Last updated on 16th August 2022
In this article we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about how-to videos.
Videos are the perfect vehicle for how-to content for many reasons. For starters, people prefer to learn by watching videos. According to our Video Marketing Statistics 2022, most people (73%) would prefer to watch a short video to learn about a product or service (as opposed to reading, viewing an infographic or taking a sales call).
And, speaking of calls, 49% of marketers say that video has helped them reduce support calls.
So, whether you want to make how-to content that reduces your customer queries, teaches people more about your brand, or you just want to make them for fun, read on to find out more.
What is a how-to video? (A definition)
A how-to video is a video that teaches viewers how to do something. The spectrum for how-to videos can be broad; everything from ‘how to tie a knot’ to ‘how to do a backflip’. How-to videos are usually to-the-point and informative in tone.
Here’s an example we created for Service Credit Union:
Why how-to videos are so popular
Think about what you search for online. Even better, go to your search history and take a look. Chances are, you recently searched for how to do something.
And that should answer the question of why how-to videos are so popular – because we’re all looking for how-to content, all the time!
Anecdotal evidence aside, even Google is reporting this fact. According to Google, how-to videos earn the most attention of ANY content category on YouTube, even more than music clips and gaming.
What’s more, 86% of people say they regularly return to YouTube to learn something new.
So, how-to videos are so popular because people like to consume this type of content. Video, specifically, is more engaging than other how-to content because it’s visually interesting and allows people to digest information in the shortest amount of time.
Another interesting thing to know about how-to videos is that people don’t just seek them out to learn. Consumers also seek out how-to content to make informed shopping decisions. According to another study by Google (they’re really into this topic!), 45% of beauty shoppers have watched a how-to video for inspiration before purchasing a product.
How to create a how-to video in 5 steps
1. Decide on your topic
The first thing you need to do is decide what your how-to video will be about. A great place to start is speaking to your customer service team and asking what their most common query is. If there’s a common question that your customers keep asking then this will be a great topic for a how-to video (and can help to reduce the workload of your customer service team).
You can also make how-to videos for the brand awareness stage of your marketing efforts – for people who aren’t yet customers. Perhaps there’s a clear barrier to purchase at the moment, or you need to show potential customers how your product or service works to get them interested.
Whatever direction you choose to go in, make sure you stick to it. How-to videos should be clear and direct. You don’t want to try to do too much at once.
If you have multiple topics you want to cover, that’s great, but you’d be better off making several shorter, more focused videos than one long video that covers everything.
2. Choose the best video type
After deciding on your topic you need to choose the best video type for your how-to content. This might be an easy decision. For example, if you want to show people how your software platform works then a demo video is the clear choice.
If you want to speak directly to your audience then you might record yourself speaking to camera. You could also create a live action video that uses actors who represent your ideal audience.
Another potential direction to go in is animation. Animation is ideal if you want a cost-effective way to show big ideas.
The perfect example of a brand that does this well is Kurzgesagt. While they don’t create how-to videos per se, their whole gig is creating educational content, and they use animation to do so in an entertaining way:
3. Write a script
So, you’ve chosen a topic and you’ve chosen a video style – now you can actually start creating your how-to video!
The first thing you’ll need to do is write a script. The scriptwriting process can take longer than you may initially realise because it’s important to get all of the information down that you need to cover, and then edit that so you can deliver the information in a clear and concise way.
We’d suggest starting by listing all of your key points and then expanding on those, as required. It’s also a great idea to read your script aloud (preferably to another person, if you can find a willing participant!) a couple of times before you start recording.
We’ve created an article that we think will really help you out here: How to Write a Video Script (Template Included)
4. Make or shoot your video
Script perfected, it’s time to move onto the practical side. Making your video will differ depending on the type of video you’ve opted for. For example, if you’re making a live action video then you’ll need to get the right equipment: camera, lighting, microphone, and so on.
If you’ve decided to create an animated video then you’ll need to transform your script into a storyboard, order a voiceover, and then hire an animator to bring it all to life.
And, of course, if you’re making a demo video then you’ll need to screen-record your software (preferably using a demo account that includes dummy data that allows your product to shine).
If you’re still struggling to decide which format will be best for your how-to video, take a look at this article: 12 Types of Video and How to Use Them.
5. Publish your video
The last thing you need to do is post your video online. But, of course, your hard work shouldn’t stop there.
After putting so much effort into creating your video you need to make sure it gets seen by as many people as possible!
You should also use your video hosting platform to track the performance of your video. This will help you understand how to improve any future videos to ensure engagement is always as high as it possibly can be!
