The science of social video

From animated explainers to 'how to' tutorials, social media streams are saturated with video content nowadays. And there's good reason why the appetite for visual storytelling has spread, across every sector, faster than YouTube's top 'Cats vs cucumbers' compilation.

We've been poring over a great new report from Brightcove - a consultancy who specialise in broadcasting, publishing and marketing online video - which is packed with fantastically valuable insights for any company investing in video content.

Their research reveals how eight in ten people consider video the best way to get to know a brand online. While another report from KPCB predicts that video content will account for a huge 74% of all online traffic in 2017.

It's all well and good knowing that video content is the future of brand storytelling, but this information falls futile if you don't understand the ways different social platforms operate.

As Mashable tech correspondent Raymond Wong crabs, social media isn't as simple as it used to be; each platform has different rules, algorithms, demographics, and it can be tricky (even anxiety-inducing) to keep up with which content formats are best suited to which newsfeeds.

We see this from both sides; as makers of animation content that we want our clients to see maximum benefit from, and as a business spreading the world about what we do. We know that animated videos are an investment - both harder and more expensive to produce than a written blog post - so here's what we know about maximising your video across all your social streams.

Twitter

Twitter is best suited to short videos in the native app. Echoing their 140-character limit, you've got two minutes and 20 second-limit (yep, that's140 seconds) for videos that play in-stream.

You can embed videos of any length from YouTube, but we've found that slicing and dicing animations into short MP4 clips (posted with a link to the full animation) is better for a fast-scrolling Twitter audience.

When it comes to the type of content, Brightcove's research suggests videos that spread awareness, or have an educational message, are best-suited to Twitter users.

And we've discovered that GIFs are particularly powerful for pedalling campaign messages to a wide audience; we created a GIF series for the unsung heroes of Rio 2016, as well as creating a GIF campaign encouraging young people to vote in the 2017 general election.

Facebook

The key to Facebook is giving people cause to pause as they idly scroll through their newsfeed. If your video content is personal, emotive, and oozes a sense of community, it's likely to do just that, according to Brightcove's report.

And Facebook's video stats suggest it's well worth ticking these boxes. Not only do 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook videos a week, according to WordStream, but another report from TubularInsights tells us that 500 million people watch videos on Facebook every day.

The capacity for video on Facebook is huge. We not only post our pre-made animations onto our page, but have also dabbled with their most recent feature, Facebook Live. It's a real game-changer and, from our experience, is the best way to get live engagement and reactions from your audience. Just look at our FB Live video with the Guardian, where our scribe, Matt, live visualised the thoughts of Facebook users about climate change.

And we've also discovered the huge shareability of GIFS; our David Bowie GIF was an emotive celebration of his life, attracting a community of fans to engage with the video and share it far and wide. And its popularity on Pinterest, via our website, was an interesting and unexpected bonus. It was fantastic for reach, if not for link building.

YouTube

It's not surprising to discover that YouTube receives tens of millions of views on their vast array of video content every day.

But YouTube differs from other digital platforms; whereas you might unexpectedly stumble across an interesting video on Facebook or Twitter, if you're watching a video on YouTube, it's probably because you found it via a more intentional search, for a particular vlogger or type of video.

And vloggers have, indeed, massively benefitted from this type of viewership; Zoella's beauty and lifestyle channel enjoys a healthy subscription of over 11 million, while rapper and comedian KSI tops this with a casual 16 million.

Because viewers spend a longer time on YouTube, 'how to' instructional videos have taken the platform by storm, as Brightcove's research confirms. Make-up techniques, yoga tutorials, finally figuring out how to fix that leaking tap...whatever you need, YouTube probably has it covered (including our How to Draw series - featuring everything from elephants to elves).

Instagram

Instagram video is fun. That's a fact. And with new video features, like Instagram stories and carousel posts, emerging all the time, it's a platforms that encourages and rewards experimentation and creativity. We're certainly intrigued by the storytelling possibilities that carousel formats on Instagram (and other platforms) offer. Watch this space for our experiments.

You can also live-stream your work-in-progress (we're obsessed with these live drawing videos), or create boomerang videos, which are weirdly hypnotic video-loops - a bit like Vines of old, only with more speed and repetition.