Animated Mobile Video: Best PracticesShawn Forno 12.21.2016
More than half of YouTube’s one billion users watched video from the comfort of their smartphones, mobile viewership of everything from micro-content to longform documentaries is up, and even “paired viewing” (watching video on desktop AND mobile devices simultaneously) has become the norm. People watch video on the go.
The only question you have to ask is “How can I make the most mobile friendly video possible?” The answer is, simple: Animation.
Like live action mobile video, the rules of engaging animated mobile video are similar, with a few notable differences. So here are some best practices to guide you through the process of planning and producing your next animated mobile video sensation.
Create an Enticing Video Thumbnail
Too often, companies spend entire production budgets making a fantastic animated video only to fumble the ball on the goal line with a lame, slapped together video thumbnail. Yes, many platforms like Facebook autoplay your video, but not all, especially not your own mobile website. Mobile viewers will judge a video by its cover, and if your video looks boring, no one will watch it. They don’t have time.
Spend a few more minutes—literally 10 minutes—creating a mobile optimized video thumbnail. A simple, bold text overlay is a great way to signal what the video contains (hopefully something interesting), or you can find and screenshot a pivotal dramatic moment. Mobile optimization starts before a video ever plays.
Hook Em Fast: Start in the Middle
If you do manage to entice viewers with your video thumbnail (way to go!) you have to hook em for the duration. Reducing bounce rates is all about mobile optimized video that keeps viewers watching until the end. Mobile video is exactly that—on the go—which means your video better get moving right out of the gate.
If you don’t grab viewers’ attention within the first three seconds (yeah, people tune out that quickly), your video isn’t optimized for mobile viewing. Attention spans are so short that Facebook video best practices even recommends “showing brand or product imagery in the first few seconds.”
Another recent study of mobile advertising best practices from Tremor Media argues for immersive in media res mobile storytelling. “Lesson one for portable digital creative is ‘start the story, don’t finish it.’”
Luckily, animation provides a dizzying array of options to captivate viewers right off the bat with fluid transitions, luscious titles, and arresting character design.
Combine visually interesting characters with rich animated imagery and a dramatic starting point, not a slow buildup (unless you’re GoPro, then you can do whatever you want). Pull a Tarantino, and start your video at the finish or at a pivotal moment of action of decision. Hook mobile viewers right away with something exciting and keep them watching until they walk face first into a pole.
Quick Cuts Keep it Interesting
Animated mobile video is not a documentary. Holding on one steady shot will bore viewers quickly, and boredom = death on mobile devices.
Keep the camera angles moving to tell the story with cuts that frame and reframe the subject(s) in new compelling ways. Rapid (not herky jerky) cuts are a great way to accelerate the storytelling components of an animated video for the typically shorter mobile attention span of 30+ seconds.
Dramatic Angles are Worth Watching
Again, keep it interesting. If you only take one thing away from reading this blog post let it be this: Mobile videos are not boring.
Everything about your video should inspire action, and flat, static, head-on angles are boring.
Experiment with low angles that frame your subject in a dramatic way. Pull back and use dutch angles for transitions. Move the camera around. If you go with an animated video you can do any number of interesting (even impossible) things with the camera motion and angle. Have fun and your viewers will too!
Your video is optimized for mobile. Keep your shots on the move.
A World Without Sound: Be Audio Independent
“85% of Facebook’s video content is played while muted,” according to Flashstock. In fact, Facebook’s default setting for autoplay video is without sound. Most mobile viewers simple don’t listen to audio when they watch video.
Even if viewers are wearing headphones, your message can easily get lost amidst the bustle of ambient sound. Remember, more than 40% of mobile viewing happens outside the home.
Bottom line: Don’t depend on voiceover or a moving soundtrack to communicate your message.
Animation transcends this major shortcoming of mobile video with arresting visuals that exist independent of any sound, particularly dialogue. A talking head needs audio. An animated visual interpretation of the same text can captivate viewers even without sound. This breakdown of an animated David Lynch interview explains the power of animated video in greater detail.
Text overlay is also essential for mobile video without sound—especially product information, time-sensitive announcements, and your CTA (more on that in a moment). Mobile video is built on a simple hierarchy: visual cues outweigh audio messaging every single time.
Text Your Grandpa Can Read. From Space.
In keeping with your audio independent mobile video strategy, make sure you use large, bold, contrasting text that stands out from the color and content of your video.
Simple white text works for most backgrounds, but if you’re concerned about contrast issues with lighter video, outline your white text with a thin (1 pixel weight) black outline. It will be visible on top of any color.
Choosing the right font for your mobile video text can be overwhelming, especially after staring at a screen for a few hours, but it’s oddly important. Here’s a list of 10 diverse Google fonts (aka “free to use”) that are designed for mobile video. Don’t be a Helvetica drone; you’re better than that.
Tell Them What To Do Next: Create a Simple CTA
Mobile video by its very nature is impulsive and immersive. The flip side of this (briefly) engaged audience is that you have to hook them immediately. Provide a clear, simple, EASY TO DO, call-to-action at the end of your video.
- A link they can click.
- A hashtag they can use when they share your video.
- A like button.
- A share button.
- A buy now button.
Keep it simple. Make your mobile video aimed at producing a single, measurable action. You’ll not only see better results, you’ll be able to track the efficacy of your campaign to see if mobile is right for your target buyer.
Mobile is How People Watch
Odds are your customers are watching more video on their smartphone than ever before. 2017 is the year for mobile video, so take the time, do it right, and join the rest of today’s top performers with an animated video that’s perfectly optimized for mobile.
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