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The Psychology of Online Videos: An Interview with Susan Weinschenk

You might know Dr. Susan Weinschenk as “The Brain Lady,” or from her various books including 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People, and Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? Her latest book, How To Get People To Do Stuff, is due out next month.

Dr. Weinschenk has worked as a behavioral psychologist for over 30 years.  She is the founder of the Weinschenk Institute. Her early work included research on the left and right hemispheres of the brain. After years of teaching and working with clients that include Best Buy, Charles Schwab, Disney and Walmart; she has returned to her neuropsychology roots doing research on unconscious mental processing – decision making, persuasion, and emotion.

Recently Dr. Weinschenk did a video on 4 Reasons Why Online Video is Compelling & Persuasive.  Always interested in what other experts have found with regard to Video and UX, I took the opportunity to interview her and get her thoughts and ideas on other video related questions. Enjoy!

Susan, tell us what you have been up to lately?

How to Get People to Do StuffI’m finishing my latest book, How To Get People To Do Stuff, which will be out in a few weeks (available via pre-order on Amazon now!). If you have liked my previous books, you should enjoy this one, too.

I’m doing some consulting.

I am teaching, too.  I have created some online video training (available at  Plus, I am teaching a course at University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point as an Adjunct Professor — Designing for Engagement.

I really enjoyed your post on the “4 Reasons Why Online Video is Compelling and Persuasive.”  What are some tips and strategies for creating the most effective content in a video?

Here are some key points to remember:

  1. Make sure you know your target audience and create content they crave.
  2. Don’t take too long to “introduce” the idea, get right into it.
  3. Talk faster than you usually do.
  4. Use emotion in your message, your voice, and your face if you are in the video.

What are some ways to measure how effective or persuasive a video is? — 

Just like a website or any other product, really.  Decide what the target action or call to action is — what do you want people to do after they watch the video? Tweet about it? Pick up the phone and call you? Sign up for something? Change their behavior? Decide on a measurable action and then measure it!

We have all seen “bad” videos on the web. What are some indicators of a poorly produced video?

Video production doesn’t have to be perfect in some cases.  Here are few pointers:

  1. Try to have the best quality (lights, camera etc) that you can afford.
  2. Make sure the video is interesting.
  3. Make sure your script is written to be talked, not read.
  4. Avoid “marketing speak.”  We see a lot of videos where the script sounds like someone is reading “marketing speak”.

What makes a video usable? What makes a video a user experience?

The user should be able to control it (start, stop, pause, etc). The sound needs to be good — clear, easy to hear. The content needs to be entertaining or useful. There should be some action/movement.

Use Emotion in your VideosCan you describe situations where videos should absolutely be used, if possible?

When you want to convey emotions, feelings, or stories… when you want to convince people to take action. when you want to grab and hold attention

Can you tell us situations where videos should NOT be used?

When people can’t give their visual attention (driving, etc)

We have all seen Hollywood and ad agencies produce videos that don’t get the exposure they wanted; where someone shooting their cat will get millions of views. What in your opinion makes one video go viral where others do not, despite best efforts?

I’ll be posting a video about why things go viral within a week!   But, I can tell you that things go viral when:

What suggestions do you have for people who are wanting to start developing video content for themselves or their companies?

Dive in. Don’t wait for perfection. Just start. You’ll figure it out as you go along.

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1 Response

  1. Sveta

    I hope that Susan is more considerate of millions of deaf and hard of hearing people who need good quality captions for videos – none of hers are accessible. Voice means nothing to them if they cannot understand what’s said in videos.

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