May 1, 2020·13 min read

Your Complete Guide to Social Media Video in 2020

Social media video is a powerful way to engage your followers. But it's different on every single platform. Here's what you need to know to do it right.

If you think of all the things you can post to social media—text, emojis, GIFs, pictures—video is by far the biggest ticket item. It’s less common, more exciting, and packed with emotion. Sure, a cheeky critic can pack a big story into a little tweet, but videos always say so much more.

Social media videos offer glimpses into other worlds and let audiences feel a personal connection to the person doing the posting. That can humanize a big brand, make a product launch personal, and make a sales team fun and approachable. If you use it correctly, that is.

Social media marketing isn’t just a dumping ground for your existing video content. Every social platform has different limitations—technical and cultural—that make audiences on each hungry for very different topics and formats.

As much as it might seem like a pain to create entirely different videos for every channel, that’s what you ought to do for the best results. If your bandwidth is limited, it’s best to pick a few channels that you want to do really well on rather than spread yourself thin trying to create videos for them all.

  1. Contents
  2. 1.The Biggest Benefits of Social Video
  3. 2.How Video on Social Media Differs Based on the Network
  4. 2.1YouTube Video
  5. 2.2Facebook Video
  6. 2.3LinkedIn Video
  7. 2.4Twitter Video
  8. 2.5Instagram Video
  9. 2.6Pinterest Video
  10. 2.7TikTok Video
  11. 2.8Snapchat Video
  12. 3.5 Social Media Video Best Practices
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The Biggest Benefits of Social Video

If your brand is going to be on social media, you might as well be using video. One study found that videos generate 12x as many shares as text and images combined. If you go the extra step to record it live, which most platforms now support, people will watch for 3x as long. That’s a big engagement boost for not all that much extra work.

Plus, some networks like Facebook give bonus features to videos that you upload directly instead of posting the link. Facebook in particular auto-plays direct-uploads and may circulate them more widely, meaning they’ll catch more attention and be shown to more people.

Social media video statistics you should care about:

cover graphic for Social Video Specs Guide
Get the Social Media Video Specs Guide cover graphic for Social Video Specs Guide Every different social platform has its own requirements for videos. Every single one is in this guide. Get the Specs

How Video on Social Media Differs Based on the Network

Each social media site has its quirks and treats video differently. Most prefer widescreen format (stories based content on apps like Snapchat are the exception) and a screen resolution of roughly 1920×1080 pixels, but the similarities end there.

YouTube Video

YouTube is the world’s second largest social network, the second largest search engine, and the only place where videos are the primary form of communication.

If you’re looking to dip your toes into social media video, this is among the most forgiving sites. Videos here are the point, and you can sometimes get away with reposting videos you already have. It’s a fitting home for your company’s hype reels and trailers as well as long-form webinars and event broadcasts.

Learn From the Pros

On their YouTube channel, mobile VPN provider NetMotion Softwarepulls stunts like Skyping from space. In fact, that video won a Video in Business Award for being one of the finest examples of video marketing in 2019.

When you plan video content for YouTube, prepare for it to be discovered by users trying to solve a particular problem. YouTube users often find videos by searching Google or searching YouTube’s social media video app. They also often search terms like “How to,” “Best way to,” or “Product review,” and look for clearly titled videos with relevant thumbnails.

Pro Tip: Add a featured video on your YouTube Brand Channel to explain what the channel is about and spend time organizing videos into playlists so viewers watch more than one.

YouTube Video Specs: The recommended video size is 1920×1080 pixels. YouTube’s player is widescreen format (16:9) but very forgiving, and supports most ratios.

YouTube Video Ideas:

  • Post Videos to Your Brand Channel: Upload how-to videos, product explainers, demos, and webinars.
  • Stream Live Video: Use YouTube Live for launch announcements, live interviews, and behind-the-scenes looks.
  • Run YouTube Video Ads: Run in-stream ads, discovery ads, bumper ads, and outstream ads.
Learn From the Pros

On their YouTube channel, content experience platform Uberflip posts live action explainer videos that are hilarious and keep viewers watching to the end.

