How to approach short videos as a business
Even if you haven’t jumped on the TikTok craze yourself, you’ll know about it.
As a result, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and even YouTube have put a greater focus on the short video format. Have your favorite YouTube stars started releasing infuriatingly short videos? Read on to learn more about this format and why it is so popular these days.
What are short videos?
In this context, the term ‘short video’ is content that lasts between 31 and 60 seconds, and typically has some kind of hook, be it a punchline, gimmick, nugget of info, poignant message, or out-of-context moment. Essentially, they focus on one short idea and yield very different results from long-form videos.
By putting less onus on production and making videos more disposable, they have become an odd hybrid of video and social media-style content. Off the back of TikTok, the algorithms of platforms like Instagram and YouTube have been set to favor this kind of content — which is why so many of our favorite content creators are churning them out.
All this makes them a very interesting prospect for small businesses.
Why are short videos good for business?
There are a few key factors here. Because they appeal to our inherent short attention spans while providing a small nugget of consumability, they tend to spread far and wide. Also, their short nature means they can be low cost and low energy, so businesses can produce them without too much investment.
Then, the platforms themselves boast a lot of tools that help inexperienced users with editing. Text overlays, music, voiceovers, other interactive elements, and even shopping components — to name but a few — make it easy for small businesses to create dynamic and functional content that works for them. Some features even streamline content into marketing propositions for businesses.
Finally, how the platforms function can contribute to the potential for viral content. For example, in the case of TikTok, it’s incredibly easy for watchers to bounce from one video to another (because of the autoplay setup). The reach of a single video can be enormous. Similarly, on Pinterest, your videos can be posted inside topics where people are looking for exactly your kind of content.
Unlike some earlier formats that were quickly replaced or fell into disuse — Facebook Live, for instance — short videos have already proved they have staying power, so the time investment is unlikely to go to waste. After all, people don’t need to tune in at a certain time or sit through rambling and self-indulgent influencers full-time while they wait for people to join. Yes, the nature of the content itself simply has more longevity and potential than other formats. Short videos can also complement and integrate with existing social media platforms rather than simply aiming to replace them or do something entirely new.
Look and feel
As I mentioned, videos are cheap and easy for businesses to produce. Typically short videos are filmed vertically to make them easily viewable on mobile devices. So, by definition, they are not going to look or feel very professional — but conversely, that’s what people love about them.
They give a behind-the-scenes feel that incorporates realism and spontaneity. They don’t need to be staged, and your audience will enjoy getting more up-close-and-personal with your brand. This intimacy is partly why short video platforms inspire such a sense of community.
But what should I produce?
You should carefully consider what would work best for your business. As you do so, there are a few things to bear in mind. Videos should have a broad enough appeal to draw people in who aren’t familiar with your brand while remaining relevant to your brand. Put another way, your content should be engaging for anyone. This will give your videos the potential to go viral.
Try to include some elements of storytelling in your shorts. Do this in the video arc (if you can) to give people a reason to stay tuned (an outcome), but also think about a series arc. This could be something you work on that progresses in each short installment — like renovating your shop floor or preparing every item on your menu.
Eventually, you’ll want to begin integrating calls to action — things watchers should do after watching your video. Perhaps only do this in some of the content to curate a more casual feel. Typically, these calls to action will encourage potential customers to buy in your store. But you might also point them towards affiliate items or get them to follow you on social platforms. Anything that adds value to your business. Never forget that that’s what this is about.
Don’t get bogged down with polishing your videos (as we mentioned, the more real, the better), and be sure you get to the point (the ‘hook’) quickly with sharp edits that keep people watching.
It’s also important to remember that however weird and wonderful your video is, you’re still looking to bring traffic to your site, so promoting your business is always the ultimate goal.
Before you start…
Take some time out to monitor the ongoing conversation in your industry and observe the type of content people are already creating. While the videos don’t need to look professional, you want to plan carefully.
Some great examples of classic short video content to consider are things like lipsyncs, product teasers, current challenges, and behind-the-scenes content — and this list could fill a whole blog in itself, so spend a bit of time looking at what’s current.
