Whether you are talking about short and witty quips on Twitter, carefully taken and edited Instagram images, or a highly produced 4-minute video review on YouTube, each social media platform has organically developed its own unique traits.
There are many differences in the types and styles of content their user bases have grown to prefer in their feeds. Video is not an exception.
Video content has grown to be a staple of most social networks by now, that much is self-evident. And that has prompted most creators and marketers to start doubling down on the format, making efforts to include video more regularly as part of their strategy.
Yet thinking that just any sort of video you string together is going to resonate with your audiences on the sole basis of it being pretty moving pictures is a mistake.
Some styles are better received on some platforms than they are in others. Length constraints can dramatically alter the way your videos perform from one social network to the next. Then there’s also the issue of quality, production-wise, where audiences can be either lenient or stringent depending on your social network persona and the platform you decide to share the content on.
And that’s to name a few.
What I want to do today is for us to go over some of these very basic, but profoundly useful aspects of social videos. To help you get better response and engagement from your followers, furthering your branding and content efforts.
Choose the format that fits the platform best.
As you progress through this post, you’ll most likely notice a pattern: when it comes to social video, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all metric. That’s because each social network tends to work as its own enclosed habitat. One where different practices are either favored or frowned upon depending on their users’ preferences.
This means that something that works amazingly well to capture viewer attention in one platform might work entirely against you on the next. So, whenever relevant, I’ll try to shape the advice to be social-network-specific, for you to make the most out of it.
On that note, let’s touch briefly on the topic of types of videos, with a focus on the social networks they are best suited for.
Explainer Videos: This format draws on people’s interest and curiosity on varied topics, which has made it a go-to device for marketers and content creators alike who want to attract new audiences who might be unfamiliar with what they have to offer.
YouTube remains as the preferred platform to use whiteboard animation (a type of explainer video), although shorter versions perform really well on Twitter too. Explainer videos in general tend to be equally popular on YouTube and Facebook.
How-to Videos: another highly popular form of social video, How-to’s bank on people’s need to understand processes. They come in both, long and short formats, which tends to be the determining factor on how they are received in different platforms (besides quality, of course.)
For example, a long-form, high-quality how-to video tends to be a commodity on social networks accustomed to long-form content such as YouTube, Facebook, and most likely the fledgling IGTV. Shorter How-to videos do great on Instagram, and can easily outperform their longer counterparts.
Commercials: A wide variety of videos can be categorized as commercials, as their main feature is that they are trying to promote something or someone in a short time-frame.
This short time-frame caveat is essential since the internet (especially social networks) seems to shy away from more extended types of commercials. As short promotional videos, this content is most at home on Instagram, or as Facebook and YouTube ads.
Testimonials, Reviews, Discussion pieces: This sort of content is usually tied to longer form entertainment, and is to be ideally watched on a platform that allows full-screen viewing.
Following this thread, testimonials, reviews, and similar videos work best on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to some extent, which support both, the type of length and viewing experience that these formats prefer.
On optimal video lengths
When discussing the topic of video length on social media, there are two main points that need to be addressed.
One is that social media platforms are, by and large, very agile. They act as short attention span channels to disseminate information. So, save for some hybrid exceptions (namely YouTube and to some extent, Facebook), shorter video content tends to do better regarding shareability and user response.
The other point being that the concept of “optimal length” varies considerably from platform to platform, and also depends heavily on the goals you have for a specific piece of content.
With that in mind, know that while nothing is written in stone, there are however a few general trends that can be used as guidelines to get you started on the right track for a given platform:
-Facebook: In general, try to keep your Facebook videos to under 2 minutes, as engagement drops dramatically after that for short video content. Profile videos work well under 10 seconds, and the average well-performing feed video sits between 60 and 90 seconds.
-Twitter: While the current cap is set at 2 minutes and 20 seconds, a slightly longer version of the previous cap seems to be the preferred length. Anywhere under 45 seconds should work.
-YouTube: An average of the most liked videos sits between 5 and 10 minutes, which makes YouTube ideal for hosting and sharing your longer videos.
-Instagram: The ideal length for Instagram varies by type of video. In general, regular timeline videos are best kept between 30 and 60 seconds. Stories are best capped at 15, and for IGTV, the optimal length is still being figured out.
The power of Native
As mentioned before, social networks tend to behave as closed biomes in many ways, with some degree of tribal behavior being commonplace, especially among the early adopters and most diehard fans of the platform.
Knowing that, it is not too difficult to understand why native videos offer an advantage for spreading a given piece of content on a social network.
It is not necessarily always the result of a conscious choice, but numbers prove that native videos do tend to perform better.
Just like a post with a multimedia component has an advantage over pure text or a single image post, native hosting of content works as a similar benefit for your videos.
How do you translate this into higher engagement for your content? Simple, if you plan to share a video on YouTube and Facebook, you are far more likely to receive a better response from your target audiences by uploading it to both platforms and sharing each upload independently on their internal ecosystems.
In other words, most of the time, your video will perform better when shared on your Facebook wall if it was uploaded natively on Facebook rather than just sharing an outside link to its YouTube link.
Putting that to a side, using native hosting also gives you the considerable advantage of accessing detailed analytics, as most social networks will report on the minutia of viewer interaction when your content has been uploaded in this fashion.
Lastly, it is also important to note that some platforms appear to give native hosted content a sort of priority when it comes to exposure and promotion (such as on Facebook’s algorithms,) which would mean that just by choosing native hosting, you are improving your chances of visibility on feeds.
A few insights on Production
Now, before you leave, I’d like to talk a little bit about production, an area where I see a lot of content creators and marketers alike dropping the ball when it comes to social videos.
The fact that you are creating video content for social media (platforms most often praised for their informality) should not be misconstrued as a license for poor quality.
I’m not even talking about video quality precisely. Although important, most of us nowadays walk around with a high-tech recording device in our pockets. No, what I’m referring to are a few simple production and post-production practices you should strive to meet as you work on your videos.
It can be easy to seem charming or clever on paper, but achieving that high-quality finish that you most often see with those content creators your love (or those companies that are leveraging social video marketing to the fullest) most often comes as the result of a great deal of editing and other post-production efforts.
The correct filter, the right pace, having extra camera angles, the music and sounds… all these things play an important role in helping you develop a unique voice, capable of engaging and maintaining your viewers’ attention.
That isn’t to say you should become a professional editor or producer to create great video content for social networks. Instead, I’m merely trying to make you aware of these topics for you to start implementing them whenever possible in your social videos, improving the overall quality and appeal of your content and begin benefitting from the additional engagement that a sharp increase in quality is liable to bring along.
As you apply these basic principles of production to your social videos, take full advantage of the native hosting most social networks provide, and tailoring the formatting, content, and length to meet the specific trends of your intended target platform. By following these tips, you are setting your video content to stand head and shoulders above those of your competitors.
This will translate into increased engagement and relevance for your content and profile online, which will carry over to your other social marketing goals.
Start experimenting with this advice and fine tune your content, keeping what works for you, and enjoying the benefits of continually improving upon the quality of your social videos.
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