Video Style Guide

Updated 28-Jun-2024

This Document Part of a Complete Set of Style Guides

This document provides guidance on the creation and management of video for social media, as well as advertising on video platforms. In particular, video needs to be optimized for SEO purposes and for particular platforms. Just as written content and image content needs to be optimized in order to match or beat the competition, video is just as important. Video SEO needs as much, if not more, planning and thoughtful editing and curation as text and image content SEO.

Related documents:

Caution: leaving video content and production in the hands of others without providing proper guidelines and guidance will not be effective. Not only are there content guidelines, but specific kinds of videos need to be created, with specific length, as well as the use of brand imagery within the video, and the proper observation of copyright law. Not providing these guidelines, much less not having them is a waste of time and money.

This document is a part of a series on SEO for Content, which includes:

  • Image SEO
  • Text SEO
  • Video SEO

Many of the same features of Text and Image SEO apply to Video. In particular:

  • Length
  • Format
  • Metadata (Title, description, keywords, annotations, transcript, etc.)
  • Copyright (and other intellectual property infringement)

Copyright in Video

Copyright in particular is very important, especially in Thailand where most video and graphic designers routinely are unaware, and even when aware do not abide by the law. There are a few simple guidelines that can help produce legal content:

  • All music/audio must be legally licensed and referenced. Even in the case of Creative Commons / Open Content and Public Domain content, the sources of the audio and the license under which it is used must be declared. This is not actually difficult as there is a lot of public domain and creative commons-licensed work available. Also, one can simply ask for permission to use, especially for those artists one can deal with directly (vs. through a music label).
  • All brand and organization names / graphic art / logos, obvious product examples, and representations must be licensed or have a written waiver to allow use. This can be problematic when taking video or still photos in public. When some imagery is unavoidable, a video editor should be able to remove restricted content. Trademark and Trade Dress are the laws being violated, as well as occasionally copyright in general.
  • All likenesses and identifiable individuals need to consent to use. In the case of public spaces generally it is thought to be legal to take photos and video. However, the law can be different in different countries, and the use of video in packaged products (such as in a documentary, or even on a videotape package) may infringe in certain circumstances. Whenever there is commercial use (for money), then consent should always be acquired. Defamation is a particular risk.
  • All video should be work-for-hire so that it (original video / audio content and the complete, edited project, in an accessible format (that is, that could be edited later) completely belongs to the organization commissioning the video. Work-for-hire contracts should be used for legal clarity.
  • Actors should have actor releases. Anyone who is hired (for pay or volunteer basis) to appear in the video needs to sign an actor release or a general release, or be covered by other work-for-hire or employment agreements.

The key is to get written consent when there may be a question, or even if permanent consent is needed (for example, someone could provide verbal consent, and then upon viewing a video, withdraw that consent. See also When is it Legal to Film People without their Consent.

Video Platforms

While there are many different platforms for video, focusing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube makes the most sense. These platforms all allow for advertising and are highly social. Instagram is owned by Facebook and campaigns can target that platform. Twitter is still very disappointing as an advertising platform, but it is still a viable and popular social media platform. YouTube is integrated as video in Google Plus pages (including Google Local / Google My Business map listing).

Technical formats and limitations

MP4 H264 with AAC 128k (mono) / 384k (stereo) / 512k (5.1) is the best format. The idea is to use two-pass encoding or 8mbps 1080p / 4mbps 720p, 24/25/30fps. Instagram supports 3-15 second length, Twitter supports 30 second length. Both Instagram and Twitter require mobile for video upload.

Technical References

Video Length and Objectives

Besides the technical specifications, video length requirements are important for specific marketing objectives. A key factor is to not "create videos" but rather to tell the story of the brand that fits various segments and will be used in various ways. Obviously, some video elements will be used in multiple videos, such as brand intro and outro, that can include a logo, (limited) animation, audio, or other identifying marks that are consistent across all media. These are the shortest elements and should have care and thought put into. This is akin to logo / organization visual style guide in terms of colors, typography, etc.

