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Mastering How-To and Instructional Videos

How do you fold a fitted sheet? Apparently, the answer is not “crumple it into a ball and shove it into a drawer.” Who knew? Martha Stewart knew, and her instructional video on this topic went viral. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a video about folding a sheet captivated nearly three million people on YouTube and garnered Martha guest spots with everyone from Oprah to Dr. Oz so she could teach us her moves.

We still think “crumple it into a ball and shove it into a drawer” is a perfectly acceptable method. However, the larger point is that instructional videos are exceptionally popular — and powerful.

Instructional Video: The Go-To for New Challenges

What do you do if you have to fix a leaky faucet? Get a fussy baby to sleep? Knot a tie? The first step for all of these processes is to go to YouTube. According to a Pew study, 87% of us say that YouTube is important when we need to figure out how to complete a new task.

In fact, a Think with Google study found that the #1 reason people tune into YouTube is to “help me fix something in my home or car” (65%). “To be entertained” was second (57%). Audiences are hungry to learn, and they prefer to do so via educational videos..

  • Every day, how-to and educational content is viewed over 1 billion times.
  • 4x as many people want to watch a product video rather than read about it when making a buying decision
  • When instructions are provided visually, two out of three of us complete tasks more effectively and we take in the information 7% faster.

When someone watches an instructional video, it is a strong indicator that they are ready to buy – from someone. As they are more likely to trust a brand that has delivered value in the past, your video content gives you an edge when it comes to converting them.

Planning a How-To/Instructional Video

Any effective instructional video – any good video, for that matter – begins with a plan. Get out your notes app, whiteboard, or cocktail napkin and think about:

  • Your target audience. Always start with them. What do they need to know? What questions do they have concerning your solution – and how it can help enhance their lives in some way?
  • Your learning goals. After watching the video, what do you want your prospects and customers to be able to do? 
  • Optimal video length. Generally, shorter really is sweeter, especially given busy schedules and shrinking attention spans. A topic like folding a fitted sheet or tying a tie can be resolved successfully in a short video. If you have a particularly complex offering, though, consider creating a series of how-tos. Asana is a master at this with their “How to Asana” series that breaks down massive solutions into easily digestible pieces. (See below.)
  • Your expert. Who, within your organization, has the expertise and skills necessary to help your viewers complete the task. “Stage presence” doesn’t hurt either!
  • Your budget and logistical needs. Nail down a budget and the basics, such as where you will shoot, what equipment you will need, and, of course, which video production company can best help you create dynamic, engaging content.

As part of your planning process, work through the steps of your how-to process to ensure they flow smoothly and make sense to someone who may have limited knowledge of your solution. And while you’re at it, why not subject innocent coworkers, friends, and family members to the process to see if you’re hitting the mark? Practicing will also increase your subject matter expert’s comfort in front of the camera, so when it’s go-time, they… go.

Filming a How-To/Instructional Video

Our next statement may shock you: it is preferable to work with a professional team when creating your instructional video. Obviously, we’re biased here, but the point remains: you want your video to reflect your professionalism and the value you bring to customers. DIY is great if you’re making a centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table (Martha has some how-to videos to help you with that), but when it comes to video marketing, quality, and appearances, matter.

Presenting your solution in a clean, streamlined, and logical manner is essential. How-to videos are little good if they are difficult to understand or follow. The typical, and winning, formula here:

  • Introducing your presenter
  • Outlining what your video will cover (and mentioning if any tools, accessories, or equipment is required to perform the task)
  • Presenting the material in a step-by-step manner
  • Summarizing everything you’ve covered
  • Adding a CTA directing viewers to your website for more information, download a more detailed guide, subscribe to your channel or newsletter, purchase, etc.

While there is a formula, your instructional video does not need to be formulaic. They can even be so compelling you cannot look away, like this one:

For about $2.00, you can buy enough ramen to feed some college kids and fix your furniture! Bonus points for the creators: no matter what language you speak, it’s easy to follow. Maybe not easy to fathom, but definitely easy to follow. This is the crux of producing an instructional video: maximizing ease of use. Convenience. Making a project or task possible and attainable.

On To Post-Production 

Post-production is your chance to add critical elements to your instructional video, such as music and text, intersperse close-ups of your presenter with shots of the process unfolding, and utilize techniques like time-lapse and hyperlapse (how-to cooking videos often use hyperlapse when they need a super speedy way to show wait times or repetitive steps).

Post-production elements deliver a number of benefits, including breaking up a complex video into manageable pieces and making it more engaging.

A Few of Our Favorite Instructional & How-To Videos

How to Asana

Asana is a web and mobile app that helps businesses organize, track, and manage their work. They offer a vast array of solutions, and implementing them effectively is key to reap the rewards. To help their users overcome some common obstacles and learn basic tasks, they created the “How to Asana” series.

Each video uses the same basic format, host, and bright yellow background and runs two minutes or less. The consistency is reassuring and familiar. The host takes viewers through the steps; post-production add-ins, like music, are not distracting, and the clear step-by-step directions are easy to follow. If you need to know how to Asana, this is a quick and slick way to do it.


In this video, Hubspot tackles a tricky topic: increasing organic reach on Facebook. Given the social network’s prioritization of content from friends and family, brands are struggling with this. Hubspot’s Megan Conley explains Facebook’s News Feed algorithm clearly and uses graphics, animations, and screencasts to make the information come alive.

This video nails it in another way: they don’t mention their solutions or deliver a sales pitch. They provide helpful, actionable insights – thus subtly conveying their expertise and ability to provide solutions.


And, because we were getting hungry, here’s a how-to from Tasty. They’ve perfected the art of the instructional video:

Tasty utilizes text, hyperlapse, and music – though most of the videos are sound-agnostic. The quick tutorials make rustling up some dinner seem like a breeze. While they are featured on Tasty’s website and YouTube channel, their format also makes them tailor-made for social media. Followers (97 million on Facebook, 33.5 million on Instagram, and 10 million+ on Pinterest) can scroll, watch, react, share, and move on with a few menu ideas.

How to Get Started 

Instructional videos have the potential to catapult your brand into the forefront of your audience’s mind. AGP can help you determine which stories you need to tell – and which processes or steps you need to explain – and bring them to life with a video that seamlessly blends education and engagement. Ready to get started? The how-to is simple: just get in touch, and we’ll get to work.