A 7 step guide to creating Facebook Video that’s thumbstopping

facebook video demo 3x22 A 7 step guide to creating Facebook Video thats thumbstopping

Unless you’re a marketer that’s been living under a rock, you’ll understand that natively uploaded Facebook video is a pretty big deal.

In fact, it’s a competitor to TV with billions of daily views. 

That’s big.

Facebook’s core mission is to get you to spend more time on their platform, and by prioritising video in the newsfeed, they’ve created another attention magnet.

Over 100 million hours of video content is watched on Facebook every day.
That’s around 8 billion total daily views.
500 million people watch Facebook video every day.

And with brands and publishers getting to grips with it, that’s only set to grow.

For media brands, the source for a lot of Facebook’s most read content, video is becoming an increasingly critical play, meaning an explosion in content and a huge inflection point.

 A 7 step guide to creating Facebook Video thats thumbstopping

Via NewsWhip

Of course all of this is in Facebook’s interest – more Facebook video consumption means more Facebook video advertising. And video ads are usually more expensive (around 4$ CPM), which means more revenue for Facebook.


Along with being massive in size, Facebook video is also quite unique. Unlike on YouTube, where most videos are sought out by the user through search or other means, on Facebook video views are generally stumbled upon in the feed and slightly less engaged.

Facebook video views are more ‘drive by’. They auto play in a user’s feed and there’s also been plenty of comment over how Facebook measures a ‘view’, with the 3 second threshold seen as very low. But whatever your opinion on the ‘viewability’ debate, there’s no doubting the importance of native Facebook in every marketing plan.

With all of this in mind, what creative, content and production tips can we take from the best Facebook video brands? What are the common themes that make great Facebook video?

And how can you create content that’s ‘thumbstopping’ and pays off for your brand?

Here’s my guide to creating Facebook video

1| Shoot for no sound

There’s a reason that highly visual clips of food and cute animals (sometimes together!) are the most popular types of videos on Facebook. For most video viewers, the picture has to tell the story, because 85% of Facebook video is watched with sound off. This is a huge trend that most publishers understand, but some brands don’t. Think about it, when you’re on the bus commuting into work scrolling through your newsfeed and you see an interesting video play, you often don’t want to click in and let the sound kick in. Like it or not, Facebook has built a video ecosystem that does not require users to turn the volume up and brands have to get used to this.

As Facebook itself says, ‘consumption on our platform is fast, frequent and often sound-free.’ It’s perhaps the most important nuance of Facebook video compared to other platforms like YouTube.

The easiest way to facilitate this behaviour is to create video that’s highly visual, simple to understand and, most importantly, uses text subtitles to repeat the narration. Basically, the intent is to make it easy for people to consume the information presented in the videos without needing to turn the sound on.Another important consideration is when sound is off, how does my brand come across? Many brands get past this either via an intro/outro sting, by using a sustained visual cue in the form of a logo on the periphery of the screen, or by pulsing the brand logo or colours in and out of the visual in a very noticeable way.

Here’s a great example from Buzzfeed of titles:

And here’s a look at how ‘Now This News’ use brand pulsing:

2| Keep it short

Considering the paucity of our attention spans, the constant blast of information and the fierce battle for eyeballs within Facebook’s newsfeed, keeping video content short, snackable and to the point is a no brainer. Think of the start of the video as a ‘three second audition’, after which, a user chooses to either stay engaged or flip on to the next juicy tidbit in their feed.

While the average view length on YouTube or new sites can often be over two minutes because of dwell time, in the newsfeed our default behaviour is to flip on if something is boring or too drawn out. Again, using data from the excellent NewsWhip, it’s easy to see why short is sweet for Facebook video.

