This is so meta. Look at you – you’re reading a how-to article on how to create a how-to video!
Once you’ve wrapped your head around that, pat yourself on the back! You’ve completed the much needed first step of realizing you want to learn, so we can skip past the introductions about how important video marketing is for increasing sales and improving marketing results, and get straight to how creating how-to videos can benefit your brand, increase SEO dramatically, and provide value across multiple stages in the buyer’s journey.
So what makes a good how-to video? What are the elements that make up a how-to video? How many steps should your video include? How many is too many? Great questions!
While there are no hard and fast rules, we’re going to do our best to answer all of your questions, providing you with the benefits of how-to videos and everything you need to know to create a great one.
Let’s dive in!
What’s a How-To Video?
A how-to video is a step-by-step tutorial explaining how to do something. That something can be literally anything, from how to fly a plane to how to bake banana bread muffins. Ideally, a how-to video is informative and teaches a specific skill or task an audience might have a question about, like this article is doing for how to create how-to videos!
Say you own a tech company that’s created a new drone. You could create a step-by-step walk-through of how to fly a drone featuring your produce front and center. Or, say you’re a DIY furniture manufacturer like IKEA. You could create an instruction manual how-to video that details each step of assembling a new cabinet.
When Should I Use a How-To Video?
How-to videos are great for building awareness and attracting new visitors, engaging potential customers while they’re on your website or socials, nurturing followers via email or through social media, and delighting customers who have already purchased by convincing them you’re a worthy resource for information.
Plus, you can get ahead of potential customer service issues by creating and sharing how-to videos that explain how to use your product or service. Just share them right after purchase to minimize complaints from confused or angry callers.
Why How-To Videos?
Digital media companies in particular love using how-to videos to create evergreen content that users can find when searching how to do something online. This creates SEO value for the companies, and if the video is simple enough, it’ll appeal to a large audience and get plenty of views. The more how-to videos you create, the more online visitors you’re likely to gain.
However, you don’t have to be a digital media company earning ad revenue off impressions to still get value from a how-to video. How-to videos are great for brands that sell products, whether it be big retailers or smaller companies in niche markets.
If you make a new workout device, for example, creating a how-to series on proper form while doing different workouts would benefit you by establishing your brand as an industry expert, helping you build a target audience that finds your product appealing.
What Makes a Good How-To Video?
While the format of a how-to video is pretty straightforward — it’s usually a step-by-step walkthrough of how to complete a task — there are some key details you don’t want to miss when creating one of your own.
Here’s a handy breakdown of all the key elements we think are important when creating your own how-to video:
- Be short, but specific. Don’t go on too long or overwhelm viewers with unnecessary information. Get right to the point and stay on topic; share only key details related to the task.
- Don’t skip anything. Don’t leave out anything, even if it’s a minor step. Think about reading an Ikea chair manual. If the manual misses a step, that chair’s going to end up in pieces against your wall. If your audience loses you, they’ll get frustrated, exit, and go watch another video. Zero stars.
- Use plain language. Don’t use your how-to video to educate your viewers about insider lingo – save all that for your educational videos. Make your language as simple as possible, so anyone can follow along.
- Make each step visual. As you’re explaining each step, make sure you provide full visuals, again, so anyone watching can follow along. Some people are audio learners, some are visual learners. Make sure it makes sense for both.
- Shoot in one location when possible. No need to overcomplicate things. Unless your video is about how to surf and you go from a garage to the beach, make life simple for yourself and shoot all your steps in one location.
- Don’t be boring. Just because you’re schooling your audience doesn’t mean you need to act like the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Put your best foot forward and have some dang fun! You want your viewers to both learn something AND come back for more. Think of your favorite teachers from school and be as relatable and entertaining as they were; just be sure to keep your brand and industry in mind.*
*If you work at an aerospace company, you probably don’t want some zany jokester explaining how to use your core product – you want someone who exudes expert knowledge. Knowing your target audience is key.
How to Create a How-To Video
The best how-to videos are simple, but effective. Here’s how we make them here at Lemonlight.
Step 1: Write your guide.
The first step is to map out how to actually do the thing you’re making your video about. Write out all the steps as you see them, and then simplify them as much as possible. Boil it down to the essentials without leaving anything out!
Take that guide and turn it into a video script. Include descriptions of the accompanying visuals, so your video team knows exactly what they’re filming. Consider storyboarding, too, so you don’t forget anything.
Step 2: Find a location to shoot.
Pick a place where you can film your entire video from start to finish (if possible). Book that location for the entire day, whether it’s a home-office or workplace setting in your company’s building, so you have it locked in. Then, assemble your team, cast any on-screen acting talent, and prepare to shoot!
Step 3: Shoot your video.
Now that your how-to video is ready and your location, crew, and cast is booked, it’s time to shoot. Follow your guide to make sure you film each and every step. You don’t necessarily have to shoot them in order, but it certainly makes the whole process much easier to track.
Step 4: Edit your video.
If you do end up filming sequentially, then this stage should be fairly straightforward. Put all your footage together using the right editing software, adding in any voice-over or B-roll footage of your how-to steps in action, then add some background music to keep things interesting.
Once you have your finished product, have your friends or co-workers watch it, and confirm that everything makes sense. Is your video easy and straightforward enough to follow?
Have them follow the steps and try to accomplish the task themselves. If everyone who watches it can follow the steps without getting bored or distracted, then you’ve done your job and you’re ready to post!
Step 5: Post your video and rake in the views!
Because how-to videos work across multiple stages of the buyer’s journey, you can use your how-to videos to accomplish various goals. Here’s a quick shorthand of where you can use your video depending on what you’re trying to achieve:
Attract New Customers: Use your how-to video in your paid advertising, or collaborate with a partner brand to feature your video as part of another company’s blog. You can also pitch it to media outlets that might be writing related stories.
Engage Web Visitors: Definitely include your how-to videos on your owned website’s homepage, blog, or product pages, especially if your how-to video relates directly to your product or service.
Nurture Followers: Share your how-to video on social media and via email newsletters to your subscribers and prospects. This will not only provide value, but help you strut your stuff as an expert source that’ll keep them coming back to you for information.
Delight Customers: Share on all of the above! Post and share your how-to videos everywhere your customers may see them. In particular, if your video is about your product or service, share it as a part of your welcome or thank you email sequence, so they can make use of it right away.
Whether you feel confident in creating your business’s own how-to video right away, or think you might need some help, the important thing is getting started! Without branded how-to videos, you’re not just missing out on views and impressions, you’re also keeping your audience in the dark. Do what you can to share this vital information, build your authority as an industry expert, and start seeing your engagement metrics rise.