The following is a guest post from Ryan LaBarge, Technical Support Samurai at Olark. This is the second post in a series covering the basics of how to make support videos and sets the stage for how you can make your own videos easily.

So you have decided to make videos for your customers, that’s great! Not only will it save your support team resources but it will also enhance your existing help pages with another vehicle to help impart understanding!

But as we all know, there is a big difference between desire and doing. In any endeavor, success lies in the details. I take the old adage of failing to plan is planning to fail to heart in most things, and making support content for your organization is no different.

Just from the start of this process, it can seem like quite the ordeal! Not only will you need to plan out the how – like what types of videos, how much resources you can devote to the project, the process for scripting and storyboarding the videos themselves. But also the what – which videos should I create first, how can I determine the videos that can make the biggest impact, what can we better impart via video as opposed to written, textual guides.

As someone who has experienced this first hand, here are rough steps to getting started on this process:

Decide what topics to create Videos for
Decide what type of Videos you are going to make
Create the process for writing Scripts
Writing the Scripts / Storyboarding
Recording
Editing & Post-Production
Hosting
Analytical Tracking

As you can see from this above list, the actual act of making the videos is just a small portion of your efforts spent creating these artifacts. The good news is, once you have all of this structure in place and with a little practice with the process, then the development becomes just writing, recording, and editing. Ready? Awesome, lets get into it!

Which videos should I make first?

When working on starting new large projects, I like to go for the easy wins first. The things that I know that I can do quickly and well. It helps build momentum, and helps you stay positive and moving towards the end result.

Start by making a list of the issues that you spend the most time in answering. Good candidates for this are issues that take a lot of steps to solve, ones that involve a more complex explanation that may be confusing to read (or takes your agents a lot of time explaining), and high-level introductions to groups of features or concepts. If you track cases in a CRM or some ticket system and have categorized them based on types of questions, this can also help you narrow down on the videos you should probably make first.

Next, along the same lines as above, you can use your analytical software, like Google Analytics or whichever one happens to be your brand of scotch, to view which support pages get the most visits during an average month. In our case, it was pretty clear that our biggest targets were regarding things like Operator Commands and helping our customers connect to Olark with clients like Pidgin or Adium.

Finally, don’t forget about what you and your peers feel to be the most prime topics. Quantifiable data is always excellent, but do not ignore your gut when it comes to your creative spirit! In my intro to this piece, I myself was tired of answering basic questions about our Groups feature, for instance. It is somewhat complicated, and involved a lot of explaining when the visitor did not fully understand the documentation. The Groups video was for sure one of the first videos we released!

When all of this data was analyzed, all of the data we gathered was pointing us towards the same conclusion, and thus, the list of videos we wanted to create was born.

When you do this same exercise, be sure to write down all of the ideas that you have from all of the different sources. You can use this list as something of a map when it comes to completing these videos. You may decide that none of the videos are more pressing than the others, or after all of the brainstorming you may discover that you only need to make one or two videos.

In any case, the first step is complete, nice work!

What type of videos am I going to make?

While there literally could be books written on all of the types of videos you can make, I will only touch on the ones relevant to the way in which we completed ours. If you wanted to dive into the world of live action video, I highly recommend the Wistia learning center. If you wanted to work with animation in your videos, I presume you would not be reading this guide on how to make videos ( =D ), but if you do indeed want animated videos, you may wish to contract this work out as it falls out of the scope of this guide.

This leaves us with Screen Captures. I feel this to be the easiest and fastest way towards getting a minimum viable project out. Let’s talk about a few options you have when making these types of videos, and the type of software and things you would need to accomplish this.

Let me start by saying, you could make a video with nothing more than a USB microphone, some sort of screen capture software, and desire! As someone who uses Windows, I use software from TechSmith called Camtasia Studio, to both capture and edit my videos. While this is a paid offering, there are plenty of tools out there you can use for free to capture your screen and your microphone, and let you export that into a video you can host on Wistia with very little hassle on your end. Just holler at Google, and you are sure to find some.

Essentially, the Olark videos we did are simple screen capture videos. The major difference being we went a few steps further and recorded the audio independently of recording the video, and edited everything together in the end. If you have very little time to spend on making these videos, the basic screen recordings will work great, but if you had more resources to spend, I feel going the extra steps in post-production really makes a huge difference in how professional the videos feel. Also, once you get the process of using these tools down, the time you spend actually editing content gets dramatically shorter and shorter once you become more comfortable and experienced with the tools.

