The Social Video Formula That Boosts Engagement: How To Create Videos For Social Media
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The Social Video Formula That Boosts Engagement: How To Create Videos For Social Media

Patrick FosterPatrick Foster

July 19, 2021

“The Social Video Formula That Boost Engagement: How to Create Videos for Social Media” is a guest post by Patrick Foster, and long-time eCommerce Consultant who now focuses much of his efforts on his online resource/hub at

Social video is a powerful asset in your marketing toolbox. It combines the allure of video with busy social platforms to reach your customers where they are active most. Social video is expected to account for 80% of all commercial web traffic by 2020, it will only get more popular.

But with so much competition on social platforms, it’s crucial that your social videos are the best they can be. They need to hook and engage your customers, and that takes work. But don’t fret — read on to discover how you can easily create a social video that actually engages in 2019.

Need some real-world inspiration for your Facebook video ads? One of Ladder’s video ad’s achieved an 11% CTR.

Tell a story about your customers, not your products

Nothing engages like a good story. From books to films, a compelling narrative is a powerful tactic for grabbing attention and keeping a person locked in, and storytelling in marketing is no different.

Using stories in your social video lets you market to your audience by flying under the radar, using the guise of narrative to deliver a promotional message about your brand or product.

Where many marketers fall down, however, is being too restrained with their storytelling. They adopt a half-hearted approach which lacks soul or imagination, and it falls flat as a result.

For an example of storytelling done beautifully, look no further than this example from personal care brand Dove:

From the get-go, the video addresses the viewer directly (“it’s difficult to be away from your kids”), and it focuses on people, rather than its products. While the Dove brand colors are present throughout, it never mentions itself by name until the very end of the video, with a clever slogan that equates caring for your family with caring for yourself.

The example above shows how telling a story that engages your customers can be used to sell your brand. It’s people-centric and it’s compelling, making it a powerful social video.

Pro Tip: Telling a story around your product is a perfectly valid approach to social video. But if you really want to engage your audience, tell a story about your customers.

Dove nailed this by weaving a narrative that their customers could relate to. Craft a story that your customers can relate to by delving into your buyer personas and identifying their pain points. Put these at the heart of your story, and place your brand or product as the resolution to them.

Create videos that are natural and organic

Your social videos will usually appear directly in your customers’ social feeds, nestling alongside posts from their friends and family. The key to an engaging social video is making it fit naturally and seamlessly between that content.

If your video seems at odds with the content around it — for example, if it’s a brash, overly promotional salesy ad — then it creates a dissonance that repels your audience.

The online store builder Shopify is particularly good at this. Its social profiles are replete with interesting social videos with intriguing titles (“This Woman Turns Ski Poles Into Toilet Plungers”, “How to Make Money Playing Video Games”, and so on).

These videos are informative and intriguing, and fit perfectly alongside the other types of content a person’s friends would share online. Check out the video below for an example of this in action:

Shopify finds countless different ways to sell its product. While it offers the same estore service for anyone and everyone, its social video content provides inspiration that shows new entrepreneurs how they can use Shopify to pursue their own business dreams.

These inspirational videos are organic and engaging, newsworthy content that people actually want to view — you don’t feel as though you’re being sold to at all. But each video subtly points to Shopify’s own service as the driver of these stories, making it a covert but effective ad.

Pro Tip: Avoid overtly sales-led ads. Instead, opt for organic videos that fit alongside the other kinds of content that your customers will find on social. Newsworthy content, how-to guides, unboxing videos — all these are just a few examples of compelling video content that work perfectly on social.

While the direction of your social videos will vary, they can (and should) serve as promotional ads for your brand and product. But the key here is subtly — lead your customers to your product, but don’t push them.

Craft a compelling (and provoking) hook

Your audience scrolls through hundreds of pieces of content every day, and getting your content seen on social is a tough battle to win. Consequently, you need to get in quick to grab audience attention in that brief moment when they scroll past your content.

