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How to Win at Social Video: a Platform-by-Platform Guide

If you've been paying much attention in the social media sphere, you're likely aware video has become a popular—and highly engaging—form of content across all major platforms. As a result, smart brands now consider it an integral part of their social media marketing strategies.

But if you've experimented with video in social, you may have noticed that successful YouTube content often tanks on Facebook. Or maybe you've wondered how your Instagram videos should differ from your Vines.

Your videos must match the tone and culture of the social platform you're using. Otherwise, they will get ignored or, worse, negatively impact brand perception.

In this post, we're going to look at how to create high-performing videos for six top social networks: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine and YouTube. You'll learn how to use video to educate, entertain, engage and more—regardless of the platform. 

Woman on bed looking at phone and computer

A post on the topic of social media video strategy could go in many different directions. I could write about technical aspects, such as which video resolution works best, when to post, whether to use hashtags, how to write compelling titles and so on. But that's more like social media 101. 

Instead, I aim provide guidance regarding how your videos should look (differently) platform to platform, using two consistent examples:

  • BuzzFeed Video. BuzzFeed in general is known for its knack for virality. So naturally, it makes sense to pay attention to what it's doing on its BuzzFeed Video properties. We'll use BuzzFeed Video as our corporate brand example.
  • Gary Vaynerchuck. A video marketing rock star, Gary launched his successful career by starting a web video series. Now he's regarded as a top authority in the industry, always exploring the bleeding edge of online video. Gary will serve as our personal brand example.

In this post, we'll look at details—such as length, subject matter and overall tone—of effective social media videos. And hopefully, you'll come away with actionable advice you can implement immediately. 

So let's get started.


Video exploded on Facebook in 2015. (The last I heard, there are four million video plays on Facebook daily.) Here are a few best practices for sharing videos on Facebook:

  • Go native. Sharing videos natively (i.e., uploading the file directly to Facebook rather than sharing a link to a video hosted somewhere else, such as YouTube) is pretty critical because, as SocialBakers found, native videos eat up 80% of all video interactions on Facebook. Similarly, Locowise found native videos experience 67% higher reach compared to YouTube videos shared on Facebook.
  • Focus on the first few seconds. Facebook videos autoplay in users' feeds. That means you have only a few seconds to grip Facebookers as they scroll down. So skip the long-winded branded intro, and jump right into the meat of things.
  • Consider the (silent) context. Though Facebook videos do autoplay, they do so without sound. For this reason, you may want to use subtitles to ensure your video is still effective without sound. If you're clever, you might even be able to use silence to your advantage.
  • Opt for shorter videos. Facebook doesn't have video length restrictions like some other platforms we'll look at. But that doesn't mean longer is better. (In fact, SocialBakers also found "videos that were less than ~21 seconds performed in the top 25% for completion rates.") Consider using a Facebook video to simply "preview" a long-form video, and link to it using a call-to-action. More on that below.
  • Get exclusive. If you offer something unique on Facebook, people will find more reason to follow you there (in addition to your other web properties).
  • Answer questions. Do you frequently get asked the same questions about your business or product? Your answer could make fantastic fodder for a Facebook video. (This also adds a personal touch to your brand, which is always nice.)
  • Evoke emotion. Students of persuasion know that appealing to emotion can be a highly effective tactic. It follows, then, that emotional content is highly engaging. So amp up the drama (and as often as possible, add the element of surprise) in your videos to encourage shares, comments and likes.
  • Tease with an interesting status. When you post a video to Facebook, foster curiosity with an interesting headline. Facebook suggests using a quote from the video to help set the context and viewer expectations.
  • Add a call-to-action. Facebook offers the option to feature a CTA after your video ends. You can pick from presets, such as "Shop Now," "Sign Up" and "Learn More," and choose where your CTA link will take viewers.

Examples of Facebook Video

In this Facebook Video, BuzzFeed Video promises to educate viewers on the history of chocolate in just 120 seconds. When you watch the video, notice how BuzzFeed Video uses captions to keep viewers engaged, even if they don't have the sound on. 

The video is satisfyingly entertaining, too, offering factoids that make us feel slightly smarter in just seconds.

The History Of Chocolate In 120 Seconds

Posted by BuzzFeed Video on Monday, January 11, 2016

In the following video, Gary dives into the heart of what he wants to say without wasting time on introductions or setup, making things captivating from the beginning. 

The video feels very personal, as though we're just sitting and chatting with Gary. It's also brief—likely a shortened version of a longer video, perhaps one on Gary's YouTube channel.

The clouds & dirt debate ..

