Two e-mails in two days announcing online videos. After more or less getting to grips with the post-holiday telephone-directory-like string of emails in my in-box, I thought it might be nice to sit back and relax a bit. 

While educational videos usually spend a lot of time close-up to the presenter, nobody expects them to follow in the footsteps of Cecil B DeMille, but there are enough online videos out there to allow us to pick and choose what we watch. So, you’d better have a few directing skills and be reasonably professional if you want your video to be watched — as well as making sure you’ve got something to say!

With the freedom to pick and choose, engaging with customers — or your audience — is crucial. 

A video that still makes me laugh is called Charlie Bit My Finger. Since this was uploaded onto video hosting service YouTube in 2007, it has become the most watched of all non-music videos. Something in that video engages with an awful lot of people. Within just a few short minutes, the little boys in the video forge a very strong connection with the viewer. 

Like many things in life, a video only really offers you one shot. 

Gold medal or also ran? 

But to get back the video-proffering emails that offered me a diversion from my almost-cut-back-to-size in-box. One came from the American Egg Board and directed me to FunctionalEgg.org. It promised six new videos providing single-subject insights on one functionality benefit of eggs. 

I liked these videos. They were visually pleasant. The presenter, while sometimes not looking at the right camera, spoke slowly and clearly, allowing me to easily hear what she wanted me know. Importantly too, her face was always clear, which adds to the connection between the presenter and the viewer. The effort is smart and slick.

The other email that I used as a break away from me having to communicate with anyone else came from the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, which has launched a YouTube channel — Understanding Science, and which currently comprises 22 videos. These videos take a very different approach to those at Functionalegg.org, a sort of back to school science class approach, rather than a homely kitchen, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

There was one in particular that I wanted to watch as it relates to something that I am working on. I certainly learned from it, but rather than feeling good at the end, I felt a little patronized. The back to school approach is all very well, but you have to pitch at the level of your pupils, and while children may make up a large percentage of YouTube’s viewers, I doubt very much that they will be watching the EFSA channel!

Of course, there are not only a whole host of different approaches to videos, there are also cultural differences that will apply to producers and viewers alike. Being in a country that is doing a lot of flag waving at the moment as host to the Olympic Games, I certainly am not advocating we all follow the example of FunctionalEgg.org, but what is important is engaging on all levels. EFSA may have given me the information that I needed, but I did not feel any better at the end of my time with the presenter. 

Online video is a strong tool for communicating with customers. It is not easy to tick all the boxes in only a few minutes, and I certainly do not offer any answers. However, it is worth questioning how well our videos, or any other communications, really work. Do they engage our consumers and viewers on ALL levels and, if not, why not, and what are the possible losses from failing to do so? 

Charlie and his brother might not be able to give you any answers directly, but they may offer an amusing distraction if you too are now tired of a gargantuan post-holiday in-box. And really thinking about why this video resonates with so many people, and applying what you come up with to whatever video you may be considering, might just make all difference between your viewers engaging or hitting pause.