Creating How-To Content

You can find anything on the internet these days. From puppy videos to “High School Musical” fan-fiction, the web provides a place for everyone. One of the most popular types of content to stake its claim on a corner of the internet is how-to content. Your audience no longer needs to buy a 300-page book to fix a headlight; anyone can just look it up on YouTube.

If your business wants to contribute your wisdom to the web, you’ll need to consider which of the many mediums you can use to create how-to content.

Video How-To

Image via Flickr by SandCrestSEO

Video content is important to consider for your marketing strategy in general, but especially if you want to deliver how-to content. Videos allow the viewer to work along with the video host and visually understand every step of the how-to process. Videos also aren’t restricted by length, so you can illustrate a process that takes any amount of time, although you will want to be aware and understanding of your viewers’ time and patience.

When making video how-to content, don’t sacrifice quality. A blurry how-to video can be difficult to understand, which makes it virtually useless. Filming clear, crisp video may be an investment, but it will give your audience the high-quality instruction they need. Use a video host that can enunciate clearly and that’s aware of his or her pace, so users aren’t constantly pausing and rewinding to catch something they missed. Once your video how-to guide is complete, you have plenty of choices of where to share it. Post it to Facebook, YouTube, your website, or all of the above.

Live videos, a relatively new social media phenomenon, can also be a fun and engaging way to deliver how-to content to your audience. Live videos are one of the biggest trends in content this year. They interact with your audience in a more personal way by showing an individual with which they can relate rather than an organization name or logo, which is likely all they would otherwise see on a regular social media post.

You can use live video on Instagram or Facebook and allow viewers to experience your how-to content in real time. Post ahead of a live video to warn your audience and provide it with any information necessary to prepare to participate in the how-to content. Such simultaneous interactions can make your audience feel like it’s attending a virtual workshop or seminar. But here’s a point to remember with live videos: unless you find another way to save or record them, the video will disappear in 24 hours, making it difficult for users who couldn’t watch the initial stream to participate.

Lilach Bullock at Core DNA points out that because live video has become so popular this year, many social media feeds are oversaturated with live video content, which means you’ll need to make your content stand out. If you can build a reputation for delivering relevant, interesting how-to content, you’ll build enough of an ethos with your audience that it will search out your live video among the mediocrity.

Whitepaper How-To

Considered by some to be the most effective marketing tool, whitepapers offer another medium for how-to content. Providing how-to content through long-form copy such as a whitepaper gives you more room to maximize your content, while a video how-to guide may be limited to a few minutes. How-to content contained in a whitepaper often involves more than the how-to guide. Because you have the room, you can use whitepapers to explore the actual problem your how-to guide wants to solve. That can provide a resource for your audience to decide if your how-to content is actually solving the problem they think it is.

You can also use that space to explain the dangers of the problem and the benefits of the solution, which will further convince your audience to trust your how-to content, if it didn’t already. After exploring the problem, you should then frame your how-to content as the solution. In his book, “Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged,” Michael Stelzner shares some principles to remember when creating whitepaper pieces, including how-to content:

  • Use graphics, charts, diagrams, tables, and photos. This is especially important in how-to content, when visual aids are often necessary to clearly communicate instructions.
  • Use casual, conversational language. Jargon has no place here. If you need to use a term or phrase that may be unfamiliar to your audience, explain it.
  • Keep your whitepaper under 25 pages. Most how-to content won’t be that long, but it’s always good to remember not to overwhelm your audience.

Some customers may also prefer whitepaper how-to content because it’s easy to preserve. Many whitepapers can be downloaded as PDFs, and many businesses even print whitepapers and sell them at shows. That accessibility may be crucial to your audience.

Interactive How-To

Interactive content such as infographics and interactive infographics marry many of the beneficiary qualities of both written and visual content. Infographics can be designed in just about any way, shape, and form. They can be simple or complex, static or interactive. With an infographic, you can provide both visuals and written copy. Maybe you do most of your how-to instruction through pictures but include a short, simple summary of whatever is happening in the image. Or you can use an interactive infographic, where users can hover their mouse over an image and receive written instructions.

Because infographics are often shorter than a whitepaper and more concentrated than video content, you’ll need to use them for a relatively simple set of instructions that you can break down into steps. Choose images that most clearly illustrate the current step. If you’re concerned that one image won’t be enough, you can use interactive infographics to provide auxiliary images that pop up when the user hovers over the image.

While infographics can be a simple, balanced way to deliver how-to content, they may limit the type of how-to they communicate. They won’t contain the written detail of a whitepaper or the seamless process of a video.

The medium you choose to share your how-to wisdom will depend largely on your purpose, your audience, and your specific process. One medium may work better in one occasion than in another. Choose what works for you, then go and make the internet a better place.

About the author

Michael Walton

Michael Walton is a freelance writer at CopyPress, writing tutor, and novelist. He has a passion for crafting creative content that meets the reader's needs, satisfies them, and leaves them wanting more. He is currently nestled among the mountains of Utah.