How do you get people to watch your whole video on YouTube, then keep them coming back for more? Video and Filmmaker’s TubeGuru begins his series on making YouTube work for you.
It’s been said that people decide if they like someone within three seconds of meeting them. In this time frame body cues, sights, sounds and smells all combine to form a judgement. If you think that’s hasty and unfair, then have a think about your own web habits. How long do you give a new webpage or YouTube video before you bail? Actually, three seconds may well be too generous!
If you’re lucky and someone has clicked your link, you need to ensure the first thing they see is engaging. This could be an upbeat intro, or something completely unexpected – whatever it is, it has to excite and entice your audience as soon as your video starts. Look at your own viewing habits and those of the people around you – if you know you’re not going to watch something, chances are nobody else will either. So cut to the chase.
Reveal something that relates to the end: You could try offering a prize and tell viewers you’ll let them know the details at the end of the video, or show a scenario then cut it off midway, explaining you’ll reveal the rest at the end.
Snappy intro sequence: Create a professional and short intro sequence. You can easily make your own with stop motion animation. You don’t need to know how to use 3D or AfterEffects, it just needs to be snappy so you stand out from all the vloggers out there who use nothing more than a webcam.
Open with a strong point of view: There’s a huge amount of music, reviews, how-to channels and the like on YouTube but mostly people are there for entertainment. So you need to ask yourself what you can offer. Putting a webcam in front of your face and explaining why you feel sick or have too many bills to pay isn’t going to work – even though videos like this exist, they’re being made by YouTube celebrities who already have a highly engaged audience and I can guarantee that their first videos were nothing like it. If you’ve got something to say, make your point and make it stridently. Let’s have a look at these two scenarios.
HAVE AN OPINION
I Love My Car: In this video you list the things you like about your car. You talk about the air conditioning and why the manufacturer really cares about making good cars. You drive around and explain how quiet and safe it is. Anybody who has the same car might find your video and some of them may watch it.
I Hate My Car: In this video you start with a shot of your new car then suddenly shout into the camera: “This is the worst car ever made and I’m going to show you why!” You then drive around in the car ranting about all the things that annoy you about your car.
Which scenario is likely to win you the larger audience? Clearly, it’s the second set-up that is going to be more popular: people who agree with you, people who disagree with you, and anyone who owns the same car and wants to see what the fuss is all about. You’ll also get people who just want to watch someone getting angry at their car.
I really hope we don’t see an explosion of shouty car owner videos on YouTube but it highlights an important point about who is going to watch your video. And the more people who watch it, the better you’re playing the YouTube game.
ASK A QUESTION
Do you know which animal can live forever? Asking an engaging question is a great way to get people to keep watching your video. Pose a question, get into some details then reveal the answer at the end. If people have intriguing information to comment on and question, you will get a better retention rate. (The answer, by the way, is the Turritopsis Nutricula, an immortal jellyfish. Did you read the whole paragraph to get the answer?)
It’s not just viral videos that are ranked the highest on YouTube. There are a number of ways the analytics work to rate videos and one of the important ones is the retention (or attention) rate. YouTube’s algorithm optimises videos based on their retention and viewing time – these are the videos that keep people watching beyond the first 30 seconds, and watching more minutes is more valuable than accruing more views. One of my videos, for example, has around 1,000,000 views. Now this isn’t a lot in the currency of high rotation YouTube videos – like the video you may have seen of a cat riding on the back of a rabbit. But while Cat Riding Rabbit runs for one minute and has two million views, my video runs for almost an hour. So when you convert this to the metrics of view time, Cat Riding Rabbit has 2,000,000 minutes of view time and my video has 60,000,000. This greatly affects how the video appears in search results and also dictates what pages from within YouTube it appears.
WHAT TO TRY
Snappy editing: Boring videos get closed. It’s that simple. This is not the place for long cinematic sequences if you want views. You need fast-paced edits that keep the video moving along so that viewers don’t get bored.
Get to the point: If you have something to say, just say it. Keeping people watching doesn’t mean you need to make a 30-minute video on how to squeeze an orange. Get to the point as soon as you can or people will get bored and close your video.
Coverage: Make sure you have enough coverage to keep it interesting. A video of you in your bedroom that’s full of jump cuts looks cheap and won’t do you any favours. If you are talking about something, get a shot of it – this is simple filmmaking and it’s these skills you need to make better YouTube videos. If you are a solo vlogger, have your main camera and a GoPro or secondary camera mounted at a different angle so you can cut between them to keep it interesting.
Avoid long intro sequences: Sure, we all love Game Of Thrones but don’t try to make a similarly long intro. It doesn’t work. If your intro sequence is more than 10 per cent of the length of your video, it’s too long – no one will want to watch it each time. The exception is when you are making a professional webisode. Viewers are willing to sit through a 30-second intro sequence if they are about to get 30 minutes of uninterrupted entertainment.
Use voiceovers: Using a microphone like a USB Rode Podcaster, you can have cutaways and then add voiceovers to make your video more interesting. If you are doing any kind of instructional, documentary or music videos you must get decent audio. People will forgive a slightly rough image but if they can’t hear what you’re saying, they’ll close your video.
Aim for high production values: With the exception of flash-in-the-pan viral hits, the popular videos that have longevity are ones that look and sound professional. Invest in the best gear you can afford, and jump on forums and YouTube to upskill yourself.
There could be a book on each of the points above – in fact there are. But the best way to start is get the best gear you can afford then make some snappy, entertaining videos that get straight to the point.
TubeGuru has been making YouTube videos since 2007. He has more than 60 million video views, and more than 750,000 subscribers.