How Dropbox, Wistia and Tracksmith Create “Snackable” Videos

For brilliant video creators, time has never limited creativity.

Look at Vine. Vine’s 6-second limit and looping feature created a format people thrived in. Its users experimented with physical comedy, stop-motion effects, daring stunts, animation, and music. True Viners maxed out every moment. Their efforts paid off. The most popular videos racked up billions of views, and its stars went on to sign lucrative contracts with brands, talent agencies, music studios, and entertainment companies.

Vine proved that shortform video can be infinitely watchable. Short videos can entertain, inform, and inspire as well as (and often better than) longform counterparts.

“Snackable” is a buzzword that has come to embody short form video, blogs, and social media posts. This term sounds silly and runs the risk of being misinterpreted. Good snackable content is not:

  • “The junk food” of media – addictive and unsatisfying
  • Condescending
  • Superficial

Instead, snackable content should be:

  • Quickly consumable – whether it’s 5 seconds or 2 minutes, it needs to be short enough to cater to platform rules, mobile usage, and attention spans
  • Substantive – should be of high quality and value to the viewer
  • Inspiring – should make people feel something

Thinking about this framework can help you make your marketing videos a treat to watch. Let’s break down the characteristics of successful snackable content.

Be quickly consumable

A snack is not a meal, so it should be easy to consume quickly. Snacks offer a chance to reenergize between work tasks, classes, or taking care of kids. Snackable videos are instantly engaging and don’t ask for too much of a viewer’s time or attention.

The shrinking human attention span may be a myth, but there is still fierce competition for attention on the internet. Social media platforms are designed to aggregate content from various sources in realtime, rather than present a single viewpoint, channel, or show at a time (as TV used to do). In a feed full of tempting tidbits, you can’t expect people to linger, pause, or rewind. And it should come as no surprise that most people now watch videos on mobile while on-the-go and away from a more comfortable viewing environment.

Perhaps to make room for more ads, social media platforms have tried to make short videos a rule. Snapchat and Instagram have put caps on video length (15 and 60 seconds, respectively), so that individual users and advertisers have to make short videos. But in many cases, these caps aren’t necessary. A Facebook video can be up to 240 minutes in length, but most publishers tend to upload video between 60 and 90 seconds long.

Shorter videos are more effective at captivating audiences. A study of over half a million videos by Wistia shows that video engagement drops off significantly after two minutes. With each second added, you lose people’s attention, until the curve evens out at around six minutes. After 12 minutes, viewership continues to decline steadily.

Consider this in terms of ROI. The engagement of a ten minute-long video is roughly the same of one double its length, but takes a lot longer to prep, write, film, edit, and produce. A video that’s just 1-2 minutes, on the other hand, takes a fraction of the time to prep, write, film, edit and produce – and garners almost 50% more engagement. The best way to learn about what captivates your target audience is to show them short video clips that have a run time of less than two minutes. This way you can test out new concepts at a faster and cheaper rate.

When planning short marketing videos for social, think about how to cut your ideas into bite-size parcels. Here are a few ideas:

  • For product videos, focus on a single feature or use case that’s easy to grasp visually
  • For testimonials, use text as shorthand for intros and to point to important quotes
  • For action videos, speed up footage or use stop-motion to pack in as much movement as possible

When you plan around a short time frame, you can fit a helpful, intriguing or informative video into the most divided attention spans. In a busy environment full of distractions, a short video is a low-commitment option that will tide viewers over until they decide to explore further.

Be substantive

Just because a video is snackable, does not mean it needs to be cheap or lazy.

The Very Herby Grain Salad airplane snack from Bon Appetit—built to be consumed mid-flight.

Homemade snacks can be nutritious and tasty. They shouldn’t weigh you down, but they also shouldn’t be made of fluff. They should be substantive.

Your videos, similarly, don’t need to be expensive—or highly-produced. But they do need to be high-quality. You only have a few seconds to wow people before they move on, so you might as well pull out all the stops.

For New Year’s 2018, Tracksmith, a running apparel company, which espouses the motto “No days off,” posted a video to Instagram that was a departure from their monochrome, competition-oriented content.

The video is a love letter to their core audience of serious runners. It is an invitation to take a day off, pat yourself on the back, and reflect on the successes of the past year. It got 4.7K views and 13 comments, higher than most content on the page.

Tracksmith’s wide angle video is simple, but highly professional. There’s no soundtrack other than heavy breathing that crescendos as the runners reach the top of a hill. There’s a text overlay at the beginning and end. The camera cuts to various scenes in the forest until the running stops. The whole thing comes in at around 54 seconds.

Edits like these are easy to make within minutes in Shakr. Using the Sports Ad template, you can create a similar reflective mood, add your own text and athlete footage, and voilá.

If you are trying to communicate a message with substance, the right professional touches can help you nail the mood, tone, pacing and more. The packaging should be as creative and sincere as the message. If you’re serving nutritional goodness, why put it in a fast food box? When you go the extra mile to make a good impression, people will respond in kind.

Be inspiring

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, good snacks elevate your mood. People often don’t reach for a treat because they’re hungry, but because they need a mental boost. The best snacks, like almonds, actively raise dopamine levels. Snackable video should make viewers feel something. It can inspire emotion through colors, captions, music, humor, and more.

In 2017 Dropbox took an abrupt departure from their minimalist brand style and released an epic ad campaign exploding with color. This one-minute video was part recruiting project, part modern art experiment. “The world needs your creative energy,” it declared confidently.

The campaign was polarizing to some, but received mostly positive feedback.

The video’s key term was energy, and the video reflected that. It moved rapidly, making it hard for the viewer to keep up. It used caption cards to draw connections between seemingly disparate topics. After a few moments of relentless provocation, the free associations begin to make sense.

Avant-garde art and file sharing? Virtual reality and storage? Perhaps creative energy is contained in the units in which people keep and carry ideas, projects, and other objects of self-expression – the files themselves. Even if you don’t completely buy the message, the pure beauty of the footage makes you want to go out and make some art – and then store it in Dropbox.

A few tactics marketers can use to inspire emotion in viewers:

  • Use color and light to set a mood – red can be passion or anger; blue can be calming; yellow can be cheerful
  • Create relatable characters – use actors that look like your target audience, and encourage them to adopt familiar emotional cues, such as facial expressions and body language
  • Write captions for emphasis – captions can be straight translations, sentimental grace notes, wry non sequiturs, or even in-jokes
  • Drive people to act with FOMO – a little fear, such as the idea that a deal will run out, or that everybody bought something you don’t have, drives people towards well-placed calls to action
  • Use music to enhance storytelling, build momentum and add tension – classical can connote luxury or sadness; electronic can evoke advanced technology; dance pop can be energizing and young; a well placed snare can scare and surprise

By understanding the basic psychology behind effective video elements, you can start to see the many different ways to build an emotional connection between viewers and your brand.

Remix the recipe

When it comes to snackable video content, there’s no single recipe that works. If there’s one takeaway from the tips above, it’s that shortcuts don’t translate into effective video content. You have to do more with less. You have to be particularly industrious to stand out in a crowded field of other publishers and content creators, and to capture the attention of busy and distracted social media users.

The limitations of short form video offer just as many opportunities, though. You get to experiment and test often, and learn faster from failures and success. You can reach loads of people through social media who wouldn’t discover your product otherwise. And you can watch several examples of successful videos for inspiration.

If you’re looking for a place to start, Shakr’s gallery has tons of templates to help you cook up something great.

Head of growth at Shakr.

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