By Huong Cao
In an era of short attention spans, video content is on the rise because of its on-the-go benefits to social media users – but creating videos that stand out constantly challenges professionals. On March 29, Alex Herder, co-founder of The Duke & the Duck, a D.C.-based video production agency and animation studio, came to “Making Branded Videos for Social Media,” an event hosted by National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, to lead a workshop offering public relations professionals tips and tricks for making online videos.
Before providing suggestions on making videos, Herder shared with the audience what he called the philosophy of storytelling, which he considered to be important and also the basic idea of which he and a friend formed their company. According to Herder, stories, storytelling and fairy tales are at the root of human experience. “It is how we form our group identity, how we come to terms with complex issues and understand things, as well as how we determine our values.”
But, “how do we think about a story?”, Herder asked, then addressed one of the principles behind the philosophy of storytelling: “No story is an island unto itself.” He further explained that audience came to every story and every video by having gone through a number of steps. As an example, he said, “You cannot produce a content today about the Second Amendment or gun control while not taking into account the movement that has been happening since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.”
According to Herder, the job of storytellers is to imagine the journey viewers have gone through to reach their videos. To make it easier for attendees to navigate this journey, Herder mentioned “the Buyer’s Journey,” a framework showing that there are multiple steps that social media users take between when they are unaware of something and when they are committed to taking actions. He explained that among those steps, people could lack information or feel nervous about something, which created opportunities for companies to jump in and show their values to their audience. “If you do not know exactly when in the Buyer’s Journey you should intervene, you are putting a cart before a horse,” said Herder.
In addition, Herder also addressed that while understanding the Buyer’s Journey or making videos at the right time could not do certain things, such as changing people’s minds, there were many things attendees could do with videos that would be helpful to their audience – such as explaining things, rallying people and catalyzing actions.
Besides, he also shared types of videos that communicators could make, such as live action and motion graphic. He also mentioned using 360-degree videos and recommended professionals give it a try if they had the needed budget.
Knowing what type of videos to produce is not enough, without some tips and tricks that Herder shared to help professionals maximize the effectiveness of using videos.
The billboard metaphor
“Think of your news feed as a billboard,” Herder said. Users’ news feed is crowded, which makes it hard for a video to stand out. He suggested designing the first two seconds of a video like designing it for a billboard. “You have two or three seconds, as people are scrolling their feed, to get them to pause and watch your video.”
Write the caption yourself
Even though YouTube will automatically create a caption file whenever a piece of content is uploaded, Herder suggested attendees write their captions because automatic captions do not work if people have an accent as well as writing captions in bullet points. According to him, 85% of videos on Facebook and 90% of videos on Twitter are watched without sound, so the stories of these videos lie on their captions.
In addition, Herder advised attendees to make it as easier for people to share a video by imagining what people would write or comment when they share a video on their news feed, and write that caption for them.
Make short videos and do not care too much about completion rates
Herder addressed that videos that are less than 15 seconds get 37% more shares than videos that are longer, and professionals could make short videos by putting the most important information upfront. In terms of completion rates, which many professionals pay attention to, Herder shared that if people did not watch a whole video, it did not mean that they had not got its message, it just meant they decided that they understood the message and were done.
Promote your videos quickly
According to Herder, professionals should promote a video when they are posting it, not an hour or a day later. “As you are posting a video, you should be promoting it because if you post and promote it six hours later, the algorithms decide that your piece of content is not engaging as it possibly is,” he added.
Each channel has its native format
“When you are producing a format that is native to a network, or when you respect a network and its audience enough to create content just for them, you are rewarded,” said Herder. He also shared that fully vertical videos are now native on Snapchat and Instagram stories. “On Snapchat, completion rates on vertical ads are nine times more than horizontal ads,” he added. He also suggested experimenting with square and vertical formats.
The workshop ended with an interactive discussion and Q&A session, where attendees presented questions and their thoughts on the workshop, which proved to be helpful at a time when online videos has become a growing trend.
Huong Cao is a George Mason University Undergraduate Teaching Assistant.