70.2 May 2023

Convergent Practices in Social Media Videos: Examining Genre Conventions in Business-to-Consumer Content


By Brandon C. Strubberg and Chase Mitchell


Purpose:Technical communication (tech comm) and marketing communication (marcomm) are converging in business-to-consumer (B2C) contexts. Convergent videos integrate practices from both genres to address ever-changing digital audiences. In this paper, we review available literature and analyze tech comm and marcomm social media videos to demonstrate traditional genre conventions. We then analyze a select couple of convergent social media videos to delineate genre conventions across genres. We end by considering four unique convergent strategies that these videos used in combining elements of the tech comm and marcomm genres.

Methods:We selected several social media videos produced by large home improvement brands to analyze the generic practices they employ in relation to accepted best practices in the literature from scholars in tech comm and marcomm. We then analyze videos that fit neither genre in light of recent publications by Adobe discussing genre convergence and note several distinct genre practices that can be ascribed to convergent videos.

Results:We find that convergent characteristics are distinct from tech comm and marcomm. The brands employ convergent practices in some social media videos that blend genre conventions from tech comm and marcomm video production. Specifically, we identify four ways that these genres converge: using technical tasks as marketing opportunities, balancing corporate branding with mundane user ethos, layering content pathways across the interface, and capturing attention with relevance.

Conclusion:Convergence represents a new genre in that it purposefully attempts to engage users across the product lifecycle in single videos. This approach is a departure from traditional marcomm and tech comm video production. Though limited in scope, this analysis provides examples of how convergent videos attempt to achieve this goal. We end by noting our limitations and offering suggestions for future research.

Keywords:Instructional Video, Marketing Video, Content Strategy, Convergence, B2C Social Media

Practitioner Takeaways

  • Define marcomm and tech comm video genre conventions according to recent studies and industry best practices.
  • Identify marcomm and tech comm convergence in B2C social media video content.
  • Recognize emerging convergent practices in social media videos.

In 2017, Adobe published two white papers (Samuels & Aschwanden, 2017; Urbina, 2017) demonstrating the convergence of technical communication (tech comm) and marketing communication (marcomm) for deploying strategic, multi-use, and effective content. This article seeks to expand the discussion about convergence in business-to-consumer (B2C) social media videos. Currently, this conversation is taking place largely within corporate publications, such as white papers and consulting blogs. To illustrate this nascent convergent genre for academic and professional technical communicators, we have prepared a case study of select B2C social media videos from the home improvement industry that engage traditional genres and convergence.

Retailers including Lowe’s Home Improvement (Lowe’s) and The Home Depot (Home Depot) have long produced separate B2C videos for marketing and instructional purposes. Recently, however, these brands have increasingly published videos that deploy elements of tech comm and marcomm in the same videos, much in the convergent style that Adobe’s recent white papers discuss.

Typically, Lowe’s and Home Depot produce presale videos that function as marcomm products, serving to attract customers to the brick-and-mortar or online stores to purchase materials for home improvement projects. Both companies also have vast libraries of postsale video content. Postsale videos function primarily as tech comm products, serving to instruct users how to perform the requisite tasks to accomplish their home improvement projects. In more recent B2C videos, though, we find that the two companies integrate elements of both presale marketing strategies and postsale technical instructions. This kind of convergence in B2C content can be found in videos throughout the home improvement industry, but, until recently, such practices have been haphazardly applied. In the next section we discuss recent scholarship of video production from both tech comm and marcomm and then consider convergence as explicated in the literature.

B2C Video Content

Tech comm

Most current research into how-to videos from scholars in tech comm focuses on examining their effectiveness as tech comm products, often drawing, according to van der Meij and van der Meij (2013), from educational psychology and instructional design. Video instruction standards are not well established despite the field’s discussions of video for tech comm purposes dating back to the 1970s (Mogull, 2014). Morain and Swarts (2012) note that communication principles for print instructional documents have been haphazardly applied to video instructions. Such a lack of any clear principles is a problem given new media landscapes. Mogull (2014) asserts that the widespread adoption of smartphones in the early 2010s has led to increased production and availability of instructional video content. YouTube’s extensive video database included 585 million how-to videos as of March 2018 (Eriksson & Eriksson, 2019). With this democratization of video content, though, these videos are inconsistent in quality: “such low-cost and easy-to-use communication technologies are often associated with idiosyncratic applications of design features that often do not transfer into effective communication” (Mogull, 2014, p. 341).

The proliferation of and ease of using video production software—along with other digital genres—has certainly affected the instructional genre. Pflugfelder (2013) argues the manual has evolved within digital environments, taking various shapes, such as wikis, message boards, and short videos. “What we are seeing in the Web app video,” he writes, “is a relatively new form, one that functions as a quick-start guide, not a complete manual, and often promotes the product while it introduces it” (p. 133). This contention is one of the few acknowledgements of a shift or combination of instructional and marketing content, with Swarts’ (2012) recommendation to “seduce the viewer” being a notable exception (p. 204).

Selber (2010) argues that the web incubates new genres. These innovative approaches to old kinds of documentation are influenced by responsiveness, or interactivity, an important consideration, especially in the age of smartphones and social media. Pflugfelder (2013) notes that longer instructional videos can mirror comprehensive print instructions by providing detail, multiple chapters, clear visuals, and imperative language, all while providing “dynamic visual information” (p. 133). The dynamism of these video instructions alters how users interact with the content and encourages new takes on “reading” the information. Users often take one of two strategies when reading instructional documents: read linearly through the entire instructional document before performing the task, or begin the task until they need help, at which point they interact with the document by skipping to the information they need. Video instructions can address both kinds of instructional strategies. Thus, according to van der Meij and van der Meij (2013), video instructions should be short enough to view linearly before starting the task. Additionally, the responsive nature of digital controls enables users to interact with the video, scrubbing forward or backward to jump to specific sections of the instructions as needed.


