The same video file can often be published on multiple web video platforms, but should you use the same exact video everywhere, or tailor your video differently for different intended audiences and platforms?

I say, yes, it is often beneficial to make multiple versions of a video project if you plan to make use of your video efforts on different types of platforms.

Social media “feed” video vs “opt-in” video

I think it is crucial to think about how you are publishing your video and how viewers will typically come across your video and decide to watch or continue watching it.

What are “Opt-in” videos?

What I call “opt-in” videos are usually videos that are on a webpage, sitting there, waiting for the viewer to press the play button.

Screenshot of a client’s website with a video thumbnail waiting to be clicked to play

Users are usually enticed to click play by attractive and informative thumbnail art, and by accompanying text surrounding the video player on the page. These elements do the work of piquing the viewers’ interest and giving them an idea of what the video contains. When the user decides to click the play button, they are already somewhat invested. The viewer will likely have decided to give the video at least some time to further hook them, and they will have likely made sure they can hear the audio (plugging in headphones, turning up the volume on the computer if muted, etc). They have “opted – into” spending some time watching the video.

Most often, videos published to YouTube or Vimeo and company websites are opt-in videos.

What are Feed videos?

Facebook feed

Now, for a lot of social media videos, they are published with the intent that the platforms’ algorithms will decide to include the video in followers and other possibly interested users’ feeds. These videos play automatically as the user scrolls by with the sound off by default. If the viewer is interested, they may stop scrolling and watch more of the rest of the video. If the video does not grab them in a few seconds, they will scroll on by.

The viewer has no investment in your video. They have not asked to be shown the video by clicking play, so the likelihood that they stick around to watch more is a lot lower than with an “opt-in” video.

Feed videos are common on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, etc.

Tailoring your video

Tailoring a video for feeds: “Scroll-stoppers”

If you expect or want your video to get viewers’ attention in their feeds or video ad campaigns, you should tailor your video for this purpose.

It is absolutely key to pack the first 5-10 seconds of your video with something that you think will grab and hold viewers’ attention so they don’t scroll by. This is what some call a “scroll-stopper.”

Think about how many videos you scroll right on by in your social media feeds. Think about the ones that made you stop scrolling and watch at least a little bit more, if not to the end. Something made you stop. It could have been:

  • A mention of a subject you are interested in
  • An eye-grabbing design, effect, animation, transition
  • A celebrity or someone’s face you recognize and are interested in
  • An extremely fast (under 10 seconds) visual demonstration or summary that piqued your interest

Not all videos can have an eye-grabbing visual like a dog doing a trick, an amazing drone flyover shot, or sports car burnout to grab attention, so sometimes you have to think a bit about how to use what you have to get the viewer to stick around after the first 5 seconds.

First of all, as I’ve written about before, if your video is mostly talking heads, I highly recommend making sure you add subtitles to the video. Most of these videos begin playing with the sound off, and very few people are lip-readers, so if you want to capture interest from what is being spoken in the video, people won’t get that info unless you have captions running.

  • Chose a section of spoken word in your recording, or make sure the first sentence of the video is somewhat of a thesis, summary, or interesting question teasing the subject matter of the rest of the video so that viewers know what the video is about and can decide if they are interested.
  • If you or your editor have the chops, build some sort of intro that flashes some very short clips of action shots from the rest of the video.
Short business conference wrap-up video begins with flashes of action at event (watch)
Real estate walkthrough begins with 5 seconds of highlights, then gets into the full walkthrough. (Click to watch)
  • Demo your product or service in abbreviated form at the beginning of the video and then get into the details.
This smart tape measure promotion shows off what the product is and how to use it up front, plus also offers an overall marketing thesis statement (inches matter, not pounds).
  • Posit a question to be answered right up front (with attractive, animated graphics, if possible.
Thrust of the video is stated up front

After the scrolling has stopped…

Ok, you caught their attention in the first 5 seconds…now what?

  • Still keep the video brief – people have low attention spans, particularly in feeds, but feel free to expand upon your message now.
  • Work big to small when it comes to details; your main broad points should be closer to the beginning of the video, and minute details closer to the end. I don’t believe in hard time limits for videos, but you should be able to get all your important points across in the first 60 seconds. Feel free to run longer and add more detail after that – it doesn’t hurt – just know that the likelihood of most people sticking around that long is lower. Those that have been intrigued so far are likely to now want these details.
  • Don’t save important calls to action until the end. Fewer people might stick around to see them. Any contact info, links to buy pages, etc should be de-prioritized in the video and inserted as text or links in the descriptions or post content that gets posted along with the video. The video should work with surrounding info and links to provide all the necessary information to your viewer.

Constructing an “opt-in” video

Once your viewer decides to click the play button, you know they are much more interested in what your video has to say than the average “feed” viewer, so you can rest a bit easier and take a bit more time. Still, it is recommended to have a bit of a “thesis” up front or something to pique interest. Still, work big to small; there is no guarantee viewers will stick around, but you can let things breathe a bit more.

Captions are still important for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) reasons, but aren’t usually essential in capturing attention because the user likely can hear the video from the minute they hit the play button.

It is important for these videos to make sure you are not ignoring things like the thumbnail image, title, and descriptions. Too often, I will deliver a video to a client who wants to publish the video themselves, and I see the title is left as “company profile.mp4,” there is not text in the description, and they did not create a thumbnail image (or ignored the one I designed for them). These elements are all important and I plan to write about them further in the future.