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Best ways to Utilize Psychological Theories to get Higher Video Engagement

79% of all mobile traffic will be for video by 2022 as predicted by cisco, this is not a surprise, rather an inevitable trend that businesses should adapt to.

Although video has been on the rise, it is becoming increasingly difficult to capture the attention of viewers and keep it. According to facebook, we have less than 3 seconds to capture the attention of a user.

Why does video Work so well in digital?

The key reason for digital to grow so much is due to its immediacy with which it can convey a vast amount of emotional and informational content to its viewers. Fundamentally we have a psychological bias that triggers our brain to take actions based on immediacy. Which is also known as Instant gratification.

Digital video is an instantaneous form of communication, not only are we able to absorb it with more sensors in our system but we can also make it a shared experience. People can now share a video with ease and also participate through comments creating a profound sense of connection and community.

What is the advantage of videos being on digital platforms?

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half. “~John Wanamaker

Digital Evolution solved John’s problem. With the analytical capabilities of videos hosting platforms, we can now know when people are bouncing away. We can track exactly how far an individual gets through a video before they move on. This information can then be used to optimize videos to minimize bounce.

Cognitive Biases can be effectively utilized to minimize the drop off rates from viewers. Let’s take a closer look at each bias and how they are used in videos.

1.Instant Gratification

We are hardwired to want things…now! Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Basically, it’s when you want it; and you want it now. Stanford Marshmellow Experiment, was done to verify this fact. Here’s a quick video on how the experiment is conducted.

There are multiple ways how Instant Gratification is used in Videos to engage viewers.

1.1 Information on the Thumbnail

Length Of the Video (Time) : One of the key determining factors to view a video is length. If its made easy for the user to see this through the thumbnail it self, it can reduce bounce and also the quality of the video viewers.

The above figure shows how youtube is utilizing time on thumbnails to inform users which results in overall higher engagement.

1.2 Using numbers on the Headline

We no longer read content online, we scan them. Numbers allow the user to get a quick understanding. This also gives us an instant gratification.

1.3 Status Bar

Status bar, or the progress bar comes inbuilt on youtube and facebook, however, if you are doing videos for Instagram this does not exist. You need to show a progress bar on the video itself to communicate the length of the video to the user.

2. Social Proof

We as humans use social proof as a means to make decisions. From deciding what to eat thousands of years ago, we still use these social clues to decide what video we will view. Social proof is how we mostly make decisions online, we make sure to read a few reviews before we buy something online, We even will read reviews of movies before we invest our time in them.

How can we use the same mechanism to get more views.

2.1 Number of Views

The number of views is a general element that is available in standard platforms such as facebook, instagram and youtube. Videos with a high number of views for the same topic tends to get higher click throughs, resulting to get higher views


Comments are on of the key deciding factors for viewers to spend more time on a video. If comments are easily visible about the video, users can make a faster choice to view.

3. Curiosity

According to Carnegie Mellon’s George Loewenstein, curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know.

3.1 Build Curiosity In the headline

“Most Unexpected Auditions from the Most unexpected People” is a common headline format that we commonly see. Creating a curiosity will help you more clicks.

3.2 Build Curiosity within the first few seconds

“We’ll get to that in a bit.” is a common phrase that prolongs the view time of videos. It is also common to see clues or hints about what will happen at the end to make sure the viewers stay throughout the video without bouncing off.

Key Learnings — TLDR

  • Mentioning time in the thumbnail will make easier for user to watch it or not (an easy a/b test could you verify this)

  • Mentioning Numbers can improve with click-throughs (easy a/b test)

  • Always allow user to find where they are in the video, show a status bar if not available from the platform(Instagram)

  • Social proof such as rating, comments, reviews will increase engagement

  • Trigger curiosity in both the headline and the video itself

Interested to find out more on how to create better engaging videos? Say hello

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