Understanding The Social Media Ecosystem
So, now we're digging into the meat of it, which is understanding the social media ecosystem. So, online for video, there are four major platforms that I have experience with and have used, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. All right, so there are three types of video forms that you will see online. There's micro-form, short-form, and long-form. And so when we're thinking about micro-form, these are videos that are about a minute and 30 seconds or less. They're very quick, concise, and to the point. And so because of that, because of the small amount of time that you have, typically videos that are either captioned or post-literate, so videos that, the message is obtained through the visuals, are very important. I would also say it's typically videos that are non-sound-dependent that will have the best success when we think about micro-form videos. All right, next we have short-form videos. And so these are videos that are about a minute- to three minutes and 30 seconds. These...
videos have more room for talking, but you still wanna be concise. There's still not a ton of room. And these are probably the most common length of videos that you'll see on the internet. And then lastly, we have long-form videos. And so these are videos that are over three minutes and 30 seconds, and so these are perfect for doing a nice, robust, deep dive into a topic. And I've found that they perform the best when they're unscripted videos. I think when they're scripted, there's a lot of variables at play, if the acting's not there, if the scriptwriting's not there, if the crew in terms of lighting and all that kinda stuff is not there. There's a lot that can cause someone to disengage, whereas with unscripted, people tend to be a little bit more forgiving. You also tend to have a lot more control in post, well, only so much, but it gives you a lot more control in terms of maybe leaning in towards someone that might be a little bit more lively, versus if your lead actress just isn't delivering, that's all you got. Okay, so as far as optimal lengths go for each form, for micro-form, it depends. And micro-form kind of exists just because of the time constraints that some platforms have given people. So, for Instagram, you can only have about a minute on your feed, and then in your stories, you get 15 seconds. I'm not a hundred percent sure what Snapchat's limits are. So it really does depend. For short-form, I've found that videos tend to perform best when they're around two minutes and 30 seconds to three minutes. And then for long-form, it also depends. Because people will ride through for a long-form video, but I'd say for all of them, it's all about choosing a length that does the story justice. So, for instance, I did a video while I was at BuzzFeed. It was called Men Try Birth Control Pills for a Month. So, I had them go through a simulated experience taking Tic Tacs. And I was really nervous about that video because it was a 12-minute long video, and that's pretty long for BuzzFeed. But that video got two million views in seven days. And so for me, that really showed me how people are really willing to ride through for a video, as long as they feel like every single beat that is in that video is justified and it pushes the story along and everything that's there is allowing them to understand the next thing that comes along in the video. So, my suggestion, for YouTube the best performance I've seen is short-form and long-form video. For Facebook, it's usually micro or short-form. Facebook, you can upload a long-form video if you wish, but I wouldn't necessarily suggest it. Twitter, it's micro and short-form. And then I don't think you can see it, but basically, Instagram, it would be micro-form. I know that Instagram has an IGTV initiative. However, it's really new. I haven't actually gotten a chance to play around with it yet, and I would say most people, when they think about Instagram, it's micro-form. So, I hope after seeing this, you understand how important it is to not make cookie-cutter content. You can't just make a video and then just feel like, okay, I can slap it across all of them. Because each of them have different lengths that are more optimal. People are on certain platforms for a certain reason, and each platform has its own psychology and rules and ways of engagement and communication. And so I believe understanding the psychology and the rules to each will allow you to optimize your content for maximum spread. So, now we're gonna dig a little bit deeper into each platform. So, for YouTube, one of the key things you wanna understand is that it's a video-only platform. It's one of the only of the four that's video-only. So when people go there, they're only there to watch videos and that's it. So it's fully immersive. So this means that videos with sound will perform very well. So anything that's sketch, scripted, or where anything is sound-dependent or talking is important will thrive very well in this space. YouTube doesn't have a scrolling feed, unlike the rest of them. It has a homepage. And the homepage consists of recommended videos and subscribed videos. So this means that the experience that someone has on YouTube is very personalized and isolated. So then that means for you as a creator, there are much harder opportunities for exposure within the platform. I wouldn't necessarily call YouTube a social media site. In my mind, it's more of a content service with social media elements kind of built in. So, you have comments, but for the most part, it really is a content service. So it's