How to Keep Viewers Watching Your Video

In the land of online video, views are king.

How do you get views, aside from good production budgets?

Tell a Great Story

What's Your Story?

Your target audience is a sucker for a good story. We all are.

There are massively successfully consumer-driven industries feeding our society's appetite for good stories. Constantly new films are produced, magazines written and books published. Our drive to listen to stories is driven by our nature to connect. We rely on stories to guide our thoughts, feelings and decisions.

Make Me Think and feel

Woman Thinking Bubble Chalk Board

We constantly seek ‘feeling' experiences, which good stories deliver. A poor quality story that misses the mark does nothing for us. We lament poor narratives in films, and praise the most intriguing ones.

What makes good stories work? Well-crafted plots appeal to the right brain.

We feel as our emotions are triggered by an adventure. Good stories are powerful and effective; the audience gets hooked and invests themselves then awaits the payoff at the end.

Make it Flow.. (Semi) Predictably

ENG Camera Operator Interviewing Woman with Microphone

The lesson is simple – plot matters in video. Use it, don’t reinvent the wheel.

Consider the narrative when investing in a video. A story, or narrative plot, is essentially the sequence of events delivered strategically. Lucky for us, we have a cheat sheet – novelist Gustav Freytag laid out the winning three-part format for us.
A story starts with the exposition (introduction), then rising action and ends with the climax with resolution. The formula works – Hollywood continues to make money hand over fist.

Now, onto how you apply story to video.

Hook ‘Em at the Start

Start with a hook, give your message, and finally finish with the prize.

The number one request I hear from new clients is ‘we want to avoid using a talking head video’. This usually means ‘we don’t want a boring video of just someone talking to the camera the whole time’ we often do need someone in a video. Just enough to get the job done.

Set up the story at the start. Show your audience what they will get out of viewing your video – they’re trading their time by giving your video their attention, and time is precious. In the first 5-10 seconds, the audience should know what the topic is and what they will receive. Don’t go into a lot of detail about you or your brand – the viewer only wants to know that you’re a trustworthy authority on the topic. Be clear – if in 10 seconds the viewer is unsure, they’ll close your video and look elsewhere.

Have Style. Keep it Interesting

Professional Acting Talent

Avoid boring. If a video is all sales point or data, it’s dead in the water. As Digital Strategist interviewee Chris Walts touched on in an earlier interview, while it may sound cliché, an emotive story is vital to successful video marketing and promotion. As audiences, we love good story telling as it lets us shed our responsibilities for a time and live an alternate life.

As intangible as it may seem to have to quantify ‘plot’ alongside ROI metrics for business video, address this point during planning! If the audience isn't triggered then there will be no true impression. The best video marketers are habitual in creating a story to go with their message.

Make it Impressionable – yet honest.

Video shouldn’t take effort to view. Make your story easy to understand. There’s a reason entertaining films stick to clichés. Audiences hate to admit it, but they love filmmakers for it – we know who the good guy is, the love interest and the conflict. Filmmakers stick to conventions and they work. Get feedback from honest sources on your story before you commit.

Keep being honest. Don't make frivolous claims – consumers are saavy and can smell bunk a mile away! Your integrity will help you stand out from your competitors.


Reel Designer

Reel Designer is an online resource magazine showcasing expert-lead best practices, interviews and original articles on product strategy, video production and marketing, and, user experience design.


  • Isn’t it interesting to look back on the friends you remember the most? It’s the ones that made you feel a certain way. I have a buddy that tells the funniest stories. In fact, I still tell those stories to my friends who don’t even know this guy! Emotional stories that make us feel a certain way super charge the memory. As you talk about in your post. They give us those “lasting impressions” some good, some bad. But video marketers should be keen to build good ones!

  • Agreed! And everyone has a story too – those who are good story tellers are simply adept at the process of conveying their story well! They can even borrow other’s stories and make them ‘their own’ – it’s a skill. As video marketers, we have a whole set of responsibilities that go beyond simply ‘producing’ – without the ability to tell a good story, what’s the point? I’d suggest to make the process of creation fun as well, wouldn’t you agree Tim?

  • totally… the process of making video isn’t always fun and games, but to the client, they should see the fun side for sure!

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