For all that is written about digital publishing's over-reliance on social media, there are some forms of content that do disproportionately flourish on social channels. By far the most effective and common is video, with Facebook (in particular) eagerly accommodating branded video content, both live and pre-produced, into its news feed. Brands that get it right will often see hundreds of thousands of views on their social videos, reach well beyond their immediate audiences, and a mouth-watering proposition for marketers.
One important thing to note is that not every brand should be making social video. Content that begins life on and for the social feed will work for brands that are going for reach, and ultimately they are best used by companies in the B2C space. Their efficacy in terms of garnering likes and shares has been comprehensively proven, but it’s important that brands think about whether the medium suits them before they dedicate resources to social video.
At the Content Marketing Summit, in December last year in New York, Diply’s VP of Ad Sales Marketing, Thomas Allcock, talked the audience through the social brand’s tips for effective social video. Diply, put simply, is a leading social entertainment publisher. Aimed at Millennials, the brand is prolific in its publishing on social channels, with Facebook a particular area of success, and video has been a key pillar of its rapid growth.
Diply generates over a billion views each month – it clearly understands how to create a buzz on social. Thomas puts the rise in content on social down to a number of different factors, but ultimately, he says, brands can follow some rough guidelines for success. To give an idea of just how successful Diply is on social, Thomas used the example of a short video published on its DIY channel ‘Crafty’, which showed the building of an inventive, novelty bottle opener. “This video was viewed 71 million times, primarily on Facebook – those are all organic views. To give some sort of context, if we think about broadcast television (which is apparently still a thing) around this time of year, Sunday night football is usually the most highly-rated event on TV,” Thomas explains. “Last week, 17 million people watched the game live. So that means that four times as many people watched [the video] than last week’s football game.”
Diply has tried to identify the fundamentals behind its success. Thomas and his team “analyzed over 5000 videos in order to break down best practices and benchmarks,” before settling on five key tenets of a successful video strategy.
1. Timing is everything
Thomas’ first point can be broken down into a few different details. Firstly, the length of the video is key. “We watched for completion rates and engagements, and we found that the sweet spot on Facebook is about a 45-second video,” Thomas explains. “I know that there’s a lot of talk about ‘snackable’ content, that shorter is better, but we found that on a social platform, slightly longer works better.” And, with changes to Facebook’s algorithm expected and consumer behavior changing, Thomas and his team expect 70 to 90-second videos performing best in 2018.
As for the timing of posting, lunchtime and nighttime tend to see better performance for video content. This works for Diply’s particular style of lifestyle content, though, and won’t necessarily be the same for all brands, so testing is key to define when exactly your content will get the best results. It’s also important, as Thomas notes, that you understand that it is fairly obvious fairly quickly whether a video is going to be successful or not – about 70% of a video’s cumulative engagement comes within the first 24 hours of publishing, and 98% comes within 72 hours.
Engagement with video over time. Graph lifted from Thomas' presentation.
2. Make it interesting
“The beauty of social video,” Thomas says, “is that you’re going to get both [scale and engagement.] You’re able to reach the largest audience possible but you’re also able to create a one-to-one conversation with the people that have watched it.” This means turning views into engagement – which Diply count as likes, shares, or comments – is paramount for social video. Diply considers a strong performance, based on the number of views a video garners, to be a 1.5% - 3% engagement rate.
Comments are the most valuable form of engagement for Diply, because it suggests a level of interest in the content that is difficult to glean from a view or a like. This means creating interesting video that audiences are going to want to discuss, a vague but important consideration when making any branded video, but particularly on social.
3. Mobile-first format wins
It goes without saying at this point that brands should have a mobile-first focus when producing almost any content. It’s been some time since mobile internet usage overtook that of desktop, and video consumption on mobile is streets ahead. It’s clear that brands should be focusing their video content on the mobile audience, but what is less clear is exactly which format caters best for mobile devices.
“Everyone first started with a 16x9 wide view – we even did this about a year ago – thinking that everyone was going to turn their phone,” Thomas says. “They actually don’t. So, we suggest making sure that, when you’re creating your social videos, that it’s a 1x1 square. It fills up the screen better, and it shows up in the feed better. We probably will see, in 2018, a movement towards full-screen videos (thanks to Snapchat), and again, those types of things will need to be taken care of as you’re filming your content.”
16x9 vs Square video content. Image lifted from Thomas' presentation.
4. Silence is golden
Thomas’ fourth point is an absolute must. 85% of videos watched on mobile are watched with the sound off, as people avoid blasting out the opening seconds of a video to their unsuspecting fellow commuters. “Most content on Facebook is watched with the sound off,” Thomas says. “So, captioning is also going to be key for you. This also really helps if you have a global brand because there’s no easier way to create multiple versions of the same video than just changing the language of the captions.” Though it can be slightly frustrating as a user to have videos void of voiceovers or any dialogue at all, a captioned video is by far the most versatile as brands look for scale.
5. Art vs. Science
Thomas then explained the editorial process at Diply. Editorial teams in both London, Ontario, and Toronto will create the content, but it will be the responsibility of dedicated social teams to actually publish the social videos across the various channels. The social team is also responsible for testing, as Thomas details: “All of our stories and videos are dark posted before they go out to the public. They are testing the invitation state – what is the image that you’re seeing when you’re going through the screen, how is that creating interest? They also test headlines – what works better to get you to click on the video.”
“So, art and science need to work hand in hand.” What this means for Diply is testing between its different channels. Thomas uses the example of a recipe video that was initially put out on Diply’s food channel ‘Delicious.’ Because the recipe used only five ingredients and could be considered a ‘life hack,’ the team decided to test it on their arts and crafts channel Crafty – it performed five times better on the latter. “Always be looking at the results – your likes, your comments, your views – so that you can be optimizing as you go along.”