Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island for the past few years, it should come as no shock that the age of video has fully engulfed the marketing world.
Some studies suggest that by 2020, video content will account for more than 80% of all online consumer traffic. In the United States alone, this number is predicted to be near 85%.
So where does this mass video takeover leave traditional content writers?
Fortunately, for writers (like myself), who have dedicated the bulk of their professional careers to text-based content, this is NOT the apocalypse. The rising video trend is merely a sign that we need to let our wordsmithing abilities evolve.
While written content will always have a place in marketing, adopting a more versatile, “video-centric” approach is one the best things you can do to future-proof your skills.
Let’s discuss some pointers to help you in this transformation.
Determine Where Your Video Falls in the Buyer’s Journey
Prior to writing anything, you need to have a firm direction. In marketing speak, this translates to where your content fits into the buyer’s journey.
Video, in general, has the incredible ability to convey information, emotions, make impressions, provide value, and develop a brand identity in a very short amount of time. Everyone has heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to video, some experts claim that a single minute of content is worth 1.8 million words!
Similar to written content (or any other piece of marketing content) video needs to have a well-defined role in the buyer’s journey. The main difference is that your written work must be crafted with a combination visual elements, sounds, and emotional triggers. Furthermore, this role needs to be put into focus right off the bat.
During the planning stage, your first order of business is to establish the video’s goals, its place in the buyer’s journey, and how you will make both crystal clear. This lays the groundwork for how you will approach the writing aspect, the format, visualization, and how it will be distributed.
Is the point of your video to make first impressions at the top of the funnel (awareness)?
If so, this is your chance to make a powerful entrance that sticks with people and encourages them to come back again and again. Just like a blog post, the content should be educational and ultra-relevant to current topics of the industry. The language should be geared to address certain problems, provide surface level how-to messaging, present facts, etc. When it comes to doing this with video, you need to come out of the gate guns blazing. From the first few seconds, the video needs to acquaint viewers to your unique voice, style, values, vision, and why your brand is different than anything else on the planet.
Take a look at this top of the funnel video from Google Earth:
The writing of this video is what makes the first impression so powerful. It not only presents real-life issues, it uses a wonderful combination of dialogue, music, and images to tell a heart-warming story. In turn, the video gives the impression that Google Earth is not just working to make money, but actually improve the lives of their users.
For video content that falls in the middle of the funnel (Consideration), the style of your writing should shift to be more solution-focused. Additionally, it should tell viewers why your product, service, or whatever you are marketing, is superior.
Here is a great example of this concept, courtesy of UpTo:
The goal of this video is to give the viewer more information about the product itself and how exactly it provides solutions for certain pain points – of which is supplemented with a visualization of the actual UX.
Finally, for the Decision stage, your videos should be written with rhetoric that fills the viewer with confidence. In other words, this should be the time when you are solidifying their choice to choose your product, service, or buy into the value you are conveying. Talking about success stories is one of the many great ways you can do this.
HubSpot does a phenomenal job of producing videos for the Decision stage.
The dialogue is beautifully crafted in presenting third-party validation for the service they provide. Very powerful stuff.
As a whole, video content needs to be extremely focused and goal-oriented to make a profound impact. That being said, your writing style should be more or less dictated by where the content falls in the buyer’s journey.
Understand the Pain Points on a Personal Level
Now, to get a bit deeper into the writing aspect itself, the strength of your video depends heavily on how well you can relate to viewers.
If you look at the successful politicians throughout history, one of the most common patterns in their speeches is the incredible ability to not just address pain points, but show an actual understanding of them. This is what keeps people tuned in to what they have to say, and ultimately, puts trust into their solutions.
At the core, writing video content is no different.
In my opinion, the use of emotional triggers is the defining factor in captivating video content. Here is an example of a powerful video created to address the realities of depression.
What makes this video so compelling is that it was written in a way that gives the viewer an up-close-and-personal view into the daily life of someone suffering from depression. The messaging is straight from the front lines and crafted in a way that others can relate to.
