In our annual refresher, we’re looking once again at a topic that gets hotter by the day – a bit like the sun, which will eventually lead to the end of mankind as we know it (yes, we’ve seen 2003 documentary The Core). We’re looking at online-based video, and how you separate yourself from the crowd – a crowd that’s becoming more of an unruly mob as day-to-day technology matches the desires of the most amateur filmographers.
Without further ado, here are four key points you’ll need as a starting point for any video you plan to stick on the internet.
It entertains, informs, or does both.
Okay, so let’s focus on the real, simple issue here. If it’s not entertaining or informative, you’re doing it wrong. You need to be able to hand someone (completely unrelated to you or your business) a script that charts everything that happens in your short. If they read it and wonder what your point is, then you’re doing it wrong. If they read it and don’t see the entertainment factor (if you’ve read a book, you know that a page of script can also be enjoyable without seeing it in its finished form), then you need to reassess what you’re trying to achieve.
Do you want to explain how your product works? Remove all the marketing speak from your script and see if it does, then see how the visuals accompany that. Does it tie everything together? You’re doing well, champ. But if you’re creating a video, get as many eyes on something as possible, and don’t be precious. Revisit a script or storyboard with every emotion, repeatedly, until you don’t really know what it’s all about, despite the fact you made it. Separate yourself from it, then run headlong into it. You should be your own biggest critic, after all. Don’t be scared of tweaking.
It’s the right length: not too short, not too long.
The average webpage will see 55% of people time out after 15 seconds, according to Chartbeat – but that piece is from 2014, so it’s probably 12 or 11 seconds now (appreciate you’ve gotten this far – thanks!). The best video length, on a completely objective principle, is between 30 seconds and one minute, because we’re busy people.
If it’s longer, why is it longer? Will this impact on how it’s shared? Sure, we’ve seen plenty of long videos in 2016 that completely break this rule (hello, History of Japan, you entertaining and informative resource), but they tend to be pretty rapid in their own special way. Use your time carefully, and remove every space and unnecessary word. You’ll know if they’re needed when you revisit it.
The video is engaging from the off (and if it isn’t, get the best copywriters).
If you don’t keep people watching after five seconds – whether it’s based on production values, your message, a strong lead or otherwise – you’re going to get people looking frantically for a link to click on for something better. Your video may literally point at the camera, or spell immediate danger, but so long as the audience knows what to expect in their own mind, it’s for you to make or break that assumption.
Just remember that you really don’t need to ensure that the first thing in the video is the hook – we’ve all enjoyed videos such as Ken Block’s Gymkhanas, where you get a few seconds of “presenting…” and a number of set-up shots. It’s all about setting expectations; if you’re capable of accompanying your video with quality copy, underlining what people should expect, then you’re onto a winner.
You drive home your message.
The most classic advert, in my opinion, for driving home a message at the 11th hour is this one, explaining why… well, watch it. It spends 35 seconds underlining how kids can be absolute monsters and that you should run for the hills at the mere sight of one.
Yet it’s enjoyable enough to watch for the pay-off; you’re actively waiting for the punchline. Naturally, the message frames everything you’ve watched perfectly. Admittedly, it helps that it’s funny, but pushing this aside, it completely nails its message: buy this thing to stop this other thing. Can you guarantee as simple a message as that from your video?