Be Concise

10.01.2017 |

Episode #4 of the course How to make a viral video by Carlos P. Beltran


“If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter” – Blaise Pascal, 17th-century mathematician.

Out of all the principles, this one is the most practical, tangible one. But it does not mean it is the easiest to accomplish. Being able to tell a compelling, shareable story in a short amount of time is quite a challenge. Herein lies the need for your best storytelling, and most importantly, editing skills.


Look at me!

People are busy, and the nature of social media content is one that appeals to people on the go. They are riding subways, rushing between meetings, or making themselves sleepy while in bed. So the stories we tell have to grab their attention immediately and keep it throughout the duration of the video. Think of it as fishing; once you hook them, you’ll start reeling them in. If you do your job right (you present them with a great, catchy subject), they’ll bite, and your viewers will continue to bite until the end. You want to do this quick. However, as a professional storyteller/journalist, my goal is to keep content brief, to-the-point, but always with substance. A successful viral video, the way I see it, is not all about the money shots. It is also about the story. So therein lies the challenge—telling a compelling story in a short amount of time.


Practical tip

I suggest keeping your stories anywhere from 90 seconds to four minutes long. Just three or four years ago, you had 10 to 15 seconds to grab your audience’s attention. At the moment of this writing, and according to all of the media network editors I’ve worked with recently, you need to grab your viewers’ attention within the first 5 seconds. So start your video with a teaser—a short soundbite from your subject that is striking and intriguing—and use one of your best (not your best) shot to start the piece. The combination of visual appeal and sound through the soundbite will hook your viewer.



There are plenty of examples when it comes to short viral videos shot by one person in one take that have become worldwide sensations. Remember the Chipmunk? But if we want to be practical and apply these principles to our work as serious video producers, we have to focus on the story, not just the money shots. Watch this story made for The New York Post by a couple of colleagues who found an incredible, quirky character and told the story of “The Green Lady” in just a few minutes. That video has over 24 million views on The New York Post’s Facebook page.

Remember, so far we have learned that a great subject is key and that telling the story briefly is necessary in today’s short-attention-span social media world. The next principle is my favorite—Principle #3: Be Unique.


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