17 min. read
Facebook video ads are like street performers. They occupy a crowded space and try to catch your attention as soon as possible, but if they don’t deliver, you’ll just keep moving.
When it comes to performing, you want to be the main act—not the sideshow. To get views and engagement on your Facebook video ads, they need to be too good to ignore.
That’s why we’ve put together the most up-to-date research and insights on Facebook video advertising so you can make a lasting impression in 2018.
Here are 15 best practices for optimizing your videos ads on Facebook this year.
If you’re interested in video marketing, we also recommend these articles on Twitter videos, Instagram video ads, and the most common Instagram ad mistakes you’re probably making. Alternatively, here’s our guide to why your Facebook ads are getting denied.
1. Grab attention early
Think about your own behavior online. Do you get bored and click away from content that takes too long to deliver the goods?
Say you’re reading a blog post about Facebook video ad best practices—if it doesn’t give you interesting, relevant insights straight away (or at least a catchy hook), you’re probably hitting the back button a few seconds in.
Plus, you’re not alone: a 2015 study found that the average attention span is now down to about eight seconds.
The same applies to Facebook video length, and there’s data to prove it. Earlier this year, Facebook released the following internal research on how fast people stop watching different types of video ad content:
Source: Facebook Business
What does this tell us? Well, with video ads in News Feed, the average number of people watching the ad drops off exponentially very early on.
This effect is even more noticeable with Facebook and Instagram Stories ads.
In other words, you need to get your message out as soon as possible in the video or people will click away before they even know what your ad is about.
But how soon, exactly? That leads us to Facebook video best practice number two…
2. Keep it short
If most people tune out so quickly, what’s the ideal Facebook video length to tell your story?
For in-stream video ads (ads placed before or during other video content), Facebook themselves recommend a length of 5-15 seconds (though they allow you to go up to 31 seconds).
For standalone ads in News Feed, Facebook also recommends creating ads that are 15 seconds or shorter. As they explain, “Shorter videos have higher completion rates, so you can successfully share your entire message.”
There’s also an increasing trend in mobile advertising toward making tight, snappy 6-second ads. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated in 2017 that compared to 15- and 30-second ads, 6-second ads showed “higher brand metrics across the board”.
So how short is short? As it turns out, really short. Like, about the length of time it takes you to spin around in your computer chair (go ahead and try it, we’ll wait).
3. Get your branding in right away
With such short Facebook video ads becoming the industry standard, when do you have time to promote your brand?
As it turns out, you should definitely mention your brand within the first 3 seconds of your Facebook video ad.
In a meta-analysis of video marketing data, Facebook found that consumers were 23% more likely to remember which brand made a given video ad if the brand was featured in the first three seconds and 13% more likely if the brand was featured after four seconds (compared to ads where the brand wasn’t explicitly shown in the video):
Source: Facebook IQ
Brand awareness is one of the most common objectives in Facebook video advertising. If your marketing goal is to get your brand name out there, you’d better do it by the count of three or people will stop paying attention.
4. Optimize your ad title and description
If you want people to actually watch your Facebook video ads, you need an engaging title and description that tells people what they should expect to see.
Your ad title and description also feed information to Facebook’s targeting algorithms about the topic of your video, so make sure you include any keywords relevant to your ad.
In addition to keeping your copy relevant, remember that not all titles are created equal. Some are simply catchier than others.
Video creation platform Wochit studied over 33,000 Facebook videos in 2017 and found that certain phrases in titles got way more video views than others:
This graph shows average views on Facebook videos with certain common phrases in their titles versus how frequently those phrases were used.
The phrases at the top of the graph were used the most often, and the phrases at the bottom were used the least.
Videos including title phrases like “to know about”, “ things to know” “5 things to” and “what you need” all exceeded an average of 50,000 views per video, while phrases like “things to do” “of the year” and “of the week” were all less successful by comparison.
Also, people really like Game of Thrones.
When planning your next Facebook video title and copy, consider incorporating some of these top phrases—they clearly get people interested.
Wochit also analyzed social video titles by the numbers used in their headlines, sorting them by frequency of use and average views.
It’s an often-repeated content marketing guideline that headlines with 5s and 10s perform the best, but in the case of Facebook videos, it looks like titles starting with “7 Things” did even better.
Of course, your Facebook video ad titles don’t need to include these numbers or phrases.
The most important factor in improving your Facebook video view times is that you generate enough curiosity with your title and description that people want to watch until the end.
5. Focus on sound-off views
In 2016, 85% of Facebook video views happened with the sound turned off. Until fall 2017, all Facebook videos auto-played with the sound off, and even now any mobile viewers with their phones on silent or vibrate have sound off by default too.
