The Silent Social Feed: Creating Video in an “Audio Optional” World


If you’re not building mobile-first videos because you can’t stomach the additional production dollars, you’re doing the same thing users are doing in their feeds—not listening. In fact, 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound.

And with video consumption on the rise across all social platforms, mastering the ability to create video that works with or without sound is key to success in the feed. Instagram’s video consumption has increased by 40% in the past 6 months, and Facebook is reporting that the shift to video consumption is bigger than our shift from desktop to mobile. Pause and take that in.

Yes, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. “We didn’t budget for this!” you’re thinking. Unfortunately, the data makes it even clearer that stuffing your :30 and :60 minute TV cuts into a pair of social skinny jeans isn’t the way forward. It’s time to learn how to live in an “audio optional” world.

To succeed in our already inundated feeds, follow these seven best practices for social video:


Because of auto-play functionality, videos are mostly consumed with the sound off, so creating videos that make sense to users without sound is imperative to not only capturing their attention to watch the entire video, but also to ensuring recall. You might argue that Facebook has a nifty new caption functionality within its platform, but those captions aren’t always accurate and there’s no creative control over the text placement. Additionally, other networks (namely Twitter and Snapchat) don’t have this capability.


Focus on stories that can be told very quickly. If you’re working from a TV spot, think about your spot in vignettes. Are there parts that can be told more quickly, or segments that can be removed, leaving the story intact?


In social, keeping your video’s point a mystery for too long will hurt you. People just won’t watch. I’m not saying you have to give away the whole ice cream truck, but you do need to give out some free cones in the form of some type of action or expected result. Often brands will put the end result in the first 3 seconds (the time that’s needed to count as a view), include some sort of title card, and then work back up to the end in the meat of the video. Additionally, videos that feature people in its opening moments generally drive more qualified video views (meaning users who are actually interested in the content, who watch through to the end). However you decide to approach it, the video’s focus should be clear in the first few seconds, otherwise you’ll lose the user.


Your brand doesn’t need to be front and center throughout the entire video. But, if you’re running any kind of brand awareness study alongside your creative, you’ll want to make sure that, no matter what, you include your brand within the first 3 seconds. That counts as a view, so it’s either that or #forgetaboutit. Again, you don’t need to create an overlay (though you can), but you could subtly place your product, or insert “XYZBRAND presents”, but make sure it’s in the beginning of your video. Obviously, it’s better to start with some sort of action to capture the user, so if you can get your brand in there, great. If not, add that title frame in there before the 2.5-second mark and you’re golden.


One caveat. No matter how you reveal the focus of your video, storytelling always wins. Videos with clear story arcs (e.g. a beginning, middle and an end), are more memorable and according to Twitter, drive lifts in purchase intent. So if you’re working with longer form video (meaning 1-minute plus), think of ways to first capture the user and then build a story that maps to the storytelling arc you learned in 3rd grade.


Okay, you don’t need to go as far as captions for your videos, but there are definitely creative ways you can incorporate text overlays into your videos to help move the story along more quickly and in an engaging way. Take this Wrigley’s ad for example.

Here’s the TV ad:

Here’s the Facebook ad:


facebook wrigley 1


facebook wrigley 2facebook wrigley 3

facebook wrigley 4






Though we don’t have the entire video playing here, you can see that they’ve taken the same concept from the TV ad and shortened it significantly and added the “Will he dare? Skinny Dip” text overlay, to give a better idea of what the user is viewing. It also does a great job of getting the branding in early!


Last but not least, when it’s feasible, consider going live with video. It doesn’t make sense in all scenarios, but when it can be tied to an event IRL (in real life), it’s one of the most engaging video formats. Facebook reports that its live videos receive 10x more comments than regular videos and Twitter reports that Live video on its platform drives the highest levels of favorability in online video.


Originally posted on


Originally written for & published on Social Media Examiner.

Want to make sure your ads stand out on Facebook and Instagram?

Have you tried Carousel Ads?

While many businesses use Carousel Ads solely to promote products, the ads also provide an excellent opportunity to showcase your brand’s unique narrative.

In this article, I’ll share how to use storytelling in carousel ads to promote your products and stand out from your competitors.

Discover how to tell stories with Facebook and Instagram Carousel ads.

#1: Grab Attention With the First Image

The first rule of storytelling (and advertising for that matter) is to start out strong. Be sure the first image in your carousel ad series grabs attention and makes sense on its own.

