Vertical Video vs. Horizontal Video: Which Should I Use?

Video on social has historically been horizontal, with dimensions longer than they are tall so you get that wide, TV-like view, even though you’re watching it on a computer screen, tablet, or phone. Just because something has always been one way, however, doesn’t mean it should stay that way.

With mobile usage surpassing desktop usage, it’s essential to incorporate more vertical video into the mix, which is inherently mobile-friendly. That being said, horizontal video shouldn’t be left entirely out of the mix.

Finding the right balance can be difficult, so let’s take a look at all the data to help you make a decision in the vertical video vs. horizontal video and know when to use each one.

Vertical Video vs. Horizontal Video: Why It Matters 

Horizontal video– which often has the aspect ratio of 1.9:1– is designed to look a little like a TV screen. When online video first came out, it only makes sense that this was the chosen format, resembling the form of video we were most used to consuming.

Horizontal video, of course, has an easy-to-see appeal; you can take in plenty of background with these videos, giving you that wide-screen view we’re accustomed to, so of course while YouTube was first, other social channels rolled out horizontal-oriented video platforms.

Mobile changed that, however, and in a big way. More than half of all video is currently watched on mobile, and for some social platforms it’s all about mobile consumption. On Twitter, for example, more than 90% of the site’s video views are happening on mobile. More users are now watching mobile video than they are conventional TV, so everything is clearly starting to shift. 

horizontal vs. vertical video

And vertical video, of course, is the way to go for mobile. When users expand a video, the video will automatically stretch to fill the screen, which demands a user’s full attention and makes the video on this tiny screen as big as possible. This happens without users having to tilt their phone to get the video to scale to the size of the screen, which is the case with horizontal video.
This is important: Smartphone users actually hold their phone vertically about 94% of the time and less than 30% will actually turn their phones to watch a horizontal ad on mobile, which has led to 90% of vertical videos having higher completion rates than vertical videos. At a point where social platforms are completely oversaturated, you need to do everything you can to keep users engaged.

Is Mobile Everything?

Mobile obviously accounts for a lot. We even now have some social media features that have started as mobile-only before expanding to desktop, including lead ads, Pinterest video, and Stories. We even have some channels that are entirely mobile-only platforms like Snapchat. 

Mobile video, therefore, must be a priority, which makes vertical a priority. The vast majority of the time, it’ll will benefit you more to prioritize vertical video. 

With this in mind, it’s still important to acknowledge that other video formats (including both square and horizontal) still have a strong place in marketing. Let’s take a closer look at when you should use each one.

When to Use Vertical Video

Relying heavily on vertical video is a pretty great choice, so this will be a short section, because the answer to “when to use vertical video” is “most of the time.”

Vertical video should always be used in the following cases:

  • Stories and Stories Ads
  • Mobile-oriented ad campaigns
  • Snapchat content 

Vertical video should make up a chunk of the following video content:

  • Native video for most social platforms, including Facebook and Instagram

Mobile ad campaigns (especially with the new Facebook mobile media compression)

When to Use Horizontal Video 

Horizontal video is going to benefit you on certain platforms, including Twitter (where vertical isn’t an option) and on YouTube, where users are willing to hunker down and watch more long-form videos. Keep in mind that the entire point of YouTube is to watch videos, not necessarily browse, so users are much more invested here. 

Square video (which isn’t truly horizontal but isn’t full-screen vertical either) is important, too. It’s a key part of carousel ads and multi-image ad campaigns, which both have higher-than-average campaign performance. 

Utilizing horizontal video when you need to show more of the landscape is also going to be a good call, and some tutorials and how-to may mandate this. Imagine trying to watch a video touring a beautiful resort or one that’s demonstrating how to do a full-body core plank on mobile; it’s much harder to fit everything you need on the screen, so this is something to keep in mind. You should prioritize mobile, but you definitely shouldn’t eliminate horizontal, either. 

Fortunately, with scalable video ad campaign tools like Shakr, you don’t need to choose either or. You can use our extensive library of video templates to quickly drop in images and video clips to create massive amounts of video campaigns quickly in a number of different aspect ratios and video formats. This will be essential because just one type of video isn’t enough anymore.

Final Thoughts 

In the debate of vertical video vs. horizontal video, it really isn’t a “which should I use” as much as some people believe. A better question to ask is “which should I use when?” Vertical video has become increasingly prevalent with the extreme popularity of mobile usage, but it’s still a good call to incorporate horizontal and square video into your overall campaigns for certain content. 

This isn’t a bad thing; diversity in your content is important because brands need massive amounts of content for both organic and video campaigns, so using a variety of content optimized for each individual platform is the way to go.

Ana Gotter is a business writer specializing in social media and content marketing, though she writes on a variety of other niches and subjects. She can be contacted at anagotter.com.