Just as tech comm is affected by video content, marcomm is being shaped by digital video genres and platforms. Much online research and shopping is driven by video content because, as consumers have become increasingly savvy in their knowledge of product markets, potential customers research more than product prices. Google (2018) reports that more than half of shoppers say online video has helped them decide which specific brand or product to buy, and more than 90% of people say they discover new brands or products on YouTube.

As the world’s largest video hosting platform, second most-used search engine, and second most-visited website (Collins & Conley, 2020), YouTube has become an essential platform for brand practitioners to leverage in video marketing strategy: it has seen a “110% year-over-growth in watch time of ‘which [product] to buy’ videos” (Google, 2018, n. p.). Andersen (2019) notes that over 80% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying. Using powerful online databases and shopping sites, they compare product specifications, peruse user reviews, and rely on other data points to help them make informed, personal choices regarding what, when, and where to buy. Social media has made this kind of market research even more ubiquitous, as consumers can follow their favorite brands’ accounts for a steady stream of information about new product releases, brand sponsors, and sales and promotions.

Facebook is the world’s most popular social networking site; the platform’s 2.7 billion users (Statista, 2020) can upload and share video content in much the same way as YouTube users. The difference is that Facebook users passively encounter native video (i.e., directly uploaded to that platform; not linked from elsewhere) on their feed, whereas YouTubers actively seek out video content via keyword searches or by subscribing to channels. Categorizing YouTube as a social platform is a “bit of a chimera [. . .] Most people on YouTube aren’t actively creating videos, though they might be participating in the comments or subscribing to channels” (Cooper, 2019, n. p.). YouTube does recommend videos and channels according to one’s subscriptions and viewing history, but users are more likely to look for specific content using the search function. Facebook users, on the other hand, rarely search for native video content; they are much more likely to rely on their in-feed suggestions. Still, 78% of American consumers have found products to purchase on Facebook (Conley, n. d.), which suggests that even though users do not engage with content in the same way that they do on YouTube, branded video content on Facebook also influences buying decisions. Instagram is another social platform where video marcomm has become ubiquitous. According to Hootsuite, over a billion people use the platform every month for an average of 30 minutes a day (Newberry, 2021). Instagram users, like YouTube’s and Facebook’s, leverage the platform to research and buy things: 81% of users seek out products and services; 130 million users tap on shopping posts every month; and 50% of people have visited a website to make a purchase after seeing a product or service (Newberry, 2021).


As the home and garden B2C e-commerce market is projected to grow by over a hundred billion dollars from 2020-2024 (Businesswire, 2020), effectively harnessing the power of video is essential for companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s to grow and sustain market share. This strategy is informed by the convergence of B2C video marcomm and tech comm. Because the most successful brands do not rely merely on wooing potential new customers, but on retaining existing ones (Bernazzani, 2020), by providing video content that is both entertaining and informative, such as product tutorials, DIY projects, and seasonal project ideas, brands create value for existing customers and increase the likelihood that they will keep that business. Urbina (2017) notes, “The relationship is not done when the sale is closed. In a globalizing, hyperconnected marketplace, the strength of the relationship over its lifetime is key to delivering competitiveness and profitability. Customers must be supported from purchase through to advocacy and, most important for large brands, re-investment” (p. 5).

Until recently, however, companies typically conceived of and produced social media videos that functioned as either presale marketing content or postsale technical content. These kinds of “silos between marketing and tech comm teams represent traditional separations of leadership, decision-making, funding and strategy inside the enterprise, rather than customer needs or the reality of multichannel experiences. Departmental silos are number one killers of great customer experiences” (Urbina, 2017, p. 5). But things are changing, and the new convergence of these two kinds of video content, particularly in the home improvement industry, is illustrative of the potential for new and emerging forms of content strategy. A perusal of Home Depot’s and Lowe’s YouTube channels and Facebook pages reveals that many of their videos from the past five years function primarily as either presale (marcomm) content or postsale (tech comm) content. In both kinds of videos, however, the companies mix genre conventions. Videos that primarily target presale customers and sell products often integrate tech comm content. And videos that primarily serve postsale customers to provide technical/instructional content also often integrate marcomm content by highlighting company products, promoting deals, and announcing new product releases. Despite existing mashups of genre conventions in pre- and postsale video content, these practices have been seemingly random and rhetorically haphazard.

The two companies increasingly have adopted a more deliberate, strategic approach to video content convergence for several reasons. Consumers are more discerning with their purchasing decisions, so companies must adapt their presale marcomm content to provide “enough technical details so potential buyers can make an informed decision [. . .] the days of glossy but vacuous marketing content are coming to an end” (Samuels & Aschwanden, 2017, p. 3). Brands must provide enough technical information for consumers to evaluate the products. Consumers want to know both that the product is the best option on the market and why, specifically for them, that is true, alongside other information, such as how the product works.

Just as presale videos have evolved to include more technical/instructional content, postsale videos have started to integrate marcomm content. Samuels and Aschwanden (2017) state that postsale content “has always focused on providing enough technical details to use the product, is now evolving to provide more useful information based on business goals, is presented in a more usable way, and made available in a helpful format” (p. 3). Companies now understand that videos presenting product reviews, tutorials, and DIY projects engage and retain existing customers. Customers do not distinguish between pre- and postsale content while researching products on YouTube and Facebook, so companies can produce videos that engage marcomm and technical/instructional content.

