You want to build an audience for your blog.
And not just a casual, passive audience – a mob of fanatical fans.
Fans who click the link to your latest post the second it lands in their inboxes.
Fans who always leave comments and can’t wait to share your work with their followers.
Fans who’ll even drop you an email from time to time to tell you exactly what’s on their minds.
In other words, you want your readers to feel strongly connected to you – the way people feel in real life.
But getting that connection online is tough. No matter how well you write, a blog creates a certain distance between you and your readers.
However hard you try, reading a blog post is not the same as having a conversation with someone face-to-face.
So how do you create this connection you crave?
Fortunately there is a simple answer.
The “Obvious” Secret to Creating a Deep Connection with Your Readers
Think about a popular blogger you feel a connection with.
Chances are, you know exactly what they look like. You probably know how they sound too.
Somehow you’ve assembled a realistic, three-dimensional model of them in your mind that’s triggered if you think about them.
But how did that model get there?
Maybe you’ve heard them speak in a webinar or a podcast. Or you might have seen them on Google Hangout or in a whiteboard session. Or some combination of these.
But the result is that they’re no longer just a name and some words on a page, or a photo in a bio: they’re a living, breathing person.
And that’s a big part of why you feel such a strong connection with them.
Because once someone has imprinted on your memory like this, it infuses everything else they do.
When you read their latest blog post you can’t help but hear it in their voice. When they tell a story, you can vividly picture them in that situation.
In other words, you feel much more connected to them because you feel you know them.
And if you met them in the street, you’d probably feel comfortable striking up a conversation as if you were an old friend.
Which is exactly how you want your audience to feel about you.
Fortunately, a way exists to create that kind of connection quite simply.
Somewhat obvious, right?
The Internet A-Listers Who Are Killing It With Simple Videos
Have you heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? He’s the social web’s king of video and a master of audience connection.
So much so that the last episode of his video podcast Wine Library TV (Episode 1,000) generated over 4,300 comments on his blog. How’s that for engagement?
But Gary wasn’t famous when he started the Wine Library TV Blog – in fact, he was working for his Dad in his bottle shop. But from humble beginnings, he created a massive audience of highly-engaged and raving fans.
His latest project is the #AskGaryVee Show and again, video is at the heart of it. Here’s the most recent episode:
Each video gets hundreds of comments. And Gary has over one million followers on Twitter.
Now, admittedly not everyone has Gary’s powerhouse personality. And not everyone wants to make a new video every week.
But you can’t deny that within a few seconds of watching Gary at work, you have a strong sense of him as a unique individual.
Here are some more examples:
- Chris Brogan – Chris is a one-man media empire but he’s not afraid to keep things simple when it comes to video. Check out this short promotional video for his recent book The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.
- Marie Forleo – Marie’s videos are slick and sexy, but behind the high production values lies a very simple format. Watch this recent episode of Marie TV to understand why she has such a passionate fan base.
- Darren Rowse – Darren’s a familiar face in the blogging world and that’s partly because he’s not afraid to put video to good use. He used it effectively to tell people about the launch of the Problogger Community.
If them, why not you? After all, they were all using video long before they were as successful as they are today.
Why Most Bloggers Stay Hidden Behind Their Keyboards
Most bloggers have considered using video at some point.
They might have been inspired by other bloggers that were using it successfully. Or tempted by the video capability on their new smartphone or tablet.
Or sensed that video could help them take their audience engagement to the next level.
But despite this, most bloggers fail to act. And the reason is simple.
Why is it that one simple five-letter word – video – can strike such fear into the bravest of bloggers, who are otherwise fearless with their content?
Actually, they have lots of reasons:
- They’re scared they won’t look right on camera.
- They’re scared their voice will sound weird.
- They’re scared of saying the wrong thing and looking stupid.
- They’re scared that the technology will get the better of them.
Now it’s totally normal to have these fears when starting out with video – but here’s the cold hard truth.
Unless you find a way to powerfully bond with your audience, your blog will be left in the dust by other bloggers who do.
And video, done right, is one of the quickest and most effective ways to create engagement.
The sooner you get past your fears and start using video to create a deep personal connection with your readers, the sooner you’ll stand out from the crowd.
A Quick Thought Experiment to Help Overcome Your Fear of Video
Like most fears that aren’t caused by an imminent physical threat, much of the anxiety surrounding video is completely disproportionate to the actual risk.