Posted by Gary Vaynerchuk on Friday, January 8, 2016

 So what is else happening in the world of Facebook video? Well, a few things:


Like on Facebook, video posts on Instagram automatically play without sound. They also loop, or repeat upon conclusion. At only 15 seconds long, Instagram videos can be a fantastic way to:

  • Share "behind-the-scenes" content. Here's that idea of exclusivity again. Since its launch, Instagram has been an effective way for brands to give people an inside look at company culture, product design and other day-to-day processes.
  • Humanize your brand. Instagram is a personal platform, which means you have the opportunity to remind people that humans are behind your brand. Don't be afraid to use humor and emotion in your videos to entertain and inspire viewers.
  • Showcase the product experience. You should feature your product or service on Instagram—but in the context of how it affects your customers. What problem are they solving with the help of your product? How do they feel after using your product? What else are they doing when they use your product? Present your product with a unique perspective, and focus on the experience (rather than a hard sell) when doing so.

Instagram culture is relatively casual, valuing authenticity. But quality and beauty are also very important. So while your videos should be "real," you shouldn't underestimate the power of a little polishing. 

To stylize your video, you can use the app's built-in filters, as well as other tools from the Instagram team: Hyperlapse and Boomerang. (Here are a few other free video editing apps I highly recommend.)

Examples of Instagram Video

BuzzFeed Video offers a glimpse behind the curtain, so to speak, in this Instagram video. (Also, doesn't it make you want to work at BuzzFeed now? I mean, puppies.)


In this next example from Gary, he's just crossing the street. Which may make you think, "OK… what's so great about this?" But if your sound is on, you'll find Gary has overdubbed the video with a short monologue, turning a relatively mundane video into an inspiring one.



What's been called an "ephemeral" marketing platform (because Snaps disappear after 10 seconds), Snapchat is among the newer social media channels to consider. 

Before I continue, I must admit, I'm not a Snapchat user. And I struggle with the fleeting nature of the platform. I mean, why spend time and energy creating content when it will simply evaporate in seconds? 

But something Greg Jarboe at ReelSEO wrote made me reconsider: "TV commercials...disappear immediately after being viewed. Will some video marketers still choose to ignore Snapchat…?" 

Touché, Jarboe. 

Plus, Snapchat is huge. More than one million people use the app to watch more than 5 million videos—daily. So if you're trying to reach people (especially 13–34-year-olds), Snapchat is worth considering. 

If you decide to take the Snapchat plunge, or if you're already there, keep the following advice in mind:

  • Use FOMO (the "fear of missing out"). We're naturally wired to want what's in short supply. Have you ever bought something simply because it was on sale for a limited time? This psychological trigger is baked into Snapchat. (Perhaps that's why it's so popular.) Use it. Share exclusive content viewers can't see anywhere else. Make it irresistible.
  • Inspire action. In keeping with the idea of FOMO, including CTAs in your Snaps is a smart way to increase conversions. For retail and restaurant brands, this could mean offering a limited-time, exclusive discount coupon code.
  • Be brief. Snapchat videos can be only 10 seconds long. That said, Snapchat Stories allow you to stitch individual Snaps together to create a cohesive, replayable narrative that exists for 24 hours.
  • Go vertical. Generally-speaking, vertical video is a pet peeve of mine. But because Snapchat uses a vertical interface, videos taken in portrait (vertical) format perform much better—seeing a completion rate 9X that of landscape videos, in fact—on the platform.
  • Get real(-time). Compared to a platform like Instagram, Snapchat is about sharing raw content created on the fly. (But don't be afraid to use Snapchat's filters, captions, emojis and annotations to make things interesting.)

Examples of Snapchat Video

It appears BuzzFeed has only one Snapchat account (i.e., there's not a specific account for BuzzFeed Video). Besides, it's a little tricky to show you an example because, Snapchat. 

Luckily, Gary sometimes Tweets his Snaps, like he did here. The video showcases the casual, slightly random, but highly personal nature of the platform.


One of the more recent supporters of video, Twitter allows its users to share up to 30 seconds (or longer for ads) of auto-playing, muted video. 

In a study, Twitter found 82% of Twitter users watch video content on the platform. And compared to third-party videos, native videos (again, meaning videos uploaded directly to Twitter) drive more engagement: 2.5X replies, 2.8X Retweets and 1.9X Favorites. 

Another interesting result of the study concerns usage: 70% of Twitter users watch videos that appear in their timelines rather than search for videos on the platform. Contrast this with YouTube users, 63% of whom actively search to find specific video content on the platform. 

