The Communication Hackers Blog
February 1, 2018
How to Use Storytelling to Make a DIY Video Like a Marketing Pro
If you’re a small business, you’re likely feeling the pressure from the world to create more DIY video. In fact, I bet that’s why you are reading this article. Video is so hot that 2017 statistics revealed one-third of online activity is spent watching video. Whether you’re a 10-person small business or a solopreneur, you can make DIY video easily and affordably. Honestly, you can.
Because there is so much to learn about DIY video, I’ve decided to break this up into a 5-part series. After years of researching DIY video, investing in dozens of DIY video-making software programs and mobile apps, and using them in my own small business, I want to share what I have learned with you. After all, Communication Hackers is all about learning the “hacks” and sharing them with you— so you don’t have to painstakingly figure this all out on your own.
The Breakdown of This 5-Part Series
Today, as part 1 of this series, we’re going to focus on storytelling, the foundation of a good video. Every DIY video must begin with a compelling story– otherwise, why bother? Here’s what the rest of this series will contain:
- In part 2 of this series we’ll talk about DIY video-making tips for the leading social media platforms (including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn).
- Then in part 3 we will discuss the hottest types of DIY video that small businesses can incorporate into their online marketing strategy.
- For part 4 I will share my favorite five DIY video tools, such as super-affordable DIY video creation software and mobile device apps.
- Finally, we will wrap up part 5 with practical tips for making DIY video (think lighting tips, best practices for audio and music, the ins and outs of using captions, and video editing tools we use and recommend).
The First Question to Ask Yourself
As I mentioned, you need a compelling storyline. Each time you create a video you are, in essence, a storyteller. We’ve seen effective storytellers take an otherwise boring topic, yet turn it into a compelling video because they were able to expose an interesting vantage point about the topic. For example, blenders. Yes, kitchen blenders. They’re boring. However, when Blendtec came out with the “Will it blend?” marketing campaign, it soon went viral. I still can’t get my kids to shut up about Blendtec blenders destroying everything from baseballs to silly putty.
Before we create anything— whether that’s a video, article, some web copy, whatever— the first thing we must ask ourselves is, “Is this interesting, compelling, or useful?” If the answer is “no,” then I wouldn’t waste my time creating the thing from the get-go. Because, in the words of my 13-year old kid, “#NobodyCares.” That’s right, your story isn’t much of a story if nobody cares.
What Topics Suck for DIY Video?
Not everything we find interesting is actually interesting to the outside world, particularly your customers. If you’re going to make a DIY video about a mid-level promotion of a staff member, an award, internal changes, or something similarly uninteresting, I beg you to reconsider. A good story must suck in the viewer, make them feel connected to your brand, and evoke emotion from them.
Criteria for a Compelling DIY Video
Occasionally unexpected videos go viral causing nearly every awkward teenager, exhausted mother, and jovial grandpa to views/share/like the video. Sometimes these outrageously popular videos don’t even seem to fit the mold for good cinematography. But life is weird and unexplainable, so… whatev. Thankfully, just like criteria for judging a breathtaking piece of Renaissance period art, there are criteria we can use as a guide to make a DIY video that will help you raise brand awareness and build trust with viewers.
Here are some DIY video criteria:
- Opens with a Strong Hook. The hook (the first 5 seconds of the video) literally suck your viewers in and compel them to keep watching. (More on this in the next section of this article because I really feel like this is the #1 most important criteria [criterion??] for making a DIY video that people will actually watch in its entirety.)
- It’s Brief. Appropriate length varies some depending on the use and which platform it will be hosted on, but typically a video to promote your brand and gain trust from your “tribe” should be less than 2 minutes. Pretty short, ay? In fact, 60% of online viewers will stop watching a video after 2 minutes. Hubspot has got a 3-minute read here providing specifics for the ideal length of a video for each of the major social media platforms. It’s a bit scary that our attention spans really aren’t much greater than that of a goldfish. In part 2 of this article series, I’ll go into tons more detail about what works for each of the leading social media platforms, far beyond just length specificity. So stay tuned!
