When I was just a pigtailed little girl, wide-eyed with dreams of being a movie star, I had a green screen in my basement. With a tripod, an old camcorder and a bucket of props including the world’s biggest pair of sunglasses, I was on my way to making video magic. No script, no brainstorming — just whatever idea popped into my head when I looked into the camera.

This quickly became the pinnacle of entertainment for me and my friends and a real nuisance for everyone else.

Looking back now, I know one thing that probably would have made a difference (or at least given our long-suffering families a break from spur-of-the-moment rambling). It all comes down to writing a script.

Okay, so I still might not have been the next George Lucas. But the point is that a video script is the best way to take your content from “rambling kids” to “top-notch video marketing” — especially if you want your YouTube video to have a chance of going viral.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Why Create a YouTube Video, Anyway?

Say you don’t share my childhood aspirations of someday walking down the red carpet. Why should you put time and effort into writing a video script, editing your content, posting it on your YouTube channel and promoting it to your target audience? What’s in it for you?

Well, first things first: YouTube is a big deal. Like, over 2 billion users big, according to Backlinko. That means your content could reach a vast global audience without even breaking a sweat.

Better yet, a good portion of those users accesses YouTube through social media. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all redirect traffic to this content-sharing site. That’s good news for your video marketing strategy — and your marketing strategy overall — because it means this platform is perfectly suited for an omnichannel approach.

Even if you don’t go viral or hit it big on social media, the truth is that video content helps take your brand messaging to the next level. Depending on how you create and promote them, videos can:

  • Simplify complex topics.
  • Engage viewers with both visual and auditory content.
  • Create or support a brand persona.
  • Direct traffic to your website.
  • Quickly describe an intricate process or product (often called an “explainer video”).

Long story short, YouTube video marketing is a fresh, fun way to connect with your audience. All you need is a good idea and a script to support it.

Easier said than done, right?

YouTube Video Scriptwriting in 6 Simple Steps

Here’s the thing about YouTube: There are no rules.

Well, actually, there are a few rules — like the Community Guidelines and Policies. And, of course, every social media platform has a “culture” and expectations you’ll need to brush up on if you want your content to click with audiences.

Maybe it’s better to say that YouTube has rules — but unlike the temporary lifespan of a Snapchat video or the 6-second limit on Vine (RIP, old friend), these rules are broader and less limiting.

That means it’s even more important to write a YouTube video script that aligns with your overall goal, keeps you from rambling and encourages audience engagement, all without leaning into territory that would be better received on a different platform. So how do you do that?

Simple: Just follow these 6 steps.

Step 1: Choose Your Focus

The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of video you want to create. Is it a product demo? An explainer video? An announcement of your newest service?

Whatever idea you latch onto, just remember that the focus of your video will determine what your audience expects from it — and, in turn, how you should write your YouTube script.

For example, say you run a stunning bed and breakfast and you want to use hotel video marketing to promote your newly renovated rooms. The average viewer won’t want to see you standing in the lobby just talking about the updates; they’re going to want a tour. You may want to write your YouTube script as a voiceover so you can emphasize particular visuals without distracting your audience. This type of video also tends to be short — like a “teaser trailer” — which means your writing should be concise and focused.

Step 2: Outline Your Script

Now that you know what direction your video should take, it’s time to start outlining the script. This is where you lay the framework, noting all the most important points and creating a rough sketch of your intro and outro. You might also include a few notes to remind yourself which details you want to cover in which section of the video.

Step 3: Write Out Any Specifics

Here’s where things get interesting.

In reality, a script doesn’t necessarily have to spell out every word you’re going to say. If you’re more comfortable (and more natural) when you’re making things up on the fly, an overly specific script could make your video feel stilted. In this case, it’s probably best to write out only those specifics that matter the most.

On the other hand, if you tend to ramble or aren’t great at improv, you may prefer a more fleshed-out script. If this sounds like you, don’t worry — you can still write a script that feels natural. You’ll just have more work to do in the writing phase to make sure you get the flow just right.

Remember, unless you’re doing a live stream, you’ll have the opportunity to edit your video before posting it to your YouTube channel. Feel free to go a little overboard with your scripting, because once you see the full video, you’ll have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice

Whether you write a full YouTube video script or just give yourself a few key talking points, you’ll need to practice a few times before walking on set. This might sound like a rehearsal, but it’s part of the writing process — the part where you make sure your written content sounds right when spoken aloud. If you notice any awkward points or uncomfortable phrasing, now is your chance to make necessary edits so you don’t stumble when the camera’s rolling.

