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What Does It Take to Make a Video Engaging?

You likely already know that video marketing is extremely powerful. Online videos are more common and more popular than ever, the format has distinct advantages over written content, and every year, it gets cheaper and easier to start your own video marketing strategy from scratch.

However, to be effective in the video marketing space, you need to create engaging videos. What exactly does “engaging” mean in this context, and how can you achieve this?

Why Engagement Matters

Whether you’re creating videos as an extension of your core content marketing campaign or you’re creating them for a video ad campaign, engagement should be one of your top priorities. But what does it mean to be engaging?

In the strictest sense, “engagement” means holding someone’s attention. Instead of having your video on in the background while they do something else, your viewers are fixated on what you’re saying and doing. Accordingly, every second of your video is going to be more powerful – and you actually carry some persuasive power.

Some campaigns use the word “engagement” to refer to a measurable action taken by a viewer. For example, a viewer can be said to “engage” with your video if they leave a comment on it, “like” it, or subscribe to your channel because of it. While this is a slightly different use of the term, these interactions do serve as proof that your customers are engaged.

Engagement is important because it makes your video more impactful and more powerful. An engaging video that gets 10,000 views has the potential to generate more traffic, persuade more people, and increase the value of your brand further than a non-engaging video that gets 100,000 views.

So what steps can you take to make your video content more engaging?

Differentiate Yourself

There are millions of brands using video content marketing to promote themselves online. If you have an idea, chances are, someone has already done something similar to it. And if you make a video that looks and sounds the same as a thousand other circulating videos, no one’s going to pay much attention to it. If you want to strongly engage with your audience, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself. Fortunately, there are ample ways to do this. For example, you can target a different audience niche, you can apply a different visual style, or you can cover the same topic in a totally new way. The bottom line is that you have to present something original or people simply aren’t going to pay attention. Experiment until you find a unique style that works for you.

Take Advantage of the Medium

Why use video as part of your marketing platform if you’re not going to take full advantage of the medium? Videos are powerful because they give you a chance to blend together different streams of visuals, audio, and even written content in engaging ways. If the quality dips in any of these areas, or if you only focus on one, you’re not taking full advantage of the medium.

In line with this, it’s a good idea to work with a professional design team and use professional equipment to record and polish it. If your work looks like it was made by an amateur, it’s not going to be very engaging.

Keep It Concise

Be cautious when planning your video length. There’s certainly a place for long-form videos; if your target audience is into the idea and you have ample material to cover, you can create videos longer than an hour and still be successful. But for most brands and most applications, the sweet spot is much shorter.

That’s because user attention spans are notoriously short. If you want to get someone’s attention and hold it until the end of the video, your best bet is to keep the video a tight, trim few minutes in length. If you’re not convinced of this, try creating a number of different videos for your campaign of varying lengths and see which ones people watch and interact with most.

Start With a Hook

Remember, attention spans are precious and short. Trimming your video down to be 5 minutes in length is a great step to make it more engaging – but you can’t guarantee that people will spend even 5 minutes on your video. Instead, you often have less than a minute to capture the attention of a viewer, and sometimes only a few seconds.

The first 10 seconds of your video should do something to “hook” the viewer. Don’t play a long theme song or feed them a dense backstory. Instead, hit them with an interesting fact, tease a surprise in the middle of the video, or pique their interest in some other way. If you can win them over in the first few seconds, they’ll likely stick with your video for the remainder of its duration.

Stimulate Curiosity

Curiosity is powerful. If you can stimulate the natural feeling of curiosity in your viewers, you’ll be able to hold their attention much longer. To do this, give them something interesting but incomplete. For example, you can say something like, “scientists believe the chances for life existing elsewhere in the universe are overwhelming. But why?” This provides them with an interesting fact and a bit of context – but they’ll have to keep watching the video if they want to learn more.

Tell a Story

Human beings are wired to love stories. We find it much easier and faster to process information if it’s presented to us in the form of a narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end – and some characters we can follow throughout the sequence.

If you’re a skilled video creator, you can create a story out of almost anything. You can invent hypothetical characters where there are none, giving agency to even inanimate objects, and come up with a compelling narrative that illustrates your point. People will love it.

Trigger an Emotional Response

It’s also helpful to trigger some kind of emotional response. When people feel an intense emotion, they start engaging more strongly. As an added bonus, when people experience a strong emotion from a piece of content, they tend to share that content with their own friends and followers, giving your video more potential to go viral. As for what specific emotion to trigger, that’s up to you. You can try to make your viewers feel overwhelmed with joy, give them a little bit of outrage, or just offer them a genuine surprise.

Increase Credibility

If you want your videos to become even more visible, you’ll need to spend some time increasing your credibility. You’ll probably make a lot of claims in your video, but how can you prove that those claims are true? Citing your sources is a great way to start. Listing your personal experience and credentials is another. You can also take some time to spell out the major counterarguments to your point and find a way to dismantle them – or just prove your point with a demonstration. The more credible you’re seen to be, the more engaged your viewers will be.

Give Them Something Practical

People like to speculate and utilize their imagination, but they’ll be even more engaged if you give them a reason to use this video in their own life. Include some practical tips or major takeaways your viewers can use in their lives. If you’re successful, you’ll increase viewer engagement while also increasing the likelihood of your video being shared with others.

More engaging videos have the power to completely transform your strategy for the better. You’ll need to invest time and money to make your video strategy work, and you probably won’t be successful with your first forays into your campaign, but if you’re patient and diligent, you can secure a substantial return. 


About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Nate Nead
CEO & Managing Member

Nate Nead is the CEO & Managing Member of Nead, LLC, a consulting company that provides strategic advisory services across multiple disciplines including finance, marketing and software development. For over a decade Nate had provided strategic guidance on M&A, capital procurement, technology and marketing solutions for some of the most well-known online brands. He and his team advise Fortune 500 and SMB clients alike. The team is based in Seattle, Washington; El Paso, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.

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