This is Part 2 of our ongoing series entitled Online Video Marketing Basics.  You may wish to first read Part 1,  which dealt with the question of why you should even want to get involved in online video, laying out a laundry list of valid reasons.  We threw a bunch of statistics and graphs at you, and you might even have felt like you were in school. For Part 2, I’d like to talk about the next step, and this one might feel a bit more like recess.  You’ve decided that online video is for you… now you need to decide what kind of video you want to make.  No statistics or graphs today.

It’s incredibly important to look before you leap.  It can be very tempting, once you’ve made the decision to jump into online video, to move straight into production—either hiring a video production firm or filming the piece yourself.  It’s understandable; the making of the video is much more fun than planning or scripting a video.  But individuals and businesses who are new to online video would be wise to take some extra moments at the outset to examine the various kinds of video, and decide which one will work best for your purposes.

Before you pick a type of video to create, you need to know what your goals are.  And if your goal is simply to create a video and see it get a ton of views, then your goal is entirely too vague.  Like any piece of online content, the chances for success increase exponentially when the video is created to fulfill a specific purpose.

So let’s first break down some common goals of online video producers so you can see which group you fall into.  Most videos online fall into one of the following goal categories:

  • Increase or Improve Branding/Marketing/Advertising
  • Raise Awareness
  • Conversions I.E. Make Money
  • Authority and Fame

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of online video.  Some work better than others, depending on the goal you’ve set for yourself.  For instance, a marketing video could be a testimonial from a trusted client, or a hilarious commercial.  Simply selecting your goal does not mean you are done having to make tough decisions.

For our purposes, I’ve created twelve main categories, under which almost any online video will fall.  I’ll give a brief overview and include an example of each type to help give you a better picture.  There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get going.


In my unscientific opinion, humor videos are the most popular variety for both video creators and viewers alike.  This is mostly because laughter is universal.  While I have met several humorless individuals, I’m not sure there’s a modern culture that is completely free of humor.  And some things that cause laughter are universal as well, such as bloopers or physical comedy.

Not everyone likes to be scared.  Not everyone is looking for demonstrations or interview videos.  But nearly everyone enjoys a good laugh.  Businesses that use humor in their online videos do so because laughter has a way of relaxing the viewer and endearing them to your content.  We also, as humans, tend to forward on things that make us laugh to our friends, so they can share in the hilarity.

But before you choose humor as your video type, know that the extreme popularity of that style also makes it harder to find an audience.  You’ll have a lot more competition for viewers if you shoot for laughs.  Additionally, humor is a lot harder to achieve than you might initially think.  It’s why so many sitcoms and comedy films flop at the box office, and why so many stand-up comedians get heckled.  If you decide to create a humor video, you’d better bring the funny, or you might as well have not even made a video at all.

Here’s the most recent video that hits a humor home run, a TomTom ad for the new Yoda GPS voice:


Some videos are informational in nature, simply aiming to educate the public about a particular cause, issue, or topic.  College lecture videos and news clips are fantastic examples, as are a lot of nonprofit videos, religious teachings or sermons, and government agency videos.

The Internet is, after all, the place where most people go these days for information.  Generally, I would only recommend an informational video style to a person or company that is already established as an expert in their field.  Most viewers don’t browse through YouTube looking for videos with charts and statistics.  And when they do go looking for information, they tend to want it to come from a trusted and reputable source.  For instance, I can put up a video detailing the impact of the oil spill on tourism in the Gulf Coast.  But I’m just an Internet marketer, not an environmental expert.  I actually know very little about how the oil spill is affecting tourism in the Gulf.  So my video would be trounced by the likes of CNN or the Coast Guard.

If you are an expert in your field, then by all means consider using informational videos to gain new fans and customers.  Informational videos are far less likely to “go viral,” because they are, by definition, not as entertaining.  However, a video does not need to go viral to be a success.  If your audience is seeking information, by all means give it to them.

Here’s one of the better informational videos I’ve seen; it’s comedian and actor Robert Wuhl lecturing college students about American History:


One of the most powerful ways to sell a product online is to present a video demonstration.  If your product or service cannot be easily and clearly demonstrated for potential customers, you’re going to have a harder time selling it to them.

As we’ve noted before, videos can increase e-commerce sales dramatically.  So if you’re selling products on your website, demonstration videos would be one of the first styles I would look at.  Nothing sells a product like the product itself, but it needs to be something that translates to video.  Your stellar psychiatric skills will not likely translate well into a short online video, but you’re all-purpose kitchen cleaner’s ability to wipe away dirt and stains will.  Let the product or the service you’re trying to announce to the world guide your decision on whether or not a demonstration video is the right choice for you.

Let’s look at a fine example of a demonstration video from the kings of demonstration videos, the Will It Blend folks at Blendtec:


Testimonial videos can be a powerful force.  When the viewer believes the person giving the testimony, their positive words about you carry far more weight than whatever you might say about yourself.  This is true even outside of video—I don’t buy anything online without reading through the user reviews, for example.

But you need to follow a couple rules for testimonial videos if you want the biggest impact:

  1. Use real people who are sharing their real opinion about you.  Paid actors can almost never accurately pull off the “average customer” shtick.  Audiences have a sense for when testimonials are staged, and tend to tune out altogether once that sensor goes off.
  2. Use personable individuals.  If you film a testimonial with a complete bore, your audience will tune out or turn off.  Use people with engaging personalities.

