selling your high-quality, non-comedogenic product, you’ve solved their problem. Your how-to video could provide additional support by teaching them the best way to apply foundation.

Leverage Your Unique Knowledge

Producing generic content that doesn’t tackle your audience’s unique needs won’t help you stand apart from your competitors. But if you can tap into your business’s distinctive experience and skills, you can offer people an authoritative, valuable video that builds trust in your brand.

In the makeup example above, you decided to create a “how to apply foundation” video. If many of your competitors are doing the same thing, you can set yourself apart by focusing on common application mistakes or myths or showing a technique that’s better than what your competitors promote.

Keep It On-Point and Concise

People watch how-to videos in two situations: (a) they have an immediate problem they need solving, or (b) they’re browsing YouTube for fun. Either way, you want to hook the viewer and start giving them the information they want. We live in an age of instant gratification, so don’t fluff up your video with lengthy expositions or personal options.

Keep the pace quick, but include enough detail to keep viewers engaged. The sweet spot is 3-5 minutes of valuable instruction (and one minute or less for Facebook and Instagram). (Tip: If you’re showing a long process, speed up or time-lapse any repetitive parts.)

Help Viewers Follow Along

Many people are watching your video while attempting to do the thing you’re instructing. Think of your how-to video as a virtual lesson and structure it as though you were a teacher. This means showing viewers how to set up, identifying any tools they need, and speaking slowly and clearly. Use title cards or graphics to show the number of steps remaining in the process, and include captions to highlight key points.

Break It Down

One epic-length video isn’t nearly as effective as multiple videos. Especially if your topic is complicated, you don’t want to overwhelm the viewer. If you find your video script is exceeding 10 minutes, it’s probably a good idea to break it apart into a series.

This tactic allows you to leverage the videos in your marketing strategy. Plus, you can take more time to explain each step in the process. Try breaking the how-to into digestible mini-topics, then include a call-to-action to watch the next video in the series.

Keep It Relatable

No one likes jargon, so avoid using it unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to use a term that’s only known in your industry, provide a quick definition of it so that viewers don’t have to click away from your video to look it up. (You’ll never get them back.)

Diversify Your Visuals

Depending on your topic, you might have a single subject for most of the video. This can get boring to look at, and it defeats the purpose of using video rather than written content. Mix it up by using various angles, speeding up parts of the video, and cutting in illustrations or graphics.

Let’s return to the foundation how-to video. Rather than a static shot of someone applying makeup, cut between shots of the technique, closeups of the brushes, selfies, and title cards for a visual mix that keeps the viewer engaged.

Make It Accessible

Remember, some of your viewers may be hearing-impaired, or they may be watching the video on mute for whatever reason. YouTube auto-generates closed captions, but its interpretation of spoken language can be way off. You can edit your captions in YouTube’s video editor or import an .srt file, which is a text file containing captions and the time codes at which they should appear. Accurate, easy-to-read captions help boost your views.

Focus on Value, Not Sales

If people want to see sales videos, they’ll watch commercials. How-to videos should focus on instruction. That’s not to say you can’t toss in a call-to-action at the end of the video, but you should focus on solving the viewer’s problems and entertaining them. Let facts and data drive your content rather than sales pitches and marketing messages.

Wrapping Up

How-to videos are an excellent addition to your content marketing strategy. They provide valuable, problem-solving entertainment for your audience, and they can help you distinguish yourself from your competitors.

The key is to keep your videos on-point, relatable, and informative rather than drowning the topic in background details, jargon, or opinions. It can be helpful to test-drive your video draft with someone outside your business. Make sure that it is friendly, accessible, and not too sales-y.

Once you have your how-to video ready to go, start promoting it, and watch your brand’s reputation rise. Happy shooting!


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