How do I write the scripts?

As mentioned in this intro, I believe in “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, probably to a fault! I think the more explicit the process, the better. Not only does it help ensure you cover all of the bases, it also helps you stay focused on the task itself.

When writing your scripts, remember that you will want the videos themselves to be as short as possible. Just like in comedy, an economy of words is the key to success. Studies have shown that attention spans are incredibly short in Humans, even more so as time goes on and technology pervades our life. Be sure to focus on getting the videos down to a digestible 1-2 minute cuts, the shorter the better. It is better to have single videos broken down into parts, than it is to have one super long video.

To help focus on the key points of the video, when you start writing the script, write down all of the things you want to touch on and the main takeaways you wish for the visitor. Write in the most asked questions for this topic, the most common complaints from people using this tool, and take the gathered feedback from your team and add them into the document as well.

I also recommend breaking the video process into chunks. Instead of focusing on writing all 10 or so videos at once, do 3 at a time. You can focus on learning the process, and it lets you get into actually making the videos quicker, and I find the process of actually putting these together quite enjoyable. Again, focus on the easy win’s to keep yourself motivated!

Once you know what you are shooting for, start writing your scripts!

Writing the Scripts and Storyboards

We here at Olark tend to use Google Docs, since it is collaborative, and we use them for a lot of things so it easy to always have access to these documents. I always like to allow everyone who wants to add feedback to the videos to do so, and keep everyone aware of the process as I am going through writing, table reads, and voice overs.

Since you are a support wizard/wizardess, you know that when asking for assistance, customers do not always paint you a clear picture of what the problem is. Sometimes, issues manifest in a way that some will report as just being “Broken” or “Not working” or whatever. You, being asked these questions all the time, tend to see the different ways customers ask these questions and report these issues. Thanks to your experience, you can be sure to address issues in a way that will resonate with those prone to experiencing issues in specific use cases, or perhaps reiterating the same information repeatedly in multiple ways to help paint the full picture.

Remember, be sure to make the script content as digestible as possible for all skill levels. Just like in descriptive writing, be sure to describe your scene and motives to the visitor, to build a complete picture. If you have customers who are not native English speaker, be sure to consider them when writing. Avoid larger words when smaller ones will suffice, and also metaphors as they rarely translate well to those who are not familiar with these expressions.

Another crucial part of the writing process is what are called Table Reads. In the movie business, before any show or movie is actually shot, everyone sits around a big table and reads the script aloud. During this process, one becomes aware of any tricky turns of phrase or words that you just do not find yourself able to deliver in a way that fits in with the script. Because of the benefits garnered from this process, it may be one of the most important devices for you to use to help improve your scripts. Take this opportunity to re-write sections that just do not work, and to clarify things that, while look correct written down, just do not get spoken well.

By now, I am sure that you have been having visions of exactly what your videos are going to look like, and that is fantastic! When it comes to the Olark videos, most of what we wanted to show is basic – Scroll down and enable this feature, a few videos of what the feature looks like in action, and other basic navigation around the app. Depending on exactly what you wanted to include in your videos you could consider adding animation, live action shots…really anything you wanted!

During the writing process, it is important to start thinking of these things, and relating these Storyboards to different sections of your script. When I write these videos, I treat paragraphs in my scripts as sections, and group the stanzas together as best as possible. To help give you examples, here is a copy of 2 of our scripts:

Targeted Chat
Chat Routing

As you can see in these examples, I try to logically split up the scenes based on the ideas I want to share in the videos. The storyboard sections are quite light in information, and this is mostly based on my individual process. Since I was writing, recording, and editing the videos, I left a lot of the visual ideas in my head, instead of trying to write down every detail.

Be sure to consider how you are recording your ideas whilst writing these documents. If you are sharing this responsibility with a team, be sure to be as verbose as possible when it comes to recording your ideas. Since I was the one who was completing these videos, I just put the gist of what I wanted here, and waited till I started recording and editing to fully flesh these scenes out in real time.

Whew, that is a lot of information! Go ahead and pat yourself on the back, you are doing great so far! As I mentioned in the intro, laying the groundwork and doing all of the planning is the hard part. Now that you have gotten all of the hard work out of the way, the only thing left is creating the videos themselves!

Stay tuned for Ryan’s third and final update, where he will talk in depth about the process of actually recording and editing all of the parts you need to create and present your very own support videos!