- It Uses a Full Story Arc. What’s a story arc? Have you ever watched a movie and at the end you were like: “What’s the point?” Yeah, me too. I hate those. Since the dawn of time, man has craved stories. And many intellectuals claim that every story follows one of the six basic story types (plots). Rather than get into the weeds of historic literature (I have an English background and could really geek out on this topic), let’s think about storytelling in general. The story arc is the progression of either events (or emotions) from the hook, to the climax, to the ending. In a bit more detail, a good story requires an emotional hook, rising action (like conflict), a climax (where the tension is highest), a falling resolution (where the solution to the conflict is employed), followed by a resolution (the triumph at the end).
How to Craft an Engaging Video Story Hook
I could tell you that there are dozens, no hundreds, of hooks you can use to start a video. But that would no doubt be overwhelming and might make you hate me. Instead, what if I told you that we’ve got two hooks that we use all the time for Communication Hackers videos. These are our go-to hooks. Like a pair of tried-and-true aces up our sleeves.
Try These Two DIY Video Story Hooks
- You’ve got this problem, I’ve got the solution. This might sound obvious, but it’s actually a great way to begin a video. Think about how often you yourself visit YouTube. You’ve broken something (perhaps it’s a 404 website error, or a broken do-dad around the house)— so you visit Dr. YouTube and begin typing “How to…” You’ve got a problem, and you’re desperately seeking a solution. A good video will suck your viewers in because they can identify with it. Perhaps they can identify with the frustration you’re highlighting. Starting with a problem and quickly letting your audience know that this video is gonna provide the solution is perhaps the #1 way to score an audience. Here’s a “problem —> solution” example video by Mailchimp, where the problem isn’t explicitly stated, but rather implied. In this 30-second video, Mailchimp identifies with people who run online businesses who struggle to get it all done with “just one brain.” Between doing ads, sending emails, and communicating with customers, the video explains that the struggle is real. However, Mailchimp’s video here provides the solution— their Mailchimp marketing automation platform.
- Imagine a world where… Everybody likes make-believe. But what is even better is true magic in the making. Sometimes your product or service isn’t addressing a gaping problem at all. Sometimes your product or service is visionary or your customers don’t even know they need it yet. Want a concrete example? Here’s the ultimate “image a world where” storyline: Apple’s unveiling of the first iPhone. You see, people weren’t sitting around with a problem on their hands waiting for someone to develop a solution. We already had laptops. We already had cellular phones. Our needs were met. But then along comes Apple with this visionary product that suddenly had nearly every American (okay, nearly every person with a pulse on planet Earth) lined up for hours prepared to trade their first-born for this device. Apple introduced the first iPhone with an “imagine if” scenario. The scenario came across as: Imagine a world where you can have the power and functionality of a computer in a device so small that literally fits in your hand….introducing the iPhone. Not only was the product great, the marketing of the product was great too! If you’re selling a good or service that you know people need even though they might already seem content, this hook might be your best choice.
Here’s the Bottom Line
Behind every successful marketing video, storytelling has been strategically crafted and weaved into the fabric of the viewer experience. Although not always obvious or blatantly stated in the video’s dialogue, I find that most videos follow one of these two hooks I shared above. The first connects to peoples’ fears and frustrations, while the second example evokes excitement and imagination. Both are timeless emotions that can form a solid foundation for a compelling DIY video. As I’ll explain in part 3 of this series, there are dozens of different types of DIY video that small businesses can use to tell their stories so be sure to read that one when it comes out. Sure, you’ll have to decide for each video what style would be most appropriate (such as explainer video, how-to video, whiteboard animation, or perhaps a testimonial video), but before considering the style of video, I suggest you first consider your story and then craft a hook that will appeal to your viewers.