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Making Social Media POP! with Video 

@okaysamurai’s best practices for sharing on social

At my session at the SXSW Creative Camp last week, I shared my go-to methods for creating compelling videos and telling stories, and how to make those stories stand out on social media. Here are my best practices for the social media side of things, using my most recent video I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon as a case study.

I think it’s good to mention in any “Social Best Practices” conversation that the rules/algorithms/etc change constantly. What is true today may be ancient history tomorrow, so it’s important to apply what you know & keep an eye out for drop offs in engagement.

YouTube: My go-to for posting

YouTube is still the best bet for the one location that seems to work in most places (desktop, mobile, apps on Smart TVs & Xbox, Google searches, etc). YouTube is THE BEST for creating a channel of content with playlists/shows leading users to other videos, and is the 2nd most used search engine (after Google). For the younger generation, this is their TV. It’s still my personal favorite and first choice.



Things to note:

  • Requires promotion from other channels


How to make the most of it:

  • Always make a custom thumbnail!
  • Always add a title, description and tags. Remember: YouTube is a search engine. This metadata is important in organic finding.
  • Organize your videos into playlists
  • End your YouTube a video on a custom annotated screen that links to other videos, subscribing, etc. – this gives users a direct path to take more action if they like what they see. Annotations don’t work on mobile (yet) though.


Facebook: Upload direct or use a photo with a link in the description.

Facebook has a huge audience with a desire to share cool stuff, but the majority of traffic is within your network. It’s uncommon for other sites to embed or point back to a Facebook video, and it is easy to run in to issues with privacy settings.  Facebook’s search algorithm is nowhere near as powerful as Google/YouTube, and Facebook is not very good for archiving media.


Linking to just the YouTube URL makes a crappy smaller thumbnail that isn’t as eye-catching and (at least in my experience) always results in lower views/interactions– the image below illustrates the difference. Check out this blog post about posting YouTube videos on Facebook.


So that means for Facebook, either:

a) upload the video direct to Facebook as public (auto-plays this way), OR

b) post a picture with a link to the video on YouTube or another site in the description (like Jimmy Fallon, Fine Brothers, etc).

The Facebook algorithm favors videos that have been directly embedded in a post, but the Facebook search engine isn’t as good as Google’s/YouTube’s. Make the best of it by using a great still from your video and posting the link to your video on YouTube.


Things to note:

  • Facebook is not good for archiving or searching
  • It’s annoying to point to Facebook outside of Facebook, but ok within the Facebook ecosystem. If you want to make your video shareable by others, make sure you set the post privacy settings to ‘Public’.
  • Consider virality – you don’t have any say what version gets picked up


Make the most of it:

  • LINK is important. Always give people a link.
  • YouTube has more value if 3rd party sites post it: Use a screenshot or video still in your post to make sure it looks nice in your Facebook feed.
  • Shuffle posting times across different platforms (don’t barrage your friends & followers on one day)
  • There’s no reason not to do both. Use all platforms (unless curating a following in a specific place, like Vine).



Twitter is also a place with a huge audience with an inherent desire to share cool stuff. Because there are so many ways to access Twitter content (Twitter on web, mobile, Tweet Deck, Hoot Suite, etc.), images and videos may appear differently across those different feeds.

In general,  YouTube, Vine and native Twitter videos show up as embedded videos in a feed, but videos hosted on Instagram or Facebook don’t. Client apps like Tweetchat just show a link for YouTube, which means your followers might miss it. The best thing you can do to get your video seen across all the different Twitter clients is to embed a photo or video directly into the tweet, and then include a link to where the video is hosted elsewhere.



Things to note:

  • Tweets are more “disposable” and transient. You are probably reaching about 10% of your followers at any given time

Make the most of it: 

  • Tweet your content several times over different dates and with different text and still images. This way you can share the same content without spamming your followers with the exact same message
  • What plays the best on twitter is a picture attached: words, words, words – PICTURE! you slow down for a split second.
  • Followers are more likely to take an action if you have impressive visual content as well as words.
  • Try GIFs! I’m experimenting with this now, and while there are some quality issues, GIFs drive engagement.



Instagram can be a highly curated space, but since videos have a 15 second limit, it’s best for short video messages. Best for promotion within your Instagram network, and it’s easy to cross promote to Facebook.


Things to note:

  • Can’t put a link in comments, so put it in your bio/profile

Make the most of it:

  • Create short video experiments or teasers. The time constraint encourages creativity.
  • Don’t post to Twitter via Instagram, it won’t embed your video or an image


The Bottom Line

Video is really powerful: You can get a LOT out of a video – and it doesn’t have to be the whole video every time, on every channel. You can easily do a month of promo around a single video. Perform experiments, try different video stills, call to actions, and variations on a theme.

#SocialHack: Keep an eye on how big, successful companies/personalities effectively reach audiences (i.e. Are they posting more videos or GIFs or still images, etc.?) and emulate that. Chances are they have someone or a team of people focused on adjusting best practices to fit the current algorithms.

Make the Call to Action easy: There are simple common formatting practices I’ve seen like the use of a key word in caps like “WATCH: [link here]” on a separate line. Always take the time to make an engaging custom thumbnail, and play around with how to title stuff to show up in search results better.





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