The Golden Rules of Successful Social Video Content


The Golden Rules of Successful Social Video Content

category: Video Content Creation Tips

If you’re launching a video content marketing campaign, take a look at the below top 10 list of things to make sure you consider before getting started:

What device will the audience be watching on?

When considering your video marketing campaign the first thing your agency should do for you is establish what platforms your content is going to be viewed on. If the answer to this question is ‘online’ then you’re definitely being too vague.

Our starting point is talking about the device that the content is going to be viewed on.

If the primary delivery method is through social media then we know the audience are likely to be viewing it through a mobile device. This has a number of knock on effects to the creative. 94% of audiences on Facebook right now are watching video content without audio. Straight away, you know that your creative idea will need to not rely on sound of any kind (think subtitles, graphics or simply a narrative that requires no words).

If the content is designed to exist on a website or on a searchable platform like YouTube, then it’s likely that the opposite is true of the social media example above. The audience will likely consume it through their desktop or laptop and as such they are far more likely to be able to watch with audio. If someone is coming to your website, or searching for your content then their willingness to listen is far higher than someone swiping through their Instagram feed.

Video content algorithms - why length matters

The marketing world is obsessed with length of online branded video content, often times for all the wrong reasons.

Let’s step back and take a birds eye view of the industry to try to understand why there has been a growing obsession with length of video.

When a brand releases content onto online platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, the typical ambition is to get as many relevant people to see that content as possible. The platforms listed above have a similar ambition. They want their audiences to watch not just one video, but an endless stream of videos. When the first piece of content you clicked on finishes, they want to keep you engaged by playing you another, equally enticing piece of content. Three hours later, as you lie in bed still staring at your phone watching you 15th thousand cat video, you realise, whatever they are doing, is working.

So what are they doing?

All of the major online video platforms are using algorithms to try to ensure they promote as much enticing, relevant content to you as possible. If we understand how and what those algorithms want, then we can design content that works with the algorithm rather than against it.

The first layer of algorithms is to do with the your own behaviour. If as you scroll through your newsfeed, or bumble your way around YouTube, you find yourself absent mindedly clicking on ‘Vegan Recipe’ content, the algorithm starts building an understanding of you and your interests. This is why, when we release our content, we need to ensure that we understand which audience we are targeting and imagine what type of content they might consume that would lead to this. We’ll come back to titles of content later…

The second is length. Marketeers are under pressure to create content that is shorter and shorter shorter. Often times the marketing individual doesn’t even know why that is and says things like ‘Attention spans are diminishing’. Whilst that may be true, it’s not the main reason length of video has become the obsession of the advertising industry.

The real primary driver for this is all about video view completion rates. The algorithms of the major social networks and video hosting sites have no way of knowing whether one video is more engaging and creative than another. So how does an algortihim judge how creatively compelling a video is?

The simple answer is, they tally up how many of the audience watch the video to certain key milestones. If 99% of people who see the video swipe away in the first ten seconds, then the algorithm figures, this content is really not worth promoting. If however the audience watches through that first ten seconds, well then the algorithm figures that the content must be interesting enough to a point.

As the video progresses, the higher the percentage of audience engagement the higher the likelihood, the algorithm reckons, that other audiences will watch.

Your creative needs to consider this from the very first brainstorm.

It’s a complete 180 degree spin away from everything we’re taught about storytelling. We’ll discuss more about it in ‘It’s the start that matters…’

Media agencies try to game the system to provide what on the surface appear to be better numbers to their clients. They’ll create ever shorter videos to increase the percentage watching through 100%. Be wary of this. YouTube have told us directly that their algorithm offers preferential treatment to longer content.

So ask yourself; what is the value of releasing a five second video if nobody understands my message. Second, how likely is it that this will give someone cause to engage with the content…

Because engagement really does matter.

The third part of the trinity of the algorithm is engagement. If the algorithm sees people liking, commenting and sharing the video, then it knows that the content is stimulating human interaction. How many five second videos have you shared? Not many

Critically the opposite of all these things also applies. If you’re getting lots of views from paid media, but getting zero people engaging in the video, the algorithm will drop the content the moment your media dries up.

Ultimately, this isn’t a problem if you’re trying to deliver more traditional advertising content. You’re not necessarily expecting the world and its wife to comment when you’re announcing a new special offer at a supermarket.

Why views are a really bad metric for performance

It’s a dirty dark (not so) secret that many media agencies out there are buying views illegitimately. A quick google of your own will show many online companies, often based in countries where advertising regulations are lax or non existent, can guarantee viewing audiences for low prices.

We’re not talking here about running a LinkedIn paid campaign, or YouTube pre roll - these are legitimate media spends that will be priced accordingly. We’re talking about companies that run bots to generate views on your video.

Whilst view counts are still worth noting, better is to look at audience engagement by looking under the hood and seeing where the average person is getting to in the video. Let this help drive and advise future content creation. If having a 15 second intro animation that is your company logo, is also the bit where most of the audience switch off, then do the smart thing and kill the animation.

Let your agency help you with this by providing them with as much information as possible.