not just enough to post content there and to assume that you'll build an audience that way because, again, most people are there to watch people that they're subscribed to. So, in my mind, it's more so of an accessory platform where you offer content for people who want to be more fully immersed in who you are as a creator. So, you would build your audience on a platform like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and then YouTube is that extra thing where they get to be indoctrinated into the psychology of you and what you have to offer. So, yeah, a key thing you wanna keep in mind is that most people are not on YouTube to find new people, but rather they're there to support the ones that they love. And that's largely because it has a subscription-based model. And so a lot of people, it's curated for them to be there to watch a particular person that they're interested in. So, the one little way that you have, a small opportunity for in-platform exposure on YouTube is this auto roll or suggested video feature. So, basically what that is is that at the end of every video, there's usually a screenshot of a video and a timer. And if the person either doesn't click on the play button, it will usually auto-play into the next video. And it's usually gonna auto-play into a video that has similar tags to it. So, this is where tagging your content is extremely important, because it will increase the potential of a video being viewed in someone's suggested video feed or it being auto-rolled into somebody's video. So, if you tend to do a video that has popular tags, or maybe it's a video that a popular YouTuber might have also been doing, like when they do YouTube challenges, you increase the likelihood of maybe your video showing up in their either suggested feed or their auto roll. So, it also increases your ability to be searched. So, let's say that I do a video on Crock-Pot hacks. Anyone that goes to search Crock-Pots, depending on the engagement on my video, that video will show up higher in the search results. And then again, like I was saying with YouTube challenges, if it makes sense to your brand, I would engage in them. But if it feels inauthentic to your brand, I wouldn't necessarily bother. But they are a great opportunity for building exposure. Because like I said, if popular YouTubers are doing challenges, there's a good chance that your video could auto-roll into their video. So, this is also to say that thumbnails and titles are very important on YouTube. So it's not just enough to make the content, but you wanna be thinking critically about how you're packaging it as well. Thumbnails and titles are what drive the click. And so when we think about titles, the best tip that I could give you is to be clear and to the point. So, something like, I drank water for 60 days, I did CrossFit for 20 days, or something like that, it's very clear, direct, to the point. People will know exactly what they're getting into, and that's the biggest thing. When we think about authenticity, people just wanna know exactly what they're getting into. And with thumbnails, I created this mnemonic, which is, you want them to be what I call a CUTIE. So, you want them to be clean, unique, true, intriguing, and evoke an emotional response. So, the other key thing to understand about YouTube is that it has ad monetization. And so your viewer is gonna be subjected to either a five-second clip that they can skip past, or some of them might be suggested to watch a 30-second forced ad. And this is important to understand because it means that now there are higher stakes because there was time invested in having to watch an ad. And so people are going to want a return on the time that they invested in the ad. People don't like to give up their time unless it's worth it. So this is why shorter-form and longer-form videos tend to do better, because it's like, okay, well, if I had to watch this ad, at least I'm getting a return on the time because I'm getting a robust amount of time in the content. Okay, so for Facebook now, unlike YouTube, video is not the main purpose of Facebook. Facebook is open to multiple forms of content. So you'll have video, you'll have photos, you'll have statuses, you'll have articles. And so because of that, there is fierce competition for eyes. So, these are my baby cousins. And my aunt loves to share pictures of them on Facebook. And so this is the kind of content that your work is competing with. On Facebook, you're competing with the very personal elements of someone's life. So, I'll tell you right now, if it's between watching someone else's content or looking at pictures of my baby cousins, I'm gonna look at them, right? And so you wanna be asking yourself, how is my content going to be as impactful as the personal elements of this person's life when you're promoting your content on Facebook. Facebook also features a scrolling feed as the homepage, which is important to understand, because as a new creator, it allows you to have greater opportunities for exposure because there's a chance that someone could scroll past your work. Facebook is also what I would call a low-investment platform. And so because of that, that means that content needs to be as easily digestible as possible. And what makes it a low-investment platform is because of the scrolling feed. It's because people are always sharing stuff and the habit of just scrolling past things very easily. And so you wanna make sure that when people are viewing your content, it's very quick to understand and obtain the message. The other thing about it is that because it's low investment