There are other reasons for brands to produce convergent video content. First, marketers and content strategists are “facing multiple challenges: channel proliferation; global/local balancing acts and their associated costs; and of course, customers who are increasingly informed, empowered to self-serve across their lifecycle, and quick-to-switch if experiences disappoint” (Urbina, 2017 p. 4). Video content that serves multiple purposes across the customer lifecycle addresses these challenges strategically and economically. Convergent content increases customer engagement, makes content production faster, and enhances relationships between customers and brands that drives revenue, while also saving resources by avoiding “re-creating or copy-pasting content that has to be laboriously kept up to date in multiple deliverables” (Urbina, 2017, p. 9). Combining the previously disparate pre- and postsale genres can unify content strategy, reduce costs, and streamline user experiences. By “aligning, or better yet, unifying strategies and platforms across the two major communication departments in your enterprise [practitioners] could move the needle on many core content goals” (Urbina, p. 2).

Evolving consumer demographics have influenced the shift to convergent content as well. Bacon (2015) notes that millennials “feel a growing affinity for brands that help them to take control of their lives and offer worthwhile experiences rather than more possessions” (para. 1). Products offering experiential value to these consumers are often an attractive draw for this group. By illustrating hands-on experiences in video content—that at once market products and demonstrate product utility—companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s can capitalize on this demographic’s preferences.

Although such convergence has affected institutional practices for some time and is only accelerating, the phenomenon has not been addressed in scholarly research. There have been industry studies and white papers that consider tech comm and marcomm convergence, but they are focused on business-to-business (B2B) marketing (Samuels & Aschwanden, 2017; Urbina, 2017) and do not focus on video content. Our own search for existing work on convergence, tech comm, and marcomm results in few relevant scholarly works. A notable exception is a recent integrative literature review about content strategy from Dave Clark (2016). Though convergence does not appear in the review, his conception of the umbrella of content strategy would include convergence: “content strategy must include the perspectives of all types of communication—marketing, user experience design, and web publishing—as well as professional and technical communication because the discussion occurs in all of these branches” (p. 11).

It might seem that this article overly relies on corporate publications, but such an approach is necessary. Clark (2016) himself notes the scarcity of scholarship in content strategy, a trend that also applies to research on convergence. Thus, his work and ours rely “on trade literature: industry magazines, professional blog postings, and websites with a third-party editor” (p. 13). As a testament to the quality of the white papers we cite for convergence, Clark too cites Urbina’s work in multiple instances.

Based on the limited literature available, we sought video content for analysis that makes the following convergent moves: demonstrates procedural tasks (though may not identify all steps); incorporates tasks that foreground branded products; calls to action for purchasing decisions; targets interested audiences on social media; provides means to purchase products; and is brief enough to market products but long enough to demonstrate a task. We analyze these initial convergent practices in the videos of this case study. This article seeks to provide both researchers and practitioners an entry point into examining convergence and fill the gap in convergent scholarship by analyzing select B2C social media videos that engage traditional genres and convergence.

Research Questions and Methods

In this article, we present a case study of select videos from the Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube accounts of Home Depot and Lowe’s. We first examine videos that align with genre practices for both tech comm and marcomm video content creation. We then use those examples of instructional and marketing videos to compare with apparent convergent content—as defined by Samuels and Aschwanden (2017) and Urbina (2017)—to discuss how the traditional genre conventions are used in convergent content. Our goal is to illustrate the differences between traditional genres and convergence and aid technical communicators in understanding the genre and how to think strategically about convergent content. As Clark (2016) notes, case studies are needed for this kind of work: “Without specific case studies and methodologies, professional and technical communicators have difficulty imagining how to kick off a content strategy initiative within an enterprise” (p. 18).

In this study, we examine the following research questions:

  • What are the genre conventions of traditional postsale instructional tech comm videos?
  • What are the genre conventions of traditional presale marcomm videos?
  • How do convergent videos use tech comm and marcomm conventions to address their audiences?

Convergence is inherently instructional. Therefore, we decided to look for convergent practices in content produced by brands that typically supply instructional information for their customers. That goal led us to home improvement suppliers: Home Depot and Lowe’s. We searched their social media and video platforms—YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram—for content that exhibited both marcomm and tech comm practices. We selected six videos that demonstrate the ways these traditional and convergent practices have been deployed in these companies’ content. We identified two marcomm videos, two instructional videos, and two that reflect convergent practices.

We analyze each video to determine how the creator constructs videos within the marcomm and tech comm genres. We then perform the same kind of analysis on the convergent videos and consider how they appropriate practices from those genres to establish a unique convergent genre in line with Adobe’s analysis of convergence. Our analysis seeks to confirm the use of existing practices in instructional and marcomm genres and identify novel uses of those practices in convergence. This analysis naturally aligns with Selzer’s (2003) notion of rhetorical analysis in asking why textual and design decisions are made and “how th[e] message is crafted to earn a particular response” (p. 282).

In the following section, we use marcomm presale videos to demonstrate best practices according to marketing researchers and professionals. We then use instructional videos to demonstrate best practices according to tech comm research. Once we have described those genres’ best practices, we then compare them to select videos that adopt both in convergent ways.


Marcomm Presale Videos

Table 1. Metadata for The Home Depot’s video “Kidde Fire Safety”
Table 1. Metadata for The Home Depot’s video “Kidde Fire Safety”

Table 2. Metadata for Lowe’s Home Improvement video “Build an Easy Planter Box in Less than 2 Hours”Table 2. Metadata for Lowe’s Home Improvement video “Build an Easy Planter Box in Less than 2 Hours”

The Facebook video titled “Kidde Fire Safety” (fire safety video) markets fire safety products (extinguishers and alarms). Kidde is a brand carried by Home Depot. Table 1 shows relevant metadata for the fire safety video. The video is structured in a manner typical of video marcomm on social media platforms. The Instagram video titled “Build an Easy Planter Box in Less than 2 Hours” (planter box video), too, is primarily marcomm; that it is posted only on Instagram is evidence of its marcomm purpose. Table 2 shows relevant metadata for the planter box video. DIY viewers are not going to actively seek out how-to videos on the platform in the same way they do on YouTube and, even if they did, would not find this one useful as it is merely a truncated, playful video that serves to give potential buyers an idea of a project they might do with Lowe’s products.