Facebook Video

Facebook is the second largest social media video site, after YouTube.

In terms of earning a massive reach, Facebook video marketing works a bit differently. Unlike YouTube, which shows everything to everybody, Facebook shows your videos to followers and friends of followers.

Facebook users are generally more interested in entertainment or inspiration than they are in solving problems. Videos that do well here are ones with broad emotional appeal like customer stories, surprising facts, or jaw-dropping imagery.

Learn From the Pros

In addition to posting other video types on their Facebook page, marketing automation software company Marketo broadcast the opening general session from Adobe Summit using Facebook Live Video.

Another big difference: 85% of people watching videos on Facebook do so with the sound off. (Many are on mobile, on their commute, or in the office without headphones). Ensure your Facebook videos work just as well on silent, by adding captions that explain what’s happening. You can and should use voice overs, sound effects, and music, but make sure that your video makes just as much sense without them.

For an extra visibility boost in people’s feeds, upload square videos, which take up 78% more real estate in feeds.

Also upload your video files directly to Facebook rather than post a link that directs people to view on YouTube or other video hosting site. The reason: Facebook wants to keep people on Facebook and prefers not to link to other social networks, especially competitors. It gives preference to natively uploaded videos which in some cases earn 530% more comments.

Pro Tip

Vidyard lets you to share videos directly to your Facebook pages and have them play inline natively. In this way, you can manage your videos from one central location while still sharing to the places your audience hangs out. And for videos that you’ve shared to Facebook, Vidyard will capture view counts and display it alongside the rest of your video analytics. Find out how to do it on our Knowledge Base.

Facebook Video Specs: The recommended video size is 1280 x 720 pixels, but there are lots of video formats on Facebook with different parameters:

  • Facebook 360 videos: 4096×2048 px and a 2:1 aspect ratio
  • In-stream video ads: 1280×720 pixels
  • Facebook Messenger video ads: 1280×720 px
  • Carousel video ads: 1080×1080 pixels
  • Collection video ads: 1200×628 px
  • Slideshow video ads: 1280×720 px

Facebook Video Ideas:

  • Upload Videos to Your Brand’s Facebook Page: Post inspirational videos, emotionally-evocative videos, event recordings, employee spotlights, and commercials.
  • Add Videos to Your Brand’s Page Cover: Make the first thing viewers see a video montage.
  • Post to Facebook Stories: Offer short updates of, say, a roadshow or event.
  • Stream Facebook Live Videos: Announce new hires, interviews, and product launches.
  • Run Facebook Video Ads: Run in-stream ads, carousel ads, slideshow video ads.
Learn From the Pros

Cloud-based business network and platform Tradeshift has a cover video on their Facebook page. It’s an eye-catching way to show visitors to their page what they do.

LinkedIn Video

LinkedIn can now safely be called a video-friendly social network. In 2017, it finally launched video features and now offers options to record videos right from within the desktop or app interface.

As the world’s premier professional social network, videos that do well here are typically career-related and are shamelessly product, company, or feature-centric, and that’s applauded.

On LinkedIn, you’ll see lots of videos about successful funding rounds, hot takes on the state of an industry, praise for mentors, off-the-cuff interviews, and live broadcasts from conferences.

Learn From the Pros

Business magazine Forbes shares a variety of videos on its LinkedIn page, including interviews like this one with Luke Saunders, founder of Farmer’s Fridge, about how he pivoted his business model in the midst of a pandemic to keep things afloat.

LinkedIn videos are somewhat temporal. Meaning, they disappear quickly. Unlike YouTube, they don’t have a place where they all live and you can’t make playlists, so old videos get buried in your feed unless you repost them or promote them as an ad.