is that people tend to be on it when they're not supposed to be, and that's because the content's very easy to digest. You don't have to raise your hands, but I'm sure there are many of us that have been on Facebook in the middle of a meeting when we shouldn't have been. (laughs) I won't out y'all like that. And one of the things to think about because of that is that content tends to appear primarily in the written or static visual form. And so that's why people tend to be on it when they're not supposed to be, because they say to themselves, oh, I can totally look at this picture and listen at the same time. So, because of that, understanding that you can put videos on Facebook, but I would highly recommend to do captioned videos or videos that are more so post-literate. So, when we think about that curvy girls video I did, it wasn't necessarily sound-dependent. The sound-dependent-ness was extra if you wanted to. But you could totally understand the message of that video just watching the beats. So those are the kind of videos that do really well on Facebook. The other key difference is that, so on Facebook, you will have ad breaks instead of upfront ads on YouTube. And so what's nice about that is that people don't have to sacrifice any time upfront to watch it. And so that means that that lowers the stakes, and they're more willing to take a risk on watching the work of a new creator. Because it's like, well, if I don't like it, when the ad break comes, I can just click out of it, and I didn't waste any additional time. Yeah, so it makes people more willing to watch videos from unfamiliar creators. The other thing to keep in mind with Facebook is that it has the auto-play feature, which can be used to your benefit. With auto-play, this means that you want to be very strategic about the first three to five seconds of the video, because that is your real opportunity to compel someone to keep watching. So, two videos that I would suggest that you go check out on your own time that I love that I made are called Men Wear Heels For A Day. And the particular video that I made, it's two, there's a black guy and an Asian guy, and it's a gold, glittery cover for the thumbnail. And that has the most epic entrance that I have ever made. I am so proud of that first three to five seconds. And then the other video that you can watch are Men Try Liquid Eyeliner. This is my highest-performing video. When I checked in September of last year, it had 80 million views on Facebook. So, again, that also has a very nice, compelling first three to five seconds. So those are really great examples to check out. The other amazing thing about Facebook is that it has the capability for sharing. And so sharing is really great for sound-dependent videos because a video can show up multiple times on someone's timeline by someone else that shares. So, like I said, again, Facebook is a very low-investment platform, which means that people aren't really gonna take the time to want to look at sound-dependent videos. 'Cause it's like, I don't know, this could be a risk. This might not be that good. And so with sharing, sharing will create intrigue. The other thing that sharing does is that it also builds trust because it's coming from someone that you care about. 'Cause the key thing you wanna keep in mind about Facebook is that it tends to be our community of family and friends. And so those are the people that we tend to trust the most. So if it shows up on someone's Timeline multiple times from multiple people they care about, they're gonna say, all right, I need to set aside some time. This is definitely a video that's worth listening to. So, I would say with Facebook, it's really important to wanna focus on the one and not the many. And one of the reasons for that is that, again, if you can compel one person to share your content and it shows up on someone else's Timeline multiple times, that will create that intrigue, and it will also have that trust encoded with it that will make someone feel compelled to wanna watch it. Shares show trust, and trust is what builds audiences and what builds true influence. All right, so the next platform we're looking at is Twitter. And so Twitter is very similar to Facebook. However, it's less friends and family competition, and you're more so competing with world and news events. So, the question you wanna be asking yourself is, how is my content as impactful or as important as world issues that are important in this person's life? So, Twitter is what I would consider a very low-investment platform. Content moves at the speed of light on Twitter. And so because of that, it needs to be understood immediately. There is absolutely no time to spare. So, I would say on Twitter more than anything else, you have about five seconds to catch someone's attention with your opening, and then you have about 30 seconds into the video for someone to decide if they're gonna continue to watch it or not. So that first five to 30 seconds needs to be very compelling. I would say that I wouldn't go past a minute-30 on Twitter. Most videos that I've seen that go past a minute-30, it's like a speech of Barack Obama. Who isn't gonna stop for a speech of Barack Obama? (laughs) Unless you're, again, doing videos that are captioned or post-lit. Because, again, that then lowers the investment that someone has to make in watching it. They can understand the video without using sound or something like that. Unscripted, behind the scenes can also work really well. I would say unscripted videos tend to do very well on Twitter. So, when it comes to Twitter, I'd say the best use