Secret tools and hacks

November 9, 2023

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06 MIN.

10 Tips To Make Unskippable Short-Form Video (With Examples!)

Short-form video will continue to reign supreme into 2024! For brands and content creators alike, there’s never been a better time to start experimenting with this format - So let's get started!

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

10 Tips To Make Unskippable Short-Form Video (With Examples!)

The popularity of short-form video shows no signs of slowing down.

Brands and creators alike are embracing 30-60-second videos to deepen connections with their audience, increase engagement, and make more sales.

They recognize the benefit of creating content that not only matches their audience’s attention span but delivers a message and tells a story in the most impactful way possible. 

Not to mention its value for money. According to Hubspot’s 2023 Marketing Strategy and Trends Report, short-form video has the highest return on investment—more than influencer marketing, SEO, and content that reflects a brand’s values.

So, if you want to capitalize on the trend for short-form video in 2024, keep reading.

Here are the 10 tips we’ll cover:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Tell a captivating story
  3. Master the art of visual engagement
  4. Engage early
  5. Keep it concise: shorter is usually better
  6. Perfect your audio experience
  7. Don’t forget the captions
  8. Pace is key
  9. Include a call-to-action (CTA)
  10. Test, analyze, refine
  11. Ready to boost engagement with short-form video?

Let’s make unskippable short-form video! 👇

1. Understand your audience

Obvious as it sounds, understanding what makes your target audience tick is essential to making short-form video content they enjoy.

Start by watching content created by other brands they love. Notice the language used. The pacing. The length. The tone. The call to action. This exercise will help you draw a clearer picture of the kind of video that resonates with your audience. You can then apply these principles to your own content.

Once you start sharing more videos, keep a close eye on your analytics. Read and reply to comments. Monitor active engagements like shares and saves. You can use these insights to tailor your content for maximum performance and over time, better understand what resonates (and what doesn’t) with your audience. If a particular topic or format of video is performing particularly well, double down on that. 

And don’t forget to take risks. Yes, it’s important to follow the data and give your audience more of what they want. But don’t be afraid to push boundaries—creatively speaking—from time to time. Not only does variety keep your audience engaged, but it helps to keep the brand from feeling stale, too. 

2. Tell a captivating story

Telling a captivating story through TikToks and Reels can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

If it helps, revisit the 4 Ps of storytelling: plot, people, place, and purpose.

  • Plot = What story are you trying to tell and how can you do so in an interesting way?
  • People = Which characters will feature in your video and what is their role in the story you’re trying to tell?
  • Place = What setting will the video take place in?
  • Purpose = What is the aim of the video? What do you want viewers to do next?

Video here: 

TikTok video example for social media strategy tips

Here’s how Lenox Hill Neurosurgery applies the 4 Ps in the TikTok above.

  • Plot = Department tour but with a twist—viewer meets Advanced Care Providers, nurses, and PAs as they’re singing along to the lyrics: “I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills, I have to pay,” from ‘Money Money Money’ by Abba. 
  • People = The ICU team
  • Place = Lenox Hill Neurosurgery
  • Purpose = Showcase (and celebrate) members of the team who don’t get recognized as often as they deserve. 

In just 29 seconds, Lenox Hill manages to tell a really engaging story. The message is playful but clear. The audience feels connected to the relatable ‘characters’. And as a result, the video has generated more than 425k plays and almost 30k likes.

In a recent interview, Hannah Flam, Project Manager for Lenox Hill Hospital’s Department of Neurosurgery, said that their purpose on TikTok is to:

“Highlight the culture of [the] practice in the effort to foster more meaningful patient-provider connections.”

Having a clear purpose for the TikTok account as a whole, as well as the individual videos they publish has helped Lenox Hill grow. When you sit down to plan your next video idea, start by asking yourself: what is the purpose of this video?

3. Master the art of visual engagement

The composition of short videos is key. It doesn’t matter if the length is just 5, 10, or 30 seconds.

If you want your audience to stay engaged and not swipe away to watch content from another brand, you’ve got to keep things interesting.

Interesting = different angles, composition, framing, or bringing in dynamic motion graphics or animations.

Video here:

ad of a juice on Linkedin, example for social media marketing

In this paid social ad, there’s a POV opening fridge shot, a vertigo effect on the faces as they shot the drink (inspired by Jaws), and a slow-motion probe shot pushing inside a piece of ginger.

But videos don’t have to be action-packed to be engaging.

Video here:

Paint brand ad on social media - Reel instagram

This video by the paint brand Lick is much slower, but it still manages to keep the viewer hooked by including lots of different angles and a mixture of video clips and still images.

4. Engage early

On TikTok and Instagram, a view is counted when a user watches a video for at least 3 seconds.

That means the first few seconds of your video are crucial. If you don’t grab the viewer’s attention with impactful visuals, questions, or statements immediately, your video will flop.

In his book #Hooked, Peter Fagan outlines 4 ways of hooking your audience:

  1. Surprise: Open your video with something that hasn’t been seen before or use an unusual angle or fast movement to create an element of surprise
  2. Emotion: Try to make your audience feel something straight away—be that empathy, shock, fear, or excitement
  3. Primal: There are certain things like puppies, food, sex, sharks that humans are hardwired to notice
  4. Personal: Think about what is really personal to your audience—what would make them sit up and say, ‘omg, that’s me!’

Video here:

Social media ad for Crocs on Instagram

In this Reel from Crocs, the video opens with @thejonnycakes jumping into frame and asking the question: “Is it Crocs? Can you guess which one of these Crocs is not a real clog but a cake imposter?”

The viewer is immediately hooked by the element of surprise (a Croc cake!) and because they’ve been invited to participate: will they guess the right answer? It’s a clever tactic that will encourage most people to continue watching to find out the answer.

