Eighty-five percent of all Internet users watch videos online.
Nearly one-third of all Internet users—a billion people—watch videos on YouTube.
Facebook users generate more than 8 billion daily video views.
Clearly, video is a powerful medium to reach people. Video may feel daunting for organizations just contemplating or beginning to use this medium. But it doesn’t have to be. Nowadays, you don’t need a big budget, amazing technology, or special effects to create effective video content. Understanding what options are out there both from a technical and a strategic perspective can help make video a viable medium for any organization, especially government agencies trying to connect with citizens.
Know Your Purpose: Types of Videos
Videos fall into roughly three categories based on purpose. Good videos raise awareness about an agency, issue, or concern; spark engagement of some kind; or educate consumers. Although a great video does all three, recognizing your primary purpose from the start helps focus your video on the outcome you want.
- Raise Awareness: Awareness videos give citizens an inside look into what agencies do, including the services they provide to citizens and the problems they are working to solve. A simple overview of an organization or an interview with a leader of the organization is a good place to start. This video about the Library of Congress (LOC) uses both to give viewers insight into the purpose of the LOC. It also includes 360° video for an unprecedented look into the space and all it has to offer.
- Spark Engagement: Videos can be highly effective ways to spark engagement about a topic or issue. While these videos certainly educate people about the issues they explore, that is not their main purpose. The idea behind an engagement video is to motivate someone to take an action of some kind. This video from ShareAmerica about the power of peaceful protest gives viewers facts and information about raising their voices in a powerful, inclusive, and nonviolent way. It lets viewers know that they can join protest movements as powerful leaders and citizens have before them while not risking life and limb to get their point across. It may very well motivate citizens to get off the fence about an issue close to their hearts.
- Educate: Educational videos populate the Internet. How-to or explainer videos are especially popular, as people turn to YouTube to learn new information or how to accomplish new tasks. It’s much easier, and often less expensive, to search for a way to fix a leaky sink than to call a plumber as soon as you see a drip.
Whatever the reason you have for creating a video, following a few best practices will help you create memorable and engaging content.
Creating a Plan: Best Practices for Creating Engaging Content
No matter which type of video you choose, there are a number of things to consider when creating content. First, figure out your specific objectives for the video you are creating. Determine the main reasons that people reach out to your organization. What questions are asked most often? What do people want to know? And what do you want viewers to know about your organization?
It’s important to have a message that resonates with viewers in some way so that your video can capitalize and create emotional connections with viewers. Video, and the combination of video, audio, and print, provide an easy way to access and tap viewers’ emotions. This in turn will help them remember you and your mission or purpose.
For example, in the peaceful protest video linked above, the target audience is international viewers who may be under repressive regimes. While people may think violence is the only option to voice their dissent, the video offers a workable alternative and gives background that in fact, peaceful protest is more effective than violent demonstrations and actions.
If you want to give a sense of place or intention, or you want to increase the number of people who will visit you in person, consider making a video that walks them through what they might see, such as these videos on the memorials to 9/11 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Seeing an overview of what they might experience piques viewers’ interests. Additionally, it promotes a culture of inclusivity—people may not be able to visit in person, but they can still experience a bit of what you have to offer, and that might motivate them to become more engaged with your mission.
It’s also important to know your target audience. The content you create will vary significantly based on the demographic you are serving, their attention span, their familiarity with the topic you are exploring, and so forth. Additionally, it’s important to focus on how viewers will access and watch the video you are creating. If they have limited bandwidth, it’s best to keep videos short and lightweight. Can viewers watch videos in HD? If not, thinking about shooting in standard definition. Or create a video of stills with narration underneath.
Tools of the Trade: What to Use to Create Your Video
Unlike Hollywood studio productions, you don’t need anything fancy to start creating videos. A smartphone camera is a ticket to posting on Facebook Live and targeting the 2.38 billion people that are on that platform daily. You can easily interview experts or engage with viewers in a live question-and-answer session on Facebook Live. Viewers can tune in as you are filming or can view the video later.
Sometimes, videos require a little more scripting than a Facebook Live post. How-to or explainer videos have the potential to be dry, especially if they feature a single person explaining how to complete a task. You can use animation to liven up explainer videos and make them more interesting to folks wanting to apply for a visa, navigate a website, or even modify settings on a device or platform. There are a host of free animation programs available online. Some even feature drag-and-drop technology for users who aren’t particularly production savvy.
The ability to film and broadcast videos in 360° is relatively new technology, as is the use of virtual reality (VR) to experience places “as if you are there.” Both have their advantages, although some videos filmed in VR are limited in their ability to reach people—if they don’t have the technology to view VR videos, the additional efforts to scale up production in that way are lost.
If you want to create a video beyond the basics, it’s sometimes a good idea to hire a professional. A great production company will interview you to get a basic idea of what you want and create specific, moving content to fulfill that need. The best agencies go beyond creation and learn about you as a client, including what you offer to people and how you want to grow. They essentially become a partner to your company and suggest topics for videos to further your reach.
Keeping Score: How to Judge Engagement with Videos
Engagement with video campaigns is hard to judge by views alone, especially on Facebook, where videos often play for a few seconds as users scroll through their feeds. Rather than judging engagement on views alone, it is better to look at length of views as indicators of success. You can also track penetration by the number of users who share or repurpose content in a meaningful way.
These are basic metrics by which to judge. For the best possible experience in creating videos with maximum impact, consider your message and audience and the best way to elicit the emotional response you are looking for. Organizations need to meet their audience where they “live” and video is the medium of choice for people to consume information. The technical details of shooting a video can sometimes hang up a project, but really the bigger concern should be the planning of the message. Making the dive into communicating via video does require careful planning around intent and audience. Once that has been developed the type of video and the logistics of production become clear and manageable and the start of great way to connect with citizens.