Since users may not scroll through all of the images in the series, you want to get your message across right away. Otherwise, you risk confusing your audience and wasting impressions.

For example, in Progressive’s #ActYourAge carousel ads, the first image immediately stands out.

progressive carousel ad

Make sure the first image in your series grabs attention and can stand on its own.

It uses a white background, which is very different from normal photography on the platform, and has a man playing with a baby’s mobile (also known as a carousel). The picture is so unexpected and kooky, the user can’t help but read the line below: “Dump your parents’ car insurance company. #ActYourAge.”

While your first image shouldn’t rely on any of the others to get its point across, it should still be intriguing enough to get users to swipe through to the end.

#2: Make Them Swipe

With any story, the point is to keep the reader engaged throughout and ultimately to read through to the end. Just as authors want to keep their readers interested, the same is true with carousel ads.

Once you’ve hooked the user with the first image, encourage continued engagement with the other images. This gives your brand more exposure and increased recall.

This carousel ad by Tesco Foods certainly elicits the “I can’t stop swiping” response. To see the entire photo users must swipe through all of them. This is a great example of drawing a user through a story and, in this case, a very delicious-looking one.

carousel ad example

Keep users engaged so they feel they must swipe through to the end.

Test out this concept for your brand. Use Photoshop’s splice tool (or play with pictures in your favorite design program) to cut separate images from a larger one.

#3: Create a Scene

Relating to your audience and evoking emotion are the other important parts of storytelling. To do these, provide the context necessary for users to feel like they’re right there with you. Place them at the scene.

Choose photos carefully to create imagery for carousel ads. Then write copy to draw in your audience.

The TV series Wet Hot American Summer did a great job getting their audience members to envision themselves at Camp Firewood. Pictures show the characters hanging out and doing things with their friends. Plus the image and copy pairing is so clever that users not only picture themselves there, they also remember how they felt when they attended summer camp years ago.

carousel ad example

Using images and text, set a scene that is relatable to your audience.

Obviously it’s easier to set the scene when you’re advertising something with a plot, like a television show or movie. However, for products and services, figure out how your brand fits into your customers’ lives and create a scene that demonstrates it.

For example, if you’re advertising a shirt, rather than show still images of it, think about the lifetime of the shirt. It goes from fresh and new in a package to being worn to being cleaned to being borrowed by a friend, etc. Photos that showcase a story create a plot, which evokes emotion from your customers.

#4: Think Sequentially

The order of events is essential to story comprehension. A well-edited sequence provides a natural pace to the story within your ad. Help move your users through your story.

Showtime did a great job incorporating natural sequence into its recent ads around the second season of Penny Dreadful. In just four photos you can tell the story is about a man on the run. He shoots someone, says goodbye to his girlfriend and runs away to a church.

carousel ad example

Sequence the images in your ad to increase story comprehension.

Keep in mind that sequence doesn’t necessarily mean chronological order. It just means every action captured leads to a reaction.

#5: Incorporate Visual Variety

In videography, visual variety means shooting multiple shots of the same scene from different locations, angles, distance and so on. Choose an assortment of images to build a story and ensure visual interest.

In this jean ad from Target, each shot has a role in painting the big picture. It brings the audience into the design studio, shares what the studio is like and displays what kind of jeans are being made.

carousel ad example

Use a variety of image shots to make your ads interesting and paint the big picture for your audience.

Most feature films show multiple images to set the scene. This is something you can easily do with carousel ads.

#6: Consider the Platform

No matter what your story, if you want to stand out, think about the channel first. Look at the platform’s audience, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, and what they expect out of it. Then design an ad that speaks to them.

For example, Buick hit it out of the park on Instagram with these ads about its new 24-hour test drive service. The photography is beautiful (an Instagram must), and it uses a popular photo filter. Buick is also leveraging some of the top content categories that receive the most engagement by users on Instagram: fashion and fitness.

carousel ad example

Make sure whatever story you tell, it’s in alignment with the platform.

Develop a channel-specific story that makes the best use of the platform, and increases engagement with your intended audience.

#7: Leave Your Audience Wanting More

If there’s a place to break the rules of storytelling, here it is: do not give a conclusion. Rather than offering a natural ending, lure users into clicking the learn morebutton, so they can finish the story on your custom landing page.

For example, Sour Patch Slurpee takes viewers through the first four images of a Sour Patch Kid story. So much excitement is generated that users want to see what comes next. After they click, they’re directed to a landing page that extended the “party” to its audience. This custom landing page asks users to share their #SPKSlurpeeSelfies.

carousel ad example

Create a story that leaves users clicking for more.

