How to create a life hack video

An inside look at DDM's snack-size video strategy

Chris Jones, Dir. of Marketing & Syndication, DDM Publisher Solutions | @ChrisJonesDigi | January 5, 2016

Editor's note: The is part four in a four-part series exploring DDM's video strategy. Read part one: strategy overview, part two: long-form video or part three: short-form video. Watch the video below.

This is where I’m supposed to tell you how easy it is to create a life hack video — you know, those insanely viral videos that flood your Facebook feed with titles like, “You’ve been doing __________ wrong your whole life. Here’s the right way. ...”

Only, as I sat down to create a life hack video on how to create a life hack video, I quickly realized how challenging it was going to be.

Video is an important part of our content strategy at Deseret Digital Media because video provides excellent opportunities both in terms of audience growth/engagement and monetization. We’ve offered insight into our video strategy, including long-form and short-form videos. This month I set out to tackle life hack or DIY videos — or what we refer to as snack-size.

I am no stranger to video. As a former broadcast journalist and one-man-band reporter I’m comfortable shooting, writing, voicing and editing. But my skill set nearly failed me as I tried to piece together what I expected to be a pretty simple video.

So, here’s the premise. I sat down with one of our amazing video interns-turned-employee and asked her if I could tag along as she shot a snack-size video. The shoot itself was pretty easy. She found a DIY ornament idea on Pinterest and was going to film herself making it. I would simply film her filming the process. I had planned out what shots I’d need to get and made sure I let the camera roll extra long so I could speed up the clips in editing.

The problem came as I sat down to edit. My background in creating videos for the six o’clock news did not readily translate into creating fun and upbeat videos — certainly nothing likely to go viral.

With some great suggestions from our video lab, I think I salvaged the video. You can watch it below and be the judge of that. But more importantly, I learned some important things from which I think you might benefit. These lessons came, in part, from failing to follow all of the tips below.

Focus on your audience

This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give someone creating any type of content — at least if you want your content to be clicked, read/viewed and shared. If you’re trying to reach women ages 18-44, you better know what resonates with them. If you’re after millennials, you should have an idea of what content they’re sharing.

You are my audience. So who are you? I assume you’re one of the 2,500+ media executives, sales professionals or journalists who receive our Innovation Wire each month. Or perhaps you’re a fellow DDM or Deseret News employee who also receives the newsletter. The trouble is, I don’t know which. The amount of detail and nature of the detail you need (high-level strategy versus a step by step shooting and editing guide) changes if you’re the person who will be making the video or the one tasking others to do it.

Because you could be either, or somewhere in between, I tried to make a video that would be broadly useful regardless of your title. Again, you can decide if that approach was successful.

Find the right people — video people

If you are in a position where you’ll be tasking someone else with creating the video, find someone who already knows video. More to the point, find someone who knows the type of video you want shot. Find someone who’s already doing it. When we created our video lab last summer, we brought on a few interns who were studying video in school and making videos on their own because they love doing it. We were so pleased with their work — and the results of their work — that we’ve been able to bring some of them on to part-time positions.

Once you find the right people, make sure they understand your brand, voice and the audience you’re trying to reach and then give them the freedom to be creative.

Equipment

You’ll notice the camera I shot in my video was pretty nice and probably expensive. By way of contrast, I was shooting it with my iPhone — literally taped to a tripod. With the exception of one blurry wide shot, I think it did a fine job. The equipment you choose to use will depend in part on your level of commitment to a video strategy. If you’re primarily a print organization that’s just beginning to dabble in video for your website, you probably don’t need to go all out on equipment right away. As you begin to see positive results you can upgrade your gear.

The shoot

The only thing that really made shooting a snack-size video different from other shoots I’ve done is that I knew I would need to let each shot roll much longer because I would be speeding up the clip (up to 20 times faster) in editing. Whereas a typical shot for a news piece might be 5-8 seconds, I tried to get 30-45 seconds worth of video in each shot for this. DIY videos are much faster-paced than anything I’ve done before.

Editing

This is where I realized — to my surprise — I was completely in over my head. With a loosely planned shoot behind me, an overly broad concept of my audience and the need to make this video both informative and fun, I stared blankly at my editing software and wondered where to begin.

Two things were particularly foreign to this former broadcaster: adding lots of text and music. There would be no voiceover to tell this story. I knew that I needed to use text sparingly or the video would quickly become boring. I struggled to find the right fonts for the feel I was going for.

While the music was a little easier for me, I knew finding the right music was critical. I found two songs I liked from a music service to which we subscribe, and got good feedback from our video lab as to which fit better.

The results

Well, you’ll have to tell me. Were you engaged? Informed? Or have I wasted your time? I hope not. It’s certainly been valuable for me.

One last principle on which our video lab (and whole company for that matter) is based is the idea that we’re free to experiment. We try new things. We iterate. We fail fast. Hopefully we succeed more often than we don’t and hopefully the successes are bigger than the failures. It’s a strategy that’s served us well and one you might consider as you work out your own strategy.

Other snack-size videos from DDM