Here’s a technique taken from Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Work Week that will help to put your video fears into perspective.
First, write down a list of things that could possibly go wrong if you created a video and published it on your blog.
Once you have your list of “terrible” outcomes, ask yourself:
- Are any of them life threatening?
- Are any of them going to cause a genuine catastrophe in your life?
- Are any of them going to harm someone else in some way?
(In case you’re wondering, the answer in all cases should be no.)
The purpose of this exercise is to put those wild thoughts running around inside your head into perspective.
If you are not going to harm anyone else, and it’s not going to cause some sort of catastrophe for you – what’s the harm in giving it a go?
Put it this way – you’ve got no excuse at all for not trying. If you hate the results, don’t post them on your blog, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. And you might be pleasantly surprised.
The Best Type of Clip to Create When You’re a Video Virgin
Video really isn’t as terrifying as you might first have thought. But we’re still going to make your first steps into video as gentle as possible.
So you’re going to create a specific type of video: a short, standalone, single-take video.
- Keeping your video short means it’s simpler to create and also easier to hold the viewer’s attention throughout.
- Planning for your video to be standalone means you’re not committing yourself to recording a whole series (after all, you’re a blogger, not a vlogger) and ensures it will be effective even if it’s the only video on your blog.
- Recording your video in a single take (i.e., no editing required) keeps the technical stuff to a minimum and usually results in an on-camera performance that looks more natural and down-to-earth.
A number of different types of video fit this brief, but we’re going to focus on just one: a simple welcome video.
This is a video that will sit on your About Page and give new readers a quick introduction to you and your blog.
And if you have an email list it’s also the perfect place to encourage them to sign up.
How to Engage Your Audience in Just 39 Seconds
For a great example of how to create a short video, we need look no further than a past Smart Blogger contributor, Laura Williams.
Here’s Laura’s welcome video for her YouTube channel:
This type of video works equally well for a blog and what’s great is it nails everything that needs to be said in just 39 seconds:
- Laura grabs the viewer’s attention with “Hey you, yes I am talking to you.”
- Laura thanks them for checking out her channel and introduces herself.
- She tells them she’s there to help them achieve their goals; so the message is all about the viewer, and it’s building an immediate bond.
- Laura asks them to subscribe to her channel (which is a call-to-action) without being too pushy.
- She then asks them to head over to her blog and tells them about the 12-week plan they will get when they subscribe to her newsletter.
- Laura thanks them and signs off.
Notice how Laura comes across as a real person. Someone you’d want to connect with, right?
The 4-Part Formula for Creating an Engaging Video Script
Although some people can say exactly what they want to say, how they want to say it, without planning it first, most of us don’t have that superpower.
So when recording your welcome video, it helps to have a simple script to keep you on track. You don’t have to learn it word for word (in fact it’s probably best that you don’t) but it will give you a template to work with.
And to structure your script we’re going to adapt a simple formula borrowed from standup comedian turned copywriter Kevin Rogers: Identity, Struggle, Discovery, Surprise.
Here’s how it applies to your welcome video script:
- Identity – Say who you are and welcome visitors to your blog.
- Struggle – Describe a personal struggle your audience will relate to.
- Discovery – Talk about a discovery which turned things around.
- Surprise – Surprise viewers by making a helpful offer.
Let’s see a couple of examples of this formula in use.
Firstly, imagine a blogger called Bob who has a blog called Blogging Focus.
Here’s another example – this time from an imaginary self-improvement blogger called Stacey:
Each of these examples is no longer than a minute in duration, but they prove that by following a simple formula, you can achieve a lot in a short space of time. You can:
- Introduce yourself and your blog to the reader in your own words.
- Bond with them over a personal struggle they should be able to recognize.
- Prompt an action (a sign-up) that allows you to build the relationship over time.
How to Record Your High Quality Video with a Regular Smartphone
Now we’re going to get into the detail of recording your video.
If you already have a suitable camcorder – or a camera with a video function – then you’re off to a great start. But we’re going to assume all you have is a smartphone.
Whichever type of device you have, an important consideration is how you’ll record your audio.
Why Audio Quality is So Critical
You’d think that the most important part of a video was the picture, right?
