How to create engaging videos for social media

Behind-the-scenes look at a social media video shoot

Social media has become the most dominant vehicle for you to engage with their customers. Video is one of the most effective ways to utilize your business’ social media platforms. In fact, brands that employ social media videos as part of their marketing strategy report an 86% conversion rate improvement and 139% increase in brand awareness. That's a major reason why using video on social media has become so commonplace.

With the introduction of tools like Facebook Live and Instagram TV, there are more ways than ever to take advantage of video content. Using social media video best practices can help maximize the effectiveness of your videos. Here are some of the top ways to make social media and video work for you.

Use the right specs

Mockup of various social media video aspect ratios on mobile

Before you even tap "record," it's crucial to understand the technical video requirements of the various social media networks you're using. By getting the specs right, you can ensure your videos look correct on all devices and nothing is left out of frame. Without making the necessary optimizations you risk sharing videos that look low-quality and unprofessional.

Each platform has its own specifications for how it can support your video, including orientation options, maximum file sizes, and even how long your video can be. These guidelines will influence everything from how you frame your shot before recording to how you edit your content once you're finished.

Here are the social media video best practices for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Instagram video specs

Instagram's popular video options allow you to maximize your video content marketing efforts through feed posts and Instagram TV. You can also connect live with your followers to interact in real time.

In-feed and ad specs

Instagram's in-feed video and ad specs are the same across the board. Here are the details:

  • Maximum video length: 60 seconds
  • Maximum file size: 4GB
  • Maximum frames: 30fps
  • Recommended formats: .MP4, .MOV
  • Video orientation options: Vertical, Landscape, Square
  • Minimum resolutions:
  • Vertical: 600 x 750
  • Landscape: 600 x 315
  • Square: 600 x 600
  • Aspect ratios:
  • Vertical: 4:5
  • Landscape: 16:9
  • Square: 1:1
  • Maximum caption count: 2,200; recommended 125 characters

Instagram Stories specs

For Instagram Stories, you'll want to abide by the following guidelines:

  • Maximum video length: 15 seconds
  • Maximum file size: 4GB
  • Recommended formats: .MP4, .MOV
  • Minimum resolution: 600 x 1067 (recommended 1080 x 1920)
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16

IGTV specs

The video requirements for IGTV are:

  • Minimum/maximum video length: 1 minute/15 minutes (mobile upload); 60 minutes (desktop upload)
  • Maximum file size:
  • Videos under 10 minutes: 650MB
  • Videos 10-60 minutes: 3.6GB
  • Required format: .MP4
  • Minimum resolution: 720 (recommended 1080 x 1920)
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16 (recommended; 16:9 also supported)

Facebook video specs

Facebook offers a wide variety of video and ad options. Approximately 45% of Facebook users spend at least an hour each week watching videos on the platform.

Some more recent options for sharing video content include Facebook 360, desktop Carousel ads, mobile Collection ads, and more. But for your bread-and-butter Facebook news feed video post and desktop ads, here's are the video requirements you need to know:

  • Maximum video length:
  • Shared post: 125 minutes
  • Desktop ad: 120 minutes
  • Maximum file size: 4GB
  • Maximum frames: 30fps
  • Recommended formats: .MP4, .MOV
  • Video orientation options: Portrait, Landscape, Square
  • Recommended dimensions: 1280 x 720
  • Minimum width: 600 px
  • Aspect ratios:
  • Portrait: 9:16
  • Landscape: 16:9
  • Square: 1:1
  • Maximum character count: 2,200; recommended 90 characters
  • Maximum headline count: 25 characters
  • Maximum link description count: 30 characters

For Facebook Stories, you'll want to adhere to the following video guidelines:

  • Maximum video length: 15 seconds
  • Maximum file size: 4GB
  • Recommended formats: .MP4, .MOV
  • Minimum dimensions: 500 x 500
  • Minimum width: 600 px
  • Aspect ratios: 1.91 to 9:16

Twitter video specs

Twitter may not be the first social platform you think of for video, but it should not be forgotten. There are over 1 billion videos on Twitter, and posts with video see ten times higher engagement than those without. If you’re looking to give your Twitter marketing campaign a boost, video may be the solution you’ve been looking for. 