  • Brand intro (bumper), 1 second
  • Brand outro, 1-3 seconds
  • 15 second (Instagram length)
  • 30 second (Twitter length, YouTube channel trailer length)
  • Searchable length (YouTube)
    • Short (less than 4 minutes) ~3 minutes
    • Long (more than 20 minutes) ~21 minutes
  • Shorter video for Facebook, does not support long-form like YouTube does
  • Longer the video, more engagement, so don't be afraid of long

Other Important Video Elements

  • YouTube Channel art
  • Video title, description, tags
  • Playlists (YouTube, Facebook)
  • Subscribers (YouTube), Followers (other social video accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
  • Clickable annotations (mid-reel calls-to-action), at the 30 second mark + near end)
  • Transcripts (manually edited) / Close Captioning
  • See also

Video Marketing and Video Structure

Basics include: shareability, entertainment, and information needs. The key will be to focus on information needs, that is "How do I ... "

Many people create one long video then slice and dice into smaller segments. This is backwards. The key is to create several small gems (which may be further edited down) and then piece them together for longer videos.

In addition, the idea should be a video series, akin to a content series (or chapters of a book). A single video is ok, but that won't get very far. What you want are follow-on videos targeting the same market, so that people click through, favorite / like on multiple videos, and subscribe to a channel / follow an account. This then allows you to market to them through advertising (remarketing) or follow-on video. The goal is to collect followers who like and share your content.

That said, the content needs to be informational, aspirational, and on-brand in terms of personality. It should seamlessly fit in already existing social media accounts and web pages and not be out-of-place.

Video structure

  • 3-7 second intro
  • bumper (brand intro) 1 second
  • content
    • Call to action clickable annotations (30 seconds into video and near end)
  • outro / call to action 1 second
  • brand outro 1 second

Note that even a 15 second video can have much of this structure (though for platforms besides YouTube a clickable annotation is not available).

Remarketing on Video

For Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, videos are associated with an account (or page). Facebook does allow some organization of videos into groups, but that is the extent of it. YouTube has channels which are unique collections of videos and playlists. While an organization is likely to have a single channel, the use of playlists and subscriptions to video can create excellent remarketing opportunities.

Video Advertising

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube all allow video advertising. YouTube is slightly different in that Video is being advertised on top of, whereas with the other three, video is simply the medium of advertising (as opposed to text, display, or flash advertising).

Facebook and the others allow for view-based bidding and campaign goals. YouTube can both advertise video (on the video platform) as well as advertise on video (with video or text overlay ads). Adsense is used as the platform for allowing publishers to display ads on their content and to manage that monetization.

In sum, on YouTube one can:

  • Have a video be an advertisement
  • Advertise on other people's videos
  • Advertise on one's own videos

Also, Google Analytics allows for YouTube channel data. As with adwords in general, YouTube advertising can be as focused and keyword-specific, and there is also geographical and demographical data.

Video Advertising Effectiveness

Video ads are known to be the most effective format, better than flash animation ads for increasing intent-to-purchase, including top of funnel brand awareness and bottom of funnel brand favorability. While the research is a bit old, there are scientific studies which show durable psychological effects.

However, the key is in being cost-effective, not just effective. This means an ad that is well-crafted and on-message. In order to magnify the brand effects, there needs to be some call to action that is free to perform, such as viewing other videos, downloading a pdf, visiting a website, etc.

Also, the video ad needs to be very well crafted and lead to other video viewing/liking and subscribing to your channel. It will take work to set this up, but then you will be able to leverage a place where your competitors are not doing much (yes, some competitors have more videos but they are not being advertised).

There are several video formats/uses/ads that can be combined:

  • Channel advertisement (this promotes the channel and channel subscribing), usually ~30 seconds
  • Featured video (this is promoted on all of your videos, though most recent upload could be the default, and can be the YouTube Channel advertisement)
  • Preroll/in-stream advertisement (this is optional but YouTube charges for preroll views if 30 seconds of the video has been watched (or if watched completely when < 30 seconds). Therefore it makes sense to have a 30 second video advertisement and the call to action be on the website
  • Standard in-display ads show as related videos, search results, a YouTube video overlay, or on the content network. The landing page is either the channel (if the video is the default channel ad video), or a video's own landing page.