Facebook Video Length 1 768x402 A 7 step guide to creating Facebook Video thats thumbstopping

Via NewsWhip

3| Make it for mobile

Because the majority of Facebook usage now comes on mobile (more than 500 million people only use Facebook through mobile!), the majority of  your video views will be coming from mobile. I’ve seen multiple brands make the mistake of using pop-up annotations that look fine in the editing process on desktop, but can’t be seen clearly on mobile at all. Shooting in HD and being very visual with creative should be priorities.

Video content needs to be approached with the consumption screen in mind. People have a unique interaction with mobile feed, and marketers should keep in mind the sound environment and quickness of mobile feed when developing creative.

Where possible, video should be also shot for vertical viewing. Again, this is all about understanding user context, and just like on Snapchat, viewers often don’t want to have to tap into full screen and rotate their phone just to watch a video that’s just a few seconds long.

A large majority (80%+) of the most shared videos over a month in Facebook are square in format.

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4| End with a CTA

The engagement shouldn’t just end with a video view. If you really want to win the battle of the newsfeed and capture some precious exponential attention for your brand on Facebook, you need to be smarter.

The best brands will always use a call to action to entice users either to their site or to view another of their videos. Just like on YouTube where viewers are asked to subscribe, on Facebook, a verbal or visual/text call to action can have a positive impact, and creates an ancillary action beyond just a video view.

You can also customise the call to action that appears at the end of the clip itself.

There are a number of options you can choose here, including ‘Sign Up’, ‘Learn More’ and ‘Download’ (see below). Here, you can choose to send viewers to your site, to re-watch, or otherwise.

Watch this AJ+ video for an example, you’ll see a CTA within the video to share, and also a CTA when it ends to ‘Sign Up’

5| Set it up for sharing

While shares and ‘virality’ might not always be your KPI, often, the ask for marketers is to get a video seen by as many people as possible for as little cost as possible.

A tough challenge right?

As you’ll probably know by now, the science of sharing is an inexact one, but there are multiple considerations that you can take into account prior to shooting that will help the video stand out and get shared. Facebook users are a predictable bunch, and you’ll generally see the same type of feel good, food or fun and helpful content at the top of the Facebook video charts.

One great model to follow when you’re trying to infuse a piece of video with some magic dust is Jonah Berger’s STEPPS model that outlined six drivers of viral content as follows:

  • Social currency: what you talk about makes you look to others.
  • Triggers: stimuli that reminds people to think/talk about certain things.
  • Emotion: content that makes people feel something.
  • Public: showing that other people are using a product.
  • Practical Information: crafting content that is useful to the viewer.
  • Stories: integrating your message into a narrative.

Chart 001 A 7 step guide to creating Facebook Video thats thumbstopping

In particular, the social currency aspect is critically important. This plays into the fact that on social, but particularly on Facebook, we create a veneer for our lives, an artificial avatar based upon our photos, likes, shares and commentary. That’s part of the reason why half the world changed their Facebook profile photo to show solidarity for France last year. Research has shown that the most shared Facebook posts are posts that would make the sharer “look good” or look intelligent”. 

For example, I might be more likely share a video of a Syrian refugee camp with a message of disgust at the whole crisis, or a video making fun of Donald Trump’s latest epic fail, because it makes me look smart in front of my friends.

Also, videos that create ‘high value emotions’ – emotions like anger, happiness, humour, excitement (those on the polar sides of the emotional spectrum) are far more likely to be shared. Think of Dove’s ‘Beauty Sketches’ or almost any funny/evocative viral video. The only exception to the rule - sadness isn’t a viral emotion, so don’t tug at the heart strings. Strong storytelling is also critical, and the likes of AJ+ have gotten hit upon a nice recipe for this.

Videos that are incredibly useful are always great for gaining shares too. That’s why food videos with tasty, easy to create recipes, or videos that offer cool ‘lifehacks’ get such enormous view counts – it’s news you can use. Here’s an excellent study looking at the reasons for social sharing.

So when you’re thinking about Facebook video, think about being brand relevant, something that will
- create valuable social currency for sharers
- evoke emotion
- is useful
- contains a story.