The purpose of carousel ads is to increase awareness and engagement. However, the ultimate goal is to get the audience to continue the experience and click through to a landing page. When that happens, you’re able to establish a relationship, continue the interaction and possibly capture your users’ information.

Final Thoughts

With today’s cluttered ad space, it’s getting harder to really stand out. If you want to build a breakthrough carousel ad, start by creating an engaging story that takes your audience along for the ride.

What do you think? Do you use storytelling in your carousel ads? What techniques are most effective? Which brands’ ads really stand out?

facebook algorithm change in 2015

Times Are A Changin’: The Facebook Algorithm in 2015


Times are changin’ – literally and figuratively. Yes, we’re moving into 2015, switching over our calendars and preparing ourselves for another countdown. But the countdown we should really be paying attention to is the countdown to a very, very new Facebook (at least where marketers are concerned).

We’ve talked about this before – organic reach on Facebook (and soon other networks) has already decreased for most brands. But in January, Facebook plans to make an even more substantial change to its algorithm (not EdgeRank anymore), significantly decreasing organic reach for any Facebook content that is deemed as promotional in any way. If it looks like an ad, smells like an ad, reads like an ad, you’ll have to pay to ensure that users see it starting in January 2015.

Here’s the deal. Facebook reports that an average of 1,500 stories are generated each time someone logs in. Of those, a user’s Newsfeed only displays around 300. And its algorithm is the deciding factor as to which stories you see – it filters based on factors relative to what each user likes, their clicks, articles they’ve commented on, etc.

And recently, via a user experience survey, Facebook found that users wanted to see more stories from friends & pages they care about, and less promotional content. This didn’t mean ads, though. This meant salesy posts from the pages users already “Like.” So in response to this, Facebook has rejiggered their algorithm to filter out any “overly promotional page posts.”

Facebook constantly makes updates to its algorithm, however this recent change is one of the most substantial updates they’ve made so far. In effect, Facebook is forcing marketers who often use the network as a means of promoting their contests, new products and events, to spend money on ads, if they want these messages to be seen (even by their existing followers).

And, not only does Facebook want to control how & how many promotional messages users see, but they also want to control who sees them. If someone is going to see a promotional message, Facebook wants to make sure that it’s marked as such AND that it’s shown only to users who will find it highly relevant. And the only way to do that, is by paying for an ad and selecting a very specific target audience. In theory, the more hyper targeted your ad’s audience, the more relevant the ad creative can be, the higher the engagement rate, and the more satisfied Facebook users will be.

This is certainly great from a UX perspective. But for marketers, this means more money, more creativity and, our favorite, more time. And we’re a little suspicious of Facebook’s actual motives i.e. Facebook is likely looking to get rich quick (or wait, have they already done that?).

Okay, so what’s all of this mean for YOU?

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. You need a budget. No matter what you have planned for the next year on Facebook, if an ad budget isn’t a part of that plan, you need to start over. Facebook ads are no longer an option, they’re a requirement, especially if you want to increase your reach and amplify your promotional messages. Remember, if your post has any of the following involved it MUST be posted as an ad: contests, events, product-heavy, “buy this.” The specifics are outlined here.
  3. Get creative with your organic posts. You can’t post about a gift card sale. You can’t post about an event. You have to add value to people’s lives in some way. You have to provide quality content that’s creative, that makes people stop & think, and then share.
  4. Be relevant. If you want to increase your organic reach, you must increase your engagement rates. What’s the best way to do that? Talk about what matters. Have a point of view about trending topics and always think about what’s going on seasonally, and personally for your community.
  5. Measure. If you’re not already tracking your social metrics, get on it. You’ll need to ensure that both your organic posts and paid ads receive high engagement rates. Because this will be one of the biggest factors determining whether users will see either type of post. Now, you not only need to spend more money with Facebook ads, but you also need to spend more money reporting out on organic and paid content.
  6. Optimize. And what should you do with those reports? Use them as the basis for continual optimization. Use the insights to discover which content is best performing and replicate it. Do A/B tests with your paid ads to determine what’s going wrong with the ads that receive low engagement rates – is the creative off or is your targeting off? Or both?

This is a lot to take in. Facebook and the constantly changing world of social media can be a bear. Fortunately brands who are already leveraging paid social will have a little easier time making this transition. They’ll just need to review their ad creative and optimize for the highest engagement rates and be sure not to post any ads to their wall as organic posts.

