How-To Make How-To Videos: An Eager Audience Awaits Your Skills and Knowledge

How-To Make How-To Videos: An Eager Audience Awaits Your Skills and Knowledge

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This may not be any surprise to those who work in the realm of video and the internet in general, but “how-to” is one of the most important and sought-after phrases in the world of search.  Awhile back, we talked to Touchstorm and KBS+P, media companies that have sold brands on the idea of making educational videos that sell a category rather than a product, trusting the consumer to make the right decision based on a brand’s ability to relay information on particular subjects.  And YouTube’s Product Manager Baljeet Singh has said, “How-To” videos are searched three times more than music videos.  Do you have some knowledge that can help people?  Make a video.  These things almost sell themselves.

The How-To: Relaying Knowledge, Building Trust, Creating A Brand

Whether you’re selling a product, or starting an interesting vlog of some sort, or have a vast amount of knowledge on a particular subject and just would like to share it, a “how-to” has a great chance of being found in search because people are always looking for step-by-step instructions on how to complete a variety of tasks.  The reason video is perfect for this is that it’s so much more than a list of instructions: people can actually see how it’s done.  This is why you see a million cooking shows on YouTube, a million ways to do makeup, a million of almost everything.  And these videos do extremely well.

3 Rules for How To Make How-To Videos

First, some rules to follow when making a How-To:

1. You must have credibility on the subject in which you are providing a how-to.

This is especially true for brands, who should stick to the categories of which they have intimate knowledge.  And if you’re Random Person on the Internet, you need to show you’ve got skills immediately.  Like if you’re a cooking show, you might want to show the final product sooner rather than later.

2. Content matters.  Provide content.

Show how your skill is done by clearly providing visual evidence in tandem with the words you speak.  If you don’t show clear examples and don’t speak clearly (or come off not confident), you will lose the audience.

3. The topic must be something that is worthwhile, or interesting, or “cool.”

Like “How to Make A Microwave Dinner Taste Like A Bobby Flay Masterpiece” might be impossible.  But if someone out there knows how to do it, I think that would kill on YouTube.  It doesn’t have to be that specific example, but along those lines, if someone does know how to do it, they are providing a skill that is cheap, tasty, and extremely interesting.  This is the type of advice that a lot of makeup gurus will use: they’ll provide a cost-effective alternative to something that is out of reach for most people.

Now, there are a lot of “how-to” videos out there, some of them give you basic information, some are funny, some just have a particularly interesting perspective or twist.  But the bottom line is that these how-to videos do well because they provide information that people are actively searching for or need.

Let’s start with something general that I think everybody has thought of at one time or another.  “How to Pick A Lock” from Howcast has 8 million views.  And hey, it says try just picking your own locks, thank you very much!  This is for educational purposes!  This very generally-titled video has 8 million views:

Or, you know, how a “magician” might escape from handcuffs.  Wink:

That has been watched over 10 million times.

Our friends over at Touchstorm run videos through Howdini, which has its own channel on YouTube.  This video from Betty Crocker has 17 million views on YouTube alone, and probably a whole lot more on Howdini.  It’s how to make a princess doll birthday cake:

And this is silly.  Who wants to know how to make a paper crossbow, or is even interested in that?  About 5 million people:

By the way, if you can do a how-to “sexy” video, it’s not guaranteed to go viral, but the chances of it doing so go up astronomically.  For instance, check out YouTube star Jenna Marbles’ “How To Trick People Into Thinking You Have Big Boobs” (some material may be offensive):

That video is over 15 minutes, and has 15 million views.  Look, Jenna Marbles is a YouTube star who gets a lot of views per video, but nothing like this normally.

Unless, it’s this video about how to “trick people into thinking you’re good looking,” which has been viewed an astounding 43 million times:

It works in comedy, too.  YouTube star NigaHiga has a breakout hit called, “How to be a Ninja” that has amassed over 34 million views:

I think the point has been made.  It’s really about providing knowledge, or value, to your audience.  It might be advice or instructions, but people are always looking for ways to improve themselves and learn new skills.  For businesses, you might have a hard time explaining why you’re the best choice by merely showing the product and what you claim it does.  This is why many brands have chosen to make how-to videos with very little selling, but a whole lot of proving of their expertise, because people give way more trust to confident knowledge than they do claims.

It’s one of those things: we give a lot more credence to people who don’t impose, they just want to help, and give information that makes a whole lot of sense, or rings true.  And whether you’re a brand or a vlogger, that trust builds an audience and your business.


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