Ideally, all of the above would be a nice sweet spot to hit!

6| T.L.R. (Test, Learn, Refine)

buildmeasurelearn 1024x664 A 7 step guide to creating Facebook Video thats thumbstopping

Measurement is the seemingly easy part that’s all too often forgotten by brands who create Facebook video campaigns. There’s no point doing anything digital unless you’ve got strong KPIs, you measure and you use the data derived to change your strategy around next time.

For example, are you looking for shares of content or are you placing spend being this video piece and so not relying on organic interaction? Do you want people to watch the whole thing, or is three seconds enough to get the message? Where does your CTA go and is it needed? If you’re creating a multi video campaign, can you track viewers of the first video so you can serve them up subsequent videos?

All of these things can be variables, but luckily Facbeook’s advertising platform makes it incredibly easy to optimise for certain things.

T.L.R. is a bit of a cliche, and has been taken on by startupland too, but an iterative approach to Facebook video is vital if you want to get the most bang for your buck.

7| Don’t use it in isolation

Consumers are becoming default second screeners. We value the flexibility to access content whenever and wherever we want and we use Facebook in tandem with other tools throughout the day. When was the last time you sat in front of the T.V. and didn’t feel some urge to check what’s happening on your feed? According to Google, Irish consumers have an average of 3.1 connected devices and we are rated 6th (out of 46 countries globally) in terms of frequency of multi-screening.

That’s both a hindrance (divided attention), but also an opportunity for smart marketers. A lot of strong research shows that digital video plays an especially effective role when it’s partnered with T.V. (for example, the seminal Binet & Field paper that looks at over 30 years of IPA Effectiveness Awards covering 700 brands).

This makes sense – when you see something in your Facebook newsfeed (even if it’s a fleeting glance) and then you encounter it again on T.V., that’s two engagements with a campaign. Preceding an ad exposure on one platform with an ad exposure on another platform is powerful, so if you’re running above the line creative, be sure to use Facebook video to prime, remind and elongate it.

According to Binet and Field, an online response element to a TV advert boosts the efficiency of TV by a factor of 4x.

Therefore, any question of T.V. versus Facebook is actually a misnomer, it’s the overlap of both mediums that actually creates the best brand effects.
From a repetition, cost effectiveness and efficiency standpoint, integration is vital.

Indeed, Facebook’s own research (in tandem with an independent body) has found that by priming TV ads through viewing Facebook video creative first, brands can expect a 19% lift in memory encoding than if a user had seen the T.V. spot twice. Basically, participants primed with brand ads on Facebook in Day 1 were more likely to make purchase decisions once they saw the TV ad on Day 2, and higher levels of brain activity were reported among participants who saw ads on Facebook first and then watched TV ads the next day.

By complementing TV campaigns with Facebook video ads, it can help to extend reach, efficiency, and effectiveness — in other words, more people see it, click to watch, and convert to actual sales.

That’s huge and a great way to make the case for split digital/above the line budgets.

 A 7 step guide to creating Facebook Video thats thumbstopping


So there you have it. While nothing can be certain when it comes to creative video, there are some things that you can embed into your content to give it the best chance of success. By using these seven factors, you’re creating the bedrock for a strong campaign, and given the relative cheapness and viral factor of Facebook, a good video can travel a long way and have large brand effects.

If you liked this post, please share it with others, and here’s some further reading and inspiration on Facebook video best practices:







Doing the hard work on your user’s behalf…

Renowned advertising thinker Adam Morgan has coined a particularly apt term for today’s young consumers. He calls us ‘Uber’s Children’.

Morgan refers to a cynical, expectant generation, addicted to frictionless, simple technologies like Uber, Just-Eat, Hailo etc, with brains scorched by constant information flow and instant gratification. He talks of people with very limited tolerance for waiting, errors or technical bugs.

And it’s an excellent description.

