[Guide] The Social Media Management Maturity Model

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Published December 3rd 2018

Facebook Video Ads: Best Practices

From the ideal video length to the perfect place to put your CTA, here's what you need to know.

Facebook video ads are like street performers. They occupy a crowded space and try to catch your attention as soon as possible, but you'll keep moving if they don’t deliver.

When it comes to performing, you want to be the main act—not the sideshow. To get views and engagement on your Facebook video ads, they need to be too good to ignore.

That’s why we’ve put together insights on Facebook video advertising so you can make a lasting impression.

Here are 15 best practices for optimizing your videos ads on Facebook.

If you’re interested in video marketing, we also recommend these articles on Instagram video ads, and these 7 social video formats you should try. And if your ads haven’t been getting accepted, here’s a guide on why your Facebook ads are getting denied.

1. Grab attention early

Think about your own behavior online. Do you get bored and click away from content that takes too long to deliver the goods?

Say you’re reading a blog post about Facebook video ad best practices—if it doesn’t give you interesting, relevant insights straight away (or at least a catchy hook), you’re probably hitting the back button a few seconds in.

Plus, you’re not alone: a study found that the average attention span is down to about eight seconds.

The same applies to Facebook video length, so you need to get your message out as soon as possible in the video or people will click away before they even know what your ad is about.

But how soon, exactly? That leads us to Facebook video best practice number two…

2. Keep it short 

If most people tune out so quickly, what’s the ideal Facebook video length to tell your story?

For in-stream video ads (ads placed before or during other video content), Facebook themselves recommend a length of 5-15 seconds.

For standalone ads in News Feed, Facebook also recommends creating ads that are 15 seconds or shorter. As they explain, “Shorter videos have higher completion rates, so you can successfully share your entire message.”

3. Get your branding in right away

With such short Facebook video ads becoming the industry standard, when do you have time to promote your brand?

As it turns out, you should mention your brand within the first 3 seconds of your Facebook video ad.

In a meta-analysis of video marketing data, Facebook found that consumers were 23% more likely to remember which brand made a given video ad if the brand was featured in the first three seconds and 13% more likely if the brand was featured after four seconds (compared to ads where the brand wasn’t explicitly shown in the video):

Source: Facebook IQ

Brand awareness is one of the most common objectives in Facebook video advertising. If your marketing goal is to get your brand name out there, you’d better do it by the count of three, or people will stop paying attention.

4. Optimize your ad title and description

If you want people to watch your Facebook video ads, you need an engaging title and description that tells people what they should expect to see.

Your ad title and description also feed information to Facebook’s targeting algorithms about the topic of your video, so make sure you include any keywords relevant to your ad.

In addition to keeping your copy relevant, remember that not all titles are created equal. Some are catchier than others.

Video creation platform Wochit studied over 33,000 Facebook videos in 2017 and found that certain phrases in titles got way more video views than others.

Videos including title phrases like “to know about,” “things to know,” “5 things to”, and “what you need” all exceeded an average of 50,000 views per video, while phrases like “things to do” “of the year” and “of the week” were all less successful by comparison.

When planning your next Facebook video title and copy, consider incorporating some of these top phrases—they get people interested.

Wochit also analyzed social video titles by the numbers used in their headlines, sorting them by frequency of use and average views.

It’s an often-repeated content marketing guideline that headlines with 5s and 10s perform the best, but in the case of Facebook videos, it looks like titles starting with “7 Things” did even better.

Of course, your Facebook video ad titles don’t need to include these numbers or phrases.

The most important factor in improving your Facebook video view times is that you generate enough curiosity with your title and description that people want to watch until the end.

5. Focus on sound-off views

In 2016, 85% of Facebook video views happened with the sound turned off. Until fall 2017, all Facebook videos auto-played with the sound off, and even now, any mobile viewers with their phones on silent or vibrate have sound off by default.

Even though Facebook auto-plays videos with the sound on for desktop users, many people expect this and put their Facebook tab on mute before browsing.

If a mobile user switches even one video to sound-off mode, future videos will auto-play with the sound off until they switch the setting back.

With so many users watching Facebook video ads on mute, it’s insanely important that your ad has the same impact with or without sound.

Facebook has repeatedly recommended that advertisers add captions to their videos. Their best practices for political ads state the following:

“Your videos should communicate your message even without audio. Don’t rely on voiceovers or dialog to relay key information. Use captions and graphic overlays to make sure your message gets across with sound on or off.”

Their tips for creating effective Facebook mobile video ads and standard video ads echo the same thing.

While your audio should add value, it shouldn’t be essential to getting your message across.

6. Check your Facebook video ad specs

It should be pretty unsurprising that one of the most important components of a successful Facebook video ad is how it looks.

