“A good video can make all the difference.”

~Brian May

IF A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS, you could say that a video is priceless.

We live in a time when a single video can tell your story, tip your brand — or change our world. Cases in point: JK’s Wedding Entrance DanceWill it Blend?— and We Are All Khaled Saeed.

Over two billion videos are downloaded every day on Youtube. That is roughly equivalent to the programming that the three major television networks put out.In one year. And, in my estimation: user-generated videos are just getting started. As these tools (such as smartphones) become more pervasive — and they are — an increasing number of people will produce video content.

Predicting the success of a video is next to impossible. Who would have ever guessed that “Charlie Bit My Finger” would have garnered more views than five Superbowl commercials? However, there are some guiding principles to help you produce winning videos, whether they’re for your personal brand, your business — or your cause. Here they are:

 1. Keep it Short & Sweet.

People, particularly in social media, have shorter attention spans. Studies show that attrition rate after 30 seconds is roughly 82% (unless the video is compelling or celebrity-driven).

2. Start Strong.

A Jupiter research study found that people decide — in the first two seconds — whether or not they will watch the remainder of a video. It’s important to capture their attention in those two seconds, but not necessarily with stagecraft. Strive to be compelling and give them a reason to keep watching. Have you ever watched thoroughbred horses break out of the gates? It’s so jaw-dropping that we cannot help but keep watching! Break out of the gates in your videos!

3. Make One Point (and No More Than Three).

Nielsen reports that humans can only process, and retain, three simple messages in a short span of time. Do not overload the viewer with granular facts and minutiae. You needn’t make them an expert. Just pique their interest. Pick 1-3 concepts you want to convey and use anecdote, humor and color to bring texture your videos.

4. Entertain, Inspire, Inform—or, Ideally, Do All Three.

Frame messages in the interest of the viewer. The fact is that people care less about your product, brand or cause than they do about how it improves their lives. Stay viewer-centric and seek to leave them informed, inspired, entertained—or all three. Humor is powerful, engaging and effective—if you can pull it off.

5. Produce Share-Worthy Content.

This relates to the point above, but it warrants its own coverage, because it’s essential to understand in this “word of mouth economy”: in a single click, people can share your content farther and faster than ever before. Here’s a litmus test: Produce content you’d be compelled to share with your family.

6. Speak From the Heart.

People have sensitive antennae in social media. These channels were created as a very refuge away from corporate marketing. People know contrived when they see it, and it can do more harm than good. Speak in a “human voice.” Mean what you say. If you’re interviewing someone, ask them to be honest (even if it means they aren’t uniformly positive; it will be more credible.). If you try to message people, you will never reach a wide audience. If you win people’s hearts, you can reach the world.

7. Have a Clear Call to Action.

Ask yourself: “What do I want the viewer to do?” You need to move people to action, otherwise you may achieve non-financial outcomes    (video    views)    in    lieu    of    financial    outcomes (conversions/revenue). Tell viewers what you want them to do. And, if it’s possible to edit the video with a graphical outro, do so.

A single video that resonates in the hearts of enough people can achieve breathtaking results for you, your business or your cause. You have never been more empowered.

The question is: what will you do with that power?

Eric Harr is the new Social Media Expert for CBS News and the Founder & President of Resonate Social Media. This post is excerpted from his best-selling new book: “The REAL TRUTH About Social Media: 8 Timeless Truths Uncovered & 8 Monumental Myths Revealed” available online and in bookstores across America. [Use code “GIVEBACK” on the REAL TRUTH Website and receive 10% off. Proceeds benefit CARE, to defend dignity and fight poverty worldwide. For more information, visit: http://ericharr.com. Connect with him on Twitter.