I read a fantastic article over at Visible Gains called Tuning Website Video For Higher Conversion – Part 1. It has some really great insight into how webmasters can help nudge users toward certain desired behaviors through different choices in video placement and style. The author points out that audience behaviors are varied, but offers three good examples of the common actions we might want viewers to perform: getting people to watch your video, keeping them in your video, and driving follow-up actions. He then goes on to delve deeper into some good ideas and thoughts on achieving those action-based goals.
But it got me thinking. I actually think all videos have multiple goals, whether the creators know it or not. And if I were describing them or grouping them by class, I might add on a couple of my own. I think there are several behaviors that all successful videos see their viewers engage in. I figure it might help in the planning stages of a piece of video content to have some sort of roadmap… signposts to mark the spots along the way where your viewers make choices that impact how successful your video will be.
So I decided to craft a list of the five actions you want every video viewer to take.
1. Find Your Video
It may sound trite, but you won’t get any viewers from the pool of people who never find your video. There are millions of video creators whose clips are viewed by family and friends, but then struggle to find a wider audience. That’s because the audience either doesn’t know the video exists, or is having trouble finding it.
Thankfully, you can help people find your video in all kinds of different ways. We’re all about search here at ReelSEO, so the obvious first example of how viewers find your video is through search engines, which for our purposes today includes the native YouTube search engine. If people who search by topic—or people who have heard of your video but aren’t sure of the title—cannot see it in the search results, they aren’t likely to become viewers of your masterpiece.
You can help audiences find you in other ways as well, of course, such as social media, email newsletters, or a blog. If you don’t do anything beyond uploading your video, then you’re basically banking on one of a handful of random viewers to ignite a viral storm entirely on their own. You’ve got to be intentional about making sure your content has the best possible chance of finding an audience, because if you don’t, then the rest of the goals on this list will definitely not be met.
2. Start Your Video
Once the viewers find your video, they still have to take action to watch it—unless you set the thing to auto-play, which is pretty unattractive to users. You need them to click the “play” button to set things in motion. You might be surprised at how many users land on a page containing your video but still never start watching it.
There are plenty of theories on how you can help encourage people to start your videos, including page design, video placement, the screen-shot selection, and more. The point is that you shouldn’t gloss over the fact that the user must make a conscious decision to start playing your video. Do some research… pay attention to what other successful creators are doing…but above all, make some attempt to turn the act of clicking the ‘play’ button into something that appeals to your users, because a lot of them won’t do it on their own.
3. Finish Your Video
You also can’t forget about attention span. Every video has a different target audience, but they all have one thing in common: they want you to hold their attention. You can do it through humor, music, drama, or scares. But if they don’t get what they came for within the first seconds of the video, they might just leave without finishing it.
And I generally assume you want your viewers to watch all of the video. The end is just as important as the beginning. While it is important to make a great first impression in the opening moments, don’t capsize the clip by front-loading it with all your best material. Don’t save it all for the big finish either.
Try this tip: upload your video as an unlisted or private clip, and share it with a few friends and family members before rolling it out to the masses. Ask them what worked and what didn’t. Use them as a focus group to determine how well your work can hold their attention. If it struggles, you might consider cutting something or making a different editing choice.
It’s not enough to get the viewer to start the video, we need them to finish as well. Don’t assume that you’ve won the battle just because they pushed ‘play.’
Hopefully you have a conversion goal in mind. Maybe you want the viewer to make a purchase—we keep hearing more and more good news about the conversion power of e-commerce videos. Maybe you want them to download something, visit a website, or complete a form.
Maybe you’re shooting for some simple brand recognition, rather than a sale, in which case you might consider the viewer’s act of remembering your video to be a conversion. It’s possible that your conversion goals don’t get any more grand than simply hoping they laugh and have a good time, but that doesn’t diminish your responsibility to consider that goal—and how you can achieve it—when creating the content.
You can create a call to action in the content of the video itself, such as a call out link or title card copy that asks the viewer to do something specific. Or you can put it on somewhere else on the page such as the page design and layout or the YouTube description text. But the bottom line is that you can’t expect your viewers to consider taking an action if you don’t somehow suggest it to them.
5. Share Your Video
Viral videos are socially driven, there’s simply no way around it. No video ever went viral on search engine traffic alone. It takes viewers who are so entertained or informed by your video that they can’t help but send it to their friends. Some share over email, others on social media—my coworkers share videos through Google Talk. And don’t underestimate the power and importance of good, old-fashioned word of mouth—I still hear about hilarious new videos in real world, offline conversation with friends nearly every day.
Viewers tend to come in droves through the recommendations of their social circles. Therefore, by extension, you want—you need—your viewers to share the clip after they’ve seen it, in order to help propel it to a larger audience segment.
Now, this is just my list. You might group these behaviors differently, and that’s completely valid. But don’t lump all these actions in together as one, because they all have different triggers and they all have a different impact on your overall success. Additonally, don’t assume these actions will take care of themselves. Put yourself in the mind of the viewer. Not just any viewer, but the specific kind of viewer this video is created for. And ask yourself what would cause you to click ‘play,’ and then to complete the clip, to perform a conversion action, or to share it with friends.
The good news is that you can definitely have an impact in all five of these action areas. The overall theme here is intention. If you want your video efforts to have the best chance of succeeding, don’t take any of the decisions your audience makes in a single viewing for granted.
Thanks to Visible Gains for the unintentional inspiration. I look forward to the rest of the series.