From cat videos to Hollywood movies, video is so ubiquitous in today’s media landscape that it’s easy to forget how much the medium has evolved in the very recent past.

When I started college in 2004 — the year Facebook was born — the web was made up mostly of static images and a whole lot of copy. Then, along came YouTube. Over the next decade, the internet sprang to life, with thousands of websites adopting video’s visual pop to deliver content.

Now, my Facebook timeline is packed with moving profile photos, and Snapchat, Periscope, and dozens of other social media platforms all rely heavily (or solely) on video. Most of us kill time surfing videos for fun, with YouTube, Reddit, and BuzzFeed all sharing space at the top of our bookmarks list. What’s more, all online news outlets are incorporating video stories. Many create cheap, automated stock videos to showcase their own content, knowing the average user would rather watch video than read.

The numbers clearly reflect these trends: In 2015, streaming video made up 70 percent of all online traffic, and by 2020, Cisco predicts it will make up a staggering 82 percent.

Humans have always been drawn to moving images, dating back to the earliest days of the silver screen. Video has the uncanny ability to capture our attention quickly and share a message like no other medium, making it a natural fit for online advertising.

Tracing the Video Ad Evolution

It used to take a large brand months of creative planning and production to share video content, but not any longer. Today, major brands like Pepsi, GEICO, and McDonald’s can simply pay a popular online influencer to capture a video and share it with his or her millions of social media followers — all within a matter of minutes.

When preroll advertising was only a few years old, it still had the ability to engage online viewers. But five years later, unless an ad resonates with people, they’ll count down the seconds until they can skip it. Forced to get more creative, brands are now producing rich, high-quality videos that people want to watch and share with friends.

These are a far cry from traditional commercials, and they sometimes disrupt the marketing experience altogether. In a video “takeover,” for example, a brand overwhelms high-traffic portals with a dynamic video message — as T-Mobile did on a number of tech sites and blogs to go along with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 6.
Offline video is gaining traction, too. Walking into Whole Foods last week, I noticed the electric charging station included a video ad. From billboards including moving images or slideshows to print ads that drive readers to an online landing page that opens with video, it’s hard to find a place where video doesnt reach people.

The Changing Face of Video

In June 2016, when House Democrats staged a sit-in to push Republicans to vote for a gun control bill, C-SPAN’s live stream of the protest suddenly cut out. However, House members turned to social networks Periscope and Facebook Live to share the story in real time with viewers around the world.

This illustrates how integral video has become to the core functionality of many of today’s most influential websites, apps, and platforms. The source of the Snapchat app’s tremendous success, of course, is its short video “Stories” function, which proved so popular that Instagram mirrored the feature on its platform. One study found that 67 percent of people use YouTube to decide which items to buy, from cars to beauty products to mobile phones.

And online news outlets get more creative with how they incorporate video every day. Organizations like CNN, AOL, and FOX recognize the vital role it can play in delivering news and are producing more video content to complement their print stories.

The upshot? If you aren’t using video to reach customers, you’re missing a prime opportunity.

Mastering the Art of the Viral Video

Here are five tricks you can use to capture your customers’ attention and make sure your video is showing up properly on the platforms where you’ve posted them.

1. Give your video an accurate, but enticing, name. A clever moniker will help your video rank higher in Google search results and increase engagement. For example, if your video features a pasta-eating hamster, grab attention with “Hamster Enjoys Himself While Eating Pasta” or “An Afternoon Snack for This Tiny Hamster.”

Keep in mind that only about 60 characters of your title will fit within the “suggested videos” sidebar, so be sure to emphasize how the video will make people feel or what benefit they’ll get from watching it. Pique their curiosity by asking a question or making an intriguing statement. Above all, avoid generic names like “My Hamster Video” or, worse, “”

2. Take advantage of tagging. Use the tagging feature to include terms that you may not have been able to squeeze into your title or description. What other search terms or phrases might people use to find your video?

For example, you could tag the hamster video with terms like “cute pet” or “funny critter.”

3. Widen your reach and tag your friends on Facebook. Native Facebook videos reach twice as many people and see three times more shares than third-party videos, such as YouTube embeds.

First things first: To take full advantage of Facebook’s autoplay features, make sure your audience settings are set to public so your video can be shared with all users on the platform. Then, tag your friends and the people in the video. Remember, when you post content with no tags, only your network will see it. Tagging others opens your potential audience to their networks, too.

4. Incorporate trending topics or hashtags. Facebook and other social media platforms are striving to position themselves as go-to news sources. When they’re relevant to your video, add hashtags and descriptions that feature the trending words to leverage trending topics.

Doing so will increase the likelihood that Facebook will feature your story in others’ timelines. Make sure you avoid using more than 10 hashtags, though, to prevent overwhelming your followers; instead, do a quick Google search to zero in on the most popular ones in your industry that are most relevant to your audience.

5. Post frequently. Facebook gives brands more visibility if they use the service more often, so make sure you post regularly — at least once or twice a day.

After your first post is seen, engagement rates will drop, but not enough to dissuade you from posting more often. Five posts a day on Facebook is a good guideline for smaller brands to ensure that people see your content at least once.

Don’t Be Afraid to Boost

Everywhere you look, you can witness the growing power of visual media. Learning how to make video work for your brand is one of the most effective steps you can take to get noticed.

Facebook and other social media platforms offer powerful ways to expand your videos’ reach, so dedicate a small amount of money to testing your reach and engagement. If you have big goals, explore companies that specialize in online video advertising to help you reach your audience.

Once you have a video, it’s important to share it with your online community. Be sure to check out these 20 places where you can add your brand’s video for maximum exposure. Following the tips above will help you make the most of your video’s potential. With a little clever forethought and effort, your brand’s video content could become a viral sensation.

Hope Horner

Hope Horner


Hope Horner is CEO and founder of Lemonlight Media.