Step 5: Kill Your Darlings

After filming your video, it’s time to employ that oldest and perhaps most dreaded piece of writing advice: Kill your darlings. A “darling” might be an excellently delivered line or even an entire section of your video — but if it’s not contributing to your overall goal, it needs to go. Editing out these parts of your YouTube script will only make your content stronger and more valuable to your audience. Just remember to have a box of tissues handy, because as all writers can attest, killing your darlings tends to be a tragic affair.

Step 6: Save Your Work

Once your video is edited, polished, posted on YouTube and wildly popular with your audience, you may be ready to turn your attention to the next big project.

Don’t.

At least, not until you’ve saved copies of your original and edited video script. This is important reference material you may need later, especially if you decide to make a follow-up video. It’s also a lot easier to track down details in a written script than to skim a completed video to remember exactly what you said. Plus, you put a lot of work into this YouTube script — don’t just toss it in the trash!

Maximizing Audience Engagement With Share-Worthy Content

If you want every viewer to fall in love with your video content — save it, share it, quote it to their friends — you need to maximize audience engagement. Luckily, there are a few best practices that can help:

Test Your Equipment

Unless you have a professional movie studio at your disposal, the chances are high that you’ll be using everyday equipment and locations for your video shoots. If you’re not careful, this can be a recipe for disaster. After all, there’s nothing more distracting than a microphone that picks up background noise or a camera that won’t quite focus on your face.

For this reason, it’s important to test your equipment at least once before filming your YouTube video. This puts your content in the best possible light, helping you get the most out of that video script you worked so hard on.

Consider Audience Actions

When writing your YouTube script and creating promotional material for the video, ask yourself what you want your audience to do. Should they share the video on social media? Are you hoping they’ll book a product demo or reach out to your sales team? No matter what your desired result is, make sure you weave it into your video planning process from the very beginning. That way, your content is always pushing toward this single goal — and, as a result, audience engagement will increase.

Include Title Cards

Title cards are the video version of H2 and H3 headings. They help keep your video content organized and skimmable, which is especially important if your script is longer than a few minutes.

Better yet, use the description section of your YouTube video to offer links to each of these title cards so viewers can jump right to the content that’s most relevant to them. You can do this by right-clicking your posted video at the beginning of each section and hitting “Copy video URL at current time,” then pasting these URLs into your description.

All-Star Video Content Examples

Now that you know all about YouTube scriptwriting and have a few best practices up your sleeve, it’s time to learn from the pros. Here are a few of my favorite video marketing examples:

“So Yeah, We Tried Slack”

Testimonial videos are a great way to put your customers in the spotlight while attracting others. This one, created by Slack, is a particularly great example because it’s a video about how the video itself was made:

This testimonial video made it onto my favorites list because of its eye-catching visuals and excellent scripting for each “character” (that is, each employee in the video). I’m also a big fan of the self-referential, fourth-wall-breaking setup that puts both Slack and Sandwich Video in the spotlight.

“Introducing the New SurveyMonkey”

A product demo video is a great way to give customers an inside look at your offerings. This example from SurveyMonkey earned a spot on this list for an interesting reason: Its script is all text.

That’s right: You can write a YouTube video script without having to speak a single word. In this case, SurveyMonkey used a combination of on-screen text and product visuals to guide users through the demo — no acting required.

“McDonald’s Wants to Know Your Order Before You Do”

If you want to make a complex process or timeline into a digestible story (no pun intended), you’ll want an explainer video like this one from Bloomberg Businessweek:

McDonald’s Wants to Know Your Order Before You Do – Bloomberg Businessweek from Sylvia Boomer Yang on Vimeo.

The voiceover script aligns neatly with the animated visuals, helping guide viewers through the story, the McDonald’s tech timeline and the resulting advances in drive-through experiences. It’s fun to watch, and, perhaps most importantly, it makes me want to learn more.

Become the Next George Lucas

The green screen in my basement is long-gone (fun fact: it’s now the background of my Zoom meetings!), but I’ll never forget the lessons it taught me. The most important one, of course, is the vital importance of video scripts.

That was true for my fun little movies, and it’s true for your video marketing strategy. Don’t jump in front of the camera and say whatever comes to mind — instead, start writing the YouTube video script that will propel you to fame.

If you need a little guidance along the way, we’re always here to help. Subscribe to our newsletter to get all the tips and tricks you need to become the next George Lucas (or just a really good content marketer).

Ashlee Sierra is a writer and editor from Boise, Idaho. When she’s not buried under her giant dogs, she can be found playing video games, telling ghost stories and having passionate discussions about the Oxford comma.