There’s been a massive growth in online video consumption in the last two or three years. According to the latest stats, half of us are regularly watching video on mobile devices.
And the trend is set to continue. No big surprises, then.
But the definition of video is changing: we watch video on a plethora of platforms, in a number of different formats.
We watch disposable 15-second clips, filmed in portrait and covered in scribbles and doodles, on Snapchat and Instagram. We watch two-minute semi-professional instructional videos, product reviews and comedy skits on YouTube. And we watch live streams on Facebook and Periscope.
Video has grown sideways as well as upwards.
This trend brings a problem for the content producers: saturation. As organisations cotton on to this trend, they shift their focus to producing video content, and social media users become overloaded, swiping and scrolling past your carefully-crafted video.
So there’s a need to adapt. These are some of things I’ve been doing to adapt. You might find them useful too.
My six principles of doing video better
- Make shorter videos. Vine may be dead, but short viewing times are here to stay. They say a photograph should say one thing – it should have one idea to communicate. Video needs to be the same.
- Subtitles. People are watching with the sound down, so bite the bullet and sub your videos if they’re for social channels.
- Make it about people. If you can, make it about your audience. Who are they? What do they want? Tell them a story that answers those questions, and I guarantee they’ll engage with it. This graduation video is an example of it working for us.
- Do less, but better. Stop posting badly-edited, shaky smartphone videos, and invest in a decent bit of kit. Even a basic camcorder on a tripod will get you better results. Look at how the most popular YouTube vloggers do it.
- Make paid-for promotion a part of your strategy. If your videos have a call-to-action, or you’re trying to achieve huge online consumption of your content, stump up for a bit of advertising. You don’t need a huge budget to reach new people on social, but you do need a budget.
- Make it for the platform it’s being distributed on. Someone looking for pretty things on Instagram wants a very different experience to someone searching and browsing YouTube.
These are principles I’ve adopted over the last few weeks, and they’re working for our social channels. During graduation fortnight we posted eight graduation-themed videos on our Facebook page, including a live broadcast from Sheffield City Hall.
Those videos generated a combined organic reach of 185,000 over two weeks, and a couple of the posts generated a ton of comments from users who wanted to share their own pride in being a Sheffield Hallam student, graduand or alumnus.
We did OK for likes, comments and shares on Twitter too.
— Sheffield Hallam Uni (@sheffhallamuni) November 22, 2016
— Sheffield Hallam Uni (@sheffhallamuni) November 18, 2016
— Sheffield Hallam Uni (@sheffhallamuni) November 17, 2016
Lastly, it’s important, as always, not to get too dazzled by the technology. As communicators, we’re sometimes driven by output, and there’s always a danger of us falling into the ‘we need a *insert output*’ trap.
So start with the goal, then move onto the audience, platform and output. Keep asking why. If you’re sure video is the right medium for the story, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you plan the video. You don’t need to storyboard it, but you should definitely think about these things:
- Concept – what’s your ‘elevator pitch’ for the video?
- Narrative – how is the story told? Down-the-line, over-the-shoulder, voiceover?
- Locations – what do you know about your locations? They bring with them a whole range of challenges.
- Pace – how many shots will you need in the edit? How fast do things move?
- Technology – what kit do you need to make it happen?
I hope that gives you some food for thought. I’m always keen to hear how people approach video, so let me know your own tips for creating engaging video content – in the comments, or over on Twitter.
Joe Field, social media manager