By Adria Saracino published October 9, 2012

How to Create Video Content that Actually Works

create video that actually works, CMIVideo is taking over the world, with more than 4 billion hours of video viewed each month. In fact, YouTube is now the second most used search engine, right behind Google (market domination much?).

Unfortunately, integrating video into your marketing campaign isn’t as easy as simply creating a video and putting it up on YouTube. Creating a video that is effective, relevant, and successful can offer big rewards, but how do you integrate it successfully?

Here, we’ll take you through the basics of video as a media type, discuss issues you will want to consider when brainstorming video content ideas, and suggest some types of content that typically work well for video, using case studies to highlight these points in action.

Understanding video as a media type

The most common mistake made by companies creating video is thinking of video content as being identical to blog posts or infographic content, rather than as a unique and independent media format. Where blog posts and infographics may consist of text and image content, video utilizes text, moving images, and sound simultaneously, making it a more media format.

Video, then, is not an appropriate medium for all content goals. If you ever find yourself trying to “convert” content into a video, rather than developing the video idea organically, that’s an indicator that your creative process has gone awry.

Signs that you are, indeed, trying to convert ill-suited content into video include:

  • A lack of a story arc: Your video should naturally lend itself to a narrative curve, including a climax and resolution. If you have a product or service you are trying to sell, don’t use the entire length of your video making a sales pitch. Instead, create a narrative context around the product.
  • A complex call to action: If you are trying to convince your reader to complete a complex, or prolonged action, you need to consider breaking up your content into smaller pieces — each with one, specific call to action. In contrast, videos should have a very simple and direct call to action.
  • Too much content to share: The ideal length for video is under four minutes. If you have so much content you have to draw your video out to 10 minutes, it won’t be nearly as effective, because your viewers will likely lose interest. If this is the case, you need to use a different media form.

Questions to ask when creating video content

There are two questions you can ask your marketing team that will easily determine whether or not an idea will work well as a video:

1. Would this content lose meaning if it were in text and image form? If your content would lose meaning or relevancy without being accompanied by visual or audio information, chances are video is a viable option. However, if you can easily imagine your message getting across effectively without the use of video, you might want to decide whether the additional time and effort required to produce a video will be worthwhile.


A great example of content that would lose much of its humor and meaning outside of video is the video. is a social productivity app for managing tasks and projects. The video puts a humorous and personal spin on its product by showcasing a child running for student body president — and succeeding because of its app.

This video includes character dialogue, narration, and emotive music, and there is also a very simple call to action through on-screen text. Moreover, the content in this video would not be nearly as personable and funny if it were communicated through another format. The moving images create humor by portraying a child running for student body president as a professional adult. The same scale of humor could not have been achieved with static images alone. The moving images also create a successful story arc.

Takeaway: If you have content that requires visual, text, and audio elements to create meaning, your content is likely well-suited for video.

2. Does the content require aesthetic as well as conceptual engagement?

In the first question, we discussed whether content would lose meaning if it takes a media form other than video; in question two, you need to ask yourself if your idea requires a visual or auditory element in order to be engaging. For example, for content where you need to describe a complex process, using a written format might be too dry or difficult to understand without the benefit of accompanying sound and visuals.

Example: Google Analytics Qualification Test

Below is a video for those practicing for the Google Analytics Individual Qualification test (GAIQ test).

Though video is certainly a nice option to have, the information imparted here is ultimately not appropriate for video form — it’s text heavy and primarily conceptual, rather than visual. It is also poorly paced for the primary purpose of the content, which is comprehension and learning. The visual display adds nothing to the experience, as it is just a list of text. The GAIQ videos (sorry Google) would work better as text blog posts with accompanying images.

Takeaway: If your content does not require visual or auditory components to be useful or engaging, then your idea is not ideally suited for video.

Content goals for which video works well

In addition to self-filtering content ideas by applying the two questions above, you can use this list of case studies as a guide for what types of content typically work well in video form.

1. Promoting a physical product or service

Example: IdeasByNet

IdeasByNet launched a product video for its iPhone Gravity-Defying Holder:

Takeaway: Keep your product promo videos focused on demonstrating your product, rather than just talking about it. Make sure your product is showcased in a relevant, useful way.

Example: Allstate Insurance “Mayhem” series:

This example is from Allstate Insurance, and is part of its “Mayhem” series:

Takeaway: This video is a great example of creativity and relevancy. It’s relevant to viewers because most of us have dealt with the frustration of an outdated GPS, and this video portrays that in a humorous light.

2. Creative or funny content

Example: Dollar Shave Club

In this advertising video put out by Dollar Shave Club, the company’s CEO discusses the benefits of its product and service.

Takeaway: This video is a great example of creative and unique content. The dialogue is pithy, while the content is very blunt, which makes for an entertaining and interesting video. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your marketing content, because funny or unique videos will attract the most viewers — no one wants to watch a video that is just like a thousand other videos on YouTube.

3. Giving life to a news story

Example: L’Oréal Paris

In this video, sponsored by L’Oréal Paris, the company releases information and statistics about ovarian cancer:

Takeaway: Don’t make a video full of statistics and information — content that would be just as easily suited to text-centric content formats. Make sure your news release works well with video content (i.e., there is a strong need for visuals).

4. Providing instruction

Example: Simply Business

Here is a tutorial on how to create a consultancy business, from Simply Business, a UK based insurance company:

Takeaway: Your instructional content should include all three of the key components of video: audio, visuals, and text/dialogue. Do not simply show your viewers something without explaining it. Tutorials have a tendency to be long and drawn out, so vary your content with personal interviews or product/service reviews to make it more engaging.