The first 10 seconds of your video is where this battle is won. 30% of viewers stop watching a video within the first 30 seconds. As such, when a user first sees your content, those precious first moments are vital for winning them over and keeping them engaged with your video.

Pro Tip: The key to creating a compelling hook is to craft visual clickbait. Provoke curiosity, humor, sympathy, even outrage — it’s basic Trump marketing. Once you’ve provoked them, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand.

Tailor your videos not to personas, but to specific customers

The power of personalization in marketing is nothing new. Tailoring marketing messages to specific customers increases engagement considerably, and is easy to do with sophisticated CRMs at your fingertips.

But personalization has taken huge steps in recent years, particularly in the form of social video. The wealth of consumer data available on social platforms makes it easy to create social videos tailored to specific individuals.

Take the example from chocolate brand Cadbury, below:

The brand collected consumer data (with their consent, of course) to create a unique video for customers featuring their name and real photos of their family and friends. The video was auto-generated using readily available data, and so was easily scalable — and you have to admit, it’s an engaging video (for George at least).

Pro Tip: You don’t need to go full 1984 on your customers to impress them. Just a mention of their name and gender is enough to stop them in their tracks. While Cadbury had the budget to create a highly-personalized video, simply using your customer’s name is enough to create a unique social video that engages.

It’s about getting the small stuff right

Part of creating engaging social video is about getting the small things right: length, audio, narration, and so on. Nail the nitty-gritty, and you’ll establish a solid foundation for a social video that actually engages.

Let’s start with your ideal video length. This is a tricky one, as it actually varies from platform to platform. Let’s break it down:

  • Facebook: no more than two minutes long. Studies have found that engagement dips for Facebook videos that are longer. This gives you a good amount of time to get creative with your video, so make the most of it.
  • Twitter: 30 seconds, by default. Twitter currently only allows uploads of videos no longer than 30 seconds, so the platform is ideal for teaser videos or quick responses.
  • Instagram: 30 seconds is the ideal video duration as this length tends to receive most comments, although you can upload video up to 60 seconds long, again by default.

But as Facebook say in their video creative best practices: “Video length is less important than telling a cohesive and concise story”. Don’t get too hung up on length — focus on creating a compelling story that grabs your audience (using the tips listed in this article), and you’ll be on the right path.

Pro Tip: When your eye is on the horizon, it’s easy to lose sight of the path in front of you. Pay attention to the small things and create different length videos tailored to each platform (and craft a compelling story for each).

Text vs Narration

While it certainly doesn’t hurt to have narration in your video, bear in mind that most social videos are silent by default — they require the viewer to actually turn sound on to hear it.

But as most of your audience will be trawling social on their smartphone, often in a public space, they’re not likely to want to do this. As such, subtitles or closed captions (which also require the user to click) are a better alternative.

Otherwise, use text to highlight important points that you want to stick in your viewer’s minds — key features, benefits, special offers, and so on. Text and audio combined goes a long way towards reinforcing a message in your audience’s minds.


Let’s talk about stock music. Unless you’ve got a big video budget (or your own recording studio and excellent musical skills), you’ll need to lean on license-free music, known as production music.

Production music is readily available online, but be warned: there is a lot of cheesy, overdone stuff out there — think of the upbeat ukelele you hear in every SaaS product ad, and you’ll know what I mean.

With that in mind, try to find something a little unique. There are plenty of license-free music resources online, so you’ll surely find something that suits you. Strive for accessible and unobtrusive — you might love thrash metal, but there’s no guarantee that your customers will too.

Alternatively, reach out to your local college or university and commission a band to create some stock music for you. It’s cheap, good quality, and guaranteed to be unique too.

Pro Tip: Use text where appropriate. Subtitles and closed captions are a fine alternative to the less-popular narration. If you do opt for narration, use text to highlight key features you want your viewers to remember.

Social videos are a rewarding marketing asset that can pay dividends for your business. But if they’re done wrong, those rewards will be squandered. Follow the tips above to create a stellar social video that your customers will actually engage with, and you’ll be head-and-shoulders above your competition.

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