Call it The Rise of the Moving Picture, Part Two. Much like the first films revolutionized entertainment 100 years ago, videos are reshaping the internet. By 2021, they will account for more than 80 per cent of all consumer web traffic, says tech giant Cisco.

That’s a dramatic increase from just a few years ago, when words and pictures dominated the internet. This explosion means content marketers and creators will need a strong video game to keep their clients happy. And to do that, they’ll have to avoid some of these common pitfalls.

Don’t feel like you need to spend a fortune

Sure, you could go all Apple and pay Dwayne Johnson (presumably) a king’s ransom to appear in a four-minute epic about Siri. But virality can be achieved for a lot less.

 

Take this short about train safety from ad agency McCann. With simple low-tech animations and a catchy tune, it is one of the most successful pieces of content marketing ever made, generating 150 million views and spawning both a hit song and a video game franchise.

Don’t neglect the story

Humans have been telling stories for millennia. In all that time, the ingredients for a great yarn have not changed: you need character, conflict and resolution. The best web videos have those three things in spades, allowing them to connect with viewers on a deeper level.

 

A great example is this captivating piece for clothing company Wren. The premise is fiendishly simple: 20 strangers gather in a room, pair off and kiss. But the spot has more genuine emotion—and does a better job of storytelling—than many movies.

Don’t go on too long

Attention spans are short, and your videos should be, too. An analysis by Adweek found that the top 50 videos on YouTube averaged just under three minutes apiece. Push past that mark, and you risk shedding viewers in droves.

 

If you’re having trouble squeezing your message into a short spot, take inspiration from this iconic video by Volvo. There’s story, there’s messaging, and there’s Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two semis—all in 1:16.

Don’t over-complicate things

You only have a couple of minutes to get your message across, so keep things simple. Focus on big-picture ideas and steer clear of minutiae.

 

Satellite provider DirectTV took that to heart when it produced this rap parody to promote its new NFL app. The spot, which features quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, could have become mired in details, such as download speeds and pricing. But as the Manning brothers say (repeatedly), it’s really all about “football on your phone.”

Always have an attention-grabbing opening

The internet is not a place to dally. If your video starts slowly, most viewers will move on before they get to the meat of your message.

 

That’s why it’s crucial to have a catchy opening, like this 2015 video for Android, Google’s operating system. It starts with a shot of an orangutan embracing a dog (wait, what?!), then wallops you with a cuddlefest between a kitten and two ducklings. From that point on, you’re powerless to click away.