Both videos adhere to many best practices cited by video marketing professionals. They are relatively brief, for example, which, according to research, makes for effective marcomm videos. In general, videos should be kept under two minutes, though “optimal video length varies depending on where you share or embed it” (Gillespie, 2019, n. p.). Chi (2018) found that Facebook users are most likely to watch in-feed videos that are one minute or less and suggests that YouTube in-channel videos are most effective at two minutes or less.

Marcomm videos should be mobile friendly, too. Ellet (2018) cites a recent study by the ROBO (Research Online Buy Offline) Economy that says 82% of retail shoppers consult their smartphones on purchases they are about to make in-store, which suggests that marcomm videos need to be visually clear and informationally useful on mobile devices, including making sure any text is large enough to read on the smaller screen (AdAge, 2020). Both above videos are mobile friendly because their design affords easy viewing with large text and clear images. Related to mobile considerations, marcomm videos should adhere to the “silent movie” rule (Olenski, 2018), which is important because 96% of mobile Facebook users do not wear headphones in public (Statista, 2020b). Since Facebook’s (and most other platforms’) default settings automatically mute in-feed video content, users do not hear the audio, so videos need to employ captions, text, and/or graphics to ensure viewers do not miss information that would otherwise be presented in audio form such as a voiceover. Both the fire safety video and the planter box video avoid voiceover narrative and dialogue, though both integrate music. In doing so, they adhere to the silent movie rule.

Marcomm videos should convey a clear, customer-focused message (Gillespie, 2020), and include a call to action while avoiding overtly sales-focused requests. Olenski (2018) notes, “Most people want solutions to their problems, but they do not want to have to listen to a sales presentation. Your message will simply be tuned out if your audience gets the idea that you are only interested in their money” (para. 10). The fire safety video’s title cites a specific brand product by name and simultaneously references the function of the brand’s products. The title is a direct appeal to purchase Kidde products from Home Depot and is a strength from a marcomm perspective. Also, there is a link in the video description to purchase the featured products online. The planter box video is more subtle with its sales requests. It interjects a brief shot of products to complete the project (Kobalt power drills and saw), though there is no direct call to action; it is an indirect appeal.

Marcomm videos should hook the audience early with engaging content, ideally within the first ten seconds by using recognizable branding and front loading the message (Gillespie, 2020). The fire safety video opens with large block lettering that clearly identifies the content of the video, which is immediately followed by a visually appealing animation of a fire extinguisher sweeping across the screen that functions as a transition into the video’s steps. Instagram videos, specifically, should start no later than three seconds into the video, provide value for the viewer, and keep them engaged (Newberry, 2021). The planter box video does this by using text to introduce the content of the video, as well as stop-motion animation of a tape measure. Aesthetic and stylistic considerations are also important when developing video marcomm. Videos should include clear and consistent visual branding components, both within a single video and, if applicable, across a campaign or series of videos. The company logo, colors, font(s), and/or slogans/catch phrases should be used creatively but uniformly (Zarzycki & Cyca, 2020). Both videos do well in this regard, with one minor exception: the fire safety video does not integrate a branded company logo at the beginning of the video. Including a logo at this point in the video serves to establish brand awareness at the outset, though, to those who are familiar with the company’s aesthetic, the Home Depot brand is evident by the distinct orange background with complementary white lettering.

A related and oft-overlooked component of video marcomm is metadata: the title, preview thumbnail, description, and keywords and hashtags. Specific metadata best practices vary according to the platform, depending on how different platforms function and how users interact on them. Facebook and Instagram users “passively” engage content via their feed, which is in large part determined by those platforms’ algorithms. YouTube users, on the other hand, are usually more proactive in seeking out specific content via search. Despite the differences across platforms, however, there are some common metadata best practices. Instagram videos are strengthened by cross-promoting posts with hashtags, which the planter box video does not use. Video descriptions, too, should be front-loaded with clear and relevant keywords and hashtags, but they should “use natural language, not keyword salad” (Cooper, 2020, n. p.). Both videos could be improved in this area: their descriptions are clear and concise, and the fire safety video provides a link to the company’s website to purchase products, but neither integrates hashtags for cross promotion. Video titles are especially important for search engine optimization (SEO). The fire safety video, for example, leaves the file extension name in its title (i.e., “Kidde Fire Safety.mp4”), which is an oversight by Home Depot’s marketing team that demonstrates some lack of attention to detail. The planter box video likewise fumbles the metadata by not citing a specific brand in its title. Even with these issues, the fire safety video and the planter box video sit squarely within the marcomm presale video genre.

Tech Comm Postsale Videos

Table 3. Metadata for The Home Depot video “How to Troubleshoot your Ceiling Fan”Table 3. Metadata for The Home Depot video “How to Troubleshoot your Ceiling Fan”

Table 4. Metadata for Lowe’s Home Improvement video “How to Build a Dog House”Table 4. Metadata for Lowe’s Home Improvement video “How to Build a Dog House”

The YouTube video titled “How to Troubleshoot your Ceiling Fan” (ceiling fan video) provides existing customers of Home Depot with an audiovisual resource for troubleshooting their Hampton Bay ceiling fan(s). Table 3 shows relevant metadata for the ceiling fan video. It is a part of Home Depot’s “How-to” YouTube series; the primary audience is consumers who have already purchased a product and now require technical information about how to install, maintain, and/or repair it. The YouTube video titled “How to Build a Dog House” (dog house video) provides users with an instructional video reference for building a modern dog house. Table 4 shows relevant metadata for the dog house video. The approach between the two videos differs despite similar users and purposes.

