How can businesses use social video now? For both B2C and B2B brands, the short answer is that you can use social video to accomplish a lot, from raising brand awareness to driving sales. Despite the hype when brands like Ocean Spray go viral, most of the benefit of social video comes from the core best practices of knowing your audience, tailoring your message to the platform, and creating content that resonates with potential customers.
Even without millions of views, well-made social videos can compensate for low- or no-touch shopping experiences for consumers and business decision-makers. They introduce consumers to new D2C brands and help business buyers gather the information they need to research and compare solutions.
Video posts and ads also have higher engagement rates than text-only or static-image content, so they can help you capture your audience’s attention. Even better, you don’t have to luck into – or try to force – a viral video moment to connect with your customers.
Where can you place your social videos and ads?
Social video platforms are always evolving, but here’s a snapshot of some of today’s best options for businesses:
Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok. Users get two length options with Instagram Reels: 15 and 30 seconds. Reels recently added shopping so viewers can buy directly from the videos they watch. Meanwhile, TikTok has partnered with Shopify to let store owners create video ads from the e-commerce platform.
Other Instagram and Facebook video ad channels
With nearly a dozen other channels besides Reels, Instagram and its parent, Facebook, give brands plenty of video placement options:
- Instagram feed, Stories and Explore
- Audience Network native, in-stream and other placements
- Facebook feed, in-stream, Marketplace and Stories
Facebook Marketplace, Instant Articles, and News Feed allow videos up to four hours long, but for most Facebook and Instagram video placements, the limit is two minutes.
On LinkedIn, native videos can run as long as 10 minutes, although LinkedIn notes that the ideal run time is three minutes or less. One recommendation for longer videos is to create a series of shorter videos for LinkedIn ad campaigns. In fact, LinkedIn reports that the video ads that do best are under 15 seconds.
Most businesses can tweet videos or run video ads up to two minutes and 20 seconds long on Twitter. Like LinkedIn, Twitter recommends keeping your video ads to 15 seconds or shorter.
Fifteen minutes is the basic time limit for video shares on YouTube, but you can upload longer videos once your account is verified. Video ads on the platform range from six to 20 seconds.
What kind of social video content should you create?
Most of the time, we think of short-form video when we think social – brief customer testimonials, product demos, and animated explainer videos of a minute or two are all prime examples. And for some platforms and audiences, short videos do work best.
However, longer video posts can also work. In fact, many professionals rely on video content for work now. For example, the Content Marketing Institute reports that, in 2020, more than half of tech professionals and engineers said they watched at least an hour’s worth of video for work each week.
These are some long-form video options to consider:
- Excerpts from webinar recordings that drive traffic to gated content or a registration page
- In-depth explainer videos that break down complex concepts or processes for business decision-makers
- In-depth product or service tutorial walk-throughs (especially helpful for SaaS marketing)
- Longer case studies that include video interviews with clients or customers
- Mini-documentaries that showcase your business’s culture, technology or creative process
While your followers may see your video posts in their feed, your target audience is more likely to see your videos if you run them as social ads. Social video ads let you customize your audience to reach different segments of your target market based on their attributes. Social video ads can reach audience members outside of social platforms as well: YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook all serve ads offsite.
Live social video options
Facebook and Instagram offer livestreaming options, and LinkedIn is currently beta-testing livestreaming with a selected group of applicants. Twitter’s live video platform, Periscope, requires a separate account, although you can create one with your Twitter credentials.
B2B companies can livestream product launches, conferences, and behind-the-scenes interviews with SMBs and company leaders. But the most immediate livestream results so far seem to be in the B2C space.
Forbes reports that global B2C brands such as L’Oreal and Kim Kardashian ran successful livestream shopping campaigns in 2020 that paired their products with Chinese social media influencers. Livestream shopping is something like an old-school infomercial updated for social media, with social celebrities, audience interaction, flash deals and instant purchasing.
Whether you’re showcasing your expertise for a B2B audience through native video or driving B2C sales through paid social video ads, a few best practices apply generally to all social video campaigns.
Social video marketing best practices
1. Know the aspect ratio and other specs for each platform you use.
Limits in pixel size, file size, aspect ratios and file formats vary from one platform to another, sometimes even within the same platform. For example, Instagram Stories video ads must be at least 500 x 889 pixels, while carousel video ads on Instagram should be square – ideally 180 x 1080 pixels.
Hootsuite’s guide to social media video requirements is helpful for an overview of many platforms. It’s also a good idea to double-check the specs for each platform you plan to use before you shoot your footage.
2. Be consistent with your thumbnail.
Create a branded thumbnail cover image or overlay logo for your videos and keep it consistent, with versions available for each different aspect ratio and resolution you need for each platform and channel.
3. Use captions on every video.
Engaging dialogue matters, but most viewers won’t hear it. A 2019 Verizon study found that 69% of Americans watch videos with the sound off while they’re in public, and a quarter mute videos even at home. Accessibility is another reason to caption videos.
4. Include a call to action.
Most social platforms let you add a CTA button or card at the end of your video so viewers can take the next step, whether that’s making a purchase, registering for a webinar or downloading a whitepaper. If there’s no CTA link tool on your platform of choice, include a URL at the end and in the text of your social post or ad.
5. Leverage platform data to tailor content to your target audience.
The ability to personalize your social video messaging helps you reach the exact people who are most likely to watch your video and follow your CTA. Track your campaigns’ performance and adjust your targeting and messaging as needed.
Starting your social video marketing
If your company is brand-new to social video, start small, with one platform, one format, and videos of 15 seconds or less. If you already run social video campaigns but haven’t seen the kind of ROI you want, review the tips above. You may need to shorten your videos, add captions, revisit your targeting and improve your CTAs. Keep experimenting and learning, because the potential for engagement and conversions from social video is worth the effort. [Read related article: 4 Tricks to Increase Your Social Media Views and Go Viral]
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