Process for Video Production

The following process is meant to help bridge the gap between the previous sections and having video that is well-designed for SEO.

  • Identify goals for the videos (that is, if successful, what will they have achieved -- usually this is an increase in customers as well as brand awareness).
  • Identify the key selling points and product/brand differentiation vs. competition
    • This will result in a list of concrete statements, which will then be told via moving pictures
    • Examples: inexpensive/affordable, high quality (in concrete terms of quality "what"), friendly (brand personality), professional (brand personality/service quality), results-oriented, etc. And then more specific elements of the product/service being presented.
  • Once this list is compiled, then bring in the videographers/video editors for a meeting (1 hour should be sufficient). Present the list of statements and have them understand they need to convey these in visuals and ~10-20 seconds per item. Discussion should focus on what is meant by each of these statements and how to convey them visually. After the discussion the focus should move to example visuals/video that does something "like" what you want. That is, before shooting any video, there should be actual examples found (online or in other places) that do the job.
  • The second meeting should make corrections so that again, everyone is very clear what you want conveyed, and what does and does not convey effectively. If everyone agrees, then at this meeting the parameters for legality need to be gone over, including work-for-hire contracts, release forms, guidelines for audio, etc. The work that will be produced from that point forward needs to be legal, ethical, and meeting the terms of the contract.
  • Good videographers and video editors should have a shot list (which should be reviewed) and create a lot of raw content. All of this is included in the work product and belongs to the client, who should have some large backup drives or better, a new Google Drive account to store everything as it is produced. All legal documents need to be stored in the Drive including any signed documents that are scanned.
  • Initial draft of each of the elements that can be put into Instagram and Twitter-sized video (15 seconds, 30 seconds). Consider these as polished gems that are then fitted together in a larger piece of jewelry. Polished gems can then be released as they are finished, and the video editor then should work toward larger and larger groupings. Finally, one or more 3.5 minute videos should be completed, and possibly even a 21 minute video.
  • 6 @ 15 second videos + 3 @ 30 second videos = 1 @ 3.5 minute video
  • 6 @ 3.5 minute video = 1 @ 21 minute video

The point is that some elements of a story can be told in 15 seconds, some can be told in 30 seconds, and then many of these weaved together then become a standard short-length video.

Six of these short-length videos can be reworked together to reach 21 minutes in length.

Not only are video shots optimized in this process, but also editing is not a "cutting down" so much as a pairing and building up. As well, additional video can be added and removed in the future as new gems become more important or some elements might change.

Obviously each gem need not be exactly 15 seconds or 30 seconds, but these are useful targets because of the vast potential for mini-video consumption on social media (and most importantly on mobile), in particular Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

To reinforce: it is vital to have all the work product including the video elements as they are saved inside of a video editing program. That way one can make changes (to overlay text, audio, and any image/video elements) in the future. There are several standard video editors, but the best are cross-platform and open source. Blender is highly recommended, but most video editors do not have experience with this tool.

Video Compression

ffmpeg does a great job of video compression. Here is a fish shell script to compress .mp4 files from things like GoPro and Canon video cameras, even just by doing an .mp4 to .mp4 conversion.

Additional parameters around compression (speed vs. quality) available from this article on video compression with ffmpeg.

See Image / Scaling / Compression article for technical details and scripts.

What is Left to Do

After video is edited, overlay audio, text, and / or annotations are needed, as well as titles, descriptions, possibly custom thumbnails, other metadata, and the use of linking (from shared video, or within video descriptions) to website pages, and when to launch video campaigns.

In addition, running ads on top of videos, or running these videos as ads, as well as remarketing audience creation and ad management needs to take place as part of the planning effort.

Eventually I will create a checklist out of this document, which can help manage the process. Also, I have legal documents such as release forms, work-for-hire contracts, etc. These are available for clients interested in creating video and/or having SEO consulting on the effective media format.

This Document Part of a Complete Set of Style Guides