If you don’t have the right Facebook video format, you’re not going to have the visual impact you’re looking for with your ad.

Facebook has pretty specific recommendations for formatting your video ads.

First, your Facebook video ratio should be between 9:16 and 16:9.

Second, although Facebook used to recommend 1080p resolution, with the rise of 4K video, they now say you should upload the highest resolution video available that fits within file size and ratio limits.

Third, your video length can be anywhere from 1 second to 241 minutes, as long as it doesn’t exceed the maximum Facebook video file size of 4 GB.

So, keep these specs in mind when uploading video to Facebook if you want your ads to look good.

You’ll see the rewards of having a professional-looking video ad when the views and interactions start rolling in.

7. Get vertical or go square

Speaking of Facebook video ad specs, what aspect ratio should you use for maximum views and engagement? We recommend either 9:16 vertical videos or 1:1 – a perfect square.

Why? Well, first of all, for real estate. In the mobile version of News Feed, square videos take up 78% more screen space than landscape videos.

More screen space for your video ad means your visuals and text will grab more attention and be more easily readable.

It’s simple. The bigger your video appears, the harder it is to ignore, and the more likely people will engage with it.

8. Add your CTAs in the middle of the video

If you’re encouraging users to take a specific action with your Facebook video ad, promote it in the middle of it.

Putting your call to action (CTA) at the beginning of a video ad wastes an opportunity to catch your audience’s attention right from the start.

The first three seconds of your video are crucial for presenting your brand and creating interest, so you can’t afford to spend them pitching a call to action.

Plus, you haven’t convinced your viewers of anything at that point.

Putting your Facebook video ad CTA at the end, on the other hand, misses the sizeable percentage of viewers who will stop watching part of the way through.

By placing your Facebook video CTA mid-roll, you capture an audience that’s already intrigued with your ad while they’re still paying attention.

And again, there’s data to support this. Video hosting company Wistia analyzed over 300,00 videos with CTAs and found that 95.9% had CTAs post-roll, 4% had mid-roll, and only 0.1% had pre-roll.

However, mid-roll CTAs had the highest average conversion rate at 16.95%, compared to 10.98% for post-roll and 3.15% for pre-roll.

Calls to action positioned in the middle of a video ad outperformed those at the beginning or end.

So while the vast majority of advertisers are putting their CTAs at the end of their videos, your brand can easily gain a leg up by adding a call to action in the middle.

9. Think mobile-first

In January 2021, over 98% of active users worldwide accessed the platform via mobile devices. Therefore, it would be wise for Facebook video advertisers to prioritize mobile video.

Every time you create a video ad on Facebook, you should think about how a mobile user will experience it.

Will this content look just as good on a smaller screen? Will it appeal to someone who may be on the go or have limited time? Will it make sense with or without sound?

You need to consider all of these factors to make sure your mobile audience gets the full impact of your ad.

Facebook has shared that people on mobile devices tend to prefer shorter video ads with runtimes of 15 seconds or less.

On top of that, Facebook’s meta-analysis of video ads on Facebook and Instagram found that mobile-first ads had longer average view times and better brand recall than mobile-adapted or traditional video ads:

Source: Facebook IQ

When planning your next Facebook video ad campaign, it makes sense to consider mobile users as your primary audience.

10. Pick the right Facebook advertising objective

When launching your next Facebook video ad campaign, you need to have clearly defined goals.

Do you want to drive conversions? Do you want to increase traffic to your website? Or do you want to spread brand awareness?

If you don’t have a clear marketing objective in mind, you won’t know if your campaign is working, making it hard to justify to the higher-ups.

Facebook offers a variety of marketing objectives to help you refine and optimize your video ad campaigns.

If your goal is to get your Facebook video ad in front of as many viewers as possible, optimizing your campaign for video views makes a lot of sense.

However, if you want more users to remember your brand, brand awareness is more relevant.

Meanwhile, pick traffic if your video ad motivates users to visit your website. If your primary motivation is to make sales through the ad, conversions are better.

Ultimately, which objective you pick depends on why you’re making a video ad in the first place. And if you’re not sure exactly why you’re making one, take a moment to step back and consider.

11. Understand your KPIs

Now that you have an objective in mind for your Facebook video ad, you need to select the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for your campaign to measure how successful it is.

Picking the right KPIs is first and foremost based on your marketing objectives, and some of these are unique to video advertising on Facebook.

Facebook offers analytics to help you understand how your video ads are performing, including 10-second video views over time.

For shorter videos that present your brand and main message early on, it makes sense to follow 3-second video views as a measure of success.

If the value of your video ad is delivered later, consider following 10- or 30-second video views over time instead.

If you’re making a video ad to drive web traffic, you should follow the ad's clicks and click-through rate (CTR).

