Online Video Done Right

April 11, 2017
Illustration of two construction workers "building" a video play icon.

We all want to have an exciting and engaging online presence. What better way to do it than through video, right?

Well, sometimes. Definitely not always.

In this post, we’ll take a look at when it’s appropriate to publish videos online, and how to get the most out of them.

Should I Use Video?

Before we get too technical, let’s look at what video can do for you … and what it can’t.

You’ll want to consider what platforms you have. Do you only have a website? Do you also have a Facebook page or Twitter account?

There’s some debate over the topic of video use online, but studies seem to agree that video is not always the best option on non-social media websites. A recent report suggests that users spend more time on both long-form and short-form written posts than they do on video posts.

However, social media is a whole different story. On Facebook, for example, the type of post can actually matter a lot. The newsfeed algorithm takes into account what type of content users typically interact with. So if your followers watch and engage with a lot of videos on Facebook — which they likely do — Facebook will decide that they probably want to see more videos and put those at the top of their newsfeed.

On the other hand, Facebook will show less videos when people have a slow connection speed. Most of the time, this might not matter to our social media strategy. But, are you targeting content to users in rural areas? Do you expect your followers to scroll through Facebook while travelling? Maybe stick to text and photo posts.

In the end, it comes down to what your content demands and how your users respond.

Despite the latest reports, we’ve published a video on our website about our accessibility initiative. According to our analytics, the page containing the video has been one of our most popular pages since we posted it last fall. Additionally, the video itself was our most popular video on YouTube for all of 2016, even though it’s marked as “unlisted” — meaning you can only see the video if you have the exact link or if it’s embedded on another page.

So, should you use video? Maybe. Research which online platforms tend to get the best response to video, and run some tests of your own. If you have the time and resources, decide what messages would benefit from video and try it out.

And that gets us into our next topic …

What Topics Should the Video Cover?

Video is just one of many ways to portray a message. Like any other social media post — or really, any content you put online at all — make it relevant. Before saying that you want to release one 3-minute video and four 6-second videos every month, see what content you have to offer and then ask yourself, “What’s the best way I can present this?”

Now, at Georgia.gov, we have the benefit of nearly endless topics to explore. Since we represent all state agencies, and even the state in general, we can publish more generic “Go Georgia!” videos. For example, an animated gif featuring an outline of Georgia turning into a heart for Valentine’s Day might not be appropriate for all agencies like it is for us.

But remember, we all share experiences as Georgians, Americans, and humans that we can then approach from our various angles. Do you offer benefits to families? Send a message of family love for Valentine’s Day. Do you deal with health and safety? You could talk about hazards that are particularly relevant at various times of the year.

Popular Content Types for Video

Okay, so make it relevant. But what should actually be in it?

There are a few popular ways to approach video content. Some questions to ask yourself are: “Would this content be easier to understand if it’s in a video? Would visuals help? Could audio help?”

If the answer is a resounding “no” or even “maybe,” then question if it belongs in a video. Sticking your commissioner in front of a camera and having him read your agency’s mission and vision is not the best use of video. But, if your commissioner is speaking at an event, it might be appropriate to take video of the event to provide context and mood. You could even show footage of audience reactions or include photographs from the special project that he’s highlighting.

Here are a few formats to get the wheels spinning:

  • Events
    Is your agency hosting or participating in some type of event? Capture some highlights in a brief video. Is this a repeating event? Show your audience what they can expect for next time, in case they missed it this round.
  • Instructions
    What information do you already have on your website that would be easier to understand if someone explains it? It’s like the difference between reading a textbook and going to class. This is especially helpful when explaining a type of process, like applying for benefits or voting. You can put this together as a video slideshow, screencast, animation, or recorded webinar.
  • Behind-the-Scenes
    What can you show your audience that they might not know? Consider giving a “behind-the-scenes” look at your agency. But as always, be careful to not get too self-focused. Even in a behind-the-scenes video, always ask why someone outside of the agency would care.
  • Testimonials
    Does your agency interact with constituents face-to-face? If someone’s about to leave happy and it seems like they’d be up for it, consider asking them for a quick testimonial. By capturing positive feedback directly from someone using your services, you might convince others that you can help them. (Events can be a great place to capture these. Try to catch people during a break or before they leave.)

Keep in mind, people typically don’t want to be pitched to. How can you make your videos more about your audience and less of a sales message? Social Media Examiner provides tips on how to get more engagement with your Facebook videos, and a few of these tips apply no matter where you post the video. Your videos should:

  • Inspire,
  • Educate, and
  • Be entertaining.

How Do I Make My Video?

So you’ve decided that you should have a video, and you know what it should be about. If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional company, look into how you can do it yourself.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

Start Strong

We’ve all seen studies that say people’s attention spans are now shorter than your pet goldfish’s. Whether or not that’s true, we need to start our videos strong. If your viewers aren’t immediately hooked, they’re less likely to stick around for more.

And this can vary between platforms. By looking at our analytics, we know that people on Facebook are zooming through their newsfeeds and often only see the first few seconds on average. So we customize our Facebook videos to cut out any unnecessary introduction and get straight to the point. Meanwhile, we can publish the same video on YouTube and see that the average viewer makes it through 70-95% of the video! Knowing that, our YouTube videos can include a little more lengthy introduction to set the mood appropriately.

Make the Visuals Worthwhile

What can you show on the screen to provide the most benefit to viewers? It’s probably not the speaker’s face, at least not for the whole video.

If you’re talking about an online process, show the process with a screencast. If you’re highlighting top Atlanta restaurants, show the food, not just the interview.

You’re making a video for a reason. Make the most of the medium.

Pay Attention to Video Trends

As always, pay attention to what your audience and your agency are looking for first. But that doesn’t mean you should put on blinders to the rest of the internet.

With a little research, you can find that extra-short videos (10 seconds or less) are gaining in popularity. And try this on for size: Have you seen the rising trend for vertical videos? (Woah.)

Keep up with video trends and take note of what makes you pay attention. What types of videos do your friends send you? What videos make you stick around to the end, and why?

It’s pretty simple. Find a trend, try it out, evaluate the analytics, and adjust for next time.

Find the Right Equipment

Creating a video doesn’t have to be costly. Need a camera? Pull your phone out of your pocket, and steady it on a stack of books. Check out these budget-based suggestions for every piece of video equipment you’ll need.

There are endless options when it comes to editing your video. What you choose comes down to your needs, budget, and skill level. For basic editing, you can find plenty of mobile apps to edit the video right on your phone. This article provides some video editing recommendations based on the type of video you’re making. If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can use After Effects and Premiere Pro. (These programs do require a little more skill than other options, but the basics shouldn’t take too long to learn. Adobe even provides online video tutorials.)

Get Started

Still with me? This has been a lot, I know. And I didn’t even touch on topics like video accessibility!

So here are the key takeaways:

  • Should you make videos? Consider the studies, but also look at what your audience needs and what your content deserves.
  • Keep your content relevant to the times and to your message. Consider making videos for events, instructions, behind-the-scenes, and testimonials.
  • Give your video a strong start and useful visuals.
  • Pay attention to trends, but don’t rely on them.
  • If you’re low on budget, DIY it with nothing but your phone.

Above all, approach videos like any other piece of content: user-first.

Rachel Hart

About the Author

Rachel Hart is the User Experience Designer and Editorial Manager for GeorgiaGov Interactive.

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