Scriptwriting for YouTube: Best Practices for Grabbing Viewer Attention
December 26, 2023
So, you want to create a video for YouTube. And why wouldn’t you? YouTube has more than 2.7 billion active users as of 2023, which is one of the largest active audiences on the planet. It makes sense that as a creator you would want to take advantage of that visibility and platform, but remember...you're competing with over 50 million other channels.
If you’re looking to put a video out into the world, according to YouTube, you have exactly 15 seconds to get their attention. It’s not a lot of time but it’s definitely doable when you know which techniques to use.
Below are some best practices for grabbing view attention on YouTube.
Identify Your Target Audience
Who are you writing for? Are you writing for college student gamers? A younger audience who likes vlogs? Single moms who are looking for comfort and a laugh? When you know who you’re writing for then you know what they need and value so you can write towards that.
For example, CinemaSins knows its audience: snarky cinephiles who like to analyze and critique movies. And that's exactly what the channel gives them. With over 9 million subscribers, clearly they're doing something right.
What is Your Voice?
Every successful YouTuber has a distinct voice. Emma Chamberlain, Cocomelon, Hot Ones. Their tone is unique and helps them stand out to attract the type of viewer that will watch their content.
Are you funny and cracking jokes? Or are you a parental type offering sound and sage advice? When you determine your voice then you can apply that to your script writing process and anchor that into what you have to say.
What is Your Video About?
It’s all about the headline. What are you sharing? And what’s the most compelling way that you can categorize that? Your title must inform the viewer about the content that you’re sharing as well as entice them enough to click on your video. When it comes to grabbing your viewer’s attention through your title, it’s all about the hook and being succinct.
Even if you're not into cooking, this title from an Epicurious video would probably make you want to watch just to see if the featured pro chefs can answer a question we've all asked ourselves while food shopping: which pasta sauce tastes best?
You don’t have to know your title from the beginning, but knowing your title will keep you focused on what exactly you’re writing and the value you’re adding through your content so you don’t stray too far from it and end up misleading your audience.
This connects further to your video’s title. Like your headline, your intro needs to be snappy and to the point. Basically, you want to set up the rest of your video like a teaser in the first ten seconds. This means right away you want to introduce your video clearly and with something compelling so your audience knows exactly what you’re sharing and also wants to stick around for the rest of the video.
In this Kurtis Conner video, not only does he quickly explain what his video's about but we also get that KurtisTown clap — a signal that it's officially go-time.
Maybe you present the main problem you’re solving or tell a joke that relates to the rest of the video. Essentially, tease the rest of the video so the audience is intrigued about what you have to say.
Here is the meat and potatoes of your content. But because viewers' attention is short (the most successful videos are typically seven to 15 minutes long), you want to abide by the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid) no matter who your intended audience is. Meaning you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too much information. Make your video as long as necessary and as short as possible.
What do you need to say? Break your content into short chunks with simple subheaders as you ask yourself the following questions: What is the goal of this video? What am I offering? Why will people care? What will benefit people? What do I want viewers to take away from this video?
Nerdwriter is one of the best video essayists on YouTube because he packs so much interesting information oftentimes into less than 6 minutes.
Keep Sentences Short
Because you’re not working with a lot of time, it’s essential to make every word count. Vary the length of your sentences while erring on the side of “the simpler, the better.” Most importantly – make sure your words emotionally impact your audience.
Whether you’re making your audience laugh or cry, you want your content to connect to people’s emotions. That way, viewers will remain intrigued and want to stay.
Keep it Conversational and Personal
YouTube viewers don’t want to feel like they’re in school and being dictated to by a bossy teacher. They want to connect with you and feel like they know you even if you are teaching them about screenwriting, for example.
So keep your script laid back and casual as if you’re talking to a best friend about something very important and dear to your heart.
Jaime French encapsulates this idea entirely. She's chill. She's funny. She's your buddy who gently makes fun of movies on YouTube.
Your Call to Action
There should be a clear call to action (CTA) at the end of your video. Whether it’s asking for a like, a subscription to your channel, or even a sign-up to your website or newsletter, encourage viewers to take action towards your chosen destination. That way viewers know you’re sticking around and can connect with you further.
Written by: Brianne HoganBrianne Hogan is a freelance writer currently based in Prince Edward Island. A film studies graduate from NYU, her byline's been featured in Creative Screenwriting, ScreenCraft, The Huffington Post, among others. "Jurassic Park" is unashamedly her favorite movie (at this moment). You can follow Brianne on Twitter via @briannehogan