This will let you know how much traffic the ad generates and tell you how efficient it is to get people to click on it.

If your objective is to drive sales, track conversions and conversion rate (CVR) on your website, preferably with the Facebook Pixel.

This will let you know how many sales your video ad generates and tell you what percentage of users who saw the ad made a purchase.

Finally, when it comes to monitoring brand awareness, you should monitor ad recall lift.

12. Match your objective to your Facebook video ad types

Facebook video ads are more than just sponsored videos in News Feed. There is a wide variety of video ad formats you can choose from to tell your story in the most effective way possible.

For example, you can post looping GIFS, vertical video ads, video carousel ads, Facebook Stories ads, canvas ads, collection ads, sponsored live videos, sponsored 360 videos, in-stream ads, etc. Now that’s a lot of options.

Which one you select should be based on your marketing objectives and the length of your video content.

Using a short, attention-grabbing format like a GIF or a vertical video ad makes sense if you're looking to rack up video views and have your content seen.

If you want to spread brand awareness and ensure that viewers remember your ad, video carousel ads and in-stream video ads are great options.

If your goal is to generate engagement and discussion around your video ad, a longer and more immersive format like a sponsored live or 360 video will attract highly engaged viewers who are likely to comment on and react to your content.

Finally, suppose you’re creating a Facebook video ad campaign to drive conversions or rack up sales. In that case, we recommend collection video ads or canvas ads, as you can display a video highlighting your products or services while showing off clickable images of your offerings below.

For more on the relative advantages of different video types, here are 8 social media video formats we highly recommend.

13. Hit your target

Even if you have a precise marketing objective, the ideal video format, and the perfect KPIs nailed down for your ad, you can always improve your ad performance and ROI by enhancing your Facebook video ad targeting.

For the most part, targeting Facebook video ads is very similar to targeting Facebook ads in general.

For example, lookalike audiences and custom audiences can be very effective, precise ways to get your video ads in front of the users that are most likely to appreciate them.

After you’ve run at least one video ad, you will have the ability to create an engagement custom audience based on video views.

Facebook allows you to create custom audiences based on users who have watched your video ads. You can further refine this audience by video view time.

Essentially, this will let you retarget Facebook ads at any users who have watched your video content in the past. You can even define this custom audience based on how long users watched your prior video ads.

This is an excellent way to retarget users who have already engaged with your brand since you know they’re willing to view your content.

Plus, if you’re running an ad campaign with multiple videos that are all related, you can promote your latest videos to users who have already watched the previous ones to craft a customer journey for them.

14. Live a little

People watch video content for 3x as long when it’s live on average. With Facebook Live gaining traction, Facebook live video ads look like an amazing medium for engaging users.

Live streamers on Facebook can go to an ad break where they take a break and play some in-stream video ads for additional revenue.

These 15-second spots are a great opportunity to spread awareness to your brand. Just make sure that the Live video has an audience likely to be interested in your ad first.

If you choose to serve your video during an ad break, you’re guaranteed at least that large of an audience.

On top of that, if you’re bold enough to go live yourself, you have the option to promote your live video stream on Facebook.

15. Go native

When it comes to Facebook video ads, it’s practically common knowledge by now that you should exclusively upload them natively.

Posting your video clip to YouTube or Vimeo and sharing that to your Facebook Page won’t have the same impact, even if you boost the post.

A study by Quintly found that native Facebook video posts got 168% more interactions on average than similar YouTube videos shared on Facebook.

Both brands and regular Facebook users seem to have noticed this trend, as the same study found that 89% of all videos on Facebook are now natively published.

On top of that, the benefits of posting natively are only amplified when it comes to video ads.

In addition to the increased reactions, comments, and shares that come with Facebook native video ads, you’ll also be able to target, optimize, and analyze your ad through Business Manager with far more precision since Facebook will recognize and process your video content natively.

This will let the Facebook News Feed algorithm work its magic, tracking and delivering your video ad with all the information it has available.

When it comes to getting people to engage with your ads, native posting is a no-brainer.

16. Nail your thumbnail

While Facebook has auto-play on for videos by default, many users opt to turn the feature off.

If you want to convince them to hit play, you will need an interesting, relevant thumbnail image for your video.

When you upload your video ad, Facebook will automatically compile sample thumbnails from the video for you to choose from. If none of them look good to you, you can also upload a custom thumbnail of your own.

Facebook rates video and image ads based on how much text they have and limits their reach accordingly.

In other words, if your thumbnail has too much text, your ad’s reach will be penalized.

That’s a wrap

All in all, the future looks bright for video marketing on Facebook. So don’t be camera-shy! Keep these 16 best practices in mind and get cracking on your next viral ad campaign.

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