LinkedIn recently added hashtags that people can follow, and on which your video can “trend,” or be shown to people who follow the hashtag. Trending videos are mostly a function of using the hashtag and then earning lots of comments (likes, reactions, and shares matter much less).

LinkedIn Video Specs: The recommended video size ranges from 1920×1080 to 4096×2304 pixels, but likely, the camera on whatever device you’re recording with will do.

LinkedIn Videos Ideas:

  • Upload to the LinkedIn Feed: Post videos to teach, share, rally, or praise others. Post interview and Q&A videos.
  • Stream a Live Video: Launch live interviews and Q&As.
Learn From the Pros

On their LinkedIn page, inbound software company HubSpot shares case studies (like this one), product updates, quirky videos, and more.

Twitter Video

Twitter is the debate forum of social media sites where everyone’s connected, for better or worse, and things go viral quickly. If LinkedIn videos seem transient, Twitter’s are even more so. Things move fast and the videos that do well tend to have lower social media video production value and be higher in in-the-moment authenticity and off-the-cuff candor.

Twitter features a truly unfathomable number of niche interest groups and finding them is a matter of finding the hashtags they use to band together. Things trend in real-time and live streams work great because immediacy is in Twitter’s DNA. It’s part of what people find addictive about the platform.

Learn From the Pros

Global organization GE has an active Twitter presence, including regular video tweets. A lot of their social efforts focus on explaining what they do and the impact of those efforts. This video tweet for Internal Women’s Day takes a closer look at one of their senior employees and the work she does to advocate for women in STEM.

You’ll see a wide variety of videos on twitter, but the great preponderance of them are someone talking to the camera or filming something with their smartphone. Not surprisingly, most videos on Twitter are very, very short. Yours should be too—attention spans here are microscopic.

Twitter Video Specs: The recommended video size is 1920×1200 pixels and vertical videos are 1200×1920 pixels. Don’t fret too much: Likely any device you’re tweeting from has a built-in camera that can accommodate that size and ratio.

Twitter Video Ideas:

  • Tweet Videos: Post news, hot takes, GIFs, and interviews.
  • Stream Live Video: Post live behind-the-scenes looks at things like events (real or virtual), your office, or your work.
  • Run Twitter Video Ads: Run promoted tweets, promoted accounts, promoted trends, and outstream ads to ad properties in Twitter’s advertising network.
Learn From the Pros

Transport and logistics company Maersk regularly shares video content on their Twitter feed. In this video tweet, they shared a bold ad about their relief efforts.

Instagram Video

Instagram is a visual-first platform that (heavily) prioritizes images and videos over text. Any videos you post here will typically compete with highly curated photography, design, and art, so the pressure to film something surprising or visually arresting is higher than on other sites.

Snapchat may have invented the ephemeral video story, but Instagram made it famous. Nearly 400 million people use Instagram Stories to post a series of photos or videos in a slideshow format which disappears after 24 hours.

Learn From the Pros

Naturally, design-forward companies do really well on Instagram. InvisionApp, for instance, which produces software used by designers to create apps, has a feed so beautiful it even appeals to consumers. In addition to other aesthetically appealing content, InVision regularly shares IGTV and video posts. In this Instagram video, they take viewers on a tour of a trippy cafe in Seoul, South Korea.

View this post on Instagram

2D cafe in Seoul Korea ✏️ ☕ . . 📹 @greem_cafe

A post shared by InVision App (@invisionapp) on

Instagram provides lots of tools for annotating Stories content with text, emojis,GIFs, and interactive stickers. Like animated text in PowerPoint, it’s easy to over-do these.

The discovery process on Instagram is driven by hashtags. Unlike other sites, you aren’t limited or penalized for using too many hashtags. You can add up to 50 of them, but do it at the bottom of the post where they won’t interrupt the rest of the content.

Instagram Video Specs: The recommended video size is 1080×1080 pixels0. (Instagram images and videos are square by default, though you can share horizontal or vertical content).