Since the year 2000, the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds. Increasingly, the main determinant for purchase decisions is good, frictionless user experiences. 3 in 5 people say that if they don’t find what they’re looking for within 5 seconds of landing on a site, they’ll click away. A similar number of consumers have switched service providers due to poor service experiences.

If you’ve ever performed a Twitter search for the phrase ‘Verified By Visa’ and witnessed the vitriol directed at a fairly simple password entry process (below), you’ll understand. Make it simple or don’t make it at all.

Screen Shot 2016 05 16 at 09.58.51 Doing the hard work on your users behalf...Sure, all of this might sound shallow and unrealistic.

But it’s also a reality.

This is an era of super sensitive, spoiled, irritable consumers with perfect information at their fingertips. These are the new parameters that brands work within these days.

Us marketers better get used to it.


By taking a quick look at the wider tech landscape it’s clear to see that friction removal is where the money is. Most of the billion dollar ‘unicorn’ brands are dedicated to making things that little bit easier, quicker and free from pain points. Amazon is perhaps the best example all. Bezos’ tech giant has focused on taking as many steps as possible out the the path to purchase, thus greasing the wheels for buyers. One click ordering, ‘Prime’, free delivery, simple returns and easy mobile shopping all decrease the likelehood of abandoned shopping carts – the scourge of any e-commerce brand. Amazon have even worked on creating ‘Amazon Dash’, quirky little buttons that stick to everyday household items like cereal, washing powder or nappies and can order replenished supplies with a simple push.

Tech brands that focus on utility, great design, simple user experience and the removal of friction from your buying process are prospering. Solving first world problems is big business it seems. Twitter founder Ev Williams puts it succintly: ‘If you study what the really big things on the web are, you realise they are masters at making things fast and not making people think.’

Cognitive ‘Misers’

Of course, none of this behaviour is new. As humans, we’re hardwired to follow the path of least resistance. We’re all ‘cognitive misers’ that attempt to reduce any ‘dissonance’ that may exist. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman succinctly explains the importance of this process for brands in the excellent book ‘Thinking Fast & Slow’. He describes how we use judgmental shortcuts called ‘heuristics’ to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. We’re biased toward using mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of decision-making.

What does this mean for marketers? Well firstly, it indicates that increasingly the default answer to a business challenge isn’t marketing. From our work with Vodafone, Arnotts and An Post, we’ve seen how merely making menial things like customer service, user comprehension and e-commerce checkout that 10% quicker can have an enormous impact on bottom line.

The ultimate sophistication

Simplicity truly is the ultimate sophistication, and it’s within the remit of agencies to think about these problems. It’s our role to consolidate all available information and do the hard work up front to ensure a better end user experience.
Sure, making something simple to use is hard. It’s usually more work to make things simple,especially when the underlying systems and platforms are increasingly complex. But it’s the right thing to do and in the long run, it pays off. As my colleague Paul wrote recently, it’s up to us to overthink on the user’s behalf.

At the same time, we know it’s becoming more difficult and expensive to reach people with traditional marketing, so not understanding the importance of experience and how it relates to marketing is going to cost many brands a lot of money.

Your problems and complexity should not be passed on to the end user. You should do everything possible to make this complexity as invisible as possible.This includes simplifying language, making the process as speedy as possible, understanding usage context, using intuitive design and allowing simple returns. A customer doesn’t care how it happens, they just expect you to pre-emptively solve their problems.

Part of my role as a comms/experience planner is to combine previously distinct areas like user experience, user journey planning, consumer behaviour and knowledge of social/digital platforms to deliver the best possible rendition of a brand.

Sure, I might be slightly biased, but based on the above, such a role has never been more important.

Uber’s Children aren’t going away, and the onus is on us to do the work to appease them.


