What determines if your customers actively engage with your video… or shrug and move on to the next thing?

Sure, it’s important to have a great video title that makes them interested…

And a strong opening that pulls them in…

But at the end of the day, you don’t want people to consume your video and forget about it. You want them to do something – as soon as possible.

Which means, your call to action makes all the difference! And one way to make it stand out and engage people more is with video annotations.

Annotations are simply clickable, text-based messages that show up in your video. Most major video hosting services like YouTube and Wistia let you put annotations in your content.

The question is, how do you actually use video annotations in your marketing videos? And more importantly, why would you? If you want to find out, read on…


3 reasons to put annotations in your marketing videos

Reason #1. They are noticeable, but not disruptive

A regular call to action takes your customers out of the viewing experience. Sometimes it makes sense – like when you put a very compelling offer in front of them. Other times, however, it can be an annoying interruption.

Reason #2. They are interactive

Most standard calls to action exist to turn the viewer’s attention elsewhere: to filling out the form below the video, or clicking a link or a button underneath the video, or even picking up the phone and making a call.

For those calls to action to work, 2 things need to happen:

  • The viewer pays attention to, and acts on, their instructions.
  • Along the way, the viewer doesn’t decide to do it later, or change their mind.

But if you put your call to action in a video annotation, and link it to something relevant – a landing page, a free resource, you name it – it becomes instantly clickable. You don’t have to rely on the person to remember what you told them to do. All they have to do is click and go to where you want to take them.

Reason #3. You can change them without changing the video itself

Let’s say you have a marketing funnel with an opt-in offer, and you’re using a whiteboard and cartoon animation video to entice people to sign up. If you make any changes at all to that opt-in offer, or change the steps in the funnel around, you will need to change the call to action.

And that might mean anything from a quick video edit, to re-doing the whole thing (ouch!). But if your call to action is annotated, you can tweak it as many times as you want – the video itself will stay untouched!

6 ways to use video annotations in your marketing

So, now that we’ve established that video annotations are a terrific marketing tool, let’s see what we can actually do with them, shall we?

Check out these six ideas and see if you can apply any of them to getting more traffic, engaging your customers, and growing your business!

1. Grow your off-site audience

If you want to grow a presence on a major third-party platform, like YouTube, you’ll need to jump through some hoops. Sure, it’s the biggest platform in the world for online video (and technically the 2nd biggest search engine) – but its audience is notoriously fickle.

Plus, you don’t have the same control over people’s viewing experience, let alone things like where the viewers go after watching your videos! So your best bet is to grow your audience on the platform itself, and steadily convert that following into more engaged email leads (and paying customers) overtime.

And the easiest way to do that is to ask them to subscribe with a strategically place annotation. Just don’t forget to put the link in there, too!

2. Build engagement with viewers

Have you ever gone on Wikipedia to look something up… only to find yourself, 2 hours later, reading about a random topic, like the roots of British post-punk music scene?

That’s what deep, sustained engagement can do: it will lead your potential customers down a well-designed rabbit hole of useful content, and make them more likely to have positive interactions with, and lasting memories about, your brand.

You can achieve the same effect in your business using video annotations. Here’s what you can put in there to keep people deeply absorbed in what you have to say:

  • Link to a related video on a similar topic.
  • Link the following, or the previous video in a series.
  • Link to engaging content that isn’t video (infographic, slide deck, article, etc.).

3. Create a DIY interactive video

Remember “choose-your-own-adventure” books? You know, where you would follow a brave hero’s journey, make choices for them at pivotal points in the story… and suddenly get eaten by giant spiders. Those books?

You can use annotations to create a “choose-your-own-adventure” video, too. For example, if you’re making an ad for your product, and you want to show off 3 things it can do, you can create an interactive video that would go like this…

  1. It opens by talking about the problems that your customers are likely having. Then, it offers them to pick the one that matters most to them: A, B, or C.
  2. The viewer would click the relevant annotation, and skip to the part of the video that reveals how your product can be used to solve that exact problem.
  3. Even if the viewer doesn’t click anything, the video would still touch on all three problems in sequence, and wrap up with a call to action. Win-win!

If you want to see how interactivity like this would work in the real world, check out… recipe videos. No, seriously – like this one, about 4 ways to make risotto. It demonstrates the technique perfectly!

4. Grow your email list

Of course, you can also use video annotations to grow your email list. In fact, that’s the #1 goal you should use them for – to nab the most engaged, the most interested members of your audience and funnel them into your highest-engagement marketing channel (email).

The steps involved are very simple:

  1. A potential customer watches a video: it could be an ad, a whiteboard explainer video, a simple announcement video, you name it…
  2. At a certain point (for example, at the start and at the very end), they would get a prompt to download a freebie, or register for an event, or complete a quiz.
  3. They would click the annotated call to action, and go to the landing page: to download the opt-in bonus, go through the quiz, sign up for the event… you get the idea.

That’s it – now go funnel that traffic and convert it into loyal subscribers!

5. Link to relevant resources

Sometimes, relying on just video to communicate something to potential customers isn’t enough. In that case, you can use annotations to link to relevant resources that enhance your viewers’ understanding of the topic you’re covering.

For example, let’s say you’ve created a video that compares 3 software applications. Of course, hearing all about their pros and cons in an engaging video is very valuable to your potential customers… but chances are they will want some kind of chart, or infographic for easy reference.

That’s when you can link to that resource with a well-timed video annotation, and tell them, “You’re welcome!”

Note: Most of the time, there would be no reason not to turn these resources into a lead magnet of some kind, and use it to collect email addresses. But ungated content can be just as useful: your customers will value small, meaningful gestures like that!

A good rule of thumb is, if a resource doesn’t solve a direct problem, don’t make them give up their email to get it. Just link to it.

6. Fixing errors

Finally, sometimes you mess up. And that’s OK. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s important, and even useful, to own up to your mistakes.

If you put inaccurate information in one of your non-mission critical videos (the ones that don’t directly lead to sales), and you discover after the fact that you messed up… you can fix it with a well-placed annotation. And then you won’t have to scrap the whole video, or hope that nobody notices!

This might not be the most valuable use of video annotations, but don’t underestimate it – after all, it might help you avoid a torrent of nitpicky messages about a minor mistake!

Putting annotations in your videos is a surprisingly versatile and effective tool for marketing. You don’t have to apply all six of these tactics to see results. Which ones you choose really comes down to your goals.

Do you put out lots of video content? Your best bet is #1 and #2!

Are you strapped for time, and video isn’t your primary channel? Use #4 and #5, and they will be enough to make a meaningful impact!

Want to dazzle and entertain your viewers? Can’t go wrong with #3!

We hope you gained some valuable advice from today’s post, and you find room in one of your marketing videos for a well-placed polite annotation. Enjoy!