How to Edit Video for Social Media

August 23, 2016

Jenny Mudarri


It’s plain to see that video is the best way to capture the attention of your audience, especially on social media. Just log in to any one of your accounts, and it’ll only take you a few seconds to come across a video in your feed.

As businesses and brands continue to rely more heavily on social media channels to amplify their messages, it’s super important to think about how you can incorporate video into your own social strategy.

But wait – you’re not a video editor, producer, or director. Heck, you don’t even like being on camera! How are you supposed to edit videos for social media?

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know from top-level best practices, to actually editing a pre-existing video.

The social video mindset

Whether you’re working with an in-house video producer or an external hire, asking for a social-media-friendly version of a video before the shoot is your best bet. However, sometimes circumstances call for being a bit scrappier than that. Maybe someone in the role before you outsourced a video and never asked for a social media cut? Perhaps you’re trying to promote a post that performed well in the past with a new video teaser?

For those instances where you can’t plan ahead, knowing how to edit a pre-existing video specifically for social media can really come in handy. Plus, at the end of the day, you know what works best on these platforms, so give yourself some credit!

The videos you make for social media simply support and promote already existing content on your site. Keeping this framework in mind will not only make the task itself less daunting, but it will actually help you make the best decisions when it comes time to edit your video.

Leave something to be desired

Nothing’s worse than going to a movie and realizing all the best parts of the film were in the previews. I’ll admit it, I’ve made this fatal mistake many times before when posting video to social media – but no more! Sometimes you need to rein-in your excitement and only give away a piece of the pie, not the whole shebang.

When it comes time to make this call, consider your marketing goals. If you want to drive viewers back to your website, don’t post an entire video to Facebook. If you want to drum up engagement on the platform itself, then post away! Just remember that with the latter approach, you’re promoting your brand, not explicitly driving viewers towards taking an action on your site where all your awesome content lives.

“If you want to drive viewers back to your website, don’t post an entire video to Facebook.”

Facebook is a particularly great platform for teaser videos because you can include links to the content on your site from right within the post. Remember that on Instagram you can only include a clickable link in your bio, not in the copy of the video post. This is sort of a big ask for viewers, so if you’re really trying to drive traffic, stick to Facebook.

Check out this teaser video we posted on Instagram a few years back. It’s short and sweet, but it gets the message across in a flash.

Put your best foot forward

Do I have your attention? Hopefully you’re still reading this blog post, but if you aren’t, it might be because I failed to hook you up front. This same principle applies to video on social media. You want to hit your audience in the face with a visual punch right from the get-go. The competition for your viewer’s attention is fierce, so make sure you kick things off quickly – leave your long-winded intros on the cutting room floor.

It’s also important to focus on only one message at a time in your social video. If the video you’re pulling footage from is just so good that you can’t decide what to toss, simply make two videos and test them against each other to see which one performs best. The goal is to keep your footage succinct and engaging, so that you don’t lose anyone’s attention.

Last but not least, always manually choose a thumbnail image on platforms that allow it, like Facebook and Instagram. Choose the most striking, visually compelling still from your footage to encourage clicks.

Can you hear me now?

If you’re new to this whole “editing video for social” thing, I’m about to introduce you to your future best friend. Audio – or lack thereof.

Lucky for us, silent autoplaying video is totally commonplace on social. Even just thinking about how you can create a compelling video without sound before shooting will set you ahead of the curve.

“Silent autoplaying video is totally commonplace on social.”

You can get rid of audio on any video you upload to Instagram from right within the platform itself by tapping on the volume icon until you see the “Video Sound Off” message appear. This doesn’t apply for Facebook or Twitter though, so be sure to edit out your audio before you upload to these platforms. Also, remember that on both Facebook and Instagram, videos will silently autoplay by default.

Another way to spruce up your video is to add subtitles. This will ensure that your video is accessible to everyone.

There are a few ways you can add subtitles to your videos. Within Wistia, you can order subtitles for any video, receive them in less than one business day, and turn them on by default, so they will automatically appear when your viewer presses play.

Another way to add subtitles is by uploading an .SRT file to iMovie once your footage is finalized. Lastly, you can also upload subtitles directly to your Facebook videos with that same .SRT file. Boom, you’re in business.

Be your own editor

Take matters into your own hands. If you’re a social media manager, I bet you’ve already edited a few videos for Instagram or Snapchat in your day. Don’t assume you need to be a video wizard in order to edit a pre-existing piece of video content for a social channel – 99% of the hard work is already done for you!

The best way to learn how to swim is to dive right in, so that’s what we’re going to do! Start out with your editing software of choice – I recommend using one that’s already preloaded onto your computer. If you’re a Mac user, try editing with iMovie, and if you’re a PC person, get started with Windows Movie Maker. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be giving a brief run-down of some basic editing steps in iMovie (sorry PC-peeps!), but if you want a more in-depth look at some advanced programs, head over to our Editing Basics for Business Video guide in the Library.

Now, let’s break it down step by step!

Step 1: Locate the video in your Wistia account that you’d like to edit. Then, download the file at the highest quality you have available – 1080p if you’ve got it!

Step 2: Open up iMovie and drag your file from your desktop into iMovie, or simply click “Import” and select the file you want.

Step 3: Now that you have your footage, scrub through it to find the most compelling shots that best convey your message. When you’ve found a clip you know you want in the video, right click on it and select “Split Clip” (or Command B). This will break up your video into easy-to-edit chunks.

Step 4: Watch the video from the beginning, and delete all of the sections you’ve split out and don’t need. Pay attention to how the clips flow together, and continue to cut out unnecessary footage that doesn’t drive the message home.

Step 5: There are a few audio options you can make use of. Remove the audio completely by bringing down the volume to 0%. Add a music track by dragging and dropping an audio file into iMovie. If the video calls for subtitles, upload an .SRT file!

Step 6: Play the video back one last time and then export it by clicking on File > Share > File. This will allow you to download the video directly to your desktop, so that you can upload it to your Wistia account or natively to a social channel.

Reminder: Be sure to tailor your content for each platform. There are video length limitations on every channel, so keep your videos within these defined ranges.

  • Facebook: 120 minutes
  • Twitter: 2 minutes and 20 seconds
  • Instagram: 60 seconds
  • Snapchat: 10 seconds

BONUS! GIF-magic

As many of you know, we love GIFs here at Wistia. Being able to make a custom GIF from one of your social videos is another useful skill worth mastering for social. GIFs are equal parts trendy and delightful, so be sure to incorporate them into your social strategy. We have an entire post dedicated to creating GIFs from videos, so check it out for the step-by-step details!

You’ve earned it, kid

Feeling inspired? You should be! Take matters into your own hands, think strategically, and rely on your social media intuition when it comes time to edit your videos. As with any new skill, there’s always room to grow and improve, so keep an open mind, and welcome feedback from your team. Having a basic understanding of how to edit a video is an excellent skill, not to mention a win-win for both your business and your own personal growth. Now get out there and start promoting that sweet, sweet video content.

August 23, 2016

Jenny Mudarri


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