Overcoming the Engagement Drop in Social Video

August 30, 2016

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Jordan Wellin


Here at Wistia, we make a point of analyzing everything there is to know about what makes videos go from good to great, from how long videos should be to where you should place your Turnstile.

Even though we’ve accumulated copious amounts of data and best practices on getting your video watched from start to finish, one area we haven’t taken a deeper dive into is how to retain viewer engagement for video on social media.

So we asked social media specialist Rachael Samuels and digital marketing specialist Michael Patterson of Sprout Social, a Chicago-based social media analytics company, for their thoughts on what video creators and marketers can do to overcome the drop in video engagement on social platforms.

If you want a more thorough look at pairing video marketing with social media, check out the guide below!

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How can you get people’s attention right off the bat? To start, you need to give your audience an optimal viewing experience, regardless of where or how they’re watching. “You can’t even have an engagement drop-off if people don’t watch your video in the first place,” Rachael told us.

“You need to give your audience an optimal viewing experience, regardless of where or how they’re watching.”

More specifically, Rachael urges people to be hyper-aware of the autoplay features on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. “Think of it this way: what would stop a viewer from scrolling on their timeline to take the time to watch something?” she asked. For anyone who might be on the subway or in line grabbing lunch, having the option to read instead of turning on the sound is an easy solution. That’s why Sprout Social places subtitles on their social video clips, and has seen a huge leap in viewership as a result.

Cut it down

In the tests we’ve run at Wistia, shorter videos have almost always performed better, and Sprout Social’s findings on video length for social media were no different.

In a series of tests they ran on Facebook, 12-, 18-, and 30- second clips were excerpted from a video case study and compared. Even though it wasn’t surprising that the 12-second clip (embedded below) performed the best of the three, what was remarkable was that it had a 100% completion rate, something that’s pretty rare for any video on social media.

Next, the 18-second clip saw just a 74% completion rate – a huge drop for only a six-second difference. And the 30-second clip? It was watched in its entirety by merely 47% of viewers.

So yes, size really does matter. But that shouldn’t be the only factor for determining how long your video should be. “Ultimately, what’s really important to us is the actual content that we’re showing,” Rachael said. “If we need all 30 seconds to convey our message, we’ll use it.”

Trial and error

When determining your video strategy for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you’ll undoubtedly encounter challenges in comparing the three side-by-side. The key, according to Michael and Rachael, is always to be testing.

For instance, although Facebook and Twitter give you the ability to view your videos’ completion rates, Instagram doesn’t, so the three really aren’t comparable in that respect. And while you can access your total view count across all three networks, the audiences for each are so different that finding similarities between the platforms can lead to frustration. How can you overcome this hurdle? By knowing who your audience is on every social site.

Not sure how your viewership compares between the three networks? Test and find out! Sprout Social posted one 30-second video (shown below) on both Twitter and Facebook, and saw 8,000 initial views with a 12% completion rate on Twitter. The same video on Facebook experienced lower views, with 2,800, yet saw a 30% completion rate. So while the completion rate was higher on Facebook, the view count and total reach were higher on Twitter.

These findings helped the company prioritize both the type of content they post on each site, as well as the purpose of that content (including a CTA at the end of a Facebook video since the completion rate is higher, for instance).

“These findings helped the company prioritize both the type of content they post on each site.”

The engagement solution

Social media is the information superhighway – there’s never been a time where so much content has inundated us whenever and wherever we go online. So how do you hook your audience when attention spans are almost non-existent on social?

Ultimately, try to aim for quality over quantity. “It’s all about finding the nuggets of content that outperform all the rest,” Michael said. This looks differently for every business, but according to Michael, two things in particular can make you stand out:

1. Stay authentic: Because the media landscape is so saturated, you want to deliver work that’s not only true to your brand, but also unique enough to differentiate your message from your competitors’.

2. Take time to create meaningful content: Don’t just throw everything against the wall and expect it to stick. Writing superior content takes careful planning and more effort. But in time, the end results will show that the extra work is worthwhile.

August 30, 2016

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Jordan Wellin


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