This research of current trends is useful to see if you can piggyback off of them, but never create content that jars with your primary audience.
Which platform should I use?
It’s the million-dollar question. Understanding the platforms’ differences (and similarities) is essential to know which to choose, and, more to the point, whether to post to more than one. Do you already have an engaged social media following on any platform? If so, it’s definitely worth starting there and tailoring your content to the nuances of that platform. If you want to expand onto a new platform — for example, diversify from Instagram to TikTok — you can benefit by posting similar content on both platforms, but you must be careful. More on that later.
It’s also worth remembering that with all social media platforms, trends change, and your content’s exposure ultimately relies on another company’s decisions. This is why you must always work towards steering your audience to platforms you fully control, such as your own website, and maintain a content archive for your use and potential re-purposing.
The perfect place to educate and entertain. Think hacks, reviews, and recipes — include an educational element to your videos while also being funny. Many products and brands have gone viral on Tik Tok, so this platform does drive sales. However, polished content performs particularly poorly on TikTok. The TikTok creative center is a great place to discover current hashtags and songs that are trending.
As we mentioned, TikTok is great at presenting interesting content to many users, which makes it easier for any content to gain exposure. Additionally, businesses can tap into the popularity of specific music clips or other elements to add to their short videos, thus boosting visibility.
Instagram is pushing out reels a lot at the moment, so it’s a great opportunity for small businesses to take advantage of this. While you may not always get the most watches here, Instagram is one of the best platforms for engagement. This means it’s arguably more valuable, as people are keen to comment and like. An active audience is always an advantage. Also, you may already have an Instagram following that would appreciate the addition of your Reels.
Similarly, YouTube has been really pushing shorts content lately. The algorithm favors this over its traditional long-form videos. This also makes them great for engagement and watches. YouTube, just like Google, can really help SEO, which can, in turn, drive more traffic to your page.
Pinterest holds a unique niche within the social media spectrum. It’s often associated with design, beauty, fashion, and other visually-centric industries. If one of these areas appeals to your target audience, it’s worth checking out. Pinterest offers a range of social selling options that could effectively cater to your business needs.
How the platforms perform
When it comes to comparing performance on these platforms, it gets a little tricky — but remembering a few key points can simplify it.
For starters, each platform measures metrics in slightly different ways. Even if you compare the same metrics, they may indicate slightly different realities (for example, how Pinterest counts impressions as views).
What also makes it inherently difficult is qualitative vs quantitative analysis. The video itself has influenced any quantitative data you view; a qualitative entity. This means you could easily be comparing apples to oranges. Equally, your video might do everything according to the platform’s best practice and still not resonate. Or vice versa!
Finally, the random nature of how things tumble through the social media algorithms means a video that performs well on one is not guaranteed on another platform — heck, it might get a totally different result if re-edited and re-posted on the same platform.
We recommend you watch this video. It’s probably the fairest test we’ve seen, as nearly identical content was posted on each platform, and the parameters were similar.
Spoiler alert: the results varied wildly from video to video, and while TikTok came out on top with views alone, other platforms were better for engagement.
If you’re like me (cynical), all the video will do is reinforce the idea that how videos perform on each platform is ultimately quite random in nature. The best way to ensure content does well is to create amazing content — and you can always post to multiple platforms.
Shall I just post to all platforms, then?
Posting the same video on all platforms really depends. For example, you shouldn’t post a video that incorporates a specific TikTok trend to Instagram Reels — it won’t perform well. Also, some platforms allow for music and other elements that you won’t be allowed to use on other platforms.
There are several tools online that can help you here. Imagining you create the film directly in TikTok, there is a tool that allows you to rip it and, crucially, remove the TikTok watermark so that it can be posted on other platforms. This YouTube video also has some great tips about how to re-edit videos for multiple social media platforms. Software like Veed is designed to help you change aspect ratios and edit the video. So take a look around and research best practices where this is concerned.
To short-video or not?
Ultimately, that’s up to you. Bear in mind it’s free to try, and (as long as you don’t post anything too wild), you have nothing to lose by trying it out. So over to you — research the short video platform that suits your business best. And if in doubt, just try TikTok.