of your time, just because it's not the best video platform, it has video capabilities, but I wouldn't say it's the best, is that you could use intriguing non-video options that will redirect to the video. So, doing polls, picture stills, quotes that have a link attached to it from the video I think will all be really well when we think about promotion. Because these make it much more accessible and a lot more low-investment, and it's very native to the platform and how people receive their content. So, lastly, we have Instagram. And so Instagram is a very image-dominant platform. It's not necessarily a place where people go to watch video. That doesn't mean that you can't put videos up there. But that's important to know, that that's not why people are there. So, again, captioned videos and post-lit videos will perform the best on Instagram. It's similar to Facebook in many ways. It has a scrolling feed, which, again, provides many great exposure opportunities. It's also low-investment. People are on it when they shouldn't be. Instagram also features an auto-play feature. So, again, you wanna be thinking about the first five to 30 seconds. But the great thing about Instagram is that, again, you only have a minute, so there's not really a ton to overdo there. Yeah, so you have a minute. And then on your stories clips, you have about 15-second time limit per clip. The other thing to know about Instagram is that it's not link-friendly, which is why I wouldn't necessarily use it for video. I see some head nods. You're like, yeah. There are ways to get around this. You can use third-party apps. I use Linktree. You can also use an app called Tap Bio, which I've been meaning to look more into. But this is important to note because it means that when you are promoting your video, it's hard to tell people to go check it out. So, I would say for Instagram, the best success that you will have is with captioned or post-lit videos, and I would say videos that fit within the length of Instagram, so one-minute videos. Behind-the-scenes footage is also great. But at the end of the day, I would say images are the best. So, I just wanted to give you guys a little case study. So, this still here is from a video that I have on my Instagram. So, I love Latin dancing. So, this is from a bachata video that I posted. And as you will see, it has close to 22,000 views. Whereas this still here is from a podcast promotion that I do. So, I also run a podcast. And so with this video, you'll see that there's a significant difference between the views of both videos. And so one of the reasons that I inferred from that is because the podcast video, we're just sitting and talking on the couch. So, this is what we would call a talking head video. And so what's hard about this video is that it's very sound-dependent on a platform that's image-dominant. And because we don't have captions, it requires more investment on the person that is scrolling through the feed. So, a lot of people, I'm sure, looked at it and were like, oh, I really wanna watch this, but I'm in a meeting, and I really shouldn't be on Instagram anyway, so I'm just gonna scroll past it. And so, honestly, me and my partner don't really have time to caption them. But I do understand that captions would be really best when you're promoting videos on low-investment platforms like this one. Whereas with this one, the sound is an extra. So if you wanna hear the music that I'm dancing to, you can put the sound on, but for the most part, you can watch me dancing and you don't necessarily need the sound to say, oh, that was a really pleasing video for dancing. Okay, so the key thing you wanna keep in mind is that easily digestible content will always have a higher likelihood of being engaged with. However, I do think that when people think of easily digestible, they think that it can't be complex, and that's not what I'm saying at all. So, I'm a spoken word artist as well. And that was some of my most popular content while I was at BuzzFeed. And so this was a video that I did that did amazing on Twitter, which is a very low-investment platform. And one of the reasons why it did really well is because when you watch the video, it's very visual. You can get a sense of the story by just watching the visuals. Obviously, I would love for you to listen to the poem, but it can still impact you by just looking at the visuals. And so this video had very simple, relatable images that people could see themselves in. But one of the things that I did, it's dealing with a complex topic. So, it's having sex on unclear terms. So, again, it's easily digestible, but it's not simple in any way. So, as a quick recap, you wanna make sure that you adapt your content for each platform that you're on. You wanna make sure that your content is easily accessible. And then you wanna remember that it's very fierce competition for attention, especially on platforms that feature a scrolling feed, so you have to earn your place on a particular person's timeline. Again, there's so much content out there. And you wanna keep in mind that your followers are not lucky to be following you. You are lucky to have them wanna partake in what you offer to the world. And then the other key thing I would keep in mind is that as you're doing this, don't be afraid to let your humanness and your personality shine. Again, as we talk about, trust is really important in building an audience and building engagement. And so the more vulnerable and willing you are to show that vulnerability, it makes you more accessible and more trustworthy, and then your content benefits from that.