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Try These 5 YouTube Video Tips and Watch Your Results Improve

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Try These 5 YouTube Video Tips and Watch Your Results Improve

How’s that for a headline that promises … not much? Here’s the truth: There’s no magic formula for success. Not on YouTube, not on social media, not on your blog.

Tim Schmoyer, founder of Video Creators, doesn’t promise his clients quick and easy tips – and he didn’t promise any to the Ask the #CMWorld Community in his recent livestream interview, either.

Instead, he advises relying on a set of “consistent principles that lead to growth more predictably than others.”

But if you’re not getting the results you want from your videos, you need to start experimenting somewhere. “We know the definition when you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results, right?” Tim says.

So stop creating and promoting videos the way you’ve been doing it – unless you’re happy with your results. (And if you’re pleased with your results, why are you reading this article? Send us a guest post or video to help your fellow video content marketers.)

There’s no magic formula for @YouTube success. But you can apply principles that lead to growth more often than not, says @timschmoyer via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Tim suggests you start by focusing on these principles:

Tell a great story

A great story is the closest thing to a magic formula for video success, Tim says.

If only crafting one was as easy as it sounds.

But Tim offered a place to look for guidance: the tried-and-true hero’s journey. You know that archetype – the hero sets out on an adventure, overcomes multiple challenges, and learns something along the way that transforms their life. It’s a model that Tim says produces “a really good story that has been proven to hook someone’s attention, hold their attention, and then get them to take some sort of action.”

The hero’s journey helps you tell a story that hooks and holds people’s attention in #video marketing, says @timschmoyer via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

When I heard Tim’s advice, I immediately thought of The Mirnavator, a gem of a video from REI.

The Mirnavator tells the incredible story of ultrarunner Mirna Valerio, who (as the video description says) “overcomes the negative voices that don’t believe she belongs in the sport.”

Watch even the first 20 seconds, and you’ll see how quickly the story hooks you.

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Really get to know your audience

There’s a reason I remembered The Mirnavator all these years. The story of her journey should move all but the stoniest hearts.

But it also spoke to me because, like Mirna, I’m a woman and a (slow) runner who often feels like an imposter in the sport. It’s almost as if REI created this video to reach women like me.

As it turns out, that’s what the company did.

REI commissioned a survey on women’s outdoor experiences in early 2017 and found that women felt the lack of female role models for outdoor activities. And they perceived that men’s outdoor interests got more attention. The Mirnavator (and others in REI’s Force of Nature initiative) sprang from the REI content team’s commitment to telling more stories about women in the outdoors.

Yes, knowing your audience is borderline cliché advice, but all content and marketing must start here. You have to understand the people you want to reach to have any hope of getting their attention.

You’re not targeting a corporation. You’re still targeting a person at the corporation who has a problem they’re trying to solve, says @timschmoyer via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. #CMWorld #Video Click To Tweet

But what does it mean to know your audience exactly? Tim says it goes beyond the demographic details. You have to dig into the psychographic profile:

  • What’s their story emotionally?
  • Why are they seeking out content like this?
  • What can we create to make them say, “Where have you been all my life? This is just what I’m looking for!”

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Emotion matters more than equipment

Not every company has the team or the budget to create REI-quality videos. But does that doom their videos to mediocrity?

If there is emotion in your story, you don’t need a big budget to create REI-quality #videos, says @timschmoyer via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Not if the emotion is there, Tim says.

He shared the story of his recent 16-year wedding anniversary trip to Rhode Island. Tim brought along a DSLR camera, four different lenses, filters, and microphones to capture the weekend.

But he didn’t use any of them. Instead, he used his smartphone. And the video still performed.

“And that was because the story was compelling: a guy and his wife, 16-year wedding anniversary, dancing alone together as the sun’s rising on the beach.”

That’s a personal example, but it’s not hard to envision the business analogy.

In fact, Apple built a whole campaign around the concept. Shot on iPhone started as a user-generated content initiative, so you can find plenty of examples that didn’t involve a huge budget.

Eventually, it grew to feature Apple-commissioned spots by famous directors, including Life Is But a Dream from Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden, Oldboy).

No, you probably can’t afford Park Chan-wook. Yes, you can afford a smartphone. Then invest in finding stories worth telling.

