The Anatomy of Shareable Facebook Video

January 6, 2017 Kyle Harper

Picture of an old school compact film camera

Imagine you’re a mid-level marketer who has a good thing going. Your social presence is solid, though somewhat dated without newer features like Facebook video or Facebook Live. You have an audience that’s willing to engage from time to time on Twitter. Your YouTube channel, now a few years old and populated with a lot of content, still serves as a consistent video marketing platform for your team’s ongoing efforts.

But you were checking out your metrics yesterday, and you noticed some unwelcome trends. Your Facebook audience’s enthusiasm seems to be waning without promotional spend. YouTube views aren’t growing quite as fast as they used to, and viewer engagement metrics are slowly declining. It’s clear that something needs to change, but you don’t want to abandon either of these efforts, and you don’t necessarily have the bandwidth or budget to add too much on top as a supplement.

Maybe it’s time to bring your social media and video marketing strategy into the present day. Maybe it’s time to try out some Facebook video.

Facebook

A Growing Wave

When Facebook first launched its video feature, many marketers had doubts that it would be able to stand up against YouTube—which already had millions of hours of content, coupled with SEO benefits from integration with Google.

But today, after a number of iterations and design changes, the social media video platform has grown in leaps in bounds—even accounting for the recent scandal over the validity of its viewing metrics—and the reach gained through video offers a nice counterpoint to YouTube’s SEO benefits.

For many marketers, the road to pushing video content for Facebook doesn’t seem quite so clear. Just republishing YouTube content on Facebook appears to work to some extent, but the content often doesn’t seem to fit into the form or format that some of the most popular Facebook content floating around News Feeds today. You could create customized content for Facebook (and even compare its cost and success against your YouTube page), but this presents additional time and cost that your team might not be in a space to commit. And even before all this, you have to wonder: what even makes a video specifically meant for Facebook?

An old movie projector

Filming for Form and Behavior

Scroll through your News Feed for a couple minutes, and it’s likely you’ll sweep past a handful of videos. Pause for a moment to read your friend’s status, and it will quietly begin to autoplay in the edge of your vision or the center of your screen. It’s something all Facebook users have learned to account for in the past year—but it’s in this normalization that opportunity exists for marketers. Before worrying about budget, here are just three things your brand can do to make its videos stand out:

1. Assume a Mobile Audience

Most Facebook users today access the platform via a mobile device. This will affect a number of your design decisions to come, but fundamentally this should be taken into account when filming your content. Can the visuals of your piece be seen and understood, even if viewed in a thumbnail-sized box instead of the native 2K resolution you shot in? If not, then you’re risking losing more than half of your potential audience.

2. Match Length of Content to Genre

Different styles of video lend themselves more easily to different length formats in video marketing, and this should also be taken into account with your social promotion of this content. Short, comedic content plays really well, while longer documentary style pieces might suffer (your user is on a mobile device, remember? Between data plans and on-the-go viewing, your fifteen minute brand piece doesn’t stand a chance.) Consider creating shorter trailers of longer content, or putting some small promotional budget behind longer pieces and specifically targeting users on desktops or a Wi-Fi connection. Short and sweet is good for social, while longer content will serve you better on your website.

3. Silence Is Golden

It’s no surprise to marketers anymore that most video on Facebook is watched without sound (again, likely owing to the platforms mobile popularity.) While captioning has become an increasingly common practice, standard captions may not help your video as much as it could. Numerous brands and “news” services have adopted a format of stylized captioning that is often animated directly into the video itself, both improving the visual quality of the experience, but also forcing the viewer to center their screen on the film. If you aren’t sure where the next caption is going to arrive, you have to keep the whole frame in view, right?

(Not) Breaking the Bank

So you might have a better picture of how video can be oriented toward Facebook, but it still doesn’t cover the problem of actually producing the material. Stylized animations, additional edits to create shorter formats out of longer pieces, paid promotion to get a little extra targeting oomph…it can all add up quickly.

The ideal workflow for a marketing team involves film specialists, either on-staff or freelance, who can handle the technical creation of your content. But for teams short on budget or staff, web tools such as wochit or wibbitz are cheap and streamlined options for creating Facebook-ready video.

This comes at a steeper price, however, as design tools are limited in comparison to those provided by professional-grade services like Adobe Creative Cloud, and means your content runs the risk of looking similar to other material produced using the same player. Ideally, these sorts of services should serve as stop-gaps to help you produce and test your first round of social content, hopefully proving ROI that can then go towards more professional execution.

Ultimately, good Facebook video comes down to taking a moment to consider the environment your viewer will likely be inhabiting when they watch your story. Focus on visual storytelling (but offer audio as icing on the cake for the 15 percent who use it), grab attention quickly to take advantage of autoplay and quick scrollers, and don’t demand too much of your audience’s time up front. Your brand certainly has a bigger story to tell than a 90-second clip. Use Facebook to suggest that rather than force it on your viewers, and they’ll be more than happy to come back to learn more.

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