In 2021, video is more important than ever. No matter your social media platform of choice, they’ve all enhanced and developed their design to accommodate and focus on video content. Why? Quite simply, it’s the most engaging form of content. The more engaged your audience is, the further your message and brand will spread.
As tempting as it may be to simply click ‘publish’ and then share the link across all your different platforms, videos that are specifically tailored for each individual social media site are by far the most effective and useful.
This is because when you post a video ‘natively’ (uploading directly to the site), it will auto-play as your potential audience scrolls. If you just share a link, it will show as a static thumbnail. This isn’t great for a number of reasons:
Native video is the way to go. Below, we’ve put together a quick guide to get you started on each platform.
The content on each platform is consumed very differently. Some sites like YouTube should really be landscape only (16:9). Meanwhile, Instagram and TikTok should be portrait (9:16). Here’s the down-low on the aspect ratio and quality preference for each:
The new kid on the block, TikTok has been making major inroads. Depending on your target audience, you could argue this is the number one platform to reach them on. We’ve discussed more about each platform’s audience and demographics below.
TikTok was designed specifically as a mobile app with users holding their phones in the classic ‘portrait’ mode. Videos take up the full screen so aim for an aspect ratio of 9:16.
Quality-wise, aim for 1080p HD but keep the file size on the small size as you’ll be uploading from your mobile device.
Take a look at any video on YouTube. Chances are, it’s landscape. You’re aiming for an aspect ratio of 16:9 because this takes up the full space provided. YouTube is consumed pretty equally across both desktop and mobile devices. Landscape is a far more natural fit for desktop viewing and, whilst mobile definitely prefers portrait, people are more than happy to hit full screen and turn their phones when browsing the YouTube app.
When it comes to the quality of video, you can go as high as you like. We recommend nothing less than 1080p full HD and you can even post in 4K. YouTube will compress the quality slightly, but not by anything too noticeable.
Originally known for only being able to post perfectly square photos in a 1:1 ratio, Instagram has come a long way in the past decade. Overwhelmingly a mobile-first platform, your best ratio for posting to either stories, the feed or their new ‘Reels’ is a portrait video in the 4:5 format.
As this content is being viewed on mobile devices, you’ll be able to get away with the quality being as low as 720p HD. Don’t go lower than this and ideally, still aim for 1080p HD. 4K is pretty pointless as this will simply increase your upload time without seeing any difference in quality. Instagram is known to really compress videos quite hard.
Facebook is perhaps the most flexible platform when it comes to aspect ratio. You can opt for landscape (16:9), square (1:1), or portraits (4:5 / 2:3 / 9:16). Think about where you’re going to be posting the video and how your target audience is browsing the platform. If they’re using the mobile app and you’re sharing to the Facebook Stories feature, portrait is always going to be better.
Quality-wise, try to aim for 1080p full HD. Facebook does put your video through quite a lot of compression when you upload so bear this in mind.
Though primarily all about words, videos do have their place on Twitter in 2021 — more so than ever before. We recommend going for a 16:9 landscape ratio. 1:1 squares also work but avoid any portrait form as the platform does not support this.
In terms of quality, they like to keep their file sizes very small. You’ll have to export the video as small as possible. Because it’s most likely being consumed on a mobile device, quality won’t matter as much so you can opt for 720p HD.
It’s really important to know what kind of mindset and headspace your audience is in when they visit each platform. When they visit YouTube, they have wildly different expectations and intentions compared to when they’re scrolling through Instagram. How they engage as well as their age and purpose for visiting will all be different as well.
When you know this, you can create really specific videos that are tailored to exactly the type of audience you want to reach.
TikTok is incredibly popular with the kids (we’re sorry if this makes you feel old). The nature of the platform is similar to Instagram in that their users are always scrolling, only paying attention to each piece of content for a very short amount of time.
Ensure you post unique content that’s native to TikTok. Videos that you shared elsewhere simply won’t work here. You’re usually aiming to impress and entertain with a unique skill or talent. Perhaps it’s as simple as how to peel an orange correctly or something more energetic like a dance and lip-sync, or a comedy sketch. The challenge lies in being able to create a compelling piece of content that’s only between 3 to 15 seconds long!
In direct contrast to YouTube, Instagram users have very short attention spans. They are constantly scrolling and flicking through stories, only paying attention to each piece of content for a few seconds, if that!
Therefore, you need to stick with shorter videos (up to 60 seconds on the feed and 15 seconds for a story). Make the video visually appealing straight away so that when it auto-plays, it has a greater chance of drawing them in.
Also bear in mind that the demographics here are skewed primarily younger.
People of all ages come to YouTube to watch videos. In many ways, YouTube is the new TV. They come here to be either entertained or educated (or both, ideally!) When compared with other platforms, the YouTube user is coming to the site with a much longer attention span and an attitude of being ready to commit to longer form content.
With this in mind, you know you can make longer videos that are a bit more in-depth. You can incorporate storytelling, make tutorials, breakdowns and commentaries. There is no cut-off point when it comes to the length of the piece.
Whether they like to admit it or not, most people are on Facebook (2.8 billion, to be exact!). All age groups over 18 are fairly well represented on Facebook. The chances are, you can reach your target audience here.
Pay attention to the fact that Facebook is all about social networks and ‘real life’ relationships. People use the site to stay in touch with their family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. Incorporate this into the videos you share there. The more personal they are, the more chance they’ll be rewarded with shares and comments that ultimately gets more people to view it.
Interestingly, it’s older generations that are becoming more and more active on the site and (no jokes intended), they often scroll slower, taking the time to read and watch more of the content that appears in front of them.
Twitter users aren’t here to watch a video. You only have up to 2 minutes and 20 seconds to make your point so be snappy about it.
The people you interact with here are far more likely to be strangers than people you know but if you hit the right note with your opinion or create something that’s really funny, it can snowball and spread very fast through retweets.
There’s a healthy mix of everyone on here, from the youngest Gen Z’ers to people heading into retirement.
It’s also worth noting that as of this writing, you can share a link from a site like YouTube, Wistia, Vimeo, etc., and the video will play within Twitter--as opposed to displaying a thumbnail link that takes you off the site. From an algorithm perspective, it’s still best to upload directly, but if time is of the essence, it’s nice knowing that sharing a video link will enable the player.
Josh is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, and storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK). He’s really passionate about travel and documents adventures and stories through his films.
For YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, upload your video directly from your computer if possible. This ensures the integrity of the video remains intact.
However you’re uploading and to whichever site, ensure your WiFi and internet connection is as strong as possible so there are no interruptions.
When your video auto-plays on any platform, it will be playing on mute. No sound or audio. As a way to further grab users attention, consider incorporating open captions that help them see what’s happening in the video straight away (open captions are burned directly into the video, whereas closed captions can be turned on or off). This is also a great way to make your videos accessible to non-native speakers and for those who have impaired hearing. This is not as important on YouTube which has the option to turn on captioning, and it is a destination for watching videos. The reason other social media sites are on mute is because no one wants their computer to start blasting music when they are scrolling through their IG feed when they’re supposed to be working.
Depending on the platform, titles and thumbnails can also play a huge role in grabbing user’s attention and having them click to watch your video. Choose bright colors for the thumbnail and include a few relevant keywords in your title (keep this relatively short and snappy).
There’s no doubt video should be an integral part of your social media strategy and overall brand. Whether using UNUM to design your creative strategy and distribute your posts, or if you’re doing it directly, make sure you have a plan to implement video. Your future brand will thank you.