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How to craft the ultimate video tutorial (12 tips)

Have you ever watched a video to learn how to use a new feature on a software application you use at work? Or to get started on a home project like installing a new deck or replacing a sink? Or even to learn a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try? If so, you’re not alone. 87% of YouTube users say they use the site to learn how to do things they haven’t done before.

These kinds of videos are called video tutorials, and they can be a great sales and marketing tool for all kinds of businesses – including yours. In this post, we’ll explain what a video tutorial is, why businesses create them, and how you can use 12 tips to create your very own tutorial videos.

What is a video tutorial?

A video tutorial is a step-by-step instructional video that shows and tells viewers how to do something. More and more, video tutorials are replacing (or accompanying) boring written manuals and instructions. Why? Because they’re what customers want. 68% of people say they prefer to learn about a new product or service by watching a short video, while just 15% prefer text-based articles and only 3% prefer ebooks and manuals.

Aside from improving the customer experience and delivering information in a media people prefer to engage with, why do brands make video tutorials? There are plenty of reasons, including:

-To help explain a product, service, or feature: Video tutorials walk customers through how to perform an action or use a product, which in turn helps customers make the most of their purchase and have a more positive experience. These videos can also be a great tool when launching a new product feature that requires customer education.

-To reduce customer service inquiries: When you give customers the answers to their common questions proactively, they’re less likely to reach out for support, alleviating strain on your support team to answer basic usability questions.

-To train internal teams: Video tutorials aren’t just for customers; these videos can be a great internal tool for educating employees on how to use a new application, product, or feature so they can better communicate their value to customers.

12 tips to help you create a super effective video tutorial

Now that you know what a video tutorial is and why you might create one, let’s dive in. Here are 12 tips to keep in mind as you create your next tutorial video.

1. Know your target audience

Understanding your target market might seem like marketing 101, but it’s especially important when creating tutorial videos. Why? You can’t effectively teach someone you don’t know how to do something. For example, a video tutorial on how to change a flat tyre for a non-car-savvy person would be much more detailed than a video on how to change a tyre in 30-seconds or less for an experienced mechanic. In the first video, the language should be much simpler so beginners can understand exactly what to do, like this example from Bridgestone.

However, the more advanced video could incorporate jargon only seasoned car experts might understand because it’s created for an expert-level audience. The beginner video might also be slower-paced so newbies can follow along side-by-side, while the auto pro could much more easily absorb a lot of information in a fast-paced video.

As you plan for your video, consider where your viewers are in their own journey; are they beginners who might not feel confident in using your product, are they experts who know almost as much as you do, or are they somewhere in the middle? Let that information guide the style of your video content.

2. Decide on your video type

Before you start creating your video, you need to decide on the type of video you’re going to produce. You have four main options:

1. Live action: This kind of video is shot with a camera. Many businesses even use their iPhones to capture quality footage on the fly.

2. Screen recordings: This kind of video records what someone is doing on a computer or smartphone, and is great for showing users how to navigate digital products or access features online or on an app.

3. Animation: This kind of video uses animated graphics to explain how to do something, and can be a great option for companies that don’t have a physical product to show.

4. Combination: You can mix and match any variety of these three video types to create a style that’s right for you. For example, perhaps you intersperse animation with screen recordings to add emphasis at key points. Or maybe you add graphics to a live action video to add visual interest to an otherwise stale shot. To see this in action, check out how Apple uses kinetic typography to add branded elements—and some excitement—to their Apple Watch product tutorial video.

As you contemplate your options, you should consider a variety of factors, including:

– Budget: Would it make more sense to record a simple video on your iPhone, or to hire a seasoned animation designer to make the right video for you? Do you have the software and equipment you need to execute the video in the style you’re imagining?

– Brand: What style makes the most sense for your brand? Do you have any brand and design requirements you need to consider? Would it be best to show your product or service using live action video, or to explain more complex concepts with animations?

– Context: What will create the best experience for the user? A tutorial video on how to use a software application, for example, would best be explained through a screen recorded video, but a video on how to file your taxes might be best shown through live footage or animation.

