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Six@Six: Creating Compelling Video Content

Christian Olsen

The top six social media tips to know before you leave the office.

At this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s global head of content, made a bold prediction: In a few years, video will comprise 90 percent of Internet traffic. According to statistics YouTube released just yesterday, Mr. Kyncl’s forecast certainly seems within reason. On average, 60 hours of video content are now uploaded to the video-sharing platform every 60 seconds. Not only is this a clear indication that Internet video is fast becoming a marquee communications tool; it is also a clear signal that now is the time to ensure that your organization is not only creating compelling video content, but also optimizing it for maximum audience retention, social sharing, and commenting.

With these goals in mind, this week’s Six@Six outlines six tips to consider while storyboarding, shooting, and editing your next Web video. Do you have other suggestions? Share them with me @cfolsendc.

1. Stay short, sweet, and to the point.

Audiences are not going to wait long for you to share your top-line messages. It’s been shown that viewership drops off by 82 percent after the first 30 seconds of a video. If you’re developing a video advertisement, you have half that time. The longest your video content should be is 1 minute and 15 seconds; an optimal time for videos is closer to 45 seconds, right around the point that most audiences begin to lose interest.

2. Start strong.

People will decide within the first two seconds of a video if they want to keep watching. Hook them in the beginning of your video with a great opening, a clear message, and a question they need to know the answer to. Avoid stagecraft and fluff, as such filler content will only reduce credibility and diminish audience interest.

3. Three is the magic number.

Within a time frame of one minute and 15 seconds, audiences can’t digest more than three simple and clear messages. So keep your content concise and try to limit yourself to no more than three key messages per video. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with creating multiple videos when you have multiple messages to share, as doing so will help boost view rates and retain audiences for future videos on similar subjects.

4. Encourage sharing.

Reaching a million or two million YouTube views isn’t rocket science. It’s all about sharing. Creating content that’s entertaining, inspiring, and informative is the magic combination to resonate with a wide audience base. At least one of those elements is essential for someone to get through an entire video. A combination of all three is the key to going viral via e-mail chains, tweets, and Facebook status updates.

5. There is more to success than page views.

Because achieving viral status isn’t always possible when an Internet video is geared towards a niche audience, it’s important to remember that the number of page views is not the only metric that matters. Sometimes it’s more about who you reach than how many you reach. When you only need to engage a select audience, give yourself the best chance of doing so by tailoring your video its gender, age, and location.

6. Provide a call to action.

Video views are a powerful tool for gaining public exposure. But absent a clear call to action, there will be no way to measure the return on your video investment. Whether it’s selling a product, driving traffic to an alternate website, driving changes in public policy, or getting viewers involved through their own creations, calls to action not only make for more compelling content; they also provide insights into whether or not your messages are being heard.

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Fletcher Prince

I read your blog post with interest, but I have to say, I respectfully disagree on several points.  Our experience with YouTube may be different, and goodness knows, these platforms change.  However, I find it can be a mistake to apply generalizations  about the viral aspects of YouTube to business and public affairs contexts.  These generalizations tend to be based on the advertising and entertainment aspect of YouTube.  After all, the top 3 videos on YouTube with the most views are music videos: Bieber, J-Lo, GaGa.  So a lot of these "rules" don't apply when we're talking about reaching a business audience, or viewers who watch political videos, for example. And YouTube is an important channel for both of those audiences.  I agree that it is important to start strong, but it's not essential to keep a video under 1 minute and 15 seconds when we're talking about creating content for these kinds of audiences.  There's nothing wrong with very short videos, unless they fail to make a point or are too superficial.  It depends on the audience, and among B2B and public affairs audiences, longer-form videos on YouTube are acceptable, provided the content is interesting and the video is well-produced.  Even speaking generally, the audience for longer videos is growing, which is why YouTube expanded its video duration from 10 minutes max to unlimited last year.   It's not how short your video is but whether you can continue to make it interesting to your target audiences.  I see one minute videos that are 50 seconds too long!In terms of number of messages, I would drop that "magic 3" down to one, if it were me.  One video, one key message.  One big take-away.  You can have supporting points, of course, but there should be one, over-arching message for the viewer -- with a call to action, as you mentioned. One main purpose that video is supposed to achieve.  If it were a video for a political candidate, for example, that might be one micro-issue you want to raise awareness about, or one personal attribute you want to promote.  Most corporate video I see tends to cram too many messages into a single video.Sharing is important but your points about virality of videos -- it is in fact, it is a rather sophisticated and deliberate monetization process, and sometimes, it's just about luck. Often, viral video producers invest significant resources in capturing those views, e.g., through paid advertising on YouTube.  You cannot take an average video and achieve 1 million or even 100,000 views simply through email sharing, Facebook updates, and tweets.  Oh, that we could!  Those tactics are important, but what many businesses and nonprofits fail to understand is that YouTube video becomes viral because it falls into the viral type of category  It is a big name music video or is absolutely original -- something people have not seen and are dying to share -- and usually because it has aspects of humor, shock value, or celebrity (or all three).  That's not a formula many brands are comfortable with, and they shouldn't be.  Viral videos are made to make money on views -- those videos are monetized (or they are pure accidents, and are subsequently monetized, like the funny little kid amateur videos we have all seen).  Most B2B and cause related video is intended to build a brand or put out a message, but they're not earning money on PPC, as with most viral videos.  The goals are different.What is even more important than sharing (not that sharing should be dropped) is strategic optimization.  Knowing how to optimize YouTube videos for search is unfortunately where a lot of companies and nonprofits new to YouTube drop the ball.  In fact, 29% of leading PR and advertising agencies on YouTube fail to add any text descriptions to their YouTube videos at all -- which almost  obliterates their search potential. But even given the best production and optimization strategies, most videos produced by Six at Six readers will not go viral on YouTube.  Most, not some.  They may achieve a terrific ROI, but still not go viral. Better to accept that fact of life and build on different objectives -- and each YouTube video uploaded should have a specific business or cause related objective.  Not virality but achieving  the most views among target audiences who are likely to take the desired actions.  I disagree that segmenting those audiences can be done effectively by age, gender, and location on YouTube.  There are marketing channels that offer that kind of precision, but YouTube does not, the YouTube audience is global, well spread across age ranges, and both genders. You could create video content that would appeal to those kinds of audiences, perhaps, but you couldn't control for the distribution, unless you purchased advertising.  Targeting on YouTube IMO has more to do with reaching people who share common interests, and influencing purchase behaviors, points of view, and other decisions.  For example, I produce a locally-focused program on YouTube, and maybe 25% of my audience lives in Eastern Europe.  I certainly did not plan for that.  The gap in understanding the potential of YouTube as a viral or advertising entity vs. a public relations, engagement, or public affairs communications tool is still very wide.  Best practices are still emerging, but meanwhile, we should be careful not to compare apples and oranges. 

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