Trendwatching – Brands and charities using VR and 360 video to create empathy

virtual reality empathy charity Trendwatching   Brands and charities using VR and 360 video to create empathy

One of the big trend lines of 2016 so far, as discussed in my January ‘Tracking’ report, VR is reaching a tipping point.

Most importantly, the technology is being democratised quickly. At the very base level, 360 video, while not real VR, is now supported by the world’s two biggest video consumption platforms Facebook & YouTube, and hardware like Google Cardboard and Samsung’s new $99 Gear VR offers a ‘pretty good’ VR experience without breaking the bank.

But that’s only half the battle.

VR can be as cheap as chips, but if the content doesn’t exist to entice and ‘wow’ users, then it’s all in vain.

Different viewpoint

There’s one real killer feature that VR and 360 video holds over other types of video – in theory, it’s incredibly powerful for creating a sense of empathy.

Imagine the opportunity to be see the world from someone else’s eyes and to experience what life is like from a completely different viewpoint to yours, to be transported into any scenario, good or bad.

While it sounds like some sort of futuristic nonsense, that reality is here. Or at least that ‘virtual’ reality is here.

As Chris Milk outlines in his excellent Ted Talk, ‘VR allows us to tell stories in different ways and tell different kinds of stories that we couldn’t using the traditional tools of filmmaking. It allows the viewer to feel more connected to what they’re watching than ever before.’

You’re essentially putting a person directly at the centre of a scenario, and putting them in control of what to focus on. 

If you’ve ever experienced real VR, you’ll understand what I mean – it makes the user feel present in the world that they’re inside and feel present with the people that they’re inside of it with. It feels like real life. 

That’s an incredibly compelling proposition for brands, particularly those who need to tell stories, to make people feel connected to a cause or to change minds.

Drive empathy

Some brands are starting to experiment and to figure out novel ways to use it effectively to tell a story and to drive empathy for a cause. Sectors like charity and media are leading the way, and when you think about it, that makes sense.

For charity, the difficulty has always been capturing attention, generating empathy with a cause and making people see things from another side. For media, the desire has always been to tell better, more engaging stories.

Virtual reality and even 360 video is brilliant for all of these things.

virtual reality empathy Trendwatching   Brands and charities using VR and 360 video to create empathy

I’ve never been to a refugee camp. Never felt the despair of escaping from a war torn country just to be told you can’t build a new live. But if I can be put into that scenario, I can grasp just a little bit what it feels like. And it might make me want to help.

Brand examples

Here are some examples of brands and charities using virtual reality and 360 video to create empathy.

In Russia, where domestic abuse is a real problem, a charity used a short YouTube 360 video clip to create a mirror effect – abusers are shown themselves, and sufferers are shown that there’s other people suffering from this scourge, and that there’s a way out.

One of the leaders in the immersive journalism space is Nonny De La Pena. Her ‘Project Syria’ experience showcases to Americans what it’s like to be caught up in a terrorist attack, putting the audience on scene in a way that no other technology can.

For the 30th anniversary of Chernobly, Frontline PBS recently commissioned ‘Return to Chernobyl’ to showcase what it’s like to visit a forgotten city.

The Guardian have created a VR experience to illustrate the horrors of solitary confinement.

Elsewhere, the UN has created its first ever VR film following a Syrian girl, Amnesty has given headsets to street fundraiser to bring Syrian to life for donors, resulting a 16% increase in direct debit sign-ups and Charity:Water has shown the effects of well drilling on an Ethiopian community.

It’s not just charity brands that can benefit from VR and 360 video. The likes of Gatorade have used the technology to showcase what it’s like to be in an athletes shoes for example – a great way to humanise superstar sports stars.

But for me, the technology is best used by those looking to drive empathy for causes or plights.

In a global society that’s becoming more polarised (Trump, the refugee crisis, and rising racial tensions across the Western world for example),360 and VR brings the old cliche of ‘to really understand someone, walk a mile in their shoes’ to life.

As Milk says, it’s the ‘ultimate empathy machine’.