5. Relaying information

Example: Olympic athletes

This video delivers information about U.S. Olympic sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross:

Takeaway: This video provides viewers with great, autobiographical information; yet even though a lot of information is given, the video is able to hold viewers’ attention because it is short, concise, and has a simply story arc. Remember: If you are presenting informational content, it helps to use a short, linear narrative to keep viewers interested.


6. Covering live events

Example: The SearchLove conference

This video is from Distilled includes live interviews, speakers, and commentary from one of our SearchLove conferences:

Takeaway: The above video engages viewers because it uses a variety of content types (interviews, commentary, speakers, etc.). If the video had simply recorded one speaker for five minutes, viewers would likely have quickly lost interest early on. Video works well as a compilation of snippets, rather than as an extended event recording.


If you’re in marketing and you haven’t tapped into the power of video yet, you need to start now. With more than 800 million unique visitors each month, YouTube proves that people love video. But with so many videos online, yours needs to be top-notch in content and creative value.

Looking to score big points with your target audience? CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook has tips, insights, and ideas that can help increase your success with 24 of the top content marketing tactics.

Author: Adria Saracino

Adria is the Head of Outreach at a creative internet marketing agency. When not connecting with interesting people on the web, you can find her writing about style at her personal fashion blog The Emerald Closet. Follow her on Twitter @adriasaracino and stay in touch.

Other posts by Adria Saracino

  • Ayaz

    Great post Adria! and certainly creating video doesn’t do anything if you haven’t create a great strategy what should you add in your video and how you should convey your message and what will be the call to action point in your video.

    I believe these are the 3 questions should be accomplish before creating any video.

    • Adria Saracino

      Thank you Ayaz!

  • KZO Innovations

    These are great examples of businesses that have created compelling video content. Other ideas to consider include how-to videos, tips, industry news, advice, or interviews with existing customers or company leaders. Video can also provide a great outlet for internal communication. At my company, KZO Innovations (, for example, we help businesses to create and distribute video content for the enterprise.

  • Ram Babu SEO

    excellent post on, there are so many things we need to consider while creating video and you have included most of them . .

  • Jose Jimenez

    What an excellent guide with some fantastic tips. I don’t get tired of watching the Dollar Shave Club video… over 7 million views and still going strong!

    I’ve posted this article in a LinkedIn group that I run called YouTube Marketing Professionals and I hope the CMI doesn’t mind me adding a link in case its of interest to any readers:

    • Adria Saracino

      Thanks for spreading the word, and thank you Jose, Allstair, and Camilla for the additional resources, will check them out!

  • Alistair Norman

    Great post if you like video content you may like this example of how to “Rule online”

  • Camilla Sullivan

    So glad to see more articles acknowledging that effective video content requires as much attention to detail and thoughtfulness as print content!

    We’ve developed handy list of video content must do’s that may be helpful as well.

  • Mitch

    Not a bad post; actually, a very good post. If I have a problem, it’s that this post is geared more towards those that have big budgets to create videos rather than the person who’s more like me, limited budget, webcam, without the imagination or capacity to do much more than speak in front of a camera mounted on top of my monitor. How do we break out without going into a crying jag like that kid who screamed “Leave Britney Alone”?

    • Chris Smith

      Yeah – agreed Mitch. I have a small office in my house, and a webcam. All of my videos are just me in a different shirt! Need to buck up my creativity :o)

      • Adria Saracino

        Thanks Chris and Mitch – those examples were pretty top notch huh? Really you don’t have to create a thousands of dollars production out of it. Rather, a tripod and any handheld recorder + access to a program like Final Cut Pro or After Effects are enough. For example, my team created an #askdistilled series in which we literally recorded ourselves talking on a couch (with a dog included 🙂 using the above mentioned products. It was pretty standard, definitely not ground breaking, but the videos worked for us!

        • EcA Productions

          Chris and Mitch – I agree, you don’t have a huge budget to do great video. My company, for example, offers high-quality, low-cost video production for a variety of clients. But all you really need is a Go Pro and iMovie 🙂

  • Steven L. Johnson

    Thank you for this very helpful article. I assigned it as reading this week for my Social Media Innovation course:

  • Katy Quinn

    Want this shaving subscription service in the UK? check out our
    new ad and it will explain all.

  • Harry

    Thank you for this article. Having creative advertisement is great to engage users. But making an ad that really works is not a easy job in my opinion. I would like to hear your opinion on interactive videos to engage users for eg.:


  • J. ChaVez

    These are super cool tips. I will have to try some of these in my next video project. I struggle with creating content on my site all the time. I found that video is a great way to enhance the user experience. Since English is not my first language, it is often tough to come up with words to help me explain my thoughts.

    Have you found ways to help with topics or writing the content script? I did find this great tool that helps create fresh unique content that I think is fantastic. What do you think?

    The link to this cool content tool is

  • TonyG

    We are looking to produce some video content for our web
    site as we think that video is a fabulous
    medium to give our prospective clients a complete picture of what we do. We’ve
    spoken to a couple of agencies who seemed great but out of our budgetary
    league. But given that we live in the self empowerment age we thought we’d do
    our own and started to do some research (which is why I happened this great page)!

    We have cameras, editing tools on the PC and some skills in
    the form of my 17 year old daughter who is doing A Level media studies. What we
    lack though is the presenting talent – the common thread across the videos on
    this page is the presenters look good, speak well and with confidence – believe
    me that’s not us. Any ideas to get hold of good people in front of camera without
    spending much money would be greatly appreciated.