Once you’ve created your next video, go back and review the first 3 seconds. 

Have you done enough to stop someone from swiping away to the next video?

If the answer isn’t a confident ‘yes’, go back and tweak the introduction until it is—otherwise the rest of your video will have been created in vain.

5. Keep it concise: shorter is usually better 

While it’s possible to create videos up to 10 minutes in length on TikTok and 90 seconds on Instagram, it’s best to stick to the 15-second mark if you can.

That’s because videos thrive on brevity. Users prefer content that gets to the punchline quickly. There are exceptions to this, of course, but as a general rule: the shorter the better.

One big benefit of creating shorter videos is that it encourages people to rewatch… and every watch counts as a new unique view

So if you want to maximize engagement, create a short, impactful video that people can’t help but watch again and again. 

6. Perfect your audio experience

According to 88% of users, sound is a fundamental part of the TikTok experience. And sound-on campaigns are better at increasing brand awareness than competitors’ ads, both with and without audio.

Therefore, for brands to resonate on TikTok (and Instagram), audio can’t be an afterthought. It has to be part of the planning process.

But how can brands and content creators do that not just practically, but also legally?

You can start with the commercial music libraries available inside TikTok and Instagram. But if that’s too limiting and it’s chart music that you want, you can license mainstream tracks from a platform like Lickd without any risk of copyright infringement. It’s royalty-free music from your favorite artists at a very low price. 

With the legal bit out the way, what about tips on choosing the right audio? Here are some questions to ask when planning your next short-form video:

  • What’s the mood of our video and the story we’re trying to tell—does this audio evoke the right emotions?
  • Is the audio a central character in the video (as with the Lenox Hill Neurosurgery example above) or is it background music?
  • Is the music matching (which it should be) or distracting (which it shouldn’t)?

It can take a while to choose the perfect audio for your video and that’s ok. You don’t want to rush this part of the process as audio really can make or break a video

7. Don’t forget the captions

TikTok is a ‘sound on’ platform and most users will watch short-form videos in this way. However, there’s still a huge number of people—particularly those on Instagram and Facebook—who use these platforms with the sound off.

That’s why it’s important to include captions in videos with dialogue and not rely on the automated captioning tools provided by social media platforms. 

Particularly because these are (usually) rubbish—and that makes videos inaccessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

In an interview with The Washington Post, Rikki Poynter, the Deaf YouTube creator who helped to popularize the term “craptions", said automated captions have a long way to go to refine precise wording, grammar, and formatting.

And with more than 1.5 billion people worldwide currently affected by hearing loss in at least one ear, there’s no reason why all brands and content creators shouldn't be striving to make their videos as accessible as possible. 

8. Pace is key

Just because your video is short, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pacey. 

Depending on the mood and the message of your video, your pacing might be slower, with less scenes and not a lot of cuts. Or it might be fast-paced with lots of clips of different lengths and speeds.

The pace is also impacted by the audio you choose. An upbeat track will probably work best with a video that features many clips trimmed down to 1-2 seconds in length. This kind of editing helps to make a video feel more dynamic. But so too does a variety of clips—some very short interspersed with one slow-motion scene and/or a normal-paced, slightly longer clip.

Video here: 

Instagram Reel for social media marketing examples

Ashlee Major Moss does a brilliant job of using a combination of clips to keep her viewers engaged.

9. Include a call-to-action (CTA)

The second most important thing after your hook is your CTA.

Remember when we talked about the 4 Ps of storytelling and one of them was purpose? Well, your CTA relates to this.

What do you want people to do next? Do you want them to engage with your video directly (i.e. leave a comment)? Do you want them to check out an offer on your website?

If you’ve managed to capture and sustain your audience’s attention with an attention-grabbing opening and great pacing, don’t let that go to waste! Instead, use the CTA to move someone further along in the buyer’s journey

Here are 5 CTAs you could include in your next video:

  1. Hit follow for more videos like this
  2. Check out the link in my bio for [freebie/sign up link]
  3. Tag someone who needs to see this
  4. Save this post for later
  5. Use [X] code for a 10% discount

Choose just one and make it really easy (and obvious) to follow.

Video here:

TikTok video for tips

In this TikTok from Tori Dunlap, she includes a clear CTA at the end of her video.

‘Take the quiz linked in my bio for a free money plan.’

This quiz is one way Tori is growing her email list. The user answers the questions and to receive their personalized money plan, they must enter their email address.

10. Test, analyze, refine

While all 10 of these video tips are valuable, the best thing you can do—besides just starting!—is to experiment, analyze, refine, and then: do more of what’s working

Your audience will tell you what they like and what they don’t like by how much (or little) they engage with your content.

So after the ideation and creation of impactful videos you believe will resonate with your audience based on everything you know about them, you must measure their performance.

Study the analytics to understand where people are dropping off and whether they’re rewatching or not. Read the comments to gauge viewer sentiment and find inspiration for future videos.

These insights are essential to help you improve your video content—so don’t ignore them. And don’t focus solely on the surface-level insights, either. For example, ‘likes’ that everyone can see. You really want to dig into the saves, shares, follows, and website taps, to get a holistic view of engagement.

Ready to boost engagement with short-form video?

Short-form video will continue to reign supreme into 2024.

For brands and content creators alike, there’s never been a better time to start experimenting with this format. Just remember to prioritize the hook, pacing, and wrapping up with a clear CTA. 

The more you share, the more refined your short-form videos will become, and the better your engagement will be!

the writer
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Copywriter @Iconosquare

Hey! I'm Bella. Super curious about any new feature released on social media platforms. I do have a preference for Instagram, even though each platform has its specificity ;)

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