The most apparent difference in the two videos is that the ceiling fan video is intended to be a standalone instructional document, as are most of the videos that Home Depot publishes. Home Depot provides additional information in the video description and links to print documents, but a user could certainly accomplish the video’s tasks using only the video without ever opening those materials. The dog house video from Lowe’s does not seem to be intended to function as a standalone document. Within the first 30 seconds of the video starting, the on-camera host specifically mentions that the user should not try to write down anything from the video; rather, he references the materials in the video’s notes. In this case, the dog house video is intended to complement the print materials rather than function as an instructional document itself. Both videos share some common tech comm features, which we explicate below.

Some structural characteristics of both videos are common to other examples of postsale, tech comm content and engage in the closest thing we have to best practices for such content. Both videos were posted to the retailers’ YouTube channels. Though YouTube increasingly hosts marcomm content, it typically serves more as an archive than does Facebook and Instagram. Both videos mimic printed instructional documents (Swarts, 2012) in many ways: the videos are long enough to provide detailed instruction (Pflugfelder, 2013); the videos’ titles clearly indicate their instructional purposes (Markel & Selber, 2021) and express actions and objects (van der Meij and van der Meij, 2013); and both videos show human actors performing the tasks, showing action rather than implying it (Eriksson & Eriksson, 2019); and both videos include links that “layer” information for viewers (Farkas, 1999, p. 45). Beyond these similarities, the videos differ in the comprehensiveness of their instructional quality.

Whereas the dog house video foregoes most textual graphics in the video and is intended to accompany the print instructions, the ceiling fan video serves as a standalone document. The video is introduced with an animation (van der Meij & van der Meij, 2013) of Home Depot’s logo and the words “How-to Series.” The video displays graphical steps throughout, and integrates signal words to provide users essential, additional information (Markel & Selber, 2021). Though both videos engage many best practices in terms of producing tech comm content, they also fall short in areas of usability and accessibility. The goal of any instructional document, including videos, is usability (Alexander, 2013). The videos lack two key usability and accessibility features. Neither the ceiling fan video, nor the dog house video provides captions for the voice-over narration or the host’s dialogue throughout the videos, creating accessibility issues for viewers with hearing differences. Neither video includes onscreen text or graphics for the steps within each task, creating usability issues. Additionally, the dog house video produced by Lowe’s is intended to be cross referenced with additional print materials, which could create further usability issues for a user working with only a single device and flipping between the video and instructions. At the end of the video, below the embedded links, the dog house video even includes a lengthy disclaimer stating that the video is intended for informational purposes only and assumes no responsibility for inaccuracies. Despite issues with accessibility and usability—a common problem in video content—the ceiling fan video and dog house video represent traditional postsale tech comm content.

Convergent Videos

Table 5. Metadata for The Home Depot video “TV Wall Mount Installation: A DIY Digital Workshop” posted to YouTube and Facebook
Table 5. Metadata for The Home Depot video “TV Wall Mount Installation: A DIY Digital Workshop” posted to YouTube and Facebook

Table 6. Metadata for Lowe’s Home Improvement video “9 Easy Yard Clean-Up Tips for Fall” posted to YouTube
Table 6. Metadata for Lowe’s Home Improvement video “9
Easy Yard Clean-Up Tips for Fall” posted to YouTube

In this section, we analyze two videos that fit the convergent genre. The video titled “TV Wall Mount Installation: A DIY Digital Workshop” (TV wall mount video) is posted to both Facebook and YouTube by Home Depot and purposefully integrates components from both traditional genres in ways that evidence a convergent genre. The YouTube video titled “9 Easy Yard Clean-Up Tips for Fall” (yard clean-up video) implements conventions that are typical of both marcomm and tech comm. Tables 5 and 6 show relevant metadata for the TV wall mount video and the yard clean-up video. One traditional distinction between tech comm and marcomm videos is that the former typically revolve around an action or task, whereas the latter primarily function to highlight a specific brand or product. These two videos straddle both genres by demonstrating specific tasks while clearly presenting the brands/products used (all available at Home Depot and Lowe’s), but without making the brands/products the focus of the video.

The two genres’ convergence includes the videos’ aesthetics. The TV wall mount video is branded extensively: the background music is the same that is used in most of Home Depot’s marcomm videos, the “pegboard” in the background at the beginning and the end of the video is clearly Home Depot orange, the video is identified as part of the “DIY Digital Workshops” series, and the company’s logo is watermarked in the bottom-right corner of the video. The in-video title card signals the video’s instructional purpose using the words “how to”: “How to Mount a Flat Screen TV.” The background then displays a wall-mounted, flatscreen TV in a living room with the words “How to Mount a Flat Screen TV” in bold, white text. The yard clean-up video, too, employs a design style that foregrounds the company brand, though it is not as pronounced as that found in the TV wall mount video. It does begin and end with the Lowe’s logo—and a small logo is watermarked in the bottom-right corner throughout the video (not easily visible on mobile)—but there are no additional textual, graphic, or audio cues in the video that indicate it is a Lowe’s production. The video does, however, show a five-gallon, branded bucket from Lowe’s frequently and for sustained periods, an obvious brand cue.

Effective technical documentation provides users with a list of requisite tools and conditions. The TV wall mount video shows a wooden tabletop overlaid with images of the required tools and the text “What You Need to Get Started.” The yard clean-up video provides only a voice-over narration that states the tools needed for each of its nine tips. As with the postsale video analyzed above, the yard clean-up video appears to rely on the user viewing additional materials beyond the video to successfully accomplish the tasks. In this instance, the video description includes a list of links to all the items used in the video, a marketing-laced list of materials. Instead of listing generic names, both videos display specific brands of the tools that can be bought at the retailers’ stores. At the beginning of the TV wall mount video, for instance, viewers are prompted to select either a regular or swivel mount, and the video employs a graphic animation and audio “ding” to encourage the latter. Likewise, in the yard clean-up video, one of the items displayed and given much screen time is a branded bucket made and sold by Lowe’s. The narrator describes the multiple uses for the bucket—to hold weeds, and to store utility belts and tools in the offseason—while prominently displaying the Lowe’s logo and name on the bucket, which is itself the trademarked blue color of the company. In both cases, these materials segments, a traditional tech comm feature of instructional sets, are, thus, used as in-video “up-sells.”

