With so much information overload on the internet, more and more users are rejecting long blocks of text in favor of easily consumable video content. But the video marketplace is ridiculously competitive, with 100 hours of new video content uploaded to YouTube every minute.
How do you stand out among the hordes of cat videos, fail compilations, and Let’s Plays?
One proven way to rank higher in the YouTube sphere is to increase audience retention and watch time—the percentage of each video viewers stick around for, and the total time they stay on your channel. YouTube likes to reward channels that keep their viewers engaged for the long-term.
In this article, you’ll get 6 tips for how to make a video that people will watch til the end.
1. Make valuable, unique content
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but it is also the most critical part of successful video. Every time a viewer chooses to watch your video, a transaction takes place. They give you their time and attention, and you owe them something of value in exchange. If your viewers don’t feel like they’re getting a great deal, they’ll never stick around.
Resist the urge to simply repackage or imitate the content from your top competitors. To truly win your audience’s attention, you want a channel that feels different from anything else they’ve seen. Really consider which unique skills, expertise, or presentational style you can bring to the table. Try new things until you find something that works!
One helpful rule of thumb from Kissmetrics: “Create videos on the confluence of audience’s passions & interests and your channel’s identity.”
2. Be honest
People are paranoid when they explore the web–WITH GOOD REASON. Hiding behind the vast majority of clickbait titles and flashy buttons is worthless or, at the very least, misleading content. If you prove yourself to be reliable and trustworthy to your viewers, that’s already a huge advantage over most of the competition.
It can be tempting to create an exaggerated thumbnail or headline to get people to check out your videos but, as soon as a viewer realizes you’re not delivering on what they expected, they will turn the video off.
Misleading content is good for superficial clicks but terrible for audience retention.
Now this is an example of the type of misleading content that isn’t good for audience retention, but it also illustrates the importance of capturing your viewer’s attention immediately in your video.
According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average attention span in 2015 was only 8.25 seconds. That means that, whatever the first 8 seconds of your video contains, it should have the same focus-attracting power as the word “SEX!” in giant, red, capital letters.
The first 2% of your video is called the nose, and constitutes a substantial percent of audience drop off. Alyce Currier of Wistia.com recommends that you “[h]ook your audience by showing and proving your point, rather than just stating it” and “[a]void talking about yourself too much.”
Come into the video excited, lay out what your audience should expect, reassure them that they have a reason to stick around. Once you win the battle of the first 8 seconds, you’re well on your way to winning the attention war.
4. Tease your viewers
The Zeigarnik effect states that people remember incomplete tasks better than complete tasks. We have a psychological tendency to crave closure. That’s why open loops, or unanswered questions, are such a powerful tool for increasing audience retention.
At the top of your video, tease a beauty secret that’s coming later. Specify that only those who watch til the end will understand how to do home renovation in double time. Find something appealing to highlight or discuss briefly but save the remainder of the information for later in the video. Your viewers won’t be able to help but stick around to find the answer.
5. Change or die
Imagine that the internet is like a ridiculously crowded party with billions of potentially amazing people to talk to. When someone clicks on your video, they have started up some small talk with you. If you talk about weather the whole time, they’ll quickly lose interest. You’ve got to use every trick you’ve got to keep them entertained.
In video terms, this means regularly changing up how your video looks, feels, and sounds. Tim Schmoyer from Video Creators recommends that you include a change every 15 seconds. These changes can be as simple as including b-roll or stock footage, having images pop up on screen, or using a variety of camera angles. Just don’t force your viewers to watch a talking head the whole time.
Pro-tip: In your YouTube channel analytics, check out the “audience retention” tab. You can look at individual videos and see the exact moments where retention shoots up or drops off. Repeat successful tactics and avoid dull segments that lose viewers.
6. Use music and sound to set a tone
The music and sound effects you use can give your videos a memorable, engaging style. Inspiring videos have inspiring music, playful videos have playful music, conspiracy theory videos have… the X-Files theme song? Find a way of underscoring your videos that captures the mood you’re hoping to hit. Music goes a long way. Look at how the end of E.T. falls apart without it.
Background music is so ubiquitous in online videos that you may not even notice it. That is often intentional! You want your music to have an almost subliminal effect. If it is too loud it may overwhelm the viewer. For best results, adjust the volume as you go (sudden silence can highlight jokes or key points; escalating volume can capture increasing energy or enthusiasm).
Subtle use of sound is important too. You’ve probably noticed record scratches in some of the most popular vlogs online to emphasize a gag. Sound can also subtly underline your editing (swooshes for swipe edits, smacks for pop ups, etc.). Play around with sound effects–even small changes can powerfully affect the viewing experience.
That wraps up our 6 video tips that will keep your viewers unable to rip their eyes off the screen. If you can keep your audience retention and watch time high, you’ll rank much better in search and grow your audience overall. Check out our Growth Everywhere YouTube page to see our approach to video.
A strong video presence is a game changer in the world of content marketing. But of course, truly great video content has a voice all its own. Use these tips as a starter guide to explore your own style. The most exciting video content is always evolving.
To get your brain going, ask yourself these three questions:
- What value am I offering to my audience?
- What kind of video would I watch all the way through?
- What has no one ever seen before?
Within your answers, lies the secret to amazing video that keeps your audience coming back for more.