3. Write a script

Another pre-production tip for creating your video tutorial is to write a script. A script is a written document that outlines the dialogue the viewer will hear. In a live action video, for example, you might feature a person talking to the camera while explaining how to complete the task. Alternatively, your video might include voiceover that’s layered on top of footage, animation, or a screen recording. Whatever style you choose, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you set out to write your script:

– Keep your sentences short and sweet: Your viewers won’t be able to re-read a voice like they can re-read text in a manual, so be sure to keep your script simple so they understand your narration at the first pass.

– Be aware of your pacing: It’s possible that your viewers are going to watch your video while simultaneously completing the task you’re instructing them on. That means you shouldn’t fly through information like you’re talking to an expert. Instead, give your audience plenty of time to absorb your instructions. Don’t be afraid to add pauses or transitions between steps to give them time to catch up.

– Use conversational language: Jargon can too easily confuse your audience. When given the option, choose simpler words over more complex alternatives that could cause confusion.

For a great example, take a look at this instructional video by Starbucks that walks viewers through how to make cappuccino at home. The coffee world is filled with complicated, sometimes even pretentious language, but Starbucks uses a more accessible tone in the script that accompanies this video, creating a friendly and approachable vibe.

4. Create a storyboard

After you’ve written your script, take your video one step further by creating a storyboard. A storyboard is like a comic strip of your video; it shows each scene of the video from start to finish so you can see how the entire story will unfold. This process ensures your video tells a single, cohesive narrative and also guides the production process. Specifically, your storyboard will help your entire video production team align on an end goal; it can be too easy for different people to have different visions for what a video will look like, but a storyboard helps ensure everyone is on the same page.

For a little inspiration, check out this great tutorial video that teaches viewers how to make a storyboard – even if you’re not an artist.

5. Decide on narration

Remember earlier when you wrote your video script? Now you need to decide who reads it. You might already have an answer; perhaps you’re the person who is going to guide viewers through the process and you plan to narrate the video yourself. But you have other options as well. There could be an employee – perhaps a sales or marketing team member, or even a spokesperson – who would be a great representative for your company. You could also hire a professional voiceover artist to record your script. Or, you might have decided to not use a voiceover at all, in which case you can forego narration entirely.

This video from Allrecipes.com shows how to use narration to enhance your video. Notice how what you see on the screen perfectly aligns with the voiceover. This technique is called “say dog, see dog,” and is a best practice for these kinds of videos. The company also uses their narration as an opportunity to share helpful tips throughout the process.

6. Choose the right music

Narration isn’t the only sound element you need to consider. You also want to think about music. Some video tutorials don’t include music at all; for example, if you’re walking a customer through a very complicated technical process, music may serve as a distraction, not an enhancement. However, in many cases music can improve the video experience.

The most important thing about your music selection is that it matches the style of the video. Imagine how bizarre it would be to watch an uplifting video on how to teach your dog to sit with an intense Berlioz track in the background. The experience would be distracting and jarring – not what you want from a tutorial video. Something upbeat would be much more appropriate in that context.

Buzzfeed does this perfectly on their @buzzfeedtasty Instagram account in this short and sweet video tutorial that shows viewers how to make the perfect Manhattan cocktail.

When selecting music for your video, you have several options. You can hire someone to compose music specifically for your video, or you can find an existing song to use. Lucky for you, finding the right music for your video doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out our post on the best royalty free music sites to find the perfect tunes for your tutorial.

7. Focus on quality

Just like your website or social media profiles, your tutorial videos are an extension of your brand. Now is not the time to skimp on quality. While many companies opt to use existing equipment and software to create their videos (smartphones, pre-installed video editing software, etc.) you should test these methods to ensure you have a quality final product. Namely, you should focus on four key production needs:

1. Lighting: Lighting can make or break a video. We can’t stress this enough – don’t forget about lighting. If you’re shooting indoors, you may be able to find what you need at your local hardware store. If you’re shooting outside, consider shooting during golden hour – right after sunrise or right before sunset – as you’ll get the most professional results.

2. Microphones: Just like lighting, poor sound quality can make your video appear very unprofessional. You could record your voiceover on your computer or phone, but we recommend looking into a more professional microphone if you’re going to produce multiple videos. You can find several affordable options at electronics stores or online.

3. Camera: Many companies don’t produce enough videos regularly to purchase a professional-grade camera. Luckily there are plenty of video equipment rental companies that can help you select the right camera for your project. If you’re opting for a screen recording or animated video, you can forego a camera entirely!