Addressing pain points must be done very carefully. You’ll need to dive deep into your audience profiles and pinpoint all the little things that your product or service solves, as well as the ripple effect it has on everyday life. Here is an awesome (and more light-hearted) example from Oracle:
The clever writing pairs a smart combination of troublesome buzzwords, a quirky tone, animation, and intense music to illustrate the common pain points of their customers. As the video progresses, the language and feel intensifies as it presents solutions and positive outcomes.
The goal of addressing pain points in video is to make the viewers see you as one of them. Achieving this with your writing is the key to building trust and creating value with your content.
Provide Concise Answers
Generally speaking, attention spans don’t seem to be getting any longer (mine included). You can have the most valuable insight in your entire industry, but if the delivery sucks in your video, not many viewers will care to listen to it.
Experts claim that video marketers have about 10 seconds to hook their audience, before they lose interest and click away. That being said, if you want your video to resonate with viewers, it has to be very focused and to-the-point.
Regardless of where the video fits into the buyer’s journey, the format, or where it will be distributed, the answers you provide need to be quickly attainable with no gray areas whatsoever. Shorter sentences are much better for emphasizing points and are easier for people to grasp. Additionally, you want to keep the language simple. Do your best to steer clear of jargon in your verbiage.
When writing for video, every second counts – a lot. In most cases, the “less is more” mindset needs to always be in the back of your mind. With every sentence, phrase, or chunk of copy you write, it needs to be simplified as much as humanly possible.
Get Ultra-Detailed with the Script
While your final product should always be concise and to-the-point, the actual writing process of video creation needs to have an exceptional amount of detail.
One of the biggest oversights made in video creation is placing too much emphasis on the dialogue and putting the other elements on the backburner. If this is the case, and the script is passed on to production, there will be way too much ambiguity for the final output. Your production team may be great, but they are not mind readers.
Write down every single character, description, scene, action, sound cue, shortcut, animation, and everything else that impacts the content’s flow. Keep in mind, when you are writing for video, you need to be more than just a writer; you have to be an expert visionary, too.
If you are new to writing video content, it’s a very smart choice to educate yourself on the basics of video production and animation. Doing so will put you in a much better position to write your script and collaborate with technical and creative teams more efficiently. There are all kinds of online courses on Udemy to give you a better understanding of this process.
Focus on “Real” Conversations
From a consumer’s point of view, no one likes to read, watch, or listen to content that sounds like it was written by a robot. Now, you don’t need to be on Quentin Tarantino’s level of conversational writing, but your words should be able to strike a personal chord with the audience.
Content creation is all about building connections that stick with people. When you are writing for video, there needs to be a profound sense of realism and authenticity to it. One of the best tips I can give for writing video content is to take your ideal customer and imagine you are writing for only them, as opposed to writing for a group.
In order to do this, you need to define who the “ideal customer” is with as much detail as possible.
- What do they look like?
- What type of car do they drive?
- What kinds of clothes do they wear?
- What’s their demeanor?
- About how much money do they make?
- What’s their general outlook on life?
- What are some of the slang terms they use in everyday conversation?
- Who are their main influencers?
- Where do they typically consume content?
- What are some of their favorite free time activities?
While some of these questions might sound irrelevant, they all work to establish a more personal, conversational tone.
Dollar Shave Club is a fantastic example of how to create a conversational connection with the viewer. Take a look at this video:
Right from the get-go, it’s blatantly clear who the target audience is. In addition to addressing current issues with the status quo, the introduction to the brand is done with a down-to-earth, comical tone that keeps viewers tuned in. Towards the end, you’ll notice that the script writing works to guide viewers to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
The name of the game is authenticity. Viewers are not stupid; if your conversational tone is off base or bland, it will stick out like a sore thumb.
Video content is the present and the future of marketing. There’s no hiding from it. If you want to advance your writing career and skillset, you need to embrace this bandwagon with open arms.
Writing is an art form. Writing for video is a whole different ballgame. The process involves precise coordination of dialogue, sound, visual elements, and more. Chances are, your first go isn’t going to be a masterpiece. It takes a while to get used to visualization and collaborating with production specialists. With the right amount of creativity and planning, video content can work wonders to tell one-of-a-kind stories and build long-lasting relationships with viewers.