The TV wall mount video demonstrates nine ordered but unnumbered steps, with an optional step, to install a wall mount for a TV. In place of narration—likely to serve the muted Facebook video genre—the video uses human actors and text/graphics to demonstrate the tasks. Each step is displayed in white, bold font as the actors complete the actions. This initial text is accompanied by less-weighted text underneath that clarifies or adds to the main text. These statements serve several instructional purposes: feedback statements, notes, extended command descriptions, and warnings, though none is labeled clearly with a signal word. The video layers information by linking to an instructional document on Home Depot’s website and to the various tools used throughout the video. The video signals clearly that the task is complete by displaying the text “Now You Know” and shows the male actor sitting on the couch to watch his newly mounted TV. The scene then transitions to the Home Depot logo on the orange pegboard. The yard clean-up video, as seen in the postsale video, again includes no on-screen graphics beyond the title screen. The video does not include steps or feedback statements. And, unlike the TV wall mount video, the yard clean-up video is intended to be viewed with sound on as all the information is conveyed by the voice-over narration.

Although the videos adhere to tech comm genre conventions in the aforementioned ways, the videos also exemplify structural and organizational traits of typical marcomm content. Both videos are shorter than their postsale video counterparts and longer than their marcomm counterparts. The TV wall mount video is less than two minutes long, and the yard clean-up video is less than three minutes long, both of which are short enough to be effective as marcomm but long enough to include all relevant steps in completing the tasks; both videos convey clear, customer-focused messaging and include unique calls to action to purchase the products used in the videos while avoiding overtly sales-focused requests. There are also differences between the two videos in terms of marcomm best practices. The TV wall mount video, for example, adheres to the “silent movie” rule (there is no voiceover to narrate the steps), but the Lowe’s one does not. The former is more akin to traditional marcomm content in this respect. The TV wall mount video is more mobile-friendly, too; it employs large text that is easily read on a smartphone screen. Since the yard clean-up video uses voiceover narration to describe the steps, and most marcomm content is consumed on mobile devices that mute audio, the video would be less effective in that role.

The TV wall mount video metadata on YouTube suggests marcomm purposes, as well, including hashtags (#TheHomeDepot, #HomeImprovement, and #DIY) for SEO purposes that drive user traffic to the video and company channel, as well as links to the various products’ points of purchase (POP) shown in the tutorial. The same video’s Facebook metadata needs work, though. There, for instance, the video description reads, “Learn how to wall mount your TV and clear your space of clutter with help from our DIY Digital Workshop.” This text is a clear call to action, but there is no direct marcomm accompanying it, such as a link to products’ POP. Since Home Depot’s Facebook page is frequently used to market specific products, and the video itself includes direct references to specific brands, there is no reason the video description should not feature, link to, or at least mention them. Notably, the yard clean-up video does not use hashtags, which decreases its SEO effectiveness. While the SEO effectiveness is decreased in this scenario, in other ways, including utilizing a video description and links to external resources, it is strong. Though they mix the genre conventions in differing ways, both the TV wall mount video and the yard clean-up video purposefully combine conventions to address their audiences in convergent ways.


Convergent elements occur within the presale and postsale videos in this analysis. Research shows that good content teaches something new to the viewer. A recent study (An, 2018) notes that “61% of consumers surveyed want to learn something from the videos they see on social media” (para. 7, emphasis ours). Although both presale videos analyzed earlier seek to sell specific brand products, and they both adhere to most marcomm best practices, each includes an instructional element. Collins and Conley (2020) cite “educational/how-to” videos as one subtype of social media marcomm. For example, the fire safety video outlines steps for installing and maintaining Kidde fire alarms, but the steps are neither numbered nor clearly sequential. And in the planter box video, some of the steps are not fully demonstrated, and others are omitted altogether. In both cases, as marcomm content, the purpose of these videos is not to provide detailed technical instruction for how to complete a task or project; instead, they deploy technical instruction to encourage new purchases. Indeed, some of the individual tech comm components are used to make marcomm calls to action. For example, one of the steps from the fire safety presale video is to “install an alarm in every bedroom [and] on every level.” This imperative statement is instructional and directs users to consider additional purchases.

Likewise, both postsale videos are intended to function as tech comm content but also include branding elements that indicate genre convergence. The ceiling fan video overtly markets related products throughout the video, such as a “Tip” (2:43) to “Check the fan’s product page” on Home Depot’s website for more details on replacement parts. The video also recommends that users “buy an inexpensive balancing kit” (2:03-2:07) if the fan did not already come with one. The dog house video eschews overt marketing for more subtle hints, such as displaying the Kobalt-branded saw when first beginning the project (0:30). The videos’ respective YouTube metadata contain explicit marcomm content. Home Depot’s videos employ three hashtags (#TheHomeDepot, #HomeImprovement, and #DIY) for SEO that is intended to drive user traffic to the video and the brand’s channel. The description of the video produced by Lowe’s includes links to all five of the company’s social media channels, as well as an additional link to the company’s YouTube channel. The description also links to the requisite print instructions for the doghouse. Both videos include persuasive descriptions intended to elicit viewers’ attention. The ceiling fan video description states the following:

“When it’s warm outside, ceiling fans help keep your home comfortable by circulating the air indoors. Depending on the style you choose, they can also help you save money on cooling bills while adding an element of decor to any room.”

