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How to make ‘How To’ Videos

Author's avatar By Neil Davidson 07 Dec, 2012
Essential Essential topic

How to plan, create and market a 'how-to-video'

‘How to’ videos are one of the most popular video types on the net, so should always be considered as part of your content marketing efforts. They are an accessible format that can be applied to marketing many types of businesses. Essentially what you are doing is explaining how to do something that your people in a business are skilled in and knowledgeable about as it relates to your products and services.

All ‘how to’ videos are different, but we have developed a formula that can be applied regardless of the subject. Work through these steps to get the best results with your ‘how to’ video.

1. Planning the video

What do your customers need help with?

There is approximately no point in making a how to video about something that everyone knows how to do. In the planning phase you need to research and define the common problems your customers face. This will enable you to pitch a perfectly useful video to a perfectly interested audience.

Two birds, one stone: make connections

While you are researching common problems, make a note of all of the blogs, social media pages and websites you come across that relate to your ‘how to’ video. If you are particularly on the ball you will build some relationships at this stage. Tell them you are making this video and ask them if they are interested in seeing it and sharing it when it is ready.

Learn from other people’s mistakes

Look around at what other videos have been made on the same or a similar topic. Analyse what works and what doesn’t as well as what is missing. Use this information to inform how you produce your own video.

2. Production of the video

Choosing an on-screen presenter

There are two main things to consider here. Firstly, they need to work well on camera and be approachable and easy to listen to. Secondly, they need to know what they are talking about and be confident and passionate about what they are explaining. If they are none of those things, your audience will disconnect.

Production quality

The best ‘how to’ videos aren’t necessarily those with the highest production values. You need to decide what look you are going for which will determine how glossy or ‘DIY’ your video is. At a minimum we would advise using a tripod to ensure a steady image that doesn’t cause your audience to feel seasick! Also, make sure your set up is lit well and that the sound quality is at a reasonable level. The best sound is that which isn’t noticed (it is only when audio is poor that your average audience will think about it).

In the following video, we don’t have an on-screen face. It is a very short video, which gets to the point and skips over the parts that will be of no interest to the audience.

Pace and length

Pace is extremely important and you will determine the pace in the edit lab. Get it wrong and people will switch off. The pace will depend on the information you have decided to share in your video. Avoid stating the obvious. Cover the important bases and spend more time on the complicated elements. Skip over or increase the speed through the obvious parts – this will have a stylistic impact. We think that shorter videos are more effective, as long as you have covered all necessary bases.

I found numerous different videos on ‘how to tie a bow tie’. This was my favourite because it was shortest. Very DIY but it does the job. One video lasted over 9 minutes – needless to say I didn’t watch it all.

3. Marketing the video

Testing on an audience

Before letting your video free into the public domain, test it on some small audiences for feedback. This will give you the audience perspective to work with. It will help you make decisions about which parts are adding nothing and which elements need more elaboration. You cannot underestimate the value of this part of the process – you might think your video is great but you are making it for other people to watch…

Distribution routes

Your obvious starting point is your existing network including your mailing list and your social media followers. Related blogs and websites are a perfect target audience and if you already have relationships with them this process should be a lot quicker and easier.

Video SEO

There are a number of things you can do to give your video the best possible chance of appearing in search engine results. These include a consideration of the page on which you embed your video, where you host it, keywords in titles and descriptions and also creating closed caption subtitles for the video.

For more information about video SEO see My Web Presenters guide to video SEO basics.

So there you have it. Tick all of those boxes and you should be on your way to enlightening the world with your ‘how to video’.

Author's avatar

By Neil Davidson

Neil Davidson is the Founder of MWP Digital Media, a leading Corporate Video Production Company. He also runs My Web Presenters who specialise in creating video spokesperson videos. They work with businesses of all sizes to create and market compelling and emotive videos that get specific and clear results. If you would like to have a conversation about how to create video for the web then please  contact Neil here.

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