Video is the most engaging scalable medium of communication. It's one of the best marketing channels out there and it's only getting better. If you don't yet have a habit of regularly publishing videos I'd like to convince you to get there.
Like any argument I want to make sure I'm meeting you where you're at. You might not yet be convinced video is an important medium to be investing any time in. You might know it's important but you don't think you can be making videos. You might feel comfortable making videos but you don't feel like they're good, you're not publishing consistently, or maybe nobody's watching them.
Let's address these points of resistance one at a time.
1. Why publish video? #
Social media platforms are machines that optimize for grabbing human attention. The more human attention they have the more they grow. There's an unbelievable amount of resources behind these machines looking for ways to drive more engagement and they're all moving towards video: Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok treat video as first-class content; Twitter and Facebook posts with video get more engagements than text, photo, or certainly audio posts.
Video is a better medium than text because you can watch someone doing the thing you want to be doing. In text you don't necessarily know where your reader is coming from so you might leave out relevant details. In video the viewer sees everything you're doing. Mirror neurons can work much more effectively the more sensory input they have.
Ceratinly if you're just trying to skim for a detail text can be more efficient, but if you're learning something for the first time you want content to be as high fidelity as possible. In-person is best because it's highest fidelity, but that's not scalable.
TODO: the inner game of tennis example
TODO: graph of fidelity vs. scalability
Video can also be much easier to publish than text. You're probably much more comfortable chatting with someone about a topic than you would be writing about it. Next time you sit down for a chat, set up a camera and hit record. How many useful conversations are you having that are just getting lost to the aether right now?
2. How to publish video #
There's a famous literary exchange between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway talking about wealthy people:
To which Hemingway responded:
Similarly, writers and YouTube stars aren't any more intelligent than you, they don't have anything more valuable to share than you do, they just write things down or record videos about them. How much incredible wisdom and experience did your great-great-grandmother have that would be utterly fascinating if she'd written a book, but it was lost trapped in her head when she died?
The most important step in starting to make videos is to realize you have something important to say that could help other people if you could only get it out of your head. There's nothing different about you and the people publishing videos other than the publishing videos part.
If you feel smarmy about putting yourself out there, take a look at what popular videos look like right now. They're entertaining but they're not helping people any more than "entertain me for the next twenty seconds." Popular videos are like candy. You have an opportunity to put more baby carrots out in the world: healthy short videos that actually help make someone's life better.
All the standard rules apply for making useful content. You'll be more successful in helping people if you solve more specific problems for a more specific person. Don't forget that software is just a tool for helping people. Often a video tutorial walking someone through how to effectively use existing tools can be more successful than a better tool in helping them solve their problem.
What equipment do I need? #
Nothing—gear doesn't matter. Your cellphone camera or laptop webcam are perfectly fine. If you have money to burn that you'd like to spend for higher quality, upgrade these things in this order:
- a microphone
- better lighting
- a nice background
- a better dedicated camera
If you juat start pushing out videos now you'll be ahead of the version of yourself that spent the rest of the day shopping for cameras.
What do I make videos about? #
You might already be making content (ex: onboarding videos, webinars, office hours) and just need to publish it. Once you have long-form content you can pull from, you can clip out several shorter videos.
Other low-effort videos formats are:
- a video podcast with someone else in your space (makers.dev, startups for the rest of us, et. al.)
- a video podcast with guests (The Joe Rogan Experience, How I Build This)
- you chatting to a camera (Gary v)
- an industry update (Bitcoin/Tesla videos)
- office hours (Marie Poulin)
- "here's how to do this thing in my app" (Brian Cassel)
But my videos are bad! #
Maximize reps instead of quality. Your first video is going to be bad. your first 50 are going to be bad. Aim for a good 100th video instead of a perfect first video. The hardest part of that is getting to 100 videos.
Any error you notice that's short of "I forgot to hit record" doesn't matter. Push it out and fix it in the next one.
If you don't feel like you're charismatic enough to be on video, you're not focused on the right thing. Focus on helping people instead of looking good.
When I was making CamHead.app I was struggling to learn how to create a webcam view in Swift. I found a video of dude with a severe speech impediment walking through the exact problem I was trying to solve. The video had terrible quality, awful lighting, imbalanced sound, and low resolution, but it's one of the only videos walking through how to set up a webcam in Swift so I watched it a dozen times. It helped me do the thing I wanted to do so nothing else mattered!
3. Leveraging #
Once you're consistently pushing out videos you can put a little more effort in to get them in front of way more people.
Shorter focused videos are easier to consume, especially on social media. Instead of "how to use ffmpeg," I'd rather watch "how to crop videos with a circular mask with ffmpeg." Instead of a six hour video of you talking about how you finished your basement, I'd rather watch a 2 minute video of you explaining specifically which acoustic caulk you used to soundproof your office.
The high-level strategy is to syndicate a single video across multiple channels. One video can be the source of dozens of pieces of content.
To find clips in longer videos to leverage, start by looking for 1-3 minute self-contained clips that get a contained idea across. "Make a piece of short form content to shrae" is hard, "find a juicy 30-120 second tidbit from this longer video" is much easier.
Once you have a clip, optimize it for the social networks your audiences hang out on. For YouTube there's not much that you need to do other than give it a snazzy title. Because Twitter and Instagram don't have great subtitle support (and 80% of people on those networks have their sound off) you'll need to burn subtitles and a title in. Square videos (720x720) seem to be the best format here. TikTok and stories like vertical videos, also with burned in subtitles and a title.
4. Example 3h/week schedule #
If I've gotten you all the way here, the last step is to execute the above steps consistently. You're all engineers so you know it's all about the system: you've gotta make every part of this effortless for it to happen.
My personal workflow gets me all the way through in about three hours per week per audience. Here's what that looks like:
Hour 1: record the long form content #
Chris Achard and I have a recurring call once a week to talk about what work we've done in the previous week. I make notes through the week of things I'd like to talk with him about, we record the call on riverside.fm, then the recordings go into an automated system that edits them and uploads them to YouTube and our podcast. Chris titles the episodes and adds chapter markers.
It's taken a long time to get this as efficient as it is. For every step of recording, editing, and uploading I kept asking "how could I never do this again." Try to get the amount of time you spend here as close to the theoretical limit (the length of content you're physically present for) as possible.
Hour 2: edit and clip #
Even with my automated editing system there are a handful of tasks I still need to do by hand. Once I'm in this mode, though, it's easy to extract interesting 30-120 second snipits and title them.
This is a great place to hire a person, especially if you get in your head about whether or not what you're saying is worthwhile. Journalism students would work well and be reasonably priced.
Hour 3: Optimize and syndicate #
For each interesting clip you've pulled out, reformat it for each channel your audience hangs out in and queue them up with something like Buffer to get dripped out about once a day.