Using a similar style and tone, the description for the dog house video states the following:

“Building an outdoor house for your dog will help keep them protected from the elements and give them shelter from the heat and the cold. Learn how to build a dog house that is sturdy, attractive, and modern, along with a few upgrades that will ensure that all the neighbor dogs will be jealous of your pup’s new home.”

Such language is of course meant to convince viewers to think about the heat of the summer and purchase fans or think of their furry best friend’s housing needs.

One purpose of this article has been to clearly delineate the practices found in traditional marcomm presale videos and tech comm instructional videos. Laying out these practices in clear terms then makes it easier to see how convergent videos are a unique genre in their own right, albeit one that melds the other two together in new ways. The analysis above yields several practices among the convergent videos we analyzed that technical communicators might find useful in B2C contexts. Prior to analyzing the videos and based on our initial research, we identified a general list of convergent characteristics. After analyzing the videos, we expanded and specified our list of convergent content. In Table 7, we present this refined list of convergent content characteristics and compare them to the typical genre conventions of presale marcomm videos and postsale tech comm videos.

Table 7, for the sake of clarity, attempts to collect and state genre conventions for readers. We acknowledge that content, whether presale, postsale, or convergent, will not always follow these rules strictly. As we discuss extensively in this section, the very videos we have analyzed incorporate elements of each genre. Ultimately, the rhetorical situation—audience, purpose, context, among other factors—must guide the communicator in implementing genre strategies.

The following four subsections describe specific convergent strategies used in videos we analyze in this case study. These strategies, discussed in relation to genre practices and considered alongside the characteristics identified in the table, may help technical communicators strategically produce convergent content.

Using Technical Tasks as Marketing Opportunities

Whether listing required tools or materials, demonstrating specific tasks or functions, or even providing feedback statements, convergent content intentionally exploits the user’s attention to make implicit and indirect marcomm calls to action. The convergent videos we analyzed both take these opportunities in several instances, especially in materials lists. The TV wall mount video displays two different wall mounts but highlights the feature-heavy, more expensive version with an animation and audio ding to encourage the user to buy that mount. Likewise, the yard clean-up video prominently displays the Lowe’s-branded bucket for most of the tips, encouraging the user to purchase the bucket and asserting brand awareness. The strategy of combining brief instructional content with prominent product and brand marketing is, according to Urbina (2017), “one of the highest effort-to-return ratios on offer in today’s enterprises” (4). Pflugfelder (2013) has noted that quick start guide videos fulfill similar purposes. Technical communicators can adopt an approach that offers insights into a task or process while ensuring product brands play prominent roles in the process. Doing so prompts users to choose certain products for the task and could lead to content that achieves a higher effort-to-return ratio.

Table 7. Comparing conventions of traditional presale and postsale content with convergent content
Table 7. Comparing conventions of traditional presale and postsale content with convergent content

Balancing Corporate Branding with Mundane User Ethos

Convergent content delivers clear corporate branding and polished presentation but adopts an aesthetic that forwards an ethos of the mundane user experience. The aesthetics of the videos we analyzed for this case study vary. The TV wall mount video is still overtly branded as a DIY video with graphics and animations, and the aesthetic is very much a traditional instructional document. The yard clean-up video, however, eschews the overt instructional practices and adopts instead a minimalist approach of showing a single user working in a yard without textual overlays and animations. While both videos contain easily recognized corporate branding, whether overt as in the TV wall mount video or subtle as in the yard clean-up video, they emphasize mundane users performing the tasks rather than professionals or experts. Emphasizing the mundane user draws on what many users find appealing from social media influencers, specifically a camaraderie and genuineness with the fellow mundane user. Johnson (1998) explicated a rhetorical approach to user-centered technology, calling attention to the everyday individual as expert of the mundane. Chong’s (2018) study of YouTube beauty tutorials finds that often these user-generated channels do not follow best practices for, say, instructional videos, and subverting those professional best practices may in fact be an asset to creators in generating goodwill with their audiences and lead to more views and engagement. Likewise, in a content analysis of hundreds of science communication videos, Welbourne and Grant (2016) find that the YouTube channels of amateur producers are far more popular than professional ones because of three factors: user-generated videos are not overtly professionalized, user-generated videos maintain a consistent host over the course of videos with whom the audience identifies, and user-generated videos are published more frequently. Technical communicators can advocate for a better balance of subtle branding with more attention given to the mundane user to avoid “glossy but vacuous marketing content” (Samuels and Aschwanden, 2017, p.3).

Layering Content Pathways Across the Interface

Convergent videos provide multiple occasions—within the video itself and its metadata—for users to connect with the brand and technical information. Both convergent videos we analyzed use linked content to expand the context of the task and product. The TV wall mount video, in keeping with the overt branding Home Depot’s content uses, links within the video itself—the user clicks areas on the video display—to the company’s product pages and other tutorials. The yard clean-up video, in maintaining minimalist interference in the video itself, instead uses metadata in the video description to take users to the Lowe’s tutorial libraries. Urbina (2017) argues that content strategy addresses points of synergy between the user and the brand. Further, removing technical hurdles in delivering this content increases efficiency (Urbina, 2017). Technical communicators can take advantage of this convergent practice by ensuring compelling content pathways are available on the given social media platform. In some instances, this practice will require in-video links whereas other platforms may necessitate captions or descriptions. Beyond the video itself, communicators should provide documentation that expands the task, process, or product information that users seek through these content pathways. These pathways contribute to the user experience, an experience that, according to Samuels and Aschwanden (2017), should be seamless and coherent at each point of the customer lifecycle, including both presale and postsale.