The specs for Twitter videos are:

  • Maximum video length: 2 minutes 20 seconds
  • Maximum file size: 512MB
  • Recommended formats: .MP4, .MOV
  • Minimum dimensions: 32 X 32
  • Maximum dimensions: 1920 X 1200 for portrait; 1200 X 1900 for landscape
  • Maximum frame rate: 40 fps
  • Aspect ratios: 1:2.39 - 2.39:1

Grab your users' attention

It's no secret that the instant gratification of the digital age has affected how deeply we're willing to engage with any piece of content. The average users' attention span is just 8 seconds long!

You have to capture your audience's interest in a blink if you want to keep them watching your video the whole way through. A compelling, eye-catching lead is one of the social media video best practices you must implement.

Most social media and video platforms give you a head start by auto-playing your video as the user scrolls by it. Plan your video so that the initial image is bold, striking, and gets your point across immediately. Make sure to include the title or main topic of your video in this initial shot so that users know what to expect if they continue watching.

If you're posting a recipe video, for instance, start with an image of your immaculately styled finished dish to tempt your followers' taste buds. Buzzfeed's Tasty channel is a great example of combining striking imagery with exciting titles that preview the fun to come:

It's also helpful to keep your content short and sweet. Treat your users' time as more valuable than your own, removing any fillers that might distract from the most critical part of your message. Most importantly, make sure your audience knows what your topic or product is within the first few seconds. Any confusion or ambiguity is cause for them to keep scrolling right on by.

Use subtitles to make videos more accessible

Subtitles make your video consumable no matter where, when, or how your audience may stumble upon it. Some platforms, like Facebook, auto-start all videos on mute, removing any benefit of a catchy tune or phrase to hook your viewers. Many users simply keep their social media and video volume turned off, as well, so they can hear other things while they scroll (or, conversely, not disturb anyone else nearby).

Including subtitles gives your audience a way to still engage with your content without the need for audio, so your message gets across no matter whether they can hear it or not. Believe it or not, 85% of video views on Facebook occur with the sound off, so if you’re not including subtitles, chances are your audience isn’t going to watch.

At Kajabi, we include subtitles on all of our videos (along with some seriously emotionally compelling content).

Subtitles also ensure you don't alienate any members of your audience (or potential customers) who may have hearing difficulties. It's one of social media video's best practices that has the potential to garner an entirely new demographic who have needs that are otherwise unmet by other brands.

Lead with emotion

As author and social scientist Simon Sinek says, "People don't buy what you do—they buy why you do it." This sentiment is no less important for social selling in the video realm. Compelling, emotional content is one of the top social media video best practices. It’s a huge reason why to use video on social media in the first place.

Invoking a powerful reaction not only produces great effect in the moment, but it also creates a lasting impression of your message or product long after the video has ended. In fact, hearing a great story releases oxytocin into the brain, creating feelings of affection and effectively bonding your audience to you.

Videos are excellent vehicles for creating an emotional connection. they allow your audience to see someone’s facial expressions, hear their voice, and be subconsciously influenced by the ambiance or background music. This video by Nike, for example, taps directly into feelings of community, equality, hope, and perseverance, with a purpose of showcasing their brand as a protector and promoter of these qualities. (Notice the subtitles, too!)

Research your viewers' emotional triggers and create videos that appeal directly to those feelings. These emotions could be joy, frustration, empathy, empowerment or something else.Acknowledging pain points, celebrating joyous occasions, or supporting habits or goals helps position your product as the solution to those emotions.

Experiment with tools & trends

Instagram feed on smartphone

A blessing and a curse of social media and video marketing is how quickly new tools come and go. First Snapchat's bite-sized disappearing content turned the world upside down. Then Instagram and Facebook jumped on the wagon with Stories, followed by IGTV to support longer-form, permanent video. And after TikTok introduced creatively edited and entirely meme-able videos, Instagram recently responded with Reels.

