Imagine you can make your videos irresistible so that nobody would dare skip them. Luckily, there are some simple fixes you can make within the first 30 seconds of your videos that can really change how well your videos stand out so they increase your audience retention.
The secret lies in something called the hook, which is the method of grabbing the viewer’s attention in the first few seconds of your video and motivating them to watch the rest of your content. Read on for more of our strategy tips or take a look at our video on this topic:
The Successful YouTuber’s Guide to the Audience Retention ‘Hook’
The best creators use various techniques to build tension, and interest and keep viewers watching, and we’ve learned some really sneaky tricks from them. If you know these, you can finally stop losing tons of viewers during the first few seconds of your upload and start seeing them stick around until the end.
The first one is super helpful, but the second one blew our minds when we first discovered it.
But you need to understand this first. Your video hook is not just what plays when somebody clicks on your video. It is what plays before somebody clicks on your video. That’s because earlier this year, YouTube introduced the inline player. Pretty much this feature allows viewers to watch videos as they browse YouTube. Meaning that even if you master your title and thumbnail, if a viewer pauses just a moment before clicking on your video, your beautiful thumbnail disappears, and the video intro will start playing. We went into detail about this feature in this post.
It’s at this moment where a viewer can choose to keep watching or to keep scrolling. Since auto plays from the inline player count as views, it’s part of the reason why you see huge drop-offs from the first five to 10 seconds of your video. It’s likely that those viewers never even clicked on the video. They watched the intro in the feed, didn’t get hooked by the content, and kept scrolling. That’s why creators invest so much time planning and editing their intros because they know it’s the difference between keeping or losing a huge portion of their audience.
#1 YouTube Audience Retention Hack: The Cold Open
So, what’s the first trick top creators use? You see it all the time on TV, in movies, and on YouTube. It’s a trick being used in the first scene of Breaking Bad. It’s the same trick creators like Colin and Samir use when their interview episode starts with the guest saying something surprising. Like Miker Rober in the following video:
There’s a reason why this cold open technique works so well. It’s because the cold open creates a sense of mystery. The viewer is left wondering what the heck happened in that scene, and they’re motivated to keep watching to find out. It’s the practice of jumping directly into a story at the beginning of the show on a theory that involving the audience in the plot as soon as possible will reduce the likelihood of them switching during the opening commercial.
For creators, this means reducing the likelihood that that viewer will choose to go to a different video. You want your viewers to say oh, I have to see this. They can be jokes, action scenes, or skits. However, there’s one style of cold open that always seems to grab people’s attention and keep them watching, and that’s the flash forward. This is a cold open that teases the later events of your video. By doing this at the beginning of your video, you get viewers excited about upcoming events, and it’s a great strategy for getting a viewer to click into your video from the inline player if they had any hesitation.
#2 YouTube Audience Retention Hack: What’s at Stake?
There’s an even more powerful technique that creators use in their videos, and once you discover what it is, you will see it everywhere. Check out the first 20 seconds of this video and see if you can spot it?
Did you notice? Let’s go back. Ryan’s dad bet he couldn’t survive a sensory deprivation tank because Ryan has a screen time problem, and they agreed whoever lost the bet would face a consequence. Which, if you think about it, wasn’t necessary for the challenge. It was a clever way of raising the stakes. It’s simply introducing risk, impact, and rewards into the story that gives viewers another reason to care about the outcome.
By introducing stakes, you’re telling the viewer that there’s something to be lost or gained as a consequence of the outcome of your story. Maybe you didn’t care about the sensory deprivation tank, but now you care to see if Ryan can break his phone addiction. Who will win the bet? Maybe you want to see the loser go through the punishment.
We use this example because it’s super subtle. It’s not extremely obvious. It’s easy to look at a MrBeast video and see the stakes. There’s a lot of money and prizes on the line, but creators like Ryan do this in ways that you barely even notice.
Do you see how all of this adds some pressure and curiosity to see the outcome? Stakes are everywhere. YouTube creators use stakes to hook viewers into watching until the end to see if the characters win or lose, learn something, or achieve their goals.
There are so many things that creators do and don’t do that might seem simple on a surface level, but when you go deeper, there are layers of storytelling that get viewers to commit.
Carla Marshall is the Content Marketing Manager at TubeBuddy. She has 10+ years of experience in video marketing, social media management, content marketing, DRM, & SEO