4. Editing software: Your computer may have come with pre-installed video editing software, but it may not have all the capabilities you’re looking for. Consider performing a search of your options before limiting yourself to what you already have. There are plenty of free and affordable tools online that you can use to add interesting graphic elements, text overlays, and fun effects to your videos.

For an awesome example of a high-quality tutorial video, check out this nail tutorial by OPI. Notice how the music is crystal clear, the lighting is top-notch, and the editing is super professional. The video reinforces OPI’s market positioning as a premier, sophisticated beauty brand.

8. Choose a compelling title

Choosing a great title for your video is important for several reasons. First, viewers need to know that the video is going to answer their question. Titles like “How to Care for Succulents” or “Step-by-Step Tutorial for Creating an At-Home Garden” tell viewers exactly what to expect. Titles like these can also help your video SEO; these titles mimic what your audience would naturally type into a search engine, thus increasing the likelihood that they’ll land on your tutorial. If you’re looking for other ways to amp up your video SEO (and we recommend you do), check out Video SEO: The Ultimate Guide for more.

Speaking of caring for succulents, check out this great tutorial video on that exact topic. We love that it shares a ton of valuable information on caring for these fickle plants while also showing viewers exactly what to do and how to do it.

9. Order your video correctly – and then test it

This tip might sound obvious, but you would be surprised by how many tutorial videos don’t follow this simple step. Creating your storyboard can help ensure your video gives instructions in the appropriate order, but another way to confirm that your video is sequenced correctly is to have someone use it to complete the task in the video. Watch a friend or coworker as they follow your instructions step-by-step, making note of any places where they have to pause or rewind the video to get more clarity. Then go back and revise your video before sharing it with your audience.

QuickBooks does a fantastic job of producing high-quality tutorial videos that walk their users through important processes – like this screen recorded tutorial video that shows subscribers how to enter customer information into their software.

10. Don’t be promotional

Your marketing team has plenty of places to be promotional via video, but tutorial videos aren’t one of them. Your customers are watching your videos to learn how to do something very specific, not to be sold a product. Being overly promotional or salesy can put off your viewers, so stay away from it as much as possible.

For a great example, check out this video on how to tie a tie. Even though it was produced by Ties.com, a company clearly in the business of selling ties, it doesn’t overtly promote their website or products. It simply answers viewers’ questions and adds value – two elements of a great video tutorial.

11. Make it interesting

Video tutorials exist in part to replace boring manuals and written instructions, so why make a boring video? Here are some tips to keep things compelling from start to finish.

– Mix up your speed: Using slow motion or time lapse styles can add visual interest and show how to do something at a more appropriate speed. For example, you might use a time lapse video to show how to care for an outdoor garden in the Spring, while slow motion could be a great tool to use when teaching people how to knit.

– Play with camera angles: Want to show someone how to change the oil in a car? Why not take the camera under the hood with you? When teaching viewers how to ski, why not use a drone to capture aerial footage? Simple camera techniques can add a ton of energy to your tutorial video.

– Have fun in post-production: When you’re knee deep in editing, test the limits of your editing software by adding special effects, or spice up your video with kinetic typography. These simple video components can take your tutorial from ordinary to extraordinary.

Speaking of skiing, check out this tutorial on how to do parallel turns on skis. Notice how the video creators spice up the video with plenty of effects like on-screen text, interesting angles, and slow-mo speeds.

12. Stay on brand

Last but certainly not least, it’s important that your tutorial stays on brand. This means not only using visual elements that match your other marketing materials – think about colours, fonts, icon treatments, photo styles, etc. – but also matching the personality of your brand.

Care.com’s instructional video on how to execute a contract with your nanny is a great example of how to stay on brand in this medium. The company, which helps pair parents with childcare providers, is targeting mums and dads who are faced with leaving their children in the hands of someone else. They consciously create a calming, trustworthy brand to help build confidence with that audience. Watch this video and notice how the narrator’s cool and collected tone and the calm background music help reinforce their brand positioning.

Wrapping up

Now that you’ve got 12 tips in your back pocket, you’re probably daydreaming about creating your next tutorial video. But the inspiration doesn’t have to stop here. As you consider how to make this powerful tool work for you, check out our post on “20 of the Very Best Tutorial Video Examples by Brands” for even more ideas to enhance your creative process.