Even though Reels are relatively new, brands are already finding ways to capitalize on them. For example, Red Bull has already gone viral on Instagram multiple times with their Reels content.

What makes Red Bull Reels unique are their use of viewer-generated content. There is a connection between brand and audience. You can use Reels to increase your brand awareness and grow your social audience by customizing your videos, including viewer-created content, and promoting in the Instagram Explore section.

Red Bull Instagram Reels grid
Red Bull’s Instagram Reels already have millions of views and promote content from their social audience.

Instagram and Facebook stories are excellent tools to offer limited-time deals or instant updates. They’re also a great way to gather audience data and feedback via polls and questions.

Consider going live on your social media channels. There’s no better way to get to know your audience and build loyalty than creating a meaningful connection in real-time. You can even start a live video series to build up viewership and social engagement.

By telling your audience you’ll go live once a week on a particular day, it gives them something to look forward to and more importantly, strengthens your relationship with your social followers.  

In-feed video posts give you more freedom to explore longer content pieces, like a behind-the-scenes tour of your company, or a step-by-step tutorial of your craft or recipe. Plus, you can link to them from other formats and platforms.

It's important to ensure you use the right video format and content together. For example, a 10-minute IGTV video on product features and benefits would likely bore your audience stiff. Consider instead a succession of 15-second Stories that highlight each feature. Following common-sense social media video best practices will help you determine which tool is best for you!

Vary your video content

Variety is the spice of life and your social media video strategy. Offering your audience the same type of video content over and over can cause their interest to fade fast. Shake up your approach with different types of videos like:

  • Product demos
  • Customer testimonials and viewer-generated video
  • Behind-the-scenes or "sneak peek" content
  • Live event videos
  • How-to videos
  • Announcements and promotions
  • Brand campaign videos.

Beauty brand Sephora executes this strategy flawlessly, creating videos showcasing everything from long-form make-up tutorials on IGTV to product release teasers on Facebook Stories. Their "We Belong to Something Beautiful" campaign features emotionally moving testimonials from employees and customers who embody the company's body-positive spirit and explain how Sephora empowers their lives.

Offer a call to action

Serving up content purely for the sake of engagement and positive brand awareness is all well and good. But at the end of the day, you’re trying to grow your business and your bottom line— whether that means netting more blog subscribers for increased ad impressions or growing your product conversions. To do this, you need to give your viewers the next step to follow after watching your video.

A clear, simple call to action is one of the most important social media video best practices because it gives your audience a logical next step to follow. You can place a "Learn More" banner at the bottom of your product ad video, utilize your bio link for email and social media integration, or direct users to click through to visit your site.

For example, the Nature Conservancy includes a call to action and a link at the end of their video. The video itself is like a teaser for the full article and lasts just 36 seconds. They have captured and kept their audience’s interest while introducing a topic that corresponds with a long-form article. The link at the end of the video is short and simple to remember, so users can easily type it into their browsers without having to copy and paste anything.

On Instagram, the Dodo is a great example of using calls to action both within their videos and in the accompanying descriptions, asking their viewers to donate to shelters or adopt a pet in need. In the description, make sure to tag the account you want users to check out. Or, if there’s a particular link you want them to follow, drop it in your bio and include “link in bio” in the video description.

If you’re using Instagram Stories and have over 10,000 followers, you can also include a “Swipe Up” CTA. This will take users to a URL of your desire like a product page or instructional video on your site. For example, cooking supply retailer Sur la Table used their Instagram story to take people to a recipe on their website for Mojitos. This tactic is a social media video best practice because it can be a great traffic driver for your site.

Screenshot of a Sur la Table Instagram Story about mojito recipes

Leaving your viewers with clear marching orders helps you grow your business on social media and make those compelling, creative, and eye-catching videos go to work for you!

As you forge ahead, don’t be afraid to try different video types. Get experimental and pay attention to how your audience engages with your content. Remember to keep your videos short and sweet but also emotionally engaging. And finally, have fun with it!