What is Social Video? Everything You Need to Know

“Social video” is the topic du jour for publishers, brands, marketers, and anyone else looking to find success on social media. Throughout the last year, we’ve seen the pivot to video become the focus of most organizations seeking online success. It’s no surprise, as social video has grown to be the most popular and widespread content on social media. And has shown itself to be the most effective for driving engagement and growing audiences.

But none of that really answers the question: what is a social video? Let’s break it down.

A social video is short

Effective social videos are short! The most successful – viral videos with over 1 million views – typically last between 30 seconds and 1 minute. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for in-depth subjects, but it is just enough space to quickly tell a single story! Or to focus in on one big highlight, be it entertaining, informative, or affecting.

While short and viral typically go hand-in-hand, not every social video does (or even can) go viral. In fact, only 1.2% of videos on Facebook get over 1 million views. There’s simply no way to guarantee or predict that a piece will go viral. But we analyzed thousands of videos and determined some shared features and best practices that increase your chances.

A social video is targeted

Social media is all about audience – the audience you have and the audience you want. Social video is aimed at both groups. The hope is that as your current audience engages with content, interested users from their networks will be drawn into the fold.

This means crafting content that your core audience looks to your organization for, as well as content that taps into their other interests. You also need to pay attention to the habits of your audiences. When are they online? What types of content to they respond to the most? Make sure your subjects are aligned with what your viewers most enjoy. And make sure your metadata – like titles, descriptions, and tags – are robust and descriptive, driving up your video SEO so your content is showing in the searches of new viewers.

A social video is designed for social platforms

This one might feel obvious, but social videos are specifically designed for social platforms. It is not just a TV ad uploaded to Facebook. That means the video is optimized for web and mobile viewing and tailored specifically to the platform that will house them.

Part of this is brevity, as well as readability across devices of all kinds, and clarity of message even without sound. While horizontal orientation is still the leading format on social, square videos have rapidly risen in popularity over the last year. This format display well no matter the screen size or orientation. And square videos occupy greater visual space in feeds, naturally drawing more eyes.

A social video has one big goal: engagement

A central focus on driving engagement is the defining characteristic of social video. Every social video aims to drive social actions such as shares, comments, and likes. Those acts of engagement are what bring your content organically into the feeds of potential new followers and new audiences.

There’s no secret recipe for guaranteed engagement. But there are straightforward best practices to follow that have been shown to help drive those numbers. And if the goal of social media is to grow an audience, engagement is the number one way to do it.

Note that engagement need not be your only goal with social – but pursuing strong engagement will help you realize your others. Publishers are increasingly interested in social video as a revenue stream. There are effective ways to make that a reality!

While social platforms have long reaped ad benefits from the content of publishers and brands, 2017 saw those same platforms begin to share the wealth. Most notably, Facebook introduced a mid-roll ad program that any video longer than 90 seconds qualifies for. If an organization wants to create a new revenue stream from its social video efforts, it is a real possibility! And like other video strategies, viewer engagement will propel that success.

With these points in mind, we’re able to pull together a succinct answer to our original question. So what is a social video? A social video is a short-form video crafted specifically to drive engagement actions and captivate viewers on social networks.

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