20 Amazing how-to videos
1. Matt Byrom – “How to find anyone’s email address”
Immediately, this video grabs attention with an intriguing title and thumbnail. And, most importantly, when you press play this video delivers, fast.
In a little over 3 minutes viewers are taken through 5 simple steps to find email addresses. What’s more, each step has a well-branded title screen making the video easy to digest in short bursts or skip through.
Another great detail about this how-to video is that Matt doesn’t just tell you how to find email addresses, he shows you with screen-recorded sections that are easy to follow.
2. Likezoid – “Getting started”
When we were tasked with creating this how-to video for Likezoid, we knew it needed to have a fun soundtrack, bright colours, and an upbeat voiceover to appeal to the brand’s ideal audience: young social media users.
We also knew it needed to be short to capture the short attention span of such users, so we utilised split screens and eye-catching transitions to keep this video engaging and easy to follow.
3. For Us Foodies – “How to use chopsticks”
At the time of writing, this video has over 12 million views and after watching it it’s easy to see why.
The bird’s eye view angle makes it easy for viewers to follow along, as do the slow and clear instructions.
The presenter also repeats certain instructions and tells viewers what not to do, so that in just around a minute people know exactly how to use chopsticks.
4. CitySprint – “Package your items like a pro”
This video starts by instantly setting up the problem that the viewer has and then takes them through simple steps to solve it.
The use of a 3-way split screen allows CitySprint to show three different scenarios (and appeal to different types of viewers) and the video quickly and efficiently takes us through the full story, showing the positive outcome at the end. Simple and effective!
5. Grammarly – “Edit essays faster”
This Grammarly video does a great job of not only showing viewers how to use their platform but also connecting with them in a relatable way.
The actor is someone that ideal customers should recognise themselves in – a young student. And the dialogue is conversational and calls out relatable issues, like getting “affect” and “effect” mixed up – we’ve all been there!
In addition to that, their call-to-action features prominently on screen throughout, reminding viewers to “try for free today”.
6. ghd – “How to create hollywood waves”
Hair products are one of the best use cases for how-to videos because there are so many different ways to use them and it can be complicated for beginners.
This tutorial from ghd forgoes a voiceover and even limits text on screen instructions, instead opting for close up shots and an unimposing soundtrack so that viewers can watch the video and follow along carefully.
7. Charisma on Command – “How to be confident in any situation”
Sometimes a topic needs a little bit more time dedicated to it in order to explain it fully, which is why over 10 minutes for this video that teaches viewers how to be more confident seems reasonable.
In fact, it’s more than reasonable, it’s engaging. The video uses comparisons to the popular fictional character Don Draper to effectively get across points and better explain how to be confident in any situation.
8. Britbox – “Redeeming your Britbox gift subscription”
We created this animated demo video for Britbox to help users who were struggling to redeem their gift subscription. The demographic for viewers was older people with limited technical know-how, as such the video takes its time to explain each step thoroughly.
The great thing about animated demos like this is that we can recreate platforms so that they aren’t an exact replica of the real thing – this increases the longevity of the videos as they don’t become redundant after UI updates.
9. Lifehacker – “How to enjoy running more”
This video cuts between stock footage and a friendly presenter to keep viewers engaged. The video also includes time stamps so that people can skip to the section of the video that most interests them.
This video alone is a nice quick and easy way to get tips on how to enjoy running more, but the comments section has even more tips!
It’s always worth checking out the comments section of how-to videos as you might find a useful nugget of information from someone who has watched the video previously.
10. Cleanbrands – “Installation and warranty”
This short and sweet how-to video for Cleanbrands starts with a clear message explaining to viewers that there will be 5 easy steps to follow.
The video then shows characters going through these steps, making it simple for viewers to follow along at home.
Plus, because this is an animated video, Cleanbrands are able to show a lot of different scenarios, such as spillages and pet dander, without actually ruining any of their mattresses!
11. Chewy – “How to teach your dog to roll over”
“Roll over” is a classic dog trick, but it’s hard to believe you can learn how to teach it in just 2 minutes! Still, that’s exactly what this video from Chewy does.
This how-to video is set up almost like a professional TV show. There’s a well-dressed set, a presenter who introduces themselves, and some comedy to grab attention straight away.
When getting into the actual how-to portion of the video, Chewy does an awesome job by actually showing a real dog following along to the steps outlined. This makes it easy to follow and encouraging for viewers who want to give this trick a try!
12. IKEA – “ENHET frame assembly”
This IKEA video is very similar to the ghd video above in that there’s no talking, just a simple soundtrack and one person slowly and deliberately going through the motions of assembling a frame.
These creative choices really emphasise to viewers just how quick and easy it is to assemble this frame.
