Animated Video Production

11 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Mobile Video

Shawn Forno 11.09.2017

In 2016 mobile video accounted for more than 50% of all online video views. Half of your potential leads likely encountered your brand for the very first time on their phone—probably while they were doing something else. Mobile viewership of everything from micro-content to longform documentaries is on the rise, and even “paired viewing” (watching video on desktop and mobile devices simultaneously) has become the norm. Is your video optimized for this massive audience to create the most engagement, hook the most leads, and get the biggest possible ROI?

It’s never been more important to create mobile video and to upgrade your existing video for mobile viewing on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Here are 11 easy ways to create better mobile video, and why mobile video is going to be more important than ever before.

The Internet is Mobile Video

mobile video

Dozens of video marketing sites and stats proclaim the rise of mobile video, but the most compelling data comes from the world’s largest online video provider: YouTube.

YouTube recently released stats showing that “more than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices.” That’s huge, especially once you consider YouTube’s massive user base of more than 1 billion people (that’s roughly 1/3 of the entire internet, by the way). People prefer mobile video, but the shift to mobile is about a lot more than hip millennials watching cat videos.

People use mobile video for comparison shopping, trying to stay up to date on current events, or just looking for information to their latest search query. And thanks to new phones with beautiful retina HD bezel-less screens from from Samsung and Apple, people are watching more video on their phones than on their computers. The internet is already mobile. Are your videos ready for that?

Mobile Video for B2B

Mobile video is a fundamental part of the B2B buying process. No, really. In the 2016, Think With Google study titled “How Video and Mobile are Changing the B2B Buying Process,” director Richard Robinson spells out the importance of mobile video:

“In the B2B buying process, we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of people using video—going from 29% of B2B buyers only two years ago to 70% of B2B buyers today.”

That’s a 300% spike. Decision makers are watching video, and that video is increasingly viewed on mobile devices.

Robinson argues in the same study (which features this great 3-minute video), that “Video, alongside mobile, has the strongest impact on increasing consideration rates during the B2B buying process.”

He’s basically saying that mobile video is now a fundamental pillar of the B2B buyer’s journey.

Mobile video is everywhere and it’s becoming essential to conversions—even in the B2B space. How do you make your videos more effective at reaching your target viewers?” Great question. The answer is simple: Make better mobile videos.

Below are 12 best practices to help you optimize and update your mobile videos. Embrace mobile video and outshine competitors, reach new prospects, and keep current customers informed and excited about your next moves. It’s easier than you think.

Mobile Video is Short: 60 Seconds or Less

We’ve talked about optimal video length before, but it bears repeating—shorter is better. ”60-90 seconds,” is the sweet spot for explainer videos, according to the video obsessed geniuses at Wistia.

mobile video

Shorter videos—ideally under 2 minutes—have higher engagement rates, and that goes double for mobile video. Mobile viewers decide whether to watch something or not based solely on length—especially explainer videos. Complex, detailed videos, while more informative, don’t reach as many viewers. Brevity and focus are the hallmarks of effective mobile video. Constraints are actually liberating. Committing to a tight timeframe will almost single handedly help you make videos focused, engaging mobile videos that people actually want to watch—even on the go.

Mobile Video is Focused: Sell One Feature

People expect near instantaneous solutions to complicated problems. It’s counterintuitive, but that’s just the way we are now. Tailor your explainer video to meet these expectations by removing fluff and condensing mobile videos down to their base parts.

Robinson (from Google), again stresses the importance of relevance in quality mobile video:

“You need to really understand what information your customers are looking for and then engage them in the right video format.”

Explainer videos only work if you keep your viewer interested all the way through. Don’t bog viewers down with multiple bullet points and convoluted story lines. Find the one narrative or single product feature that you want to highlight and maintain laser tight focus on that distilled message.

Complicated videos don’t translate well to mobile devices. If your video is too complex to “boil it down,” it isn’t ready for mobile devices. Get rid of extra content, or split it into multiple videos that each highlight one facet of a problem or feature. Your mobile viewers will only watch the videos that apply to them and thank you for the sleek, digestible videos instead of long videos that they have to struggle through. Remember, mobile viewers don’t skip ahead of boring or irrelevant sections the way that desktop users do—they move on to a video that answers their questions fast.