Thumbnails and titles matter – maybe more than anything else

Most of Tim’s tips so far apply to any form of content. But here’s a piece of video marketing advice you probably haven’t heard: Start with the thumbnail.

It’s that important.

“It doesn’t matter how amazing your story is. It doesn’t matter how emotional it is … if no one clicks on it in the first place,” Tim says.

And the way to get people to click?

Create a scroll-stopping thumbnail.

Create a scroll-stopping thumbnail to get people to back up and click, says @timschmoyer via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. #CMWorld #Video Click To Tweet

That means the thumbnail has to pass what Tim calls “the glance test.” That involves making your thumbnail as small as it will be when people are scrolling. Look away, then look back. Ask yourself:

  • What stood out?
  • Where did my eyes go?

Do this test, Tim says, and you’ll probably find that text distracts from the curiosity you hope your visual might spark.

What’s the optimal amount of text on a thumbnail? Tim says to aim for no text at all.

Instead, focus on finding a clear, eye-catching visual that makes people say, “Whoa, what was that?! Let me back up a little bit!”

Then the title can offer the pitch or the promise of the value the video will deliver.

Most video marketers fall down on this step, failing to create a question that compels viewers to click.

But some of Tim’s clients (with millions of subscribers, he says) focus on the thumbnail before anything else.

“It’s not uncommon for them to spend a day just brainstorming all of the titles and thumbnails they think their audience would click on,” he says. “They don’t bother to make the video unless they come up with a good title and thumbnail first.”

I’m a self-professed word nerd, and I found Tim’s “zero text on thumbnails” advice hard to take. So, I went to YouTube and scrolled through a bunch of thumbnails.

And … I’m skeptical. (Next step, test this on the CMI audience.)

But I did find enough to convince myself that words matter less than the chosen image.

This screenshot shows a row of thumbnails for trailers on HBO Max’s YouTube home page.

I used Tim’s glance test to see what stood out the most. For me, it’s:

  • The dragon on the thumbnail for the House of the Dragon trailer (far left)
  • The man’s face on the thumbnail for House of the Dragon (second from left)
  • The woman’s face on the thumbnail for Sweet Life Los Angeles (far right)

After those, the red image on the thumbnail for Harley Quinn Season 2 (third from left) and the red text on The Batman thumbnail. Then, finally, the two faces on the Rap Sh!t thumbnail (third from right).

So, yes, the text played the smallest role in catching my attention. Clear, bold images did the work.

But getting the click? I found myself attracted to thumbnails that created intrigue, as Tim suggested. In some of those, the text does play a role (in combination with the video title).

Like this one I found on the Video Creators YouTube channel:

The text “FORGET THIS” combined with the red X covering the Google logo caught my eye. The “talk to the hand” gesture by the woman on the right told me this video has a strong point of view about something. What am I supposed to forget about Google? The title (even though it’s partly cut off in the image) hooked me: “The ‘Google Mentality’ Is Holding You Back on …”

I clicked. I watched. I learned.

Still, I’m not making any strategic moves based on testing Tim’s advice on myself. But I will work with our PR and video producer, Amanda Subler, to try different thumbnail/title approaches for our videos (and we’ll report on the findings).

Create a video engagement feedback loop

How will we find the signals among the mountains of data YouTube provides?

Tim comes through with good advice here, too.

Look at the data that corresponds with what he calls “the viewing journey.”

  • What brings them into the video? Look at click-through rates on titles and thumbnails.
  • What holds their attention? Study the audience retention graph. Are you losing attention regularly in like the first 10 seconds? Why? What could you change to keep more viewers?
  • What gets them to act at the end? Explore whether people clicked to watch another video after the first one. Try different things to prompt people to act.

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Remember who you’re talking to

Tim’s list of principles started with the reminder to know your audience. And there’s one thing that’s particularly important to know about your viewers. They’re all people.

That seems obvious. But sometimes marketers forget this. When an audience member asked Tim whether his approach changes for B2B video versus B2C, he said it doesn’t. Here’s why:

“You’re not targeting a corporation. You’re still targeting a person at the corporation who has a problem they’re trying to solve.”

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Learn more from Tim Schmoyer at Content Marketing World 2022, where he’s teaching the session Creating A Sales Strategy for YouTube That Doesn’t Kill Your Channel. Register with code BLOG100 to save $100.  

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts


Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.

To:

“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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