Designing Videos That Really Engage

Blended librarians make instructional videos. We make them to help community members learn how to use specific resources. We make them to answer questions when it’s better to show than tell. We use screen capture software, video editing software, mics and streaming media platforms. We work with┬álive actors, cartoon animations and narrated slideshows. We also continually assess our instruction and promotional videos to determine if they are achieving our desired outcomes.

That’s a lot of expertise and a lot of work. Is it making a difference? Are community members watching our videos (and not just the first ten seconds)? More importantly, are they sharing the┬ávideos? If it engages them, they are likely to tell others about it. How do you create that kind of engaging video?

On September 18, 2014 we invited Ross Martin and Nichole Martin to deliver a Blended Librarians Webcast on this exact topic. Their presentation, “Would You Watch It” on how to create effective and engaging video, remains once of the best attended Blended Librarian webcasts of all time. That speaks to the popularity of this topic in the librarian-instructional designer community. The archive of this webcast is available to you in our archives.

What does the research have to say about what contributes to an engaging online video. The article “Creating Online Videos that Engage Viewers” by Dante Pirouz, et.al. may shed more light on that topic (behind a paywall but potentially available to librarians). After analyzing hundreds of YouTube videos – both viral and unwatched videos – the authors identified attributes of the videos that could then be coded by graduate students. After defining what an engaging video is (primarily motivates sharing, commenting, etc) and dispelling some myths about what makes a video viral (babies, sexuality and cute animals don’t always do the trick), the authors get to what matters most in an engaging video – and the answer is surprise. Yes, the element of surprise makes a difference.

However, a video is more engaging if the surprise is incorporated in a positive rather than a negative way (or put another way, it generates positive emotions). But there are variations. Just doing something extreme for create surprise is less engaging than something novel or incongurous. Show them something really new or two things that are familiar but mashed in a new way makes for a more engaging video – and it never hurts to be creative. Here’s the authors’ idea of a creative approach to both novelty and incongruity. (yeah, those videos are hard to resist).

Does this shed some light on why this library video went viral while the vast majority of library videos are never watched? Surprise? Check. Who saw that coming? Creativity? Check. It’s a parody but really well done. High quality production values do make a difference. Then again, that video took a huge amount of time and effort to produce. Not every librarian can do that. But perhaps there is something in this article to help Blended Librarians produce video, instructional and otherwise, that is more engaging. As we learned from Ross and Nichole, getting anyone to stick with a library video beyond the first thirty to fifty seconds is a challenging task. Surprise may be the surprise factor in getting there.

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