Creating Habit Forming Content: 5 Steps to Creating Irresistible Online Video

You guys hear me talk about the importance audience building all the time. I continually speak about the need to create little, snack-able pieces of content about the broader themes of your larger films and series’ well before making and launching them. Audiences get fatigued by the usual “watch my trailer” posts on facebook, so creating contentent that looks at the larger issues and the real human problems examined in your film or series projects is a great way to draw people into your world.

So if your film is about a student struggling to find connection in high school, you might want to look at creating content focusing on real life examples of people struggling with that issue and then offer solutions to that problem. This connects them to you emotionally istead of just superficialy. This micro-content helps your audience contextualize how your film or series fits into their lives in a more meaningful way, rather than just simple entertainment. It gives them breadcrumbs that lead them to the greater vision of your work.

So just how do you get a viewer to keep coming back and follow your work over the long haul. In this article, I outline 5 human behaviors that make online video content “sticky”.

Make Me A 'Viral Video’

“Make me a viral video”, said the guy at the end of the 30-foot marble conference table as he pulled his laptop out of his sleek Tumi computer bag. “I can’t”, I said. “Viral is a result, not a genre”. The meeting ended soon after that. The myth believed by many creators who want to start a content business using video platforms like YouTube or Vimeo is that, “If I build it, they will come”. Believing that the juicy nuggets of gold dripping from their screen are so compelling that people will flock to it like… well, like whatever they’re going to flock to it like.

Over 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute…

According to over 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute ( That number is fucking mind numbing. How in the hell are you ever going to get your video seen in that quagmire? With numbers like that, it’s getting harder and harder to get people to come to your channel once, let alone return over and over.

I hear it all the time, “No one ever sees my videos”, “I’ve been posting videos for months and I have 11 subscribers”. They fell into what I call the “tactic swamp”, trying anything and everything they read in hopes of success. I’ve done it and it sucks. It leaves you feeling like an outsider looking in at everyone else’s success.

I began to look at video creation like a product designer…

So I started to look at it differently, I began to look at content creation like a product designer rather than simply as a content creator/filmmaker. Huh? Cue brakes squealing here. The thing is, is videos that I want to make, may not be videos anyone else wants to watch. If I’m serious about growing my audience, and in turn growing my content business, I have to be pretty cold blooded about the decisions I make where creating video content is concerned. Filmmaking is time intensive and requires a host of tools and expertise, so if I’m pulling out my camera and “winging it” when creating said micro-content, I can pretty much guess the results.

Creators that are successful on YouTube or other video platforms have one or two things they do well and they do it over-and-over again. They’ve removed the guess work from what form their next video will take. This is not to say they are mindless robots spewing out video widgets, it’s just to say they have a clear structure they run all their creative through. However, the variation in approach and subject matter is what keeps people returning. It’s the combination of understanding what those creators do and wondering what they’re going to do next that makes these “must view” videos so snack-able.

I really wanted to know what kept people coming back…

When I started studying viewer behavior around why certain types of video content were so sticky, I really wanted to know what kept people coming back. Not just to watch one video, but kept coming back to watch every video that creator ever put out. So, I’ve broken down, step-by-step, how these creators built large audiences around their content and turned that audience into 6 and 7 figure online gorillas. Below are 5 steps to creating irresistible and habit forming micro- content. In researching this over the past year, I was very much influenced by the work of Nir Eyal who helped evelop EVENTBRITE (, a famed product designer, he has cracked the code for online products (apps/software) but his work in studying human behavior applies directly to creating habit forming online assets for your original content business.

5 Steps to creating irresistible and habit forming online video:

1. Be Everywhere :

  • If you watch creators, say Casey Neistat, he seems to be everywhere. He’s on Reddit, Quora, Medium, Facebook, Instagram, of course YouTube and every other online platform you can think of. This is hugely important and it MUST be one’s practice if building an online content business is the goal.

  • One ‘must-do tactic’ for video stands out and that is, make your video native to the platform you’re posting to . For example, if you’re posting to FB, upload your video directly to Facebook instead of simply posting your YouTube link. The reason behind this is that it follows the natural form and function of the user experience on which is was placed. The user experience on YouTube is different than Facebook or IGTV. So providing that native experience for your viewers will help them contextualize your content more easily and help the platform’s algorithm promote you.

2. Build Desire by :

  • Creating emotion is much more effective than providing mere information. Emotion is the place from which people make decisions.

  • Identifying viewer problem or pain points when creating micro-content isa huge element in audience building — these are negative emotions that occur frequently in someone’s life. It’s something from which they continually seek relief. Before creating a time consuming video, ask yourself if the pain they have occurs enough to justify the time you’re about to spend making this content. Some examples might be someone’s fear of financial insecurity, or social anxiety in a business setting, fear of a boss, etc.

  • Be the provider of their solution — This creates a feeling of relief in viewers — dopamine and serotonin are released. This is the place that we are going to attach our content to. (Remember we’re talking about looking at building audience through creating micro-content that helps our would-be audience solve their particular problem)

  • That search for relief is the place from which people take action.

3. Create Point of Action:

This is the place where we create a simple and defined call to action which moves our viewers to perform the simplest action, take the shortest route to satisfy their itch or pain. i.e. Place an annotation over your video "watch my video on how to make your greenscreen elements look expensive” or point them to a link in the video description by literally telling them to take that action.

REMEMBER: Make this action as simple as possible. Something they can do NOW. Again, Nir Eyal says it best- “shorten the distance between need and outcome”.

4. All of the above :

Everything stated so far adds up to a simple predictor for human behavior. It comes from a Stanford professor and researcher named B.J. Fogg. It says:

Motivation (viewers pain or itch) + Ability (Shortcut we are providing them to relieve pain/itch) + Trigger (Our External Trigger- Buy Now, Download, Click here, combined with Internal Trigger — an instinctual action people regularly take to relieve itch/pain.

Motivation + Ability + Trigger = Behavior (desired action)

5. Reward:

When people take the actions I’ve mentioned above, it plays on a human’s deep psychological need for survival, i.e. food, shelter, clothing.

However, now, in today’s age of technology, we also have an insatiable desire for information/knowledge. It’s this need for knowledge and information that our videos will acknowledge and stimulate. Online classes or ‘how to’ videos are great examples of ways video uses doses of information to keep people coming back. “If I learn this skill, my life will improve”. This type of reward system stimulates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens which is the area, for better or for worse, where habit, even addiction is formed. It’s why we binge view season 4 of WALKING DEAD or spend all our income betting on the ponies.

Feeding this reward center will build return viewers.

I can hear it now, “isn’t this super manipulative”? No! The fact is, is every human on earth responds to their needs this way. I do, you do, my wife does, your mom does. We seek hope and avoid fear at all costs. It’s what keeps us going as a species. Knowing this as the owner of an online business is the best way we can create value for our audience or customers. If we can provide hope instead of fear, if we can provide solutions to people’s pain, we have a chance to make their lives better. If making people’s lives better isn’t a huge part of your business than I implore you, QUIT, because if your business is about you, I can guarantee, your business is doomed from the start.