Johns Hopkins University - Computer Science

How-To Videos: 9 Practical Tips to Create 7 Different Types for Your Business

No matter how you cut it, these days video is king. The lockdowns of the pandemic meant that brands and families alike had to use video to express themselves outside of a small bubble. However, in some ways the pandemic only accelerated a trend: How-to videos have become very popular over the last several years. For instance, hobby communities have long used videos to show off their know-how.

With that said, how-to videos are more recent on the business scene. It used to be that most of the idea and knowledge sharing was primarily noncommercial. For the most part, people were simply showing off what they knew. Now, between content marketing and influencer collaborations, many of these videos are branded or sponsored. And, they’re delivering real results for brands. Let’s take a look at them.

Types of How-To Videos

Like so many things on the internet, there’s a wide variety of how-to video types. For instance, some of these videos are very simple: a pair of hands explaining, and demonstrating a technique. On the other hand, different videos are elaborate, with (simple) special effects and a detailed script.

1. Instructional/Step-By-Step Video

YouTube video

Instructional videos can range from lecture-like formats with a person demonstrating the principle or technique they’re teaching or combining speaking and screen sharing depending on the topic, like my example above.

Although many instructional videos are more interesting than this, some will be similar to the classroom lecture with someone writing on the chalkboard. Of course, for technical topics, this may be a very effective video type because it lets the presenter focus on the message.

2. Explainer Video

YouTube video

Explainer videos are often animated films that explain a simple concept. For instance, explainers are popular with equipment manufacturers, because they’re an easy way to show people how to use something. In addition, they’re incredibly practical because some 95% of the population learns more about that item by watching a video than they would be reading about it.

Further Reading: How To Make an Explainer Video That Sells: Your Complete Guide

3. Software/Technology Demonstration Video

YouTube video

By far, the easiest way to make how-to videos about software and other technology is using screen shares. There are several tools that let you easily record your screen and produce something that can be uploaded to YouTube or some other website.

Don’t be afraid to mix studio recordings together with your screen shares to give further educational around your technology, like I have done in the above video.

Further Reading: The 22 Best Video Marketing Tools for 2024

4. DIY Videos

YouTube video

As I pointed out in the intro, DIY videos are one of the original types of how-to videos. In particular, these talk about how a “normal person” does something. And, in many cases, it’s user-generated content. Because of its organic nature, producing DIY videos is one of the ways people become influencers and, in addition, a great idea for influencer collaborations.

5. Webinars

YouTube video

Webinars are another popular format for how-to videos, especially because they let people explain concepts or demonstrate products in more detail. While it’s never a good idea to belabor a point, when people hear the term “webinar,” they typically assume it’s a long video. After all, the term originates from “seminar,” which tends to run an hour or more. In most cases, webinars work by showcasing a how-to through PowerPoint, with a narrator filling in the details.

Some webinars are even interactive. In this case, they are held as presentations through a teleconferencing app like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Then, participants can ask questions or make comments, typically after the main presentation.

6. Online Video Courses

YouTube video

This one might not seem like a good example of how-to videos, but it actually is. In this case, an online video course can be a series of instructional segments about how to use something. For instance, it could be a series of different functionalities available with a piece of equipment, or a series of skills required to make a hobby project.

7. Live Videos

YouTube video

Live video has been a big winner over the last couple of years. It used to be that you pretty much had to prerecord any video and upload it. Now, streaming is insanely popular to the point that there are many competing services dedicated to it. In addition, a lot of live videos involve subscriptions or other monetization tools.

One of the beautiful things about live videos is that they can be archived and thus repurposed to be like any other of your pre-recorded videos, like my sample above.

Tips on How to Create How-To Videos

Making quality how-to videos is easy, if you know what pitfalls to avoid. While some of these videos, such as TikTok posts and other short-form videos, are edited very little, others are quite elaborate. Luckily, if you follow a few basic rules it’s easy to be successful, whether you’re doing marketing videos or just having fun.

1. Have A Great/Relevant Topic

Nobody wants an off-topic video, especially when they’re looking for how-to videos. If your company makes one kind of product, you shouldn’t be making how-to videos in a different niche unless it’s somehow relevant. Likewise, you shouldn’t make a video that’s too similar to other ones that are available or pick a topic that’s downright boring. Pick something that will resonate with your audience.

