4 reasons why your video failed—and how to fix it next time

Mistakes are OK—beneficial, actually, as long as you learn from them. Follow this expert advice to craft your story, resolve tech glitches and market it wisely. Just hope Chewbacca stays offline. 

You spent hours on that video script you thought was killer. The entire production came together without any issues. 

The person you were interviewing was funny and thought-provoking and even got a little emotional on camera. The edit was painless. The graphics were snappy and delivered on deadline. You came up with the pithiest headline and social media post that would make even @Wendys jealous.

And now: No one is watching! What is happening?

Ever feel like this? Don’t panic. You’re not alone.  

Every video producer goes through this. Usually after every video, TV show or film. It’s the loathsome nature of being a visual storyteller. Second-guessing is the worst. You were sure your video was going to go gangbusters, and yet, for whatever reason, it didn’t. It was, for lack of a better term, a mistake. A terrible, awful, you-shouldn’t-have-done-that mistake. 

Don’t fret. It’s not that bad. 

As I say in my workshops, I love mistakes. Mistakes help us learn and improve and create something far better next time. If not “far better,” something less crushingly mediocre. With so many moving parts, how do you learn from a failed video? 

Right now, you’re probably asking yourself: 

Could it be from that one part with the weird audio?

Or when we left our CEO’s stutter in because we felt like it humanized her? Maybe people hated that?

Or the music! Definitely the wrong music choice, right? 

Or the distribution plan? Maybe we released it at the wrong time? 

My short answer? Yes. To all of them. And more. 

Maybe everything went wrong, from story to sound to social media promotion. Or nothing went wrong, and you just got unlucky and released it on a day and time when your video was swallowed whole by whatever ridiculous thing happened on Twitter. 

Job one is to figure out what happened, learn from the mistake, and apply it to your next video. 

Here’s a breakdown of the four key areas where something could’ve gone wrong with your video and how to course-correct for the next time:

1. The story stuff

Surprise, surprise! A bad story is the No. 1 reason for video failure. 

Your story has to entertain, provide viewers with “huh, that’s interesting” value, make an emotional connection and have a bit of drama—all at the same time. It needs a beginning, middle and end (even though with videos, we often start with our middle or end first to hook our audience). It has to feel far shorter than it is and have a dynamic and effective flow throughout. 

When I watch a video from a story standpoint, the biggest thing I look for is tune-out points—those moments in the video where you find yourself glancing away from the screen, checking your phone, or turning it off completely. This means the story’s flow is off. 

In television, we look at the first seven minutes. In digital video, we look at the first seven seconds

In those seven super-short seconds you have to make an emotional connection, with value and a visual hook. Now do it again every 14 seconds, and keep asking yourself one simple question: Does my story flow?

2. The technical stuff

This is clearly the easiest to diagnose: If your sound is bad, you’re in trouble. If your lighting or focus or framing is off, you’re probably in trouble. Did you make your graphics using PowerPoint? If so, you’re in really big trouble. 

Your audience is no longer conditioned to accept less, from a production standpoint, unless there’s a reason for it. That doesn’t mean you need to dump a ton of money into new gear; you just have to know how to use what you have and use it well. 

YouTube is full of how-to tutorials for better production value from people like Peter McKinnon. Or (cough, cough) you could attend an in-person training session to hone your skills. Either way, master the technical stuff to know when and where you can cut corners.

3. The marketing stuff

The concept is simple: You have to (a) Tell me you made a video and (b) sell me on giving you minutes of my precious time to watch it. In other words, you have to market your marketing. This is where many organizations fall flat. 

Sure, the video itself is a piece of marketing, but if you post it once and hope people will show up simply because you hashtagged it, you’re in for a rude awakening. You are not making content for Netflix or HBO or Marvel or Disney. 

Sorry to say it, but an audience is not seeking out any and all content from you. Audience engagement requires multiple touches on multiple platforms in multiple formats. 

Here’s the easiest way to think about it: One marquee video should yield three to five pieces of content. Below are a few thoughts on how that shakes out: 

  • The actual video, with a snappy headline and text description, captioned within YouTube or Facebook’s captioning function, all search-optimized, right down to the file name. 
  • A GIF of a key moment from your video with captions over it for posting on Twitter and Instagram. 
  • A selected preview of the video uploaded to Instagram stories, with “swipe up” enabled to take you to the full video.
  • A fun or poignant behind-the-scenes moment to upload directly to all social media platforms with a link to the full video on YouTube. 
  • An additional thought-leadership interview with a key person in your video uploaded to LinkedIn.

4. The unpredictable stuff

This is just what it sounds like: the universe conspiring against you and your video. It could be severe weather, breaking news, a platform outage, or a mom wearing a Chewbacca mask taking over every screen in the world for a week—anything that could distract your audience from your content for any reason could lead to that video falling by the wayside. 

I call that “content roadkill.” All you can do is shrug, double down on your marketing efforts, and then move on. 

Justin Allen is a content and brand marketing expert, filmmaker, producer, entrepreneur and conference keynote speaker.

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