A good testimonial video might look like this:


Another of the more common types of online video is the commercial spot.  In fact, a lot of major brands will simply take an existing television commercial and place it online.  Or they’ll go the reverse route and upload a new commercial to YouTube first to see how it plays before buying a lot of TV airtime.

Some brands post extended versions of existing ads, or simply spots that are too long for television.  But the basic idea is that you create a video that is a standard commercial for your business or for yourself.  These can be humorous or serious, and can incorporate elements of some of the other types of videos on this list.  But with this kind of video, the goal online is merely to advertise.

There are many excellent commercial video examples, but I chose the Old Spice guy, because he’s the hottest thing going right now.


Interview videos are rapidly growing in popularity.  While text-based interviews are great, there’s a new layer of detail in a video interview, where you can see the person’s facial expressions and posture instead of just their words.

Perhaps you want to interview an expert on a particular topic that pertains to what you do, or maybe you want to be interviewed yourself or your employees.  An interview video can help define you as an expert, or provide valued information to your customers and fans.


If you’re a singer or a musician, then this is the style of video for you.  Simply set up a camera and perform your song… or poem… or monologue.  YouTube is filled to the brim with this kind of video—creating and uploading performance videos is how Justin Beiber shot to fame, and there are countless other success stories that are similar to his.  If you have a talent, particularly one in the performing arts, then your video concept doesn’t have to be any more complicated than this: film yourself doing what you’re good at.

Performance videos abound, but this is one of my favorites:


Similar to performance videos, artistic videos showcase the visual arts.  Some might be stop motion.  Some might be still frame slideshows of paintings.  Or a video of a painter in action.  I’ve even seen quite a few excellent abstract videos.  Art is a wide open classification, for sure.  But if you draw, paint, sculpt, quilt, or have any other visual art talent, consider making a video of that talent.

This is one of my favorite artistic videos of late:

Short Films/Feature Films

Some businesses and individuals take things a bit further, filming entire films (usually short films) to promote themselves.  With individuals, this is almost always someone that aspires to find a career in the film industry.  With brands, however, this is just another creative way to grab viewers and pull them in.  Remember when BMW shot that series of short films, enlisting some high-level Hollywood director talent if memory serves?  That’s a perfect example of a brand using the short film variety of online video to promote their business

An example of a short-film video—this video actually earned the director a job in Hollywood:


If you are an individual passionate about a cause, or a nonprofit looking to get the word out, an inspirational video might be just the thing.  Inspirational videos combine elements of several other varieties on this list, but almost always have a common goal:  to tug the heartstrings.  An emotional reaction on the part of the viewer is the intention.  It might be sadness.  It might be joy.  There might be an action you desire the viewer to take after feeling that emotion (like donating to a cause).

Here’s a fantastic example of an inspirational video:


Set up a camera and film something real.  That’s what documentary videos are in a nutshell.  Just like documentary films or reality shows on television, the concept is to present some slice of real life in video form—as opposed to writing a script and hiring actors.  Nonprofits are again a fine example of the kind of entity that might want to use the documentary format, splicing together footage of a special event.

What might a good documentary video look like?  I’m glad you asked:


Some videos exist only to shock people.  Sometimes gross, sometimes scary, but always surprising, shock videos definitely have an audience.  For some reason that eludes me, there are a lot of viewers who enjoy seeing something completely and jaw-droppingly unexpected.  One of the reasons you see this form of video so much is its tendency to go viral.  Much like a good humor clip, a lot of people can’t help but pass shock videos on to their friends so they can share the same experience.

I had to be very careful in choosing an example for this form of video, but here’s an example of what I mean by shock video:


Of course, the real fun—and real online video success—is found by combining some of the above categories together.  How about an artistic commercial?

Or an inspirational informational video?

Or a humorous short film performance commercial?


Have I listed every single possible variety of online video?  Of course not.  This is a fairly subjective thing here.  My intent is to get you thinking about how many different angles there are to approach this thing from when you decide to start creating videos.  There is no one right kind of online video—in fact there are hundreds of paths you can choose.

I can’t tell you which style is the right choice for you, because all of you are different people in different situations.  You have to make this decision for yourself or for your business.  If you run a funeral home, I would hope you would try and steer clear of humorous videos or shock clips.  Likewise, if you’re a wacky morning radio show… I would think that humor would win out, as a genre, over informational or inspirational.

At the end of the day, there is no repeatable formula for determining what kind of video will work best for you, but I can give you one solid gold piece of advice:  Let it reflect your personality.  If you’re known to be a prankster, then you might want to look into hidden camera videos.  If you’re a respected college professor, I’d take the documentary or informational angle.  Because everything online is essentially permanent.  If the video doesn’t reflect your personality it will eventually define your personality.  So keep your videos consistent with the rest of who you are.

My hope is just that you’ll pause before leaping into production to consider what your goals are, and the various styles that might help you accomplish that goal.  The type of video you create will help determine your eventual audience, their engagement with the video, and the conversion of that viewer into a customer or fan.  Choose wisely.

Be on the lookout for Part 3: Hire A Professional Or Shoot Your Own Video?