You approach the end of the cave and look around. You can easily see a tunnel sloping up to the right. Light flickers somewhere in the distance, giving the tunnel a mysterious glow. Upon further inspection you also see a narrow hole off to the left. While it would be a tight fit, you probably could squeeze through it. What do you do?

  • To go down the tunnel turn to page 42
  • To squeeze into the hole turn to page 27
  • To go back the way you came turn to page 64

The Choose Your Own Adventure books we all read in the 80’s and 90’s were a brilliant way to keep us kids engaged in a book. One or two pages of story interspaced with decisions about what to do next brilliantly worked with, and not against, our natural attention spans — before you could get bored you were sucked back in to making a choice that could affect how the story ended. I have been leveraging the same approach to drive some increadible video sucess rates.

There is an inherent dilema with using video in marketing. While it is becoming an ever important tool — emails, social posts and web pages with video all have significantly higher interaction rates — studies have shown that the optimal video length is just one minute and that attentions drop off precipitously after two minutes. Yes, for a lot of what we do, a good marketeer should be able to distill a message into a few minutes. But there are plenty of times when we have a larger story to tell, so how do you use video and keep people’s engagement past 60 seconds?

Humor helps, but without access to a writer’s room on a regular basis most of us can only pull off a few funny lines per piece. Special effects are also good at grabbing attention, but can easily blow any budget. How to you make a longer video message engaging, but keep it cheap and easy to produce?

This was the challenge we had with when trying to make “full featured” video training content that customers and sales force would actually watch. Despite covering the cutting room floor with reams of virtual clips, our product overview video was coming in at over 10 minutes – a marketing cardinal sin. We struggled with what more to cut and how to prioritize what we didn’t — what should the order of the messages be?

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The eureka moment was that we didn’t have to decide what to viewer should see and in what order — they did. Let the watcher determine what they wanted to see after the initial pitch. Instead of trying to find gimicks to overcome human nature, we decided to work with it and build the larger message in 1-2 minute clips and tie them together by making the user interact with them.

Yes it drove longer engagement time on the video – past efforts showed an average time spent watching our videos was just under 2 minutes, nowhere near the full length of the video. Once we made them interactive average time on video was over 5 minutes instead of 2 – letting customers get more of our message.

And there was a unplanned side effect. We got metrics on what segments customers clicked and spent time on, letting us know which messages were resonating and which weren’t. Great data for honing our messaging to be more impactful.

To date we have done two such videos – one for customers and one for our sales teams. Both are averaging incredible egagament times.