Simple strategies for Facebook videos

Simple strategies for Facebook videos

Serious issues often don’t do so well on Facebook. That’s not because Facebookers don’t think they are important, but because they aren’t always  stimulating enough to earn a reaction — and if Facebook doesn’t detect a reaction, it will decrease the potential reach of that story.

This is doubly true of video, which Facebook has increasingly favored because of their desire to keep users on their platform longer. Longer time on Facebook gives the company a greater chance to make money, and videos that keep people watching are a serious boon to that time spent statistic.

Therefore, if we want a serious topic to do well on Facebook video, we need to find ways to make it sticky to the viewers.

Here are some tips to accomplish that goal:

  1. Don’t rely on audio or narration, because Facebook’s autoplay starts on silent.
  2. Ensure that the subject of your video can be visible on a silent preview that’s only 2-inches wide on the screen of a phone. You probably won’t want to start with a wide, establishing shot.
  3. If explanation is required, text slides are a good option — like silent films. But other simple graphics, like arrows, can also guide viewers to the focal point. Whatever you use needs to be big enough to read or interpret on that small starting screen.
  4. The first 5 seconds of video need to stand out visually, because it will start to autoplay as the user scrolls past. Your goal is to get them to pause. This can be either some serious action or it can be some serious understatement, but don’t bother trying to be subtle.
  5. Try to keep the video as self-explanatory as possible, because once the viewer is hooked, they’ll take it full screen and your caption will be hidden. If they can’t understand the video on its own, your success will be limited.
  6. As with broadcast video, avoid giving the user pause points where they can bail out. A fast pace one way to ensure to this, but the composition of the video or text can also be factors. Don’t let any one element come to a close before the others. If one of the text slides, interviews or action shots come their end before the other elements, there is a natural bail-out point for the viewers.
  7. But because viewers will find those natural bail-out moments, the thesis statement of the video should be front-loaded. Viewers who only get as far as the first pause should still feel like you’ve informed them.

Here are two very successful samples of Facebook videos for news stories from my past week at work. The first is one I created for a colleague’s investigative story. The second is one I helped a reporter to plan for his exclusive story.