Even though Facebook auto-plays videos with the sound on for desktop users, many people expect this and put their Facebook tab on mute before browsing.
Plus, if a mobile user switches even one video to sound-off mode, future videos will auto-play with the sound off until they switch the setting back.
With so many users watching Facebook video ads on mute, it’s insanely important that your ad has the same impact with or without sound.
Always make sure your Facebook video content still makes sense on silent. Source: Techcrunch
Facebook has repeatedly recommended that advertisers add captions to their videos. Their best practices for political ads state the following:
“Your videos should communicate your message even without audio. Don’t rely on voiceovers or dialog to relay key information. Use captions and graphic overlays to make sure your message gets across with sound on or off.”
Plus, the data backs up this advice—adding Facebook video ad subtitles increases view times by 12% on average.
While your audio should add value, it shouldn’t be essential to getting your message across.
6. Check your Facebook video specs
It should be pretty unsurprising that one of the most important components of a successful Facebook video ad is…how it looks.
If you don’t have the right Facebook video format, you’re not going to have the visual impact you’re looking for with your ad.
Facebook has pretty specific recommendations for formatting your video ads.
For starters, you should shoot for H.264 compression, square pixels, a fixed frame rate, progressive scan, and stereo AAC audio compression at 128kbps or higher.
Okay, that was a lot. We need a breather…
Done breathing? Okay, just a few more details to note down. First, your Facebook video ratio should be between 9:16 and 16:9.
Second, although Facebook used to recommend 1080p resolution, with the rise of 4K video they now say you should upload the highest resolution video available that fits within file size and ratio limits.
Third, your video length can be anywhere from 1 second to 240 minutes, as long as it doesn’t exceed the maximum Facebook video file size of 4 GB.
So, keep these specs in mind when uploading video to Facebook if you want your ads to look as good as in reality as they do in your head.
You’ll see the rewards of having a professional-looking video ad when the views and interactions start rolling in.
6. Get vertical or go square
Speaking of Facebook video specs, what aspect ratio should you use for maximum views and engagement? We recommend either 9:16 vertical videos or 1:1 – a perfect square.
Why? Well, first of all, for real estate. In the mobile version of News Feed, square videos actually take up 78% more screen space than landscape videos.
Yep, you read that right. 78% more space on mobile News Feed—and over 95% of Facebook users now access the network on their mobile devices.
More screen space for your video ad means your visuals and text will grab more attention and be more easily readable.
It’s simple, really. The bigger your video appears, the harder it is to ignore and the more likely people are to engage with it.
There’s research to back this up, too. One case study from Buffer found that square videos got up to 35% more views and 100% more engagement than comparable horizontal videos.
Meanwhile, A/B tests by the Jane Goodall Institute showed that their square videos received double the views and three times the shares of their landscape videos.
Switching from landscape to square video vastly improved views and shares for the Jane Goodall Institute. Source: Animoto
As for vertical videos, mobile phones are used in portrait mode 98% of the time, so it only makes sense to cater to the orientation that users already have.
No one wants to turn their phone just to see your ad, so make their lives that little bit easier.
Landscape might be great at the movie theater, but when it comes to Facebook video ads, 9:16 and 1:1 are both greater than 16:9.
7. Stick your CTAs in the middle
If you’re encouraging users to take a specific action with your Facebook video ad, promote it in the middle of the video.
Putting your call to action (CTA) at the beginning of a video ad wastes an opportunity to catch your audience’s attention right from the start.
The first three seconds of your video are crucial for presenting your brand and creating interest, so you can’t afford to spend them pitching a call to action.
Plus, you haven’t convinced your viewers of anything at that point.
Putting your Facebook video ad CTA at the end, on the other hand, misses the sizeable percentage of viewers who will stop watching part of the way through.
By placing your Facebook video CTA mid-roll, you capture an audience that’s already intrigued with your ad while they’re still paying attention.
And again, there’s data to support this. Video hosting company Wistia analyzed over 300,00 videos with CTAs and found that 95.9% had CTAs post-roll, 4% had them mid-roll, and only 0.1% had them pre-roll.
However, mid-roll CTAs had the highest average conversion rate at 16.95%, compared to 10.98% for post-roll and 3.15% for pre-roll.
Calls to action positioned in the middle of a video ad clearly outperformed those at the beginning or end. Source: Wistia
So while the vast majority of advertisers are putting their CTAs at the end of their videos, your brand can easily gain a leg up by adding a call to action in the middle.
8. Think mobile first
With over 95% of Facebook users accessing the platform on mobile devices and 65% of all Facebook video views now coming from mobile users, Facebook video advertisers would be wise to make mobile video their number one priority.