Mobile Video is Interesting: Create Better Video Thumbnails

Too often companies spend massive production budgets producing a fantastic animated video only to drop the ball with a lame, random video thumbnail chosen by a YouTube algorithm. Yes, many platforms like Facebook autoplay your video, but not all, especially not your own mobile website. People judge a video by its cover, and if your video looks boring, no one is going to waste time watching it.

Scrub through your video for an exciting moment, grab that frame, and use it to create a great video thumbnail. A little bold text overlay announcing what your video is about is a great way to hook viewers and increase engagement. Mobile optimization starts before a video ever plays.

mobile video

Read our full guide to create a video thumbnail that doesn’t suck for more ways to increase mobile video engagement.

Mobile Video is Engaging: How to Hook Viewers

Once you entice viewers with your great video thumbnail, you have to hook them for the rest of your video. 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 mobile video study 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. 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.

Geico has built their entire brand on mobile videos that dive straight to the point. This mobile optimized ad has over 14 million views. Geico doesn’t waste your time with preamble. They just dive right into the story and the pitch, and people love it.

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.

Mobile Video Doesn’t Need Audio: Make it Visual

mobile video

Most mobile viewers don’t give a damn about sound. While the right soundtrack or quality voiceover can make or break a product video or explainer video, the truth is, many mobile viewers don’t listen to audio at all. Facebook released a study from 2016 that showed 85% of Facebook mobile viewers watch video with the sound off. Heck, more than half of all Facebook users only login from a mobile device.

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.

If your explainer video relies on voiceover to communicate the value of your product, you’re missing out on a lot of potential leads. Optimize your mobile video to be audio independent with clear visuals that communicate the message without sound. Captions and subtitles are a simple way to get around “audiophobic” viewers, but a more effective tool to capture and keep mobile viewers is visually interesting animation. Animation is a great way to literally “show” instead of “tell,” preferring dynamic visuals and interesting transitions over sound bites.

Look at the difference between a live-action talking head interview of David Lynch and an animation of that same interview:

Which of these two videos would you rather watch? Which would you be more likely to play on your mobile Facebook feed or YouTube suggested plays? The answer is clear: animation is a great way to engage mobile video viewers without using sound, and when you incorporate sound animated video just gets that much better.

Mobile Video Loves Text: More than Just Subtitles

Since most mobile video viewers don’t “tap for sound,” it’s important to use text in your explainer video. But text is a lot more than captions and subtitles. Your video needs to incorporate words into the animated images and visual content on screen to communicate whether people’s bluetooth headphones are charged or not. Explainer video text is more than just narration—it’s a way to underscore and really drive home key facts. Watch this video we produced for Know Better Bread for a few examples of how to use onscreen text in your mobile video:

mobile video

The video features several segments that are driven by text, as well as narration. If you watch the video with the sound off, you still get the impact of the timeline Remember, you only have seconds to grab mobile viewers’ attentions, but even when you manage to captivate people, you still only have 30-60 seconds to explain what the heck your company does and why people should care. That’s not a lot of time.

Every frame and image needs to convey as much information as possible, and on screen text is a great way to increase information density. You know the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, if that’s true then your 60-second mobile video (at 24 frames per second) is worth 1.8 million words. Don’t waste a single frame. Get your message across with words, text, images, and more.

Mobile Video Text: Establish Visual Hierarchy (Text Color & Size)

Text overlay is essential for mobile video without sound—especially product information, time-sensitive announcements, and your CTA (more on that later). Mobile video is built on a simple hierarchy: visual cues outweigh audio messaging every single time. A quick note about using text in mobile video: Establish Visual Hierarchy.

mobile video

In the Know Better Bread video, we pack a lot of information density to several frames. To counteract visual overload we use bright primary colors to highlight the important text we really want viewers to see. When you use text, always create a visual hierarchy of information using text size and color to literally highlight the most important info. You can even color-code the essential text using your existing branding to get more information across in less time than ever.

RSA whiteboard animation is a great example of how to highlight important text in dense explainer videos so viewers don’t get lost in the deluge of onscreen text.

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.

Mobile Video Aspect Ratios: Size Matters

mobile video

It’s important to remember that the default dimensions of mobile video (or “aspect ratios” if you’re a smarty pants) are different from a desktop. For example, the average iPhone display is about 4.7 inches. Compare that to the default size of a YouTube or Vimeo video on your computer (not in full screen) and it’s not that big of a difference. The problem is that most smartphones viewers aren’t necessarily going to view your video at full size. In fact, a lot of people prefer vertical video on mobile devices.