So what does that mean for you, the video creator? Let's look at what Twitter suggests (plus a few tips of my own):

  • Draw people in with people. Twitter found that videos featuring people in the first few seconds are twice as likely to keep viewers watching.
  • Showcase your product (and its benefits). This is sort of marketing 101. But Twitter found that focusing on a product's utility and real-life applications can increase both familiarity and brand recall.
  • Tell a story. Storytelling is all the rage in the marketing world. Luckily, video lends itself to sharing stories. To take advantage of the compelling power of story, structure your videos with a clear beginning (situation), middle (conflict) and end (resolution). Storytelling in video is something I'm excited to explore further—stay tuned for a future blog post.
  • Add drama. Think of the last television commercial that really gripped you. Odds are, it was pumped full of fast music, quick cutscenes and other high-energy, adrenaline-inducing elements. It was likely also 30 seconds long (like Twitter videos) or shorter. My point? Take a note from TV and aim to entertain with your videos.
  • Partner with influencers. With only seconds to win and hold the attention of Twitter users, a familiar face could turn bored browsers into an engaged audience. To increase recall and the potential for shares, consider featuring someone viewers would recognize in your videos.
  • Keep mobile in mind. 90% of Twitter video views are on a mobile device. It's always good to remember that when planning and setting goals for your video.
  • Include a call-to-action. Speaking of goals, what do you want viewers to do after watching your video? Make that action blatantly obvious to improve the probability of it happening.

Examples of Twitter Video

This video Tweet from BuzzFeed Video features a human element early on, and it promises to help solve a problem in a short amount of time. Don't you want to feel better in 30 seconds?

When it comes to Twitter video, Gary Vaynerchuk suggests it's best for "connecting and engaging, rather than just pushing." Gary goes on to explain that responding to to people with a video rather than a Tweet can go a long way toward facilitating brand advocacy. See that highly human approach in this video from Gary.

Want more inspiration for how you could use Twitter video? Here are a few bright ideas from Sandrine Sahakians at Buffer:

  • Tease a big announcement or product launch
  • Highlight holidays
  • Add interest to your responses
  • Promote a new service or product
  • Share exclusive content
  • Educate
  • Ask for customers to share their own videos


Have you heard? The average human has an attention span of a measly eight seconds. Luckily, with Vine, you only need six. 

Though it became more of a niche social network after Instagram introduced video posts, Vine is still alive and well—and can be highly effective for improving brand perception and affinity (particularly among a younger demographic, between 13–25 years). 

To make the most of your six seconds-long, looping videos try the following:

  • Use stop motion. You've probably seen it already, but Dunkin Donuts shared several great stop-motion Vines to replicate football game plays. Clever.
  • Explain how to do something. If your brand or product is DIY-inclined, Vine could be the perfect channel for you. Take Lowes for example. Short "fix it" tutorials (#lowesfixinsix) skyrocketed the home improvement brand into the Vine spotlight.
  • Get creative. Consider using special effects to give your Vines that extra oomph. This Vine from Angry Birds uses Ghost Mode to make things magically appear and disappear. Fun, right?
  • Entertain. The average Vine user is looking for entertainment, not products to buy. An excellent brand example of comedy (and quality) on Vine is Oreo.

More Vine Examples

BuzzFeed Video's Vine account is basically pure entertainment. Here's just a taste. (Turn the sound on!)


Gary isn't super active on Vine. But if you browse his account, you'll notice that his videos—virtually all being shot selfie-style—feel very personal. And it's Gary, so there's usually a bit of humor, too.


I'm a little hesitant to even address YouTube. The online video giant has been around since 2005. YouTubers upload more than 400 hours of footage per minute. And people have dedicated entire books to the topic of YouTube. 

Whew. Intimidating. 

So I'm just going to skim the surface of YouTube best practices, starting with a few that the site recommends.

  • Make your videos irresistibly shareable. How do you do this? YouTube suggests starting with a few questions: Will your audience relate to your video? Are you moving your audience emotionally? Are you offering a fascinating insight?
  • Teach viewers. Many people turn to YouTube to solve a problem—they're looking to learn something. If your brand lends itself to "DIY" and "how to" types of content, take advantage of the opportunity to educate.
  • Opt for longer videos. According to ReelSEO, the most engaging YouTube videos are nearly 10X longer than the most engaging Facebook videos.
  • Call viewers to action. I could easily write an entire post on YouTube cards and annotations. But the short version is this: use them. For the greatest chance of conversion, ReelSEO suggests placing CTAs 30 seconds into your videos.

Want more tips? Check out YouTube's own Creator Academy. You'll find courses on everything from growing your audience to effectively using music in your videos.

Examples of YouTube Videos

Using the power of storytelling, this video (and advertisement for cat food) from BuzzFeed Video is an engaging example of longer videos—the type that perform well on YouTube.  


Gary's channel is chock-full of educational videos, which—as I mentioned—are what many people search for on YouTube. You'll find some hilarity, too, like this.  

Over to You

These are just a few of the many video platforms available to you. We didn't even look at some of the newer apps, such as Blab, Periscope, Beme or Peach.

If you'd like me to do a follow-up post on these or other platforms—or if you have a question about anything I've shared here—please leave a comment to let me know!

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