Every time you create a video ad on Facebook, you should think about how a mobile user will experience it.
Will this content look just as good on a smaller screen? Will it appeal to someone who may be on the go or have limited time? Will it make sense with or without sound?
You need to consider all of these factors to make sure your mobile audience gets the full impact of your ad.
Facebook has shared that people on mobile devices tend to prefer shorter video ads with runtimes of 15 seconds or less.
Focusing on mobile viewers won’t break the bank, either—Facebook mobile video ads tend to have a lower cpm and a higher engagement rate than desktop video ads.
On top of that, Facebook’s meta-analysis of video ads on Facebook and Instagram found that mobile-first ads had longer average view times and better brand recall than mobile-adapted or traditional video ads:
Source: Facebook IQ
When planning your next Facebook video ad campaign, then, it only makes sense to think of mobile users as your primary audience.
9. Pick the right Facebook advertising objective
When launching your next Facebook video ad campaign, you need to have clearly defined goals in mind.
Do you want to drive conversions? Do you want to increase traffic to your website? Or do you simply want to spread brand awareness?
If you don’t have a clear marketing objective in mind, you won’t know if your campaign is working, making it hard to justify to the higher-ups.
You have a lot of options within Facebook Ad Manager when it comes to objectives, but some make more sense than others for video campaigns.
Facebook offers a variety of marketing objectives to help you refine and optimize your video ad campaigns. Source: Facebook Ads Manager
If your goal is to get your Facebook video ad in front of as many viewers as possible, then optimizing your campaign for video views obviously makes a lot of sense.
However, if what you really want is for more users to remember your brand, brand awareness is more relevant.
Meanwhile, if your video ad is all about motivating users to visit your website, pick traffic. If your primary motivation is to make sales through the ad, then conversions is a better choice.
Ultimately, which objective you pick depends on why you’re making a video ad in the first place. And if you’re not sure exactly why you’re making one, take a moment to step back and consider.
10. Understand your KPIs
Now that you have an objective in mind for your Facebook video ad, you need to select the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for your campaign to measure how successful it is.
Picking the right KPIs is first and foremost based on your marketing objectives, and some of these are unique to video advertising on Facebook.
For example, if your objective is to get as many video views as possible within your budget, you should look at 3-, 10-, or 30-second video views as KPIs.
Facebook offers analytics to help you understand how your video ads are performing, including 10-second video views over time. Source: Facebook via Social Media Examiner
For shorter videos that present your brand and main message early on, it makes sense to follow 3-second video views as a measure of success.
If the value of your video ad is delivered later, consider following 10- or 30-second video views over time instead.
If you’re making a video ad to drive web traffic, you should follow clicks and click through rate (CTR) on the ad.
This will let you know how much traffic the ad is actually generating and tell you how efficient it is at getting people to click on it.
If your objective is to drive sales, track conversions and conversion rate (CVR) on your website, preferably with the Facebook Pixel.
This will let you know how many sales your video ad is generating and tell you what percentage of users that saw the ad made a purchase because of it.
Finally, when it comes to monitoring brand awareness, you should monitor ad recall lift.
Source: Facebook via Thomas Hutter
This metric tells you how many people would remember your ad if asked about it within two days of seeing it. Ad recall lift is compiled from Facebook’s estimations and survey data.
When it comes to measuring the real impact your video ad has on brand awareness, ad recall lift is much more reliable than video views.
11. Match your objective to your Facebook video ad types
Facebook video ads are so much more than just sponsored videos in News Feed. In 2018, there are a wide variety of video ad formats you can choose from to tell your story in the most effective way possible.
For example, you can post looping GIFS, vertical video ads, video carousel ads, Facebook Stories ads, canvas ads, collection ads, sponsored live videos, sponsored 360 videos, or in-stream ads. Now that’s a lot of options.
Which one you select should be based on your marketing objectives and the length of your video content.
If you’re looking to simply rack up video views and have your content seen, using a short, attention-grabbing format like a GIF or a vertical video ad makes sense.
If your goal is to generate engagement and discussion around your video ad, a longer and more immersive format like a sponsored live or 360 video will attract highly engaged viewers who are likely to comment on and react to your content.
Finally, if you’re creating a Facebook video ad campaign to drive conversions or rack up sales, we recommend collection video ads or canvas ads, as you can display a video highlighting your products or services while showing off clickable images of your offerings below.
For more on the relative advantages of different video types, here are 7 social media video formats we highly recommend.
12. Hit your target
Even if you have a precise marketing objective, the ideal video format and the perfect KPIs nailed down for your ad, you can always improve your ad performance and ROI by enhancing your Facebook video ad targeting.
