Audiences today are spending a lot of time on their smartphones. And with video's popularity on the rise on social media, people are watching a lot of video content also on mobile.

Marketers have to adapt their video marketing approach to account for the shift in consumer behavior.

In this article, I will offer tactical advice for marketers to make the most of a mobile-first world.

Text-Reliant Social Videos

Remember when Facebook's main form of content was text-based status updates? Over time, the feed slowly became photo-centric. Now it's evolved into an unlikely hybrid of the previous two incarnations: Text-reliant video content has proliferated on Facebook's News Feed. These are videos that need text to tell its story. They work with the sound off and on a smaller screen.

Here is one such video, by Billboard Magazine. Without the words, it would just be random video footage.

The dominance of this type of video content in the feed has everything to do with major social networks' being accessed primarily on mobile. Facebook has nearly 2 billion monthly mobile users, and Snapchat and Instagram are designed especially for mobile. If video is going to work on social media (and, by extension, on mobile), it has to work even when people are stealthily watching it during a train ride or in a meeting or wherever else they might be watching videos on mobile.

Video in an auto-play and audio-muted landscape lends itself well to writers. The visual imagery in a video needs to provide context, specifically the kind that entices the viewer to stop their thumb scroll and watch more. That's why nearly all talking-head/voiceover videos on Facebook are accompanied by captioning. And when videos have no audio to be captioned, text on video clips or photos helps tell a story as well.

Popular publishers like Buzzfeed, NowThis, and The Dodo have perfected this type of text-reliant video content. They create it regularly and successfully. They truly "speak" video on the mobile social media feed. The video above from Billboard, for instance, was published within 24 hours of the Women's March.

It seems that marketers are following the trend and creating video content regularly to engage their mobile audiences, and finding ways to be resourceful. According to Animoto's annual social video survey to marketers, 92% of marketers are repurposing content they already have, which is how they are keeping up with the demand for social videos that mobile has generated. And this video content needs to offer context—i.e., text.

Content Writers Can Thrive in a Video-First World

Social media management tool Buffer does a great job of regularly communicating on Facebook with video that is fueled by text. And it manages to do so without attempting humor or by resorting to cute-animal b-roll. Buffer teaches with its videos, which are incredible informative. The following video dramatically unveils the findings of a recent study the company conducted.

Taking fully formed blog post content (including visual media and strong takeaways), and making it more bite-sized for social media, Buffer was able to leverage the great writing it had on its blog to make enticing video content that offers something meaningful before suggesting that the viewer go to the blog for more great stuff.

Achieving brevity and laying out just the essential information are two crucial requisites of successful video on Facebook.

Another example is the Simply Recipes blog and Facebook page, which has over 1 million fans; both are run by Elise Bauer. Using photos from the blog, she creates short pieces of video content that are generally one minute or less. They provide some of the info needed for the recipe, along with savory photos. To fully follow the recipe, one would need to click over to the blog. She, as does Buffer, regularly enhances Facebook followers' feeds before even asking them to click over.

Whether needing to lay out just the essentials or adding dramatic flair, writers know how and when to d so. Bloggers and content writers everywhere can harness that knack they already have to stand out in the social newsfeeds, or at the very least creating video posts to promote their own content.

Different Video Goals Means Different Types of Videos

One thing that is true for all video, irrespective of optimization for mobile viewing, is that you have to know what the purpose of the video is. For example, a video posted organically to a business page to drive engagement and shares is different from a video ad uploaded to Facebook Ads Manager with the goal of driving sales.

Let's look at the marketing videos created by two local bakeries—one in New York City and one in Logan, West Virginia—and how setting different objectives can lead to two very different videos:

  • The video from Cupcake Market in NYC ran as an ad on Instagram and Facebook with great ROI.

  • That video is dramatically different from the Nu-Era Bakery video that drove 4K organic shares that sought to drive word-of-mouth engagement and shares through storytelling with video.

When creating your video, be aware that ads are going to be consumed on mobile (unless you choose to have them run only on desktops). Make your video ads as concise as possible. Aim for 30 seconds or less. Organic or boosted video posts have a little bit more wiggle room; they should be as long as they need to be to tell the story or teach what is essential.

On shorter-form platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories, it's about capturing and adding words to show real-time what's going on. This approach is great for event professionals, conferences, creative professionals, personal brands, and others; it lends itself well to showcasing a personality or a behind-the-scenes look.

When sharing video posts, Stories, or video ads, challenge yourself to use fewer words while retaining your brand's tone. Doing so will also allow you to make your text appear larger and therefore more legible within the video.

Video Formats Unique to Mobile: The Case for Square and Vertical

A few years ago, I posted the following video as a "PSA" to those who kept insisting on shooting vertical videos, which was a huge pet peeve of mine: Video is meant to be viewed like filmmakers intended, widescreen!

What I didn't realize was that consumer behavior will guide the market. Snapchat and eventually Facebook Live and Instagram Stories have completely normalized vertical and square videos. Facebook even recommends in its Ads Manager platform to use "formats unique to mobile," which it defines as square or vertical.

The Jane Goodall Institute ran video ads on Facebook to test the performance of videos that have different aspect ratios. It promoted the same ad, but one was in landscape format and the other was square. The square version of the video received double the likes and triple the shares as the landscape version.


If nothing else, formatting your video in square or landscape and ensuring that it works with sound-off, mobile viewing is a great start. As is determining whether you want shareable video content or direct-response video ads for your video strategy.

Video ads should be very short, and your brand and product should be featured very early on in the video. For other video posts, provide something useful, inspiring, or entertaining that enhances your followers' feeds.

And if you are content writer, create videos for Facebook to drive people to your blog or company site to read more of what you have to offer.

Video is the format that writers and bloggers should embrace.

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The Surprising Place Where Text Content Is Thriving: Video in a Mobile-First World

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image of Becky Brooks

Becky Brooks is Customer Owner Team directore at Animoto, a Cloud-based video creation service that produces video from photos, video clips, and music into video slideshows.

LinkedIn: Rebecca Brooks