However, while most people will tolerate less-than-perfect visuals, poor-quality audio will have them scrambling for the Back button.
And in most cases, the built-in microphone on your smartphone (and even most camcorders) won’t produce audio of a high enough standard.
This is partly due to the quality of the microphone and partly due to its position.
You see, the secret to great audio is to make sure that the microphone is as close as possible to the source of the sound (i.e., your mouth). And for this you need an external microphone.
So here’s what you’ll need to get great sound – and video – from your smartphone:
- Lavalier microphone – this is small microphone you can clip to your lapel so that it’s close to your mouth. The Olympus ME-52W is a cost-effective option and comes with an extension cable to simplify placement.
- Microphone adapter – this allows a microphone with a standard 3.5mm jack to be connected to the headphone socket on your smartphone. This model is designed for iPhones but should work with most of the latest smartphones.
- Phone Tripod/Stand – to make your video look a little more professional than an arms-length video selfie, you’ll need something to keep your phone steady while filming. This Octopus-style tripod is a bargain at under $5.
- Video-Recording App – both of the built-in Camera apps on iOS and Android can be switched into video mode and work well. Paid apps such as MoviePro (iOS only) offer more professional features such as in-app editing and audio controls.
Where’s the Best Place to Shoot Your Video?
When it comes to the question of where to film your video, both indoors and outdoors have their strengths and weaknesses.
Outdoors is great for the abundance of light, although it obviously depends on the weather and the time of year. Early mornings and late afternoons work well because the light is more diffuse, but noise may be a problem, and you’ll have less control over the environment.
Indoors is quieter and more controllable, but lack of light can be an issue, so try to film somewhere with windows and lots of natural light. If you decide to get serious about video, you could create a guerilla lighting rig so that finding natural light is not so essential.
6 Simple Tips for a Painfree Recording Experience
- Memorize Your “Bookends.” You don’t need to memorize your script word for word – you’ll lose spontaneity and risk sounding like a robot. But it is a good idea to memorize your opening and closing sentences to ensure a strong start and finish. Videos which open with uncertainty, or fizzle out at the end, won’t leave a lasting and positive impression on your audience. So keep your script close to hand and refer to it between takes.
- Create a Safe Recording Environment. Nothing is quite so frustrating as getting almost to the end of a perfect take and having it ruined by a text message arriving, the doorbell chiming or your partner calling you in for lunch. So do what you can to minimize interruptions. Turn your phone to flight mode, remove the batteries from your doorbell and tell anyone in the vicinity that you’re recording.
- Run a Simple Test. Plug in the microphone and perform a quick test recording to make sure everything is working. Check that the audio is clear and that your face is neatly framed by the screen and not cropped or biased to one side. If necessary, put a cross on the floor with tape to make sure you always hit your mark.
- Record Your Practice Runs. Practice with the camera rolling. You never know when you are going to completely nail a take, and you don’t want to miss a good performance simply because the camera wasn’t running. Remember, you’re only creating a short video so if you happen to knock it out of the park on the first practice – mission accomplished.
- Breathe, Smile, Begin. Once the camera is rolling, take a deep breath, look directly into the lens, and then smile for three or four seconds before you begin to talk. Once finished, smile again a few seconds before stopping the recording. This gives you a little footage at each end of your video that you can trim to suit. Otherwise it looks unnatural if you start talking without a short gap before you start.
- Whatever Happens – Don’t Stop. Even if you make a mistake – keep going. Small stumbles often aren’t as bad as they seem in the moment, and for bigger mistakes, simply take another breath and start that section again. Even though you’re aiming for a single, uninterrupted take, you can get perfectly good results by editing out the problem sections.
Take a Deep Breath and Press “Record”
So, will you actually do it? Will you put your fears aside and record your first video?
Because if you want a truly engaged audience, sooner or later you’ll need to step out from behind the keyboard.
No matter how well you write, readers will struggle to bond with you if they can’t picture you in their mind’s eye.
That’s why video is so powerful. Even the simplest video can transform you from an almost anonymous blogger, into a living, breathing human being.
So scribble yourself a quick script, pick up your smartphone and press record.
And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. People connect with real people, with their flaws intact. They don’t want you to be a slick, shiny robot.
Start today with a simple welcome video and who knows where it might lead?
Someday soon you could be the Gary Vee of your niche.