Video is the new king of Facebook content. Ever since the company rolled out the feature in 2013, Facebook video has been on a relentless quest to take over the news feed.

Consider this:

Everybody loves video. We love watching it, and marketers love making us watch it. And as marketers, we would do well to have a strong grasp of best practices to help us make the most out of 2017’s hottest marketing property.

Here are 5 things that you can implement right now that will improve your Facebook Video game.

1. Use Facebook’s Native Player

This one should probably go without saying by now, but I still see Pages embedding YouTube or Vimeo videos, and it makes me want to cry. It’s like telling the world you don’t want them to see your video. Using a YouTube embed cripples your video efforts in three ways:

  • It cuts your thumbnail space in half. See below for how unattractive this is.
  • You’ll get less engagement by design since Facebook algorithmically favors their own player.
  • YouTube videos do not auto-play on Facebook, leaving you at a disadvantage in competition with other native Facebook videos in the news feed.

2. Make the First Five Seconds Count

Facebook is one of the most distracting environments on the internet. An onslaught of other pictures, videos, games, and stupid BuzzFeed quizzes are constantly vying for your audience’s attention. And it doesn’t help that the default behavior of a Facebook user is SCROLL SCROLL SCROLL…

You have to be compelling to hold attention. Here are a couple guidelines for capturing attention in the first 5 seconds.

  • DO NOT start the video with your company or product logo. I don’t care how awesome the logo animation is. Don’t do it. Facebook doesn’t care about your logo.
  • Favor initial images and audio that build intrigue, mystery, novelty, wonder, or danger. Below is an example of the first second of a BuzzFeed video that calls the viewer to wonder what mysteries of their personality a cube test might reveal.

3. Use Captions

This one is important. If you have critical sound or dialogue in your video, you absolutely need to use captions. Facebook videos play without sound by default, and according to reports from publishers about 85% of Facebook videos are viewed without sound. If users can’t understand your video without sound they might keep scrolling.

You can do captions in two ways:

  • Use Facebook’s built-in captioning engine by creating and uploading an SRT file. Here’s a link to a tutorial on how to create SRT files for captions.
  • You can also use video editing software to create animated text overlays, as shown below. This accomplishes the communication goal with the added benefit of making the video more visually interesting.

4. Create a Unique Thumbnail

While most people will view your video in auto-play mode, some users will opt to turn that off. Don’t leave it up to Facebook to select a random frame as a thumbnail. Go the extra mile and create your own. A stand-out thumbnail will help to entice those potential viewers. A few best practices for thumbnails are:

  • Use human faces – the fastest way to form an emotional connection through an image is with a human face. Look no further than BuzzFeed’s YouTube channel thumbnails below.
  • Augment with a text overlay in order to add context – A few lines of text can sometimes provide just the right amount of intrigue to nudge someone to click play. If you do use text overlay, make sure your text is large enough to be mobile-friendly.
  • Create a consistent template to reinforce branding – check out what Home Depot does with their “How To” series. This reinforces the brand with the viewer and lets them know what they’re about to watch while encouraging binge-watching of an entire series.

5. Upload Square Videos When Possible (not 16×9)

Okay, this might be an unpopular opinion with creative types and filmmakers, but the reality we are dealing with is screen space on a mobile device. Mobile viewers watch video on Facebook while holding their phones vertically. In order to maximize your video’s space on the newsfeed, you need to edit in a 1×1 ratio instead of 16×9.

Take a look below. When you edit 1×1 square videos, you gain 80% more screen space. That is 80% more of your viewer’s precious attention devoted to your content and not other posts on the page.


While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these 5 things will set you up for greater Facebook video success.

What about you? What have you been experiencing with Facebook video? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments.