Editing Tweaks That Can Boost Your Video’s Performance on Facebook

Optimization rules are different on the social platform

Butterbar shares some tips on how it edits videos before posting them on Facebook, using SoFi's Tiny Kitchen video to illustrate their point. SoFi
Headshot of Karen X Cheng

A common mistake we see brands make is that they take their TV commercials or YouTube videos and upload them directly to Facebook without any changes. But by doing that, they’re leaving potentially millions of views on the table. Facebook video culture is different, and a few tweaks go a long way.

Here’s how we optimized our Tiny Kitchen Makeover spot for Facebook.

Make the video square, not widescreen

Square videos take up 78 percent more real estate on a mobile feed than a widescreen video. This is because everyone holds their phones in portrait mode.

This is real estate you can get for free on Facebook just by changing the aspect ratio of your video and cropping square. I don’t know anywhere else that it’s possible to get additional real estate (physical or digital) for free, so we always take advantage of this.

If your footage won’t look right cropped, you can instead add letterbox bars with large text on the top and bottom. This large text stands out in the feed immediately.

Note: Facebook doesn’t necessarily like it when you use giant text because they think it looks spammy, but for marketers, it gets results. If you’re doing this, make sure you follow Facebook’s 20 percent text rule by either removing or reducing the letterbox text size in your thumbnail. You can keep the text in the video itself the same size since the rule only applies to thumbnails.

Forget about your beautifully timed music

This is the director’s cut of our Tiny Kitchen spot for SoFi’s personal loans. It has carefully timed music designed to build an emotional arc.

When filmmakers make videos, they picture their viewer lovingly giving the video their full attention, appreciating all the artistic touches.

But the reality is that your viewer is probably distracted, scrolling on the phone mindlessly while they’re bored in a meeting and have the sound turned off. More than 80 percent of Facebook videos are watched with sound off. Compare that to YouTube, where less than 5 percent are watched with sound off.

Don’t rely on music to tell the story on Facebook. This is especially frustrating for filmmakers because music is such a crucial part of creating emotion for the viewer. You may need to recut your video accordingly. Here’s how we re-cut ours.

This re-cut will almost always make the video worse from a creative standpoint. But it will also almost certainly improve the performance of your video because you are optimizing it for the environment that viewers experience your video in. As advertisers, we have to constantly remind ourselves not to let our creative pride stand in the way of a better result.

A/B test everything, especially the first three seconds

If someone finds your video on YouTube, it’s usually because they deliberately clicked on it and chose to watch it. If someone is watching your commercial on TV, they’re watching on their couch, unless they decided to change the channel.

On Facebook, you have an audience that is quickly scrolling through their feed. They need a reason to stop on your video, and they’ll pass you right by unless you stand out in some way.

The first three seconds of your video matter disproportionately more than the rest of the video. This is why we always A/B test different openers at Butterbar: to find the scroll-stoppers.

You can do this by running a small amount of paid ad spend on dark Facebook ads (ads that don’t run on the page timeline). We recommend running $10–$50 per ad set and looking for the version that has the highest view-through rate or longest watch time.

The wallpaper rip was the winning opener out of those we tested. It visually stood out and got the highest view-through and share rate. Pick a visual that is unusual or has jarring motion because that helps it to stand out in the feed.

Performance

By incorporating these three strategies, our Facebook-optimized version of the video performed two times better than the unoptimized director’s cut in our A/B tests. This is the exact same footage with minor editing tweaks. At a large scale, these tweaks can make the difference between millions of views.


@karenxcheng Karen X Cheng is the founder of Butterbar.