Great business relationships are built on a spirit of service, and like any relationship they require effort to cultivate. One way to provide value to your customer before they buy—while growing your audience and showcasing your expertise—is through creating video content. We've found how-to videos to be an effective form of content creation for many clients.

Two years ago, Belief Agency began working with Dunn Lumber to create Dunn DIY, a do-it-yourself tutorial series. We’ve learned some valuable lessons, and hope to offer some help as you create useful content for your own audience. The goal of how-to or do-it-yourself content is to make a clear video that will help someone solve a problem by repeating and replicating the steps you took to solve the problem—whether that's building a bookshelf or changing the oil in a car. In our case, we wanted to teach amateur DIYers how to build things.

Questions to Ask

  1. What audience do I want to grow?
  2. Who is my audience and what would be helpful content for them?

Pre-Production

Decide who will be teaching the content. Are you familiar with the subject? Do you need to bring in an expert? We brought in Kirsten Dunn— a 5th-generation Dunn Lumber employee—to host Dunn DIY. She is also Dunn Lumber’s brand ambassador, and ensures the content we produce aligns with Dunn Lumber’s core beliefs—quality materials, expert advice, and the true “win-win.” (You can read more about these core beliefs here.)

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to teach the content, write your script beats. The script beats are a list of the steps you need to capture on-screen (with a general time allotment for each). Use this as a checklist of shots you need to capture. These are really helpful when you’re filming, to ensure every step of the process is correctly captured. This shot checklist can later be turned into written steps if you’re writing an accompanying blog post, as we do for Dunn DIY videos.

Next, decide where the shoot will take place. The setting will determine the equipment you need. Pro tip: Be sure to film in a well-lit environment, which will exponentially increase the quality of your video.

Production

Consider the point of a how-to video: The audience is watching because they want to learn how to do something. This seems obvious, but there are many how-to videos on the internet full of irrelevant content, which fails to accomplish this simple goal. The point is not to feature the host, to appear trendy, or to waste anybody’s time. Instead, shoot the steps and cut the fluff

There are several styles of learning (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), and a how-to video accompanied by a step-by-step written post is a great way to meet the needs of these various learning styles. Overlaying steps on the video allow someone to scroll through a project and easily find the step they're looking for. Here's an example of a how to video which uses this tactic. An instructional voice-over (VO) is helpful for auditory learners. The VO should explain what step is occurring on-screen, or clarify a confusing portion of the project. VO is not necessary for every how-to video. In fact, there are many effective videos that have no audio at all. However, if you want to create the “full sensory experience,” voice-overs are a great tool to achieve that.

Capture ambient sounds of the actions happening on-screen to mix in as well. If someone is striking a hammer, it’s immersive for the audience to hear that (but not too loud). Music is useful to implement, as long as it doesn’t distract from the point of the video—to teach. Do not include songs with words, or popular tunes that will distract the viewer. A light, ambient rhythm will drive the video along, as well as eliminate awkward pauses in instruction.

FAQ: WHAT CAMERA SHOULD I USE?

DSLR cameras are very portable and produce a soft, beautiful image when used correctly. But if you only have your phone, don’t worry: You can achieve a lot with an iPhone and soft lighting. You can make a great how-to video on an iPhone or a RED camera, but remember—the goal is to teach, not to look flashy!

FAQ: WHAT AUDIO EQUIPMENT SHOULD I USE?

Here are three options for capturing audio on a budget:

  • On-board microphone: If you’re shooting on a handheld camera, the on-board mic can be used to capture ambient sounds or action sounds (like a hammer strike). Stay away from voice recording on these mics. Ninety-nine percent of the time it will make your video sound cheap, and the clarity suffers from the echo.
  • ZOOM microphone: ZOOM mics are the best bang for your buck. Every videographer should buy one. It will capture atmospheric sounds as well as great voice-overs. They’re also affordable and simple to use.
  • iPhone voice recorder: If you only have your smartphone, don’t worry. Your iPhone voice recorder captures voices in a quiet room with little reverberation or echo. With enunciation and clear speaking, you can achieve a high quality recording with your phone.

Post-Production

There are several free software editing options. If you’re using an Apple product, iMovie can accomplish a simple how-to edit, but if you’re looking to advance your skills in video editing, Adobe Premier is a great option and is available for PC and Mac.

Once you have your footage and audio files imported into your editing timeline, use your script beats to string the video together.

VIDEO EDITING TIP:

Trim the fat. The audience can process information faster than you may think. Don’t make them impatient, or tempt them to skip ahead when they’re watching the video on Youtube. Keep it as short as possible without compromising clarity. The goal of an editor should not be to show off their editing skills (good editing should disappear) but to make te steps as clear as possible.

Distribution

Now you’ve got a video. Where does it go?

  1. Where will you post your video, and how will you promote it?
  2. How will people find your video?

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, and is a great platform to start with. Make sure you’re taking into account SEO (search engine optimization). Make your title searchable, tag your video with categories that will help people find it, and write a description which includes the original video’s link if the tutorial is accompanied by text. Place the link at the top; include the description below.

Where else do you find your audience, or hope to create one? For Facebook and Instagram, it’s a great idea to produce a short teaser reel of your video less than 15 seconds in length. The goal of this reel is to pull people into your ecosystem. The clip should be immersive enough to get an audience interested, but not so detailed that they feel like they’ve already seen the whole process.

Pinterest is another great platform for how-to tutorials. There are a lot of options including cinematic pins, which allow you to use video footage, but a picture with a caption that links to your video is an easy way to gain exposure. Whatever you do, have fun and stay creative, and your audience will feel creative too.