For some reason people hate horizontal video, which means that most mobile viewers are going to see your video in the smallest aspect ratio possible, so be prepared. Here are a few guidelines for optimizing mobile video for Facebook:

  • Aspect Ratios Supported: 16:9 (full landscape) to 9:16 (full portrait)
  • Mobile in feed: Videos will be rendered as is up to 2:3, with masking to 2:3 for aspect ratios between 2:3 to 9:16
  • Desktop in feed and desktop player: For desktop in feed, vertical video will continue to be letter-boxed to 1:1. For desktop player, vertical video will be 9:16 with no black bar letter-boxing
  • Recommended Aspect Ratio for Vertical Video: 9:16 (full portrait), ensuring core content falls in the 2:3 mask for mobile News Feed

Read our vertical video guide for mobile video best practices on YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram.

Mobile Video is Dynamic: Quick Cuts Keep it Interesting

Animated mobile video is not a documentary. Holding on one steady shot will bore viewers quickly, and boredom equals death on mobile devices. Keep the camera angle on the move to tell your story with quick cuts that frame and reframe the subject(s) in new compelling ways. Rapid cuts and interesting transitions (read: not herky jerky) cuts are a great way to accelerate the storytelling of an animated video for the typically shorter mobile attention span of 30+ seconds.

This animated explainer video for Scandis is constantly on the move. Every new beat has a new “setting” and a new story to tell. The rapid dynamic pace gives the animation a sense of purpose while also clearly separating selling points in the viewer’s mind. It’s a powerful combination driven by fluid purposeful transitions and cuts.

Mobile Video is Dramatic: Angles Worth Watching

mobile video

Again, mobile video is all about increasing engagement. To do that, you have to keep it interesting. If you only take one thing away from reading this blog post let it be this: Mobile videos cannot be boring. And you know what’s boring? Flat, static, head-on angles.

One of the coolest parts of using animation in your explainer video is that you can mess with camera angles and POV on a whim. If you want to zoom to the top of a skyscraper, you can do it without hiring a helicopter crew. If you want to “dive” into your computer screen to see the magic behind the software, go for it. Even if you use live action, drones are cheaper than ever before allowing you to produce shots with interesting camera angles and dramatic pans, zooms, and perspectives.

In this recent animated explainer video for The City of Santa Monica City Attorney’s Fair Housing project, we “zoomed” into a child’s drawing to explain complicated housing regulations. That’s a heck of a lot more interesting than someone in an office explaining your housing rights, and in the end the engagement factor is essential to getting the important information out there.

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!

Mobile Video is Bold: Create a Simple CTA

mobile video

Mobile video viewers are tough to capture—they’re not sitting on a chair in front of a screen. If you do manage to engage them with your video, the bigger problem is converting them on the spot. The whole point of making your video is to increase conversions. One of the best ways to do that is to provide a clear, simple, EASY TO DO, call-to-action at the end of your video.

Here’s a mobile video CTA checklist to get you started:

  • Is there a link in your mobile video that viewers can click?
  • Does your mobile video show a #hashtag on the screen so you can track when people share your video?
  • When does your mobile video tell people to click the Like, Share, Comment button below?
  • Does your mobile video redirect users to a dedicated (mobile friendly) landing page?
  • Can users “buy now” with the one tap?

Keep your mobile video CTA simple. Unlike desktop campaigns, mobile video should be aimed at producing a single, measurable action. You have to track conversions, impressions and shares to see what works. Every click means a better target audience for future campaigns.

Provide a path to conversion (shares, learn more, sign up, or buy), and your mobile video will shine.

Mobile Video: The Future is Now

mobile video

In a recently survey, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) polled 360 marketers across a variety of industries about their digital video ad budgets. 62% of respondents expect to increase their mobile video ad spending within a year. These findings are significant but not at all surprising. In fact, according to recent estimates from eMarketer, mobile video ad dollars are expected to reach 47.7% by 2019. Mobile video is already making an impact on decision makers from YouTube to B2B C-suite buyers. Embrace the future by optimizing your video marketing strategy for mobile viewers.

Optimizing for mobile video might seem tough, but it’s just about engaging people when and where they watch. People are searching for solutions to their problems. They’re just doing on their phones. Create mobile videos that people want to watch and join today’s top performers with video that converts.

Download our free eBook to learn more about how to succeed with mobile video.

Shawn Forno

Shawn Forno is a massive Studio Ghibli fan who does content marketing. In that order. Find his other writing and extensive travel blogging here.

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