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How to craft the perfect instructional video for social media

How to craft the perfect instructional video for social media Matt Singer

We've now discussed how to create effective event and testimonial videos. In this article, we'll explore how to create the instructional video, which is probably the most scalable form of social media video content. It's not bound by the frequency of events or the availability of a testimonial subject (although you may want to feature an outside expert as explained below). Social media in general is a great forum to provide support and the instructional video can be a great tool that helps your customers better use your products. 

Instruction options

Any IT related product has an inherent opportunity for the creation of instructional videos. Most software products, whether on web, mobile, or desktop, have many features that customers either aren't aware of or aren't familiar with how to use in an optimal way. Creating a series of instructional videos with one video per feature or function is a great way of creating interesting video content that really helps your customers.
For physical goods products, there are a lot of instructional video topics that can stem from how to use the product. For example, cosmetics have an unending instructional video opportunity that can teach people how to look great. The best thing about instructional videos is that they afford you a chance to give customers useful information while featuring what your products can do in a way that directly drives sales. 

Selecting the steps

The key to figuring out what to film in an instructional video starts with breaking down your instructions into steps. That said, not every single step in an instructional video needs its own isolated video shot -- this could make the process overly time consuming and result in a video that is needlessly pedantic.
Video is a visual medium, so the perfect video is filled with interesting shots with movement. If you're talking about a software feature, think about the best looking screen. Skip showing literal shots of basic steps like "log into your account." The video host can still speak to these steps, but limiting how much literal illustration renders the video easier to make and better to watch. 

Filming the steps

The actual steps should be about 10 to 15 seconds of footage, with each video clip corresponding to one key step. Try to show that step a few times in one shot or slowly in one shot so you have plenty of timing flexibility when lining up the shot with future narration.
If the product is a physical goods product, filming the steps in context is important to help the viewer relate to how they would use the products themselves. If the product is an IT product, there are great tools to capture screen videos. For example, QuickTime for the Mac is free and can make screen video recordings. When capturing the screen, try to grab a rectangle of footage in the 16:9 "widescreen" video shape (analogous to what you see on a widescreen TV or in a movie theater). This footage will most likely be incorporated and played on a 16:9 widescreen video player -- such as what you see on YouTube -- so you want to use the video canvas space efficiently and minimize pillar boxing (which is what happens when you try to put a horizontal smart phone video into a 16:9 video player -- unattractive black bars on the left and right sides). 

Giving the instructions

There is a reason why the highest converting videos on the top ecommerce video sites feature on-camera talent, so avoid voiceover-only videos if possible. In an instructional video, you can communicate the heart behind your advice -- in other words, your desire for your customers to learn something helpful can come across on camera. An instructional video also gives your executives a chance to demonstrate their expertise and credibility, which in turn helps build credibility for your company and products.
When filming the instructional segment, try to keep the entire video to 45 seconds or less. This means that the instructions should be very focused on one specific feature or tip, instead of a long form training exercise. The shorter length makes the video faster to make and easier to watch and digest for the viewer.
Once again, follow general video best practices such as using a low cost lavalier mic with your mobile phone, keeping the camera steady for this main shot, and being sensitive to keeping a strong light source (such as a window) behind you so that your subject has clean, shadow-free light on their face.
Some of the most scalable instructional videos involve instruction video segments filmed with a webcam, where the social media marketer can explain the processes themselves. Webcams as well need a lot of light, so positioning a laptop with a webcam such that you're face is looking out a window (and the laptop's "back" is to the window) will maximize the light on your face. Remember to keep the energy up and present a friendly demeanor to lift the engagement of your audience and send the right underlying customer service message.
By combining a quick tip on camera with key, visually interesting supporting shots, you can entertain, inform, and help your customers on a regular basis through your social media channels with great looking instructional videos.
Matt Singer is CEO and co-founder of Videolicious.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"TV professional digital video" image via Shutterstock.

At age 24, Matt began selling products on QVC. He went on to sell more than 500,000 products through the TV shopping channel. Singer was impressed with the power of video to inform, connect, and introduce audiences to new products and ideas in a...

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