2. Keep it Short and Tight

While webinars are relatively well-known for being longer, even with these videos you don’t want it to belabor the point. Likewise, it’s important to avoid going off-topic because doing so detracts from your overall message. At the end of the day, no matter why you’re making how-to videos you want them to get lots of views. If you turn off your viewers, then you’ll fall short of your goal.

Further Reading: The 11 Types of Short-Form Video You Can Leverage TODAY

3. Use Captions

Using captions has several different advantages. For one thing, it makes your video accessible for people who are hard of hearing or deaf. For another, if captions are available than hearing people can watch the video with their sound turned off, which can be useful in offices, on public transportation, and any time they’re trying not to bother anyone. Finally, captions help with SEO by providing additional space for keywords.

4. Choose An Enticing, Value-based, Concise Title

Think about the titles for your how-to videos as their advertisement or business card. Whether people find the video on YouTube, a company website, or anywhere else, they’ll likely decide in a few seconds if they want to watch it. If you provide a concise title that shows people why they should watch your video, then you’re likely to get a lot more views. And, if you’re using these how-to videos as a way to show people that your products solve their pain points, then those views are essential.

5. Have Fun and Mix in Some Humor

Back in the 1980s, there was a famous movie where a teacher droned on and on. Then, he’d call on a student by calling their last name. While the movie was supposed to be funny, in that it’s a caricature of people in authority, it makes a point. Just because you’re explaining something doesn’t mean it has to be boring. If nothing else, being boring makes people go elsewhere to find out about a product. On the other hand, if you have fun and even tell jokes, then viewers will not only keep watching your how-to videos but even enjoy them.

6. Give It A Structure

It’s easier to explain this secret of great how-to videos by flipping this statement on its head. The worst thing you can do is jump from one thought to another, without having a clear direction. Luckily, avoiding this error is easy: if you have a structure to the video, then you’ll stay on topic or at least return to it quickly. By giving your videos some structure, you’ll help ensure that they are valuable for viewers.

7. Create A Script and/or Storyboard

Scripts and storyboards alike keep you on track during the recording of your how-to videos. They also ensure that you cover everything you intended to, and they discourage tangents. In addition, well-planned storyboards pave the way for humor and lighthearted ways of making your point. By following this tip, you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls of blindly recording.

8. Cut It Up and Repurpose It

Content in general, and evergreen content in particular, is made to be repurposed. In some cases, you’ll want to use a thumbnail of your how-to videos as an advertisement for the video itself. Post these on your website, e-commerce outlets, and anywhere that your niche has a community. And of course, you can also make blog posts or other content formats from the original video.

Further Reading: The Best 14 Thumbnail Makers for YouTube

9. Create A Shortened Preview for Social Media

Finally, longer how-to videos can be broken down into shorter ones. You can choose a particular scene from your video to post on social media, and then encourage people to visit YouTube or your website to see the whole thing. People can watch this, and decide that the rest of the video is worth watching. By leveraging this approach, it’s easy to increase the number of views for your videos. In turn, additional views can increase sales, boost customer loyalty, and otherwise deliver great ROI.

Further Reading: 8 Types of Social Media Videos Your Company Should Create Right Now

The Bottom Line

How-to videos are a very valuable resource for brands and their customers alike. These videos teach people how to use something, demonstrate use cases, illustrate the solution to pain points, and much more. Not only are they a very valuable tool for marketing but becoming a voice in a particular niche can be incredibly valuable. Best of all, these videos can be repurposed into other types of content and used for influencer collaborations and other applications.

Hero photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

Actionable advice for your digital / content / influencer / social media marketing.
Join 13,000+ smart professionals who subscribe to my regular updates.
Share with your network!
Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

Articles: 424


  1. Neal, Thank you for this. I have published over 230 videos on my YouTube Channel. They’re well-received, and several paid clients have told me they “found me” on YT, and have turned into paying clients. And my bad for not doing them enough the past couple of years. But this year? I bought a new video camera and I’m going all in. P.S. there’s another type of video small business owners and managers should do. Op-ed videos. They should be giving their opinions on things in their industry they like or don’t like. Why? Do differentiate themselves! To come across as…wait for it…humans. The Franchise King®, Joel Libava @TheFranchiseKing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Table Of Contents