by David August
Just putting a video online does not guarantee it will get seen by the people who would love to see it. The internet is not a “if you build it, they will come” place, at least it isn’t anymore. As of today, the largest video site has more than a 100 hours worth of video getting uploaded every minute. That’s more than 4 days of new videos every minute. And that’s one site. And that amount is only going up in the future. How can you help your show, short, reel, or anything standout among the ocean of videos? How do you help your video get seen? This is an overview, an intro to online video best practices.
Every video is different, even if only a little. Every audience is also different. But some things tend to stay basically the same. For instance, the main goal has been the same since the stone age:
Connect the video with the audience that will be delighted to see it.
The audience that will be thrilled to watch your video is out there, and your task is to put the video and them together. Easy to say, not quite as straight forward to do. Some ways you can help any video are:
- the video itself
- the title
- the timing
The most important thing for any video’s success is: what happens when the audience presses play. Obviously, better videos are more likely to be shared. Make the video great, whatever that means for your video. What’s less obvious is: have no intro or as short of one as possible. In a movie theatre, the audience has already decided to sit down and basically just watch the film they came to see. Online, the audience has not: if in the first few seconds they don’t like what they see, they’ll click on to something else.
Writer and television producer Rob Long points out in his podcast Dessert First that on TV, “…the audience won’t wait, they’re hungry now…don’t serve them appetizers first, serve them dessert…dessert first. Fun stuff first, sweet stuff up front. Start passing out the treats the moment it starts. Ask yourself…is the audience getting dessert first? Because if they’re not, someone, somewhere…is serving it up, a thumb push [or click, or touch] away.” This is even more true online than it is on TV.
Titles matter. A lot. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but it would be very hard to find on the web. Videos are more likely to be watched when titles are meaningful. On a computer or mobile device, people don’t tend to have the patience to read every word in a title. Eye tracking studies confirm this. So choose your titles carefully. The first 2 words by themselves, or even the first word by itself, should give someone an idea what your video is and what it is about. The title tells me what will happen if I press play. If you don’t like the title, or feel like the video behind it will disappoint you, you won’t watch.
It is tempting to use attention getting or controversial words in a title. Don’t, unless they truly do describe the video well, you’ll be deceiving your audience if you do. Misdirecting usually disappoints the audience and hurts you. Here is an example:
- Bad Title:
- “Check It Out! Watch This, the Best Ever Demo Reel of John Q. Public”
- Better Title:
- John Q. Public Cinematography Demo Reel
The first title carries almost no meaning, and takes far to long to reveal what the video actually is. 10 years ago putting as many words into a title may have helped it get found and watched, but keyword stuffing now works against you. It can also damage a video and channel’s quality score, making it and every other video on the channel get shown less often in search results and lowering the money it and the rest of the channel’s videos make from ads.
The second title reveals that the video may solve a hiring problem a producer has, and those are the people you want watching this video. It may not feel as flashy to communicate clearly, but do you want to feel flashy or meet your goals? Better to have your video watched by 1 person thrilled to see it, than by 100,000 disappointed and now hating you for tricking them.
A great video, that someone will love at one time, they may hate, or not watch, at another. People in New York tend to watch short form content during their commute on subway trains and buses. So if your video may resonate with New Yorkers and is less than 4 minutes, you may want it to be available to them between 6 AM and 10 AM Eastern Time. Long form content tends to get watched more in the evening hours in most markets. So for TV shows and films, the evening is primetime.
It is always prime-time somewhere, as people live in every timezone on Earth. Generally, make your video live and ready to be watched before you invite the audience to actually watch it. It works against you to send people to a video that isn’t available, doesn’t work, or is otherwise unready (like no thumbnail or placeholder text for its title and description). You can read some fairly timeless superficial ideas about timing in Video Release Timing: Go Live Early, Announce Late which I wrote a while ago but still mainly applies. Plan when you want to launch, and be totally ready for the audience before they get there.
These are broad concepts, each video is its own special case. With planning, videos can be more successful, whatever your goals are. Please let me know if you have any questions, and best of luck with your videos!
David August is an actor, producer and director. He just won an award for 127 Seconds (which he stars in, wrote and produced) at a festival in NYC adding to awards and commendations from festivals around the world. He performed in his scripts Bring the Funny and Corporate Dialects, produced by We Make Movies at YouTube Space LA, and just completed dialog recording for his role in the upcoming film Dependent’s Day. Earlier this year, a producer renewed their option on a short horror/thriller script David wrote (that had been workshopped at We Make Movies under the title Color TV, and is now under the working title Room 314 at Try Film Productions). A few weeks ago, he performed in a parody of the film Divergent for Witness Pictures and off screen he is currently working as a Production Finance Executive at a production company in Hollywood. Online, he worked on the team redesigning video pages on a major studio’s site, multiplying video views many times and the site went on to win a Webby Award. He has guest lectured to graduate students at USC‘s Marshall School of Business about the internet. You can find him on twitter, facebook, youtube, imdb and his website.