Nobody shoots 1 film on set anymore… nobody.

The traditional agencies in the communication sector continue to cling to the idea that the hero piece of content is all that matters. Fortunately, most brands are now aware that this is not the case.

Don’t let any production company or agency try to dissuade you from squeezing as much out of your production as possible. Pulling a shoot together is expensive, location costs, crew, equipment, talent not to mention all of the other logistical expenses, to put all your creative eggs in one basket at the end of this process is folly.

Your agency should provide you with a strategy where they are creating multiple pieces of content, of differing lengths and in differing formats from any shoot. They should also be supporting your with additional photography and behind the scenes content if you want it.

There may be small additional costs and time factors to consider when making this decision but in reality these are often negligible. Of course there are still the traditional production houses who roll their eyes, or make a huge song and dance about assisting with this, but quite frankly, they’re dinosaurs, destined for extinction.

Technological change means every single production house should be making these offerings to you. Whether it’s created on an iPhone or a professional camera is down to you and your budget, but whatever happens, ensure they are planning to give you that extra content.


Which leads us nicely on to formats. Let’s talk about the formats that are both most popular and powerful today as well as the formats that are coming:

16 x 9 - the wide screen format of YouTube (also popular on LinkedIn and Facebook video)

1 x 1 - The square format most widely favoured on Instagram

9 x 16 - The vertical format that is most commonly associated with Instagram stories.

5 x 4 - The best performing format of video for Facebook video.

While these have been the dominant format of video the new formats you should be considering as part of your creative are:





When planning your shoot, try to plan to capture content across a wide range of these formats, in differing lengths. You can then use this as a means of assessing which produces the best results for your audience over the course of a campaign, and use that data to determine creative choices for future campaigns.

The start that matters

We said earlier that it is the start that matters. This is less true for content that has been searched and sought by an individual (for example ‘How To’ or ‘Explainer’ videos). It is absolutely crucial we nail the start of video content that is most commonly going to be consumed by an audience that is viewing it in a casual way (either through a timeline or as a suggested video).

So how do we do this?

Think about your start long before you decide to sit down and film. What are going to be the funniest moments in your video? What will be the most shocking? What will be the most exciting? Can we turn this into a bite size five second film without ruining the audiences desire to watch through to the end.

The next absolutely crucial thing is ensuring the audience understands as quickly as possible what it is the video is going to be about. Our waning concentration spans and freedom to flick restlessly from one piece of media to the next means that our audience needs to understand from the first frame of the video ‘this is going to make you laugh’ or ‘this is going to teach you something’ or ‘this is going to be a window into a persons life you want to know about’. Don’t try to hide this with art house, boho abstract edits or unnecessarily long beautiful takes of the sky or flowers. Cut to the chase and you can help this by thinking about…

Title title title

Everyone does three things when a video appears in their feed:

  • Am I instantly intrigued or entertained?
  • How long is this video going to be?
  • What is it called.

When we say title, we don’t just mean the title typed into YouTube when uploading. We mean actual graphics and signposting in the video and we also mean any of the description written under the video. Each of those three things is helping give our time strapped audience a quick understanding of what it is they are watching. We’re trying to keep that restless thumb from swiping up, and we need to use every single tool in our arsenal.

So what does this mean in reality? Rather than giving your campaign and abstract name that nobody has any emotional connection to, instead give it a headline that is enticing. Let’s say we’re a travel company trying to sell a hotel in Orlando. We could give the title of the film as the hotel itself, something like ‘The Intercontinental Orlando’ but that’s not really telling our unaware audience why they should watch the video. It’s great for people who already know about the hotel but not so great for everyone else.

Instead why not try something like ‘Is this the greatest hotel near Disneyland?’ It challenges the audience and makes them want to watch to see if they agree with the question or not. It makes them think about going to Disneyland and of course it makes them consider The Intercontinental.

We’d advise that this title would feed into the style and creative treatment of the video. Perhaps it becomes a top five reasons why it is the best hotel in Disney. We all know that lists work… and to prove my point lets move onto number 7.

The biggest mistake we see clients making when signing off on video content campaigns in 2019 is not having an adequate, fair metric guiding whether or not the campaign has been a success.

Let’s look at a few ways to gauge a video content campaign:

  • Increase in brand engagement across all channels (has the website received more views, have we sold more product, are the shops seeing higher footfall).
  • Increase in online acquisition. Have we got more names on the mailing list? Does the channel have more subscribers? Place a value on each subscriber, what are they worth.
  • Has it helped other parts of the business be more succesful. Not everything is about online audiences. Perhaps a sales team has achieved a B2B sale by using the video, or perhaps the brand has been invited to speak at an illustrious event. Place a value on these goals.
  • HR - has it helped improve employee engagement, has it helped recruit new staff to the business. What does this typically cost? What proportion of this cost saving could we attribbute to the video?

These are only a couple of ideas but ultimately they are critical if the agency and brand are to have a longstanding successful partnership. If these goals are not in place then it is impossible to assess whether anyone is doing what they ought to be doing.