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5 Reasons Why Online Video Is So Persuasive



picture of videogenie testimonial
Video Genie lets customers record video testimonials

Let’s say you are browsing for shoes at your favorite online shoe store. You see a pair that looks like what you are looking for, but you aren’t 100% convinced. Then you notice that in addition to the regular reviews written by other shoppers, there is a video you can click on. You click on the video and watch a stream of customers show you the shoe and talk about why they like it. Persuasive? You bet!

Video is one of the most powerful media choices for online persuasion. Here are 5 reasons why:

#1 — Movement in peripheral vision grabs attention — In a previous post I talked about why movement in your peripheral vision is so powerful at grabbing attention. Video online is movement, and so will automatically grab attention more than anything else on the screen.

#2 — Speakers and listener’s brains sync up — In a previous post I talked about the research by Stephens (Stephens, Greg, Silbert, L., & Hasson, U., 2010. Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 27, 2010.) that shows that the brain patterns of listeners synch up with the brain patterns of the speaker they are listening to. This means that a video of someone talking  is going to be more powerful than just reading words on a page.

#3 — Video compensates (somewhat) for the asynchronous problem — In a previous post I wrote about the research by Wiltermuth and Heath (Scott S. Wiltermuth  and Chip Heath,  Synchrony and Cooperation, Psychological Science, Volume 20 Issue 1, Pages 1 – 5) on how synchronous behavior bonds people together. A lot of online communication is asynchronous — the communication is not occurring simultaneously in real time. Emails, Facebook posts, twitter posts, are asynchronous. Chat is synchronous. Synchronous communication is, in general, more persuasive. Video can be synchronous (think Skype) or asynchronous (think TED talk or YouTube). But video does have the advantage of allowing you to hear and see an actual person, rather than the more removed reading of text. In this regard it is the most powerful of the asynchronous media.

#4 — Video can convey emotional info, not just factual — In my book, Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? I talk about how important it is to speak to the emotional mid-brain if you want to get your message across and have your message be remembered. Video has the advantage (over just reading text) of communicating social and emotional information, not just facts.

#5 — Video testimonials combine all the powerful elements together — If you haven’t seen Video Genie in action, I suggest you go to videogenie.com and check out their example videos. This is a new technology that allows customers to easily make a video testimonial and post it to your site (you get to moderate it, i.e. watch it before it gets posted). I’ve talked a lot (in books and other posts) about why testimonials and reviews are so powerful (it’s the principle of social validation). Video testimonials are social validation on steroids. Social validation, brain syncing, emotional content… you just can’t beat this for persuasion.

The technology for video is finally getting easier and easier to create and integrate online. (Another interesting example is Vokle.com — it allows anyone to host their own video talk show, live, with people calling in.)

What do you think? Are you using video at your site?


11 responses to “5 Reasons Why Online Video Is So Persuasive”

  1. ed s Avatar
    ed s

    Video seems contrary to the spirit of the web however since its not very custom (everyone sees the same thing), its choreographed (there is a start, middle, end and needs it for context), and is really just an old medium delivered in a new method (and often of very low quality). Granted people love stories and when done well its useful but I would argue the web is about interactivity and video limits our interactivity.

  2. Susan Weinschenk Avatar
    Susan Weinschenk

    ed s — I don’t know that I agree with you on this. everything on the web is an old medium (i.e. text? photos?), and if you check out vokle and video genie — those are examples of not choreographed video and interactive video.

  3. Ronnie Avatar

    Imagine how much more popular web video would be if it were regularly closed-captioned, so that the approximately 1m deaf and 8m hard of hearing people (according to Gallaudet University) in the US alone could access it?

  4. Ted Lesher Avatar

    My Prediction: I think you will see the use of video to sell merchandise explode. The eCommerce shopping carts are a bit behind the curve, requiring customization and several clicks to get to a video clip of an item, but it’s doable.
    I will be featuring pets, swing sets, and homes on my garage sale website (under construction). Real estate agents are already using video extensively. YouTube makes mounting video clips to websites easy.
    And I disagree things have to look “professional” Home made music videos (See CED Baby, My Space and YouTube)and “do it yourself” videos becoming very accepted by users.
    Look at the lineup of current TV shows (“Funniest…”)and you will see the “amateur is acceptable” trend clearly.

  5. Linda W Avatar

    Interesting post! And I liked Ronnie’s comment about captioning videos. It would not only help the hard-of-hearing, but would also be useful to those of us who turn off the sound so that we can surf privately.

  6. Troy Nalls Avatar

    I earn a living producing web video for small businesses. At first I thought is was about “filmmaking” but I found out it’s about creating a virtual pre-relationship. It’s about marketing and telling, not selling a story. Done correctly (in 3rd person, with NO call to action), the viewer feels like they are getting to know the subject. I’ve had my clients tell me that their clients remembered most of what was said on the video but none of what they read.
    @Ted – Quality is an issue. Most people try to save money and do videos with a Flip camera. Nothing wrong with a flip as long as the audio is good. Audio is more important.
    @Ronnie – That sounds like a good biz angle for you

    Video is going to get bigger, better and cheaper!

  7. bernard schokman Avatar

    I agree with you on all these points. Nice to have the research to back it up. I know when I’m learning I prefer to watch and listen, rather than read. It’s faster and more enjoyable for me. It’s easier for me to understand and critique what I’m watching because I’m more engaged. The point that Ronnie makes is an important one too. In that case you have the transcript. Makes you wonder how youtube and TED are so popular though doesn’t it?

  8. […] the art of persuasion. I encourage everyone to check out Susan’s article, 5 Reasons Why Online Video is So Persuasive. E-commerce is all about sales, and sales are all about conversions, and conversions happen from […]

  9. […] Psychological study explaining 5 reasons online video is so persuasive as a marketing tool. […]

  10. Julian Avatar

    Great article! Love the psychology behind why video is so powerful. I especially agree with reason #4 – take those ubiquitous Corona commercials as an example. Watching the nameless, faceless people enjoy their ice-cold Coronas on a beach transports you as the viewer to that place – you can imagine yourself sitting in that chair on that beach looking at that view with that beer in your hand, and it makes you want to go buy that beer, the one thing in that whole scene that is the most easily attainable. That’s why I think online video is set to boom so quickly. Thanks for the post!

  11. Kelly Dale Avatar

    I could not agree with Susan more, I recently joined a video production company and they are literally taking the market by storm. With their ability to incorporate video into marketing, elearning, sales training etc… they have found a niche in a growing market space and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

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