  • Vertical video: 1080×1350 px
  • In-feed video ads: 600×500 px
  • Carousel video ads: 1080×1080 px
  • Stories video ads: 1080×1920 px

Instagram Video Ideas:

  • Post Videos to Your Twitter Feed: Post videos of beautiful product designs, behind-the-scenes stories, interviews, and Q&As.
  • Share Videos into Your Stories: Post day-in-the-life videos and behind-the-scenes stories.
  • Run Video Ads: Post short commercials for your product
Learn From the Pros

eCommerce platform Shopify regularly uses its Instagram to highlight its customers’ businesses and provide resources to help people running online shops. In this Instagram video, they put the spotlight on Ceci Rodriguez, owner of Ukuleleria, and her views on turning passion into purpose.

Pinterest Video

Like YouTube, Pinterest is primarily a discovery platform. Photos are the focus and users are generally pretty goal-oriented. They’re looking for recipes, gift inspiration, design inspiration, or products to buy.

In Pinterest’s words, “The best videos are those that are actionable and show the viewer how to do or try something new.”

Users interact with Pinterest either by searching or by scrolling down through an infinite feed where videos auto-play by default. The motion of an auto-play video can really set your post apart.

Learn From the Pros

Online marketplace Etsy, with its multitudes of unique handmade items, is a match made in heaven for Pinterest. For a holiday campaign, Etsy set out to provide gift giving inspiration by using Pinterest video ads like this one.

Pinterest Video Specs: Pinterest supports a range of aspect ratios and sizes, including 16:9, 1:1, 9:16, 4:5, and 2:3.

Pinterest Video Ideas:

  • Post Feed Videos: Share tutorials, how-to videos, promotions, deals, downloads, and animated infographics.
  • Promote Pinterest Video Ads: Run either standard width (one box in Pinterest’s mason grid) or full-width promoted videos that appear in users’ feeds.
Learn From the Pros

American Family Insurance ran a Pinterest promoted video campaign, featuring short videos like this one, to educate home buyers about insurance.

TikTok Video

In many ways, TikTok is quite unlike other social platforms.

The standard video length is just 15 seconds (super-short content, similar to the now defunct Vine). Vertical video is all-but-mandatory (rather like stories-based content on other platforms, but without other feed or aspect ratio options). Sound is essential to most videos on the platform (unlike many networks where silent video playback reigns supreme).

The app boasts a loyal and active user base. It has 800 million monthly active users (according to a leaked deck from the company), 30 million of which are in the U.S. The average user opens the app a whopping eight times every day, staying on for at least five minutes each time. There are already more than 35 TikTok influencers who have tens of millions of followers.

What about brands? So far, TikTok has proven popular with consumer brands, counting the likes of Nike, The Washington Post, Skittles, the NBA, Fenty Beauty, the San Diego Zoo, and Pepsi among its ranks. But some B2B companies have started testing the waters too.

Learn From the Pros

Social media scheduling tool Later posts helpful tips and relatable content for social media managers on their TikTok account. Their bio, casually written in all lowercase, proclaims: “just a brand, trying not to ruin tiktok for all.” They share a mix of comedic video about being a social media manager, like this one, and quick videos sharing helpful hacks and tips.

@later.comEvery social media manager’s worst nightmare 😱 ##massivemouth ##oneliners ##foryou

♬ original sound – later.com

TikTok Video Specs: Because TikTok video is exclusively vertical, the recommended size is 1080×1920 pixels in a 9:16 aspect ratio.

TikTok Video Ideas:

  • Share Short Videos: Record lip-sync or dances, micro sketches, memes, or challenges and share to your TikTok account.
  • Run TikTok Ads: Pay for a sponsored video, pre-roll “brand takeover,” or in-feed video ads to increase your brand’s reach.
Learn From the Pros

Newspaper The Washington Post is an unexpected organization to be on TikTok, let alone doing it well. But, WaPo actually has two Webby nomiations for their content on the platform. Their TikTok is stream of quirky videos, playing off memes or just embracing the off-beat humor that works so well on the network (like in this cooking video).

