5 Tips To Create A Successful Storytelling Video

As of mid-2017, a billion hours’ worth of YouTube videos were being watched every single day. By the end of the same year, the number had grown to 1.5 billion, and there are no signs this growth is going to slow down any time soon. Before including videos hosted privately on sites like Wistia and Cincopa, the consensus is people are mainly shifting over video as their method of media consumption.

Behind this massive growth is the increasing concentration on storytelling rather than head-on aggressive messaging. On top of which, humans are naturally visual creatures: a little movement can mean the difference between being in camouflage and remaining hidden in the battlefield. On the internet, Tweets with videos are received, on average 3, 150% more retweets and 18% more clicks than their non-visual counterparts.

Trends are heavily skewed in favor of the increasing popularity of video marketing, and it’s something that’s unlikely to change any time soon. It’s essential that your videos are created with a subset of rules to ensure uniformity so that as much of your audience can get your content as possible.

Here are five simple, tried and tested methods to get your video storytelling efforts off the ground.


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  1. Don’t rely too much on sound

One of the oldest rules of a film is to show, don’t tell. We could learn something or two from the popularity of artists like Charlie Chaplin over fifty years after his death. Long after the demise of silent-film production, there’s still a lot about not using words that intrigues. For instance. Since mid-2018, Chrome started to implement a new rule regarding autoplay videos.

Unless specifically whitelisted, no site is going to play sound automatically on its site. In case, your site is somehow able to circumvent this; the user can mute your website altogether. Recalling chrome has around 50% of the browser market share, this should be a wake-up call to anyone who relies too much on sound for their storytelling.

In fact, most social media sites do not autoplay sound on their websites, and a significant percentage of users don’t bother pumping up the volume to watch their videos. A standard way to get around this is to either add captions at the bottom of the video or make the whole video text-based with commentary in the background.

  1. Consider the relevance of a voice-over

Voice-over, often abbreviated to VO, is the action of getting a professional actor to narrate your script while everything goes on over the course of the video. This is with relevance to the point mentioned above regarding the lack of sound in modern-day videos. Even though music isn’t necessarily an essential aspect of video content, nothing sucks as much as overdone content.

Your ultimate decision comes down to your audience and the necessity of having a narrator in the background. On the one hand, having one helps you achieve a tone of voice and thus create a very specific style. If your VO is talented, they will be able to catch the viewers’ attention pretty fast, something you want, especially in the context of video marketing.

On the other hand, most millennials feel voice-overs are old-fashioned, and their inclusion doesn’t sound very natural. In the end, it depends on what you are going for. Consider both the audience and whether you’re going for a very specific style beforehand. Video engagement is more likely to be higher among older viewers with the inclusion of a narrator as compared to younger ones.

Remember, however, that the internet is not governed by some fixed rules set aside and that has to be followed regardless of who you are. For instance, adequately animated videos with a narrator in the background have a pretty popular place on the internet, despite the lack of love for traditional narrators. Every eye behind the screen is human, so you might need to do a bit of experimentation before you get the video content right.

  1. Make use of context

Have you ever wondered how movies could reveal so much about the plot and the story without the characters talking about it? For example, the more the cameras focus on an aspect, the more likely we are to assume that character is somehow important to our plot. Seeing them in a suit rather than baggy shorts and a jacket despite the sweltering heat tells us they likely work in an office.

All this involves taking advantage of the kinds of assumptions we are prone to making due to societal norms and day-to-day exposure to the same. The Sixth Sense, Ready Player One, The Shawshank Redemption and a swathe of other movies out there are all great because they did such an excellent job of satisfying our expectations (or subverting them!).

To be fair, you, as a brand, don’t have four hours of film for character building to get the audience invested. Instead, you need to make use of more subtle cues. Instagram filters, brand colors, fonts, the video background and much more play a prominent role in how your video will be perceived. Since it’s very likely you come from an area where context is seen much differently from the next nearest country; it’s entirely up to you to decide what to focus on.

Bottom line: don’t use too many words, use the viewer’s expectations to your advantage.

  1. Feature natural speaking

Another superpower most humans possess is the ability to catch fake conversations. In movies, poor acting is an immediate turn-off for most people, something the average person can notice rather quickly. Never underestimate our ability to notice a terribly-written script, either, or scripted conversations in general. We speak the way we do – grammar and all – for a reason.

Having lived with each other for years, we’ve come to get used to certain visual cues and certain nature of the conversation. For that reason, movie dialogue and real-life speaking are a world apart. People want something they can relate to.

Natural-sounding conversations hold a ton of advantages – they sound more natural and are hence more likely to draw people in and create a better sense of credibility. Remember that one-time Google announced Duplex and the whole world went wild because it could say the word ‘um’? That’s one of the rules of human interaction – it includes awkward pauses, unintended interruptions, silences, and very little overdramatization.

While on the topic of speakers, it’s important to remember a few simple rules: anything you want to be remembered should follow the rule of three-repeat it at least three times during the course of the video; don’t use uninspiring clichés like ‘beat a dead horse,’; try not to mention any names in the dialogue; and dialogue shouldn’t sound preachy or like typical marketing lingo. Once you have a script, try re-enacting the conversation. The more comfortable you feel, the more likely you’re spot on with the entire flow of the words.

  1. Don’t base style solely on your preferences

One thing most people don’t seem to understand is that anecdotal experiences are often completely irrelevant during video marketing. Regarding ads, for instance, a sentiment that’s often echoed all over the internet is ‘I don’t click on ads, so I don’t think anyone else does, either.’ That’s not true. Otherwise, Facebook (which makes almost $1 Billion in revenue and major part of it is from advertisement) and Google (which is just a massive advertising firm) wouldn’t be two of the largest companies in the world.

Just the same way, there being over three billion people on the internet at any given moment, a significant chunk of these people doesn’t share the same preferences as you do. When deciding what style to feature to boost video engagement, research is essential.

Just because it appeals to you and your marketing team doesn’t mean the audience will feel the same way. We all remember the Pepsi disaster during the early months of 2018 – it’s a classic case of not knowing what the audience wants (or perhaps a fundamental lack of situational awareness).

It’s essential that your team does its research. Preferably, you should sample data from various sources on the internet and try to correlate the data with your findings. It’s notoriously difficult to pinpoint the point at which correlation equals causation, so it’s going to take a bit of experimentation before you find what works best for your firm.


It helps to study human behavior and build products that relate directly to how people are likely to react. People are more driven to watch videos that include other people in them, for example, both in terms of probability of clicking on the said video and watching it to completion. Your video engagement is determined by how effectively you can both take advantage of human emotion – via conveying it or getting it conveyed in the course of your video content.


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Originally published on August 9th, 2018, updated on April 23rd, 2019
The Blog

5 Tips To Create A Successful Storytelling Video

by Simi time to read: 6 min