Digital Video Best Practices

make the best digital videos
Do it right, from the start

Content content everywhere, and not a drop to spare.

The infusion of social media and connected devices has animated our lives in ways we never thought possible. Video, once a technological gimmick limited to large dark cinemas and whirring wheels of cellophane, is now so commonplace that the trendiest social apps actually delete your videos for you.

Content content everywhere, now try to get people to care.

If you’re a brand and the images you produce are not moving, you are self-amputating your reach and engagement. Barracuda are attracted to bright shiny metal objects. Humans are attracted to bright shiny moving images. But we are so attracted to bright shiny moving images that we skip over content in the very first seconds if it doesn’t prove itself to be bright and shiny enough. After years of smartphones and vertical social feeds, our thumbs have a new reflex, the scroll, and any content that you want to be seen (i.e. all of your fucking content) needs to be thumbstoppingly good. It needs to overcome that now-standard reflex.

Content content everywhere, it’s all so unfair.

How do you fight it? How can you break through when everyone is trying to break through too? The continuing mass of content heaping higher upon itself like a landfill of used ideas – bits of artistic direction consumed in flicks of the finger – views measured in microseconds, making the blink of the eye an eternity in comparison – may seem insurmountable.

The best we can do is study what works and what doesn’t. Learn the best practices and try to apply them. Learn the worst practices and try to avoid them. Understand the limits of each platforms and try to embrace them.

Here are some of the best practices that I’ve learned when it comes to digital video content. If you’d like to add anything to this list, please feel free to comment below and I’ll update the post!

Set the 3-second hook 

82% of videos in Facebook are abandonned after 3 seconds. That’s a gigantic amount. That means that not even 1 out of 5 people in your target will consume your content past 3 seconds, and the people who pass the 3 second mark drop off steeply. Is this because most video content on Facebook is shitty? That’s probably part of the problem, but it’s also a question of overload and competition.

You have to make those first three seconds count. There needs to be a hook,  an intrigue, something powerful, funny, or touching that happens in order to get people to watch the rest of the video. Grab and don’t let go.

Stick that Logo in there from the very beginning

The creative director in all of us likes the idea of presenting the logo at the end of the video, to reveal that it was us all along. While that might work for your meeting room and agency, nothing is worse for brand recall than burying your branding at the end. Virtually no one watches a video to the last seconds. Instead, you need the logo from the very opening frame. The logo has the added bonus of catching fans during that crucial 3 second window.

Think vertical first 

I’ve wrote an entire essay about this topic but I’ll say it again, if you’re making video content in a horizontal landscape format that is not friendly to vertical video, get your ass out of the 20the century, put away your dreams of winning an academy award and make content that is going to be consumed properly in the places where it’s destined to go. Don’t like it? Good luck trying to convince hundreds of millions of millenials to stop using Snapchat.

Sound on 

If your video content might be used on YouTube, the best practice is to always have sound or music. Snapchat is sound on, Facebook will soon be switching to sound on by default. As sound is a powerful dimension of experiencing a video, make sure that you have counted on having it from the very beginning.

“But wait? I always browse in silent mode!”

You, my 30-something content manager, are not representative of the world’s digital population.

Subtitle spoken text

With the majority of video being consumed on mobile, we are not always in a position to listen to what’s being said (OK, you can say “I told you so”).

The best thing to do is have the spoken text appear on the screen, like hardcoding the subtitles or even better, using a kinetic text that is based on your graphic chart so it flows better. Do not rely on the subtitle option on YouTube, viewers have to enable subtitles and in that ever-so-crucial 3-second window there is no way those people are stopping to watch your content and turning the subtitles on.

Capture their attention immediately and never assume.

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