Capturing Attention with Relevance

The convergent videos we analyzed are long enough to demonstrate the entirety of a task and brief enough to hold attention on their given platform. These videos use the instructional genre in a format that allows social media users to consume the content in an acceptable amount of time. The videos demonstrate tasks, either partially or fully, in bite-sized chunks, thus delivering value for a minor cost in attention. The videos, then, are neither cumbersome in length nor bothersome in presentation; rather, they are relevant to user needs. Urbina (2017) argues that “relevance is the key: When marcomm and tech comm are aligned on personas, customer journeys and content categories, relevant marketing calls-to-action inside tech content become paths to mutual benefit for brand and customer” (14).

Though some technical communicators might initially dislike the idea of incorporating marketing elements into instructional content, convergent practices align with recent claims in tech comm and content strategy. “Decades of discussion in technical communication,” Clark (2016) says, “have suggested the need for communicators to better connect their work with the business goals of the enterprises for which they work” (p. 7). In Table 7 above, we identify convergent genre practices according to our readings of scholarship and industry publications that may help practitioners create content that aligns with those business goals.


One purpose of this case study has been to explicate the traditional genre conventions of presale marcomm social media videos and the traditional genre conventions of postsale tech comm social media videos. Our analysis of these types of videos demonstrates the ways in which two large brands use traditional genre conventions to engage customers across the product lifecycle. The relative lengths of the videos, use of onscreen graphics and animations, and reliance on metadata among other practices differentiate these two genres. Presale marcomm social media videos, such as the fire safety video and the planter box video, market specific products in brief, overtly branded productions. Though both videos include instructional content, they are not meant to guide users through tasks and cannot be used to do so. Postsale tech comm videos, such as the ceiling fan and dog house videos, instruct users how to accomplish useful tasks. Though both videos include marketed products and sales content, they are used as standalone instructional documents. Additionally, all four videos’ purposes are reinforced by their delivery platforms, with the shorter presale videos appearing on Facebook and Instagram and the longer postsale videos published to YouTube. Our analysis shows the traditional genre conventions at work in these videos.

Our other purpose in this case study has been to provide technical communicators examples of how convergent practices—first discussed in Adobe’s white papers (Urbina, 2017, and Samuels and Aschwanden, 2017)—meld traditional genre conventions of presale marcomm and postsale tech comm content. Our case study of the TV wall mount video and yard clean-up video shows four prominent ways that these genres converge: using technical tasks as marketing opportunities, balancing corporate branding with mundane user ethos, layering content pathways across the interface, and capturing attention with relevance. Each of these convergent practices balances elements of traditional genre conventions and best practices of presale and postsale content. With our initial analysis in this case study, we believe that convergence moves beyond haphazard remixing of a given genre and might constitute a new genre, one that purposefully considers its user at each point of the content lifecycle and attempts to meet those varied needs in a single video. That said, more research is needed to see how convergence is deployed currently across industries.

There are limitations with this case study that prevent us from making generalizable claims about convergence. The biggest limitation is the sample size. Though we considered several videos, our goal was not to codify convergence; rather, we have attempted to define convergence for practitioners of technical communication, provide a couple of clear examples, and begin a discussion of convergent video practices. Additionally, our small sample comes from a single industry, representing only two large brands. Given the significant contribution of influencers to social media spaces, our study is also limited by not addressing the tactics of user-generated content and sponsored content. These limitations lay the foundation for future studies.

Subsequent studies could systematically select and code more videos from single or multiple industries to compare the frequency of presale, postsale, and convergent videos and note trends in their practices. Mitchell and Strubberg (2022) recently shared initial research that coded over 500 social media videos published during the COVID-19 pandemic to study how they used these genres. Though preliminary, the data shows convergence applied purposefully, especially in campaigns related to corporate-social responsibility. This interesting finding warrants further investigation.

An interesting thread that is beyond the scope of this case study is the relationship between marcomm, tech comm, and user-generated content (UGC). Although much tech comm research in video has focused on content created by institutions for users—including ours—the influence of UGC and Kimball’s notion of tactical technical communication (TTC) (2006, 2017a, & 2017b) is palpable. Whereas institutions’ tech comm is mostly strategic—with a focus on achieving high-level organizational goals—individuals’ tactical tech comm is grounded in end-users’ actual experiences with products (Kimball, 2017). Additionally, social media ‘influencers’ with large followings, for example, are now paid by companies to use products in their videos, which include sundry tech comm, such as product tutorials, reviews, and DIY projects. Many users have built large, devoted followings—often orders of magnitude larger than name brands—that trust the user, or influencer, more than the manufacturers of the products they use. To that end, convergent videos have grown out of the landscape of tactical user-generated video content and should be considered and fully studied by the field.

Convergence as a genre represents a brand’s attempt to target modern video users and consumers who have grown up in a digital age of social media and content marketing. These viewers are too savvy to buy into overtly sales-focused marketing videos but lack the attention span to sit through lengthy product descriptions. Though this study cannot offer sweeping declarations about this new, emergent genre, we hope it will offer technical communicators insights into convergent practices and foster discourse on the subject.


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Brandon C. Strubberg, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of English at Sam Houston State University where he directs the Technical Communication program and serves as Graduate Coordinator for the online MA program. Brandon has worked as a consulting technical writer in the oil-and-gas industry for the past 11 years, and he previously worked as a scientific editor at a renowned cancer center. Brandon earned his Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric from Texas Tech University. His research interests include medical rhetoric and health communication, UX and usability studies, and media convergence. Brandon can be reached at strubberg@shsu.edu.

Chase Mitchell, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Media & Communication at East Tennessee State University where he teaches courses in technical communication, multimedia production, media ecology, and writing in the sciences, among others. He also directs ETSU’s Technical & Professional Writing undergraduate minor program. Chase holds a Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric from Texas Tech University, and his research interests include tech comm, media convergence, and religious communication. He contributes a monthly online column, called “Image to Image,” for the Christianity & Communication Studies Network. Chase can be reached at mitchella@mail.etsu.edu.