How to Make Good Videos Instead of Bad Ones

  •    Freelance writer focused on web development, email marketing and baseball. He lives in Los Angeles, but wishes he lived in Tokyo.

The Internet is overflowing with videos, and most of them aren't very good. The problem isn't necessarily with their production quality, but instead with the content. It seems like few businesses ask themselves "Who are these videos for and why would people watch them?"

You, however, can do better!

Why Are You Making a Video?

If the answer is “to go viral!" then stop right now. Making a viral video is not a goal, it's a side effect that occasionally occurs when a video's content happens to intersect with a wide, interested audience. It also usually needs to involve cats.

You can no more set out to make a viral video then you can set out to live on the moon. This is doubly true for businesses. How many commercials are so good that you'd like to watch them again?

There are lots of great reasons to make a video, though. Like these:

To Gain Brand Awareness

You want people to watch the video, remember it and associate good feelings with your business because of it.

To Explain Something

You want to make sure customers fully understand some aspect of your product or service.

To Increase Engagement / Retention

You want to engage potential customers so they keep you top-of-mind even when they're not currently in the market to buy what you're selling.

Your video should be to the point; keep it focused and answer no more than one question with it. That will help you:

Get In and Get Out

Unless you or the people starring in your video are insanely charming and have lots of on-camera experience, keep it super short. Take a look at this very effective 15-second video from Zendesk:

There is nothing complicated or fancy about this video. It's a single shot of an astronaut and diver talking in a room, wearing outfits you could pick up at a nice costume shop, and it conveys more about what Zendesk does (Improve Complicated Relationships) than any three minute video of some random person talking ever could.

Does this mean your video should only be 15 seconds long? Certainly not. In fact, you should always be thinking about how you can make it shorter. While there are always exceptions, no business video should be too much longer than two minutes.

The shorter your video, the easier it'll be for you to:

Be Engaging

If your video can't hold anyone's attention, then there's no real point to making it. That's the real trick though, isn't it? If it were easy to make engaging videos, then every Hollywood movie would be incredible.

But you have an advantage over Hollywood studios, and it's not just that potential viewers don't have to spend fifteen dollars on popcorn in order to watch your video. It's also that you are in a position as a small business owner to make a personal connection that larger organizations find much harder to do.

Look at this Weebly video about Joe, the Letterpress Poet:

This could easily have been a straightforward video about why Weebly is the best place to build a website, but Joe turns it into something notable and interesting by providing lots of opportunities for great storytelling.

This video works just as well as a video about Joe as it does a video about Weebly, and while it's nice that the visuals are high quality, the video would work even if it was shot on a cheaper camera with worse lighting. It's the personal story at its heart that makes people want to watch. Humor is engaging. Warmth and friendliness are engaging. Personal stories are engaging. Worry more about what sets you apart from your competitors, than whether or not you can borrow your cousin's drone to do a cool shot while it flies over your house.

If all else fails, consider having your subject (or you, should the subject be you) look directly at the camera while they talk. This creates an immediate connection with the viewer.

Another trick to engage your audience is to use:

Visual Metaphor

Let's state the obvious for a moment: video is a visual medium. Yet far too many business videos are static shots of someone looking off to the right or left of the camera and talking. Why bother with a video at all if you're not going to take full advantage of it?

Look at this very short Weather Underground video announcing their mobile app:

Think about all the mobile apps that exist now. Virtually every medium to large company has their own app that they want everyone to download. There are only so many ways for a million companies to talk about how their services are now “at your fingertips" while you're “on the go." Weather Underground avoids this trap. Much like with Zendesk, you know far more about Weather Underground's brand from this short video than you'd learn watching a three minute video of someone literally using the app on an iPad.

Think about how you could represent your business in a way that isn't 100 percent literal, but still gets the point across. Done well, this kind of of video will immediately stand out from most of other small business vids.

It also can't hurt to:

Rent Equipment

Even though content is more important than production value, it certainly helps to have your video look and sound nice. You may know someone with a camera and microphone, but if you don't, there are lots of places online and off where you can inexpensively rent equipment for a few days. is probably the most well known of the former.

If you're going to put effort into making a video, you want to ensure people actually watch that video and come away feeling good about your business. Just putting a little extra thought and time into your content will go a long way. And if all else fails, you can just film a video of your cat. People always like that.