It is now proven video is one of the most efficient content type for social media – especially since networks have updated their algorithms to push video over text and pictures. Each day, “an average of 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook” (see note 1 at the end of this post) and this trend should keep growing at a steady pace. Indeed, Cisco predicts that “78% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2021” (Note 6). This currently means that users spend on average 50 minutes on Facebook/Instagram each day (19). Social video also converts better than any other content: 74% of consumers say there is a connection between watching a video on social media and their decision to make a purchase (17). Thus, learning to harness social video’s potential is a clear win for your business.

Social media consumption is steadily moving from desktop to mobile. Mobile views surpassed desktop views at the end of 2016, and 50% of all video views come from mobile devices (9). More specifically, 90% of Twitter video are seen on mobile (14).  It is thus important to understand what works best on mobile, based on the viewer’s context. What’s more, Millennials (18 to 33-year-olds) are now spending less time on TV (if they still have one) and more time on mobile devices (16), meaning social video is one of the best ways to talk to this audience.

Video views moving from desktop to mobile, Adobe data

So, what’s the hype about Square videos? Also called “squared-shaped videos”, “square crop”, “box format”, they differ from the usual Landscape (16, 9) format by their Square aspect ratio (1:1) 1280px x 1280px. This format fills the full space of a newsfeed when viewed on a mobile device. Most of the latest studies and tests have demonstrated the unmatched potential of square videos for mobile viewing, proven to get more likes, comments, and shares on social media. Here’s a wrap-up of study results and best practices.

What you’ll learn in this article:
Why square videos are the best type of content you can use on social media, as compared to text and images.
How to build square videos creative for the small screen and the news feed

Note: our article focuses on videos natively uploaded to social media, rather than links shared from other platforms (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo). 

1. Why (square) video is a perfect social media content type

According to one of the latest studies by Buffer (Buffer blog, 2016 – see note 8), which quantified engagement (clicks, likes, shares) across types of content, Facebook video clearly engages audiences better.

Engagement on Facebook and Twitter according to post type

The study however also shows that social video content is still under-used by many brands: from the chart above, Facebook video get 3x as much engagement as other content types, but in business’ average of 7 weekly Facebook posts, less than 1% are videos (80% are links and 19% are photos). This creates an enormous opportunity for brands to grow on social.

Landscape Vs Square Video

Why you should be using square videos

The need for square video is linked to the dramatic shift from desktop to mobile: businesses need to optimize video content-posting for the mobile-feed user’s environment (note 9). Optimizing can mean changing the aspect ratio to square to increase visibility, adding text to convey the message without sound, and put the initial brand mention earlier in the video (see more best practices at then end of this article). Facebook ads guidelines report a 3-point increase in advert recall, 2x more impressions reaching the branding section of the video and an 8-point increase in message association, compared with 5.7 points for the original landscape advert. (note 1)

“We found that view-through rate and engagement rate are much higher on square than landscape videos. This is likely due to the larger amount of real estate that a square video gets in feed” Jason Stein, founder and CEO of Laundry Service (Note 2016 – 7)

Video format, regardless of the content, seems to have a significant influence on how many people watch the video, how long they watch it, and most importantly how people engage with it. The key difference with landscape format: square video (1:1) take up 78% more real estate in a mobile feed. Regardless of the video content, the format has an immediate impact on the number of viewers (3s, 10s, average). When used as a paid Ad on Facebook, it costs 7.5% less to engage with square video. In Instagram it costs 33% less with square video – so this strategy can also mean a lot for your advertising budget.

Square Video Performance Study

Below are the results of the Buffer/Animoto 2017 study – the thoroughest study to date on the topic – comparing regular landscape video with letterbox (black slate above and below the square video) and full-square videos (see note 9 for the full study).

As a summary square videos perform better in terms of average engagement, media views and reach. As far as landscape videos are concerned, completion rates are better on desktop, but perform similarly on mobile.

  1. Average Engagement per video: square videos outperform landscape and letterbox
  2. Average Media Views per post: square videos outperform landscape, letterbox are also interesting
  3. Average Reach per video: square videos get way more reach on mobile, but perform equally on desktop compared to 16:9
  4. Average Completion Rate per video: landscape videos have a slightly better completion rate on facebook than square videos, boosted by increased desktop completion rates for landscape videos.

Engagement on Square Videos

Media Video Views per Post

Square videos reach on mobile vs desktop

Average completion rate of square video vs lanscape

Completion Rate Square Videos

2. Square video best practices

Here are a few examples of Facebook social videos we like a lot.

3. Square videos optimization guidelines

When it comes to creating Square Videos, think “mobile first”, and about your viewer’s context. Here is a recap of the general rules, including Facebook’s guidelines for square video ads.

  1. Make it square and HD: 1080x1080px.
  2. Use text to tell a compelling story and for sound-off viewing: 85% of videos are viewed on Facebook without sound (12) and should be understandable without sound. Captioned video increase video view time by an average of 12% (3)
  3. Design an engaging video title card, with either a video or an image along with descriptive text. Text-only intros dramatically decrease views to your video (9).
  4. Capture the attention in the first 3 seconds: using a question (3), with lifestyle and product shots that resonate with your audience, or a recognizable spokesperson, action scenes or a vivid background to spark interest. (1)
  5. Move your brand mention to the beginning to make sure viewers reach that point, bring the messaging upfront.
  6. You might have to cut your shots and decrease video length, since it will likely be viewed while scrolling through the newsfeed and without sound
  7. And of course, keep experimenting, measuring, A/B testing and iterating to learn what works for your brand and audience.
  8. Tone (11):
    1. Facebook Video are often is fun, emotional, and highly shareable
    2. Instagram Video should be captivating, thoughtful, and Inspiring
    3. Twitter Video are quick, more personal and even 1-on-1, or entertaining.
    4. Humanize your videos: videos showing people in the first moments are 2x more likely to be viewed (14)

Conclusion

It is clear for us at Lyketil that square video is a must for any brand wishing to grow on social media, and because video often seems complex to shoot and edit to be successful. If you’re looking for more “raw” edits, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram stories can also be a good investment (but are out of this article’s scope) and have made vertical video mainstream.

Resources

  1. Facebook – building video for the mobile feed
  2. Facebook Insights – capturing attention in the feed with video creative
  3. Facebook – updated features for video ads
  4. Animoto for businesses
  5. Animoto – social videos for the Jane Goodall institute
  6. Cisco’s 2017 White Paper about mobile video
  7. Adweek – instagram box shaped videos are influencing facebook marketers
  8. Buffer – 3 lessons we learned studying 16million posts on social media
  9. Buffer – square video v landscape video
  10. Buffer – video marketing statistics
  11. Buffer – video marketing
  12. Buffer – facebook silent videos
  13. Marketing Land – social video chart guide
  14. Twitter – five best practices for promoted video
  15. Brightcove – 3/4 consumers link social videos viewing to purchasing decision
  16. Hootsuite – how to use social video for marketing
  17. Social Media Today – consumers 64% more likely to purchase products after watching online videos
  18. Adobe – seo for success in video marketing
  19. New York Times – Facebook bends the rule of audience engagement to its advantage

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