@washingtonpostBest muffins in the biz ##bakingrecipe

♬ Le Festin – From “Ratatouille” – Movie Sounds Unlimited

Snapchat Video

Snapchat leapt to fame with its disappearing video messages which competitors like Facebook and Instagram quickly copied, though Snapchat remains popular. The company claims that more than a third of its audience can’t be found on Facebook or Instagram.

Marketers seeking to sell to these individuals can find Snapchat a good if somewhat finicky fit.

Snapchat’s videos Snaps are ephemeral: They disappear by design. But not all of them. The company has a discovery feature called Snapchat Story Ads where users essentially agree to watch a short ad in return for the right to watch a longer piece of content. News sites like BuzzFeed and Daily Mail use these to tease larger stories.

Learn From the Pros

Technology company Cisco had their employees takeover the NASDAQ Snapchat account for National Techies Day to show off what it’s like to work for a tech organization.

Snapchat is a rare outlier in that it prefers vertical videos to horizontal ones. Keep that camera (probably, your smartphone) pointed upright.

Snapchat is truly a different beast from other social sites, from the somewhat intuitive interface to the streetwear-brutalism design aesthetic that’s so popular there. (Think leopard prints, neon colors, and misaligned text). B2B marketers be warned: It’s not for the faint of heart.

Snapchat Video Specs: The recommended video size is 1080×1920 pixels (vertical).

  • 10-second video ads: 1080×1920 pixels
  • Long-form video ads: 1080×1920 pixels
  • Sponsored geofilters: 1080×1920 pixels

Snapchat Video Ideas:

  • Post a Snap: Promote deals, giveaways, and contests. Share behind-the-scenes looks at your company.
  • Run Snapchat Ads: Snapchat offers a surprising variety of ad formats. There are classic paid Story Ads, but there are also sponsored geofilters (where users can virtually stamp their photos with a design you create), sponsored filters (where users can apply a virtual reality “filter” to their photo or video), or even full-length commercials.
Learn From the Pros

Icelandic airline WOW air ran a large scale competition to have four people spend the entire summer traveling between the airline’s destinations—all expenses paid—in order to create content for their Snapchat. As you’ll see in this video recapping the campaign, they had thousands of applicants.

5 Social Media Video Best Practices

Some video best practices apply across all social channels. For example:

1. Create value for the viewer: Aim to entertain, inspire, or educate. If your video doesn’t do one of these three things, rethink it.

2. Start with an attention-grabber: Animated GIF thumbnails or autoplay videos make a big difference in earning clicks. Use every feature available to make thumbnails intriguing.

3. Frontload the value: Get your value proposition (or at least your company name) out in the first five to 10 seconds of your video. After that, there’s a significant dropoff in viewership. One of the worst things you can do in social video is wait until the very end to reveal what it’s about.

4. Make it mobile friendly: Allow subtitles, add captions, and make any text within the video itself large enough to be viewed on mobile. Default to filming for widescreen (16:9) unless it’s for a vertical-first format like Instagram Stories.

5. Add a call to action (CTA): Tell viewers exactly what you want them to do after viewing your video, and do it before the video ends.

Beyond all the above advice, the best way to get good at social video is to start making it. Pick the few channels and your social media marketing strategy program’s top goals for those channels and see what reactions you get. If you land on something people like, you’ve unlocked a new source of views, visits, leads, and revenue to help power your video marketing program.

cover graphic for Social Video Specs Guide
Get the Social Media Video Specs Guide cover graphic for Social Video Specs Guide Every different social platform has its own requirements for videos. Every single one is in this guide. Get the Specs

Chris Gillespie

Chris Gillespie

Chris Gillespie is the writer and founder behind Find A Way Media which helps great businesses create killer marketing content. Based in Brooklyn, Chris spent years selling SaaS technology solutions and now helps those companies craft their content marketing strategies.

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