13. Harrow Council – “Food waste in flats”
Here’s yet another how-to video without a voiceover. It makes sense when you consider that 83% of people now watch videos with the sound off, with that increasing to 92% when it comes to mobile viewers.
The on-screen instructions do a perfect job of explaining how to use food waste bins, and this text is accompanied by icons that make it even easier to understand what can and can’t be put in these bins.
14. Ali Abdaal – “How to start a YouTube channel”
While short and snappy videos work well for most use cases, sometimes you want a video that goes more in depth – like this one from Ali Abdaal.
Starting a YouTube channel is a big commitment and this video really gives each step the attention it deserves, going through absolutely everything you’ll need from topics for your first video to how to eventually think about monetising your channel.
This video also has useful timestamps that make it instantly seem less daunting for those people who don’t feel as though they have time to sit through a 30 minute video.
15. YogBela – “How to do crow pose in 3 steps”
Crow pose is one of those yoga poses that beginner yogis aspire towards, so this video by YogBela is instantly attractive with the title promising to teach viewers how to master the pose in 3 steps.
The wide shot is perfect for showing viewers exactly what to do and the written on-screen instructions also emphasise each step to be taken.
Another nice touch about this video is that the presenter goes through the motions a couple of times so viewers can really be sure of how to do the pose.
16. Jamie Oliver – “How to make perfect pizza”
Recipes and food-related content are the perfect candidates for how-to videos. And, while ‘how to make perfect pizza’ is no doubt a popular topic, it’s the enthusiastic and eccentric presenter that makes this video amazing.
This video really is a masterclass in how showing your brand’s personality can really elevate your content. The presenter’s enthusiasm for pizza is infectious and each step is explained in a clear way that’s easy to follow.
17. Gillian Perkins – “How to write a business plan”
This video is quite similar to Ali Abdaal’s in that it takes quite a huge topic and tackles it systematically and thoroughly, without worrying about how long the video is going to be.
And, although this video is on the long side it doesn’t really feel that way because there’s a lot of cuts between stock footage, b-roll, and direct-to-camera shots.
The video also begins with an interesting narrative that also highlights the presenter’s qualifications for making this video.
18. Howcast – “How to survive a bear attack”
Bear attacks are pretty serious, but this claymation video from Howcast certainly isn’t! This fun video has a lot of hilarious moments that keep viewers engaged, but it also gives practical advice.
Animation is an amazing (and cost-effective!) way to create scenes that would be very difficult to enact in real life. Case in point: the amount of times this character gets his head ripped off by a bear!
19. Log Me In – “Slack – App Install”
How-to videos are perfect for showing potential and existing customers how to use software products. And, in addition to being super useful for customers, they also have the potential to reduce the amount of queries customer service reps have to deal with – because they give customers a way to solve problems themselves.
This Log Me In video is a classic example. And, when we created this animated demo for Log Me In, we made sure to create pared back representations of their software screens to increase the longevity of their video.
20. TechInsider – “How to tame a horse in Minecraft”
This video is classic how-to content. It takes a simple question and answers it in the most effective way possible.
The voiceover is slow and direct, and the on-screen action walks viewers through exactly what they need to do.
As an added bonus, this video (like some others on our list) also includes time stamps so viewers can skip to the section they’re most interested in if they’re really pressed for time.
3 Top how-to video tips
Last but certainly not least, let’s take a look at 3 top tips for making the best how-to videos!
1. Make sure it’s visually interesting
This is a bit of a no brainer – for any video content! But when you’re teaching people how to do something it can be very easy to get bogged down in the instructions, so don’t forget that you need to make your video visually interesting too.
Ways to do this, as seen in the examples above, are to cut between different types of shots like B-roll, stock footage, screen-recorded sections, and animated sequences.
2. Shorter is better
Human attention spans are shrinking all the time, with some research now suggesting that humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish!
The main reason for this is that people are busy and there are lots of distractions online. So don’t beat around the bush and make sure your video is as short as it can be. This is especially important for how-to videos as usually viewers are ready to do the thing they’ve searched for and they just want to get on with it as quickly as possible.
3. Use text for on-screen instructions
Most people are watching videos with the sound off, so you really need to make sure you include on-screen instructions if you want to appeal to the masses.
Even if your viewers are watching with the sound on, on-screen text will help to emphasise the most important parts of your message and make it easier for people to learn how to do whatever it is you’re teaching them.
So, that’s pretty much everything you need to know to make your own how-to video! The possibilities are practically endless with this type of video content, the most important thing to remember is to make sure your video adds value and looks professional.
Check out this article for more information: 17 Top Tips for Creating Professional-Looking Videos.