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How Do You Keep Your Audience’s Attention on YouTube?

Viewer attention is a hot commodity. Unfortunately, it’s also a finite resource. And only the best and most engaging videos will grab and keep the attention of YouTuber users. The YouTube content ecosystem is like the night sky: Millions of stars struggle for attention, but only a select few get any.

When you’re operating in an “attention economy” where a user’s attention is the new currency, you must focus on grabbing, holding, and keeping your viewers’ attention. Although these three may seem synonymous, they, in fact, apply to different positions of the attention funnel.

  • Grab Attention: Top of the attention funnel. Putting your video in front of YouTuber users and getting them to click on it.
  • Hold Attention: Middle of the funnel. Hook the viewer’s attention so they stay engaged with your video.
  • Keeping Attention: Bottom of the funnel. Pushes the user to watch more of your videos.

All three levels are important if you want to have a fully fleshed out YouTube content strategy. But, in the rest of this piece, we are going to zero in on the middle of the funnel and look at some strategies to help you hold your YouTube viewer’s attention.

Pre-Filming Considerations

Whether you’re shooting live or making a pre-recorded video, you should run through a checklist of pre-filming questions before shooting. Considering your equipment and location needs, as well as shots and story will go a long way to ensuring you create a video that’s worth your time and appealing to viewers.

Unfortunately, the varieties of lights, cameras, microphones, and shooting angles can get overwhelming quickly. So, we are going to cover some of the basics to make sure you’re able to put out high-quality YouTube content.

Choosing Your Equipment

There’s no “right” equipment for shooting a good YouTube video. Much of it comes down to what you can afford and what you feel comfortable using.

Camera

You are free to splurge on an expensive DSLR, but your smartphone could do the job just as well. (Remember, Seth Meyers filmed his TV show in his attic during COVID-19 on an iPad Pro!)

Microphone

Phone mics are finnicky and difficult to point and position. If there is any ambient noise or the person is facing away from the camera, you risk losing audio. That said, there are a number of inexpensive options for external microphones, including Lavaliers (lapel mics) and boom mics, which often will plug into your smartphone.

Lighting

Your lighting setup is also flexible depending on your equipment, location, and style. That said, most YouTube creators just want to look good. You can accomplish that goal with a mix of ambient light, direct light on the person, and a light focused on the background.

Setting the Stage

The level of planning you do before shooting is entirely up to you. However, making a game plan before hitting “record” will save time and frustration and result in a better performing video.

Regardless of the video category (how-to, entertainment, explainer, deep-dive, educational), taking stock of these four production elements will make sure your video has what it needs to hold your audience’s attention.

  • Staging: The location and background communicate a lot to the viewer and are critical to achieving a consistent style, especially for longer video series. Make sure your setting reinforces the style and tone you want to convey.
  • Wardrobe: Your clothes also reveal much about the kind of video experience your viewers are in for. Are you wearing a suit or a bikini? Neither is wrong per se, but one is a bit weird for a video on beach towels.
  • Props:  Props are any item you’ll need during the shoot such as a rolling pin (cooking video) or screwdriver (home repair video). Props aren’t right for every type of video, but plan them in advance.
  • Camera Shots: The three most common shots are wide shots, medium shots, and close ups. Each shot type works best in different situations. And when you can match the shot to the type of video you’re making, your video will look better and viewers will notice.

Above all, remember that none of these pre-filming considerations by themselves will make or break your video. The goal is to produce a better video and more appealing user experience overall. Each of these builds on the other to achieve the final effect.

Scripting and Storytelling

Scripting is the most critical aspect of most YouTube videos. Whether it’s told in words or images, nobody likes a rambling and incoherent story. And nobody will continue watching a video that has “lost the script.”

That being said, you don’t need to script the video word-for-word. But unless you’re a pro, winging it entirely will mean a video filled with excessive pauses and “ums.” Worse still, you might overlook some important facts or details.

See article Should You Script Your Videos?

Scripting is more important for those prone to overexplaining, such as lawyers, doctors, or academics. It will help you stick to the relevant facts and keep the topic of the video focused. If your viewer clicked your video to learn about how corporations are taxed, going on a tangent about limited liability company taxation is a surefire way to lose their attention.

Hook (Line and Sinker)

No matter your preferred level of scripting, you absolutely must map out the first 15 seconds. This is when most viewers are either going to commit to watching your video or jump ship.

Too often YouTube creators will waste this valuable screen time on intros, promos, or pitches—they force the viewer to wait a minute or more to hear the real content of the video. In journalism jargon, this is known as “burying the lede,” and it’s something you should never do!

Include a great “hook” at the opening that tells viewers what to expect and gets them excited about the upcoming content. Your hook can be just about anything that grabs your viewer’s attention, such as:

  • Video outline,
  • Eye-catching visual, or
  • Content teaser

Once you’ve got your viewers hooked, they will stick around for the rest of the video because they know what content is on tap and they are invested.

Subtitles

You might not think that subtitles would be important to a large swath of YouTube viewers, but you’d be wrong. Subtitles are not just used by those who are hearing impaired. Users watch YouTube at work, at school, in crowded elevators, and many other places where blasting sound from their mobile phones wouldn’t be appropriate.

In other words, even though YouTube users are watching your videos, they’re often still reading your content too. Including subtitles in your videos is a great way to ensure that you aren’t missing out on the large number of viewers who watch YouTube on their mobile devices or computers with the sound off.

Conclusion

You are asking for something valuable from your viewers: their attention. If they give you their attention, you should reward them with brilliant content. Following the steps and best practices outlined above will help you make sure your videos hold your YouTube viewer’s attention with quality content.

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Author

  • Nick Rich

    Nick is a legal marketer, freelance copywriter and editor, and wayward academic. He’s currently finishing his PhD in classics at the University of Virginia, but for the last three years he’s applied his unique academic skillset to marketing businesses and law firms.

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