But for marketers who have yet to explore the world of Facebook advertising, this may take some ramp up time and potentially some consultation with someone who knows the ins and outs of paid social.

Demystifying Facebook Advertising: 9 steps to optimize your Facebook ad campaigns for success


Ever since GM pulled its ad dollars from Facebook back in May, there’s been a ton of conversation around the worth and effectiveness of Facebook ads. When Facebook became an IPO, the controversy continued. Now the question is not only whether Facebook advertising justifies a major ad spend, but are also whether Facebook will even be around in a few years.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, because it makes no sense that ads on Facebook wouldn’t show a significant return. Not only are there 900 million users, spending on average six hours on the network per day, but it’s also a data machine. The amount of personal data Facebook has access to can translate into hyper-targeted, very well-performing advertisements.

Here’s the problem: the majority of those engaging in Facebook advertising on their own are under-informed about how to use the platform correctly. 

As with most ad mediums, Facebook requires its own set of best practices to ensure good performance and ultimately ROI. After some experience with the platform and one of the best resources for Facebook Advertising, the Social Fresh Facebook Advertising Conference, I know that you really need help to make sure that your ads not only perform well, but to also spend less per click!

Here are the 9 steps to creating effective Facebook advertising campaigns:

    1. Your goal affects everything! If you’re working for a smaller business, you might not have a specific goal in mind. Maybe what you really want is just to gain Facebook fans. You need to think differently! Figure out if your campaign is to create awareness about something, whether it’s meant to create influence, generate leads, or generate actual sales. There’s only so much one advertisement can do, no matter where it lives, so pick out one goal and then go by a few rules we’ll post next week!
    2. Think about your targets (and you should have multiple) as people. Your ads will not be effective if you lump a bunch of interests into one target group. Create targets based on their personas – they probably have an age range, a geographic location, and more than one interest. For instance, if you’re selling scrapbooking supplies maybe your target is in their thirties, they like DIY, but do a little digging to find out that they might also like country music, or have a few kids. Think about them as holistically as possible.
    3. Create content for specific targets. While you might have a similar message to serve all of your targets, each has its own way of processing information. Put everything in context and use the language that your target uses to make highly relevant advertisements.
    4. Test, Test, Test! Test everything and every combination. Split test your headlines, your ad copy, your image and then test how they all work together with specific targets. You might be thinking, “there’s no way I can do all of that.” There probably wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for amazing services like Qwaya and Clickable that save target information, and automatically pair these variables for you. They also allow you to monitor and analyze all of your campaigns asa well.
    5. Prevent ad fatigue. If you didn’t know this – get ready, this is a BIG concept. The more people click on your ads, the lower your ad will cost you. Mind boggling. Usually with display advertising, once click thru rates improve, the site can start charging more. Not with Facebook (or LinkedIn for that matter). Facebook will always award a lower cost per click (CPC) to those ads that prove to truly engage users. After a few days, your ad is probably not receiving the same CTRs as it was when it first started to run. As soon as you see a dip, you should pause the campaign. Otherwise, the same ad will start costing you more and more. To prevent this, all you have to do is make a few changes. Swap out an image or change its color. Keep in mind, though, that lower CPCs are not necessarily indicative of a high-performing campaign. Higher engagement rates on your website or your Facebook tab might mean you need to pay a little more for the click.
    6. Think about the future. The higher CTRs your ads (as an ad manager) receive, the better your reputation. This means from the start of your campaigns, your suggested bids can be lower and lower as Facebook trusts your messaging. So, when creating campaigns today, be sure to monitor them tightly to make sure your average CTR doesn’t nosedive.  Or else, so will your reputation! Remember that Facebook’s benchmark for a great CTR is 0.02%.
    7. Audience sizing is muo importante. It’s not only important to craft very special and deliberate targets to serve your facebook ads to, but it’s also important to make sure that the size of your target makes the effort worthwhile. Any target audience that contains fewer than 5,000 people lends itself to a low-performing campaign AND will result in diminishing returns.
    8. Image, Image, Image. Employ the 3-foot-rule. If you can’t see what’s going on in the image from 3 feet away, then it’s not going to make for an effective ad. In fact, the single most important factor in a well-performing campaign is the image used.
    9. Think about users expectations when it comes to your landing page. If you’re not showing users what they expected to see when they clicked on your ad, then you’re going to have high bounce rates and not see return on your ad dollars. Be sure that  you follow through with any call to action included within your ad AND that you make it super easy for users to understand and take that action. AndNEVER make them scroll.