For the most part, targeting Facebook video ads is very similar to targeting Facebook ads in general.
For example, lookalike audiences and custom audiences can be very effective, precise ways to get your video ads in front of the users that are most likely to appreciate them.
Facebook video ads do have one unique targeting option that we recommend you take advantage of:
After you’ve run at least one video ad, you will have the ability to create an engagement custom audience based on video views.
Facebook allows you to create custom audiences based on users who have watched your video ads. You can further refine this audience by video view time. Source: Facebook via Social Media Examiner
Essentially, this will let you retarget Facebook ads at any users who have watched your video content in the past. You can even define this custom audience based on how long users watched your prior video ads for.
This is an excellent way to retarget users who have already engaged with your brand since you know they’re willing to view your content.
Plus, if you’re running an ad campaign with multiple videos that are all related, you can promote your latest videos to users who have already watched the previous ones to craft a customer journey for them.
13. Live a little
Live streamers on Facebook now have the option to go to an ad break where they take a break and play some in-stream video ads for additional revenue.
These 15-second spots are a great opportunity to spread awareness to your brand. Just make sure that the Live video has an audience that’s likely to be interested in your ad first.
This opportunity is only available to larger Facebook live streams with 300 or more simultaneous viewers from pages with at least 2,000 followers.
If you do choose to serve your video during an ad break, you’re guaranteed at least that large of an audience.
Facebook Live is becoming more popular with users and brands alike this year, boasting huge engagement numbers (and cute puppies). Source: Facebook
On top of that, if you’re bold enough to go live yourself, you have the option to promote your own live video stream on Facebook.
With Facebook Live videos getting over 10x more comments on average than regular ones, you can produce a ton of buzz around this way.
For inspiration, here are 5 brands which have had massive success using Facebook Live.
Given the rising influence of Facebook Live, this looks like a video advertising trend with a lot of potential this year—so go live a little.
14. Go native
When it comes to Facebook video ads, it’s practically common knowledge by now that you should exclusively upload them natively.
Posting your video clip to YouTube or Vimeo and sharing that to your Facebook Page won’t have the same impact, even if you boost the post.
A 2017 study by Quintly found that native Facebook video posts got 168% more interactions on average than similar YouTube videos shared on Facebook.
Both brands and regular Facebook users seem to have noticed this trend, as the same study found that 89% of all videos on Facebook are now natively published.
The vast majority of videos posted on Facebook are now native content. Source: Quintly
It’s possible that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm gives priority to native video, or that users simply prefer to view native videos on Facebook.
Whatever the reason, native Facebook video seems to seriously outperform shared video content from other networks.
On top of that, the benefits of posting natively are only amplified when it comes to video ads.
In addition to the increased reactions, comments, and shares that come with Facebook native video ads, you’ll also be able to target, optimize, and analyze your ad through Business Manager with far more precision since Facebook will be able to recognize and process your video content natively.
In turn, this will let the Facebook News Feed algorithm work its magic, tracking and delivering your video ad with all the information it has available.
When it comes to getting people to engage with your ads, native posting is a no-brainer.
15. Nail your thumbnail
While Facebook has auto-play on for videos by default, many users opt to turn the feature off.
If you want to convince them to hit play, you’re going to need an interesting, relevant thumbnail image for your video.
When you upload your video ad, Facebook will automatically compile 10 thumbnails from the video for you to choose from. If none of them look good to you, you can also upload a custom thumbnail of your own.
If you choose your own thumbnail, make sure to go easy on the text. Facebook video thumbnails that consist of over 20% text by area “may experience reduced delivery” according to their ads guide.
Facebook rates video and image ads based on how much text they have and limits their reach accordingly. Source: Facebook via Instapage
In other words, if your thumbnail has too much text, your ad’s reach will be penalized. To check your text-to-image ratio before you publish, try Facebook’s image text check tool.
Facebook video marketing in 2018 and beyond
When it comes to Facebook video ads, the future looks so bright we’ve gotta wear shades.
Not only are Facebook video ads highly effective at spreading brand awareness, they’re also spreading around the Facebook Platform.
With new options for video monetization being released and more opportunities to place video ads on Instagram and the Audience Network, social media marketers can now look beyond News Feed when it comes to promoting their ads.
The icing on the cake? There are even more video advertising formats around the corner for Facebook, with augmented reality ads in development and trailers for new Facebook Watch shows starting to make the rounds.
All in all, 2018 looks like an awesome year for video marketing on Facebook. So don’t be camera-shy! Keep these 15 best practices in mind and get cracking on your next viral ad campaign.