netflix shareHumans are visual creatures, and our primary form of visual communication is video: 4 billion videos are viewed a day on YouTube, resulting in 3 billion hours watched per month. 1.3 billion movie tickets were sold last year. Netflix streaming accounts for 25% of North American internet traffic.

So why aren’t you making instructional videos for your customers?

According to most people I talk to, the answer is that it seems like a lot of work. Here’s a dirty little secret: it’s not. Technologically, it’s easier than ever to create videos. And quality isn’t always a good thing; at Social Media Week San Francisco, the folks at Funny or Die revealed that lo-fi videos actually go viral more than high-quality videos. So let’s get you started.

What should I do videos about?

Anything that requires some significant instruction or is very visual. Released a new notifications checkbox? Probably doesn’t need a video. But if you launched a new feature or interface? Show people instead of tell them. Heard that a lot of customers have trouble figuring out how to set something up? Show them how you do it.

How often should I make videos?

Often. Build practices around when you make them, or it’ll never happen. We (try to) create video every time we launch a significant new feature. You could plan to do one a quarter, or every time you get 10 customer inquiries about one area of the product.

Do we need to hire someone to narrate?

No. As long as you come across as human and you make sure to clearly describe things, you don’t need to be Garrison Keillor. Don’t even bother with a script; I’ve found that this makes you sound more wooden and boring. People are ok with a few awkward pauses.

What should I use to record my video?

If you’re recording something on your screen, we recommend Screenflow for Mac (which can capture both your screen and your voice)…but there are lots of options out there. Your built-in mic may work well enough as long as you’re not too loud, but if you want to get something nicer we recommend checking out the reasonably-priced Blue Snowball USB microphone.

Where should I post my videos?

There are several trains of thought on this, but I think the simplest answer is: YouTube. Everyone knows how to use a YouTube player, it means your videos can potentially be discovered by searchers, and the service isn’t going to shut down anytime soon.

Where should I share my videos?

Anywhere they’ll be useful for your customers. This means in your blog when you have new features, on your social networking sites, embedded in your knowledge base articles, etc. Many companies have even started including videos accessible through tooltips in their actual products, so customers don’t have to leave to get a walkthrough.

Looking for inspiration? Check out our instructional video board on Pinterest. Made something awesome? Let us know and we’ll pin it up!