The secret to great video production is great pre-production: this is true whether your end platform is social media or the silver screen. So how exactly do you make preparations for online video content?

Anticipate the shortcomings. Christina Newberry penned a piece worth reading about the role of silence in social media video and highlighted the need to optimise your videos in response. For example, users have the choice to turn autoplay sound on or off in Facebook Settings, so some won’t even hear your content in the first place - but those who do ought not be deterred by it. Strategically, it makes sense to create video that works with or without audio. Here are some ways to do it:

Write a script

Scripts are integral to film-making. For social media video, include caption-ready quotes so that any text you choose to overlay does not clash with your dialogue. Confusing, bombarding or distracting viewers will likely cause them to tune out. Writing a script also helps structurally; such foresight enables you to identify areas that can benefit from graphics/text and frame your shots accordingly. This will make life in post much easier.

Consider adding text

Text is the natural substitution for sound, particularly in video that contains speech. It can come in the form of text overlays, lower thirds, graphics or presentation slides. Short snippets attract the eye and give an easy prompt as to what to tag or say if somebody wants to share your content. For those of you who do not have access to video editing software, you might consider using Facebook’s automated captions tool. It will overlay captions for you and generate a preview, ready for review. You can also manually upload your own captions using an .srt file (basic subtitle format).

Facebook’s internal testing showed that captioned video ads were watched an average of 12 percent longer than un-captioned ads. So go ahead and provide your viewers with that extra talking point.

Create high-quality visuals

Powerful imagery increases viewership. If you can, colour grade your work; it makes a tremendous difference to the overall feel of a video and can easily imply things about the tone, merit and intent of your piece - without anybody having to press play. 

Decide the focal points of your film early on and think about how they will appear in relation to your overlays. For example, do you really want to shoot against dark backgrounds if your brand wants to use dark graphics/font colours?

Gimmicks can also be quite eye-catching: timelapse video is one fun and affordable shortcut to cinematic visuals.

Don't forget thumbnails

Consumers have enormous visual intelligence. Thumbnails are more than a preview: they represent your video, and for the unengaged it'll be the only thing that gets seen. Facebook research shows people respond best to ads with minimal text on the initial image. Using an image that stands out from the crowd and accurately communicates the content of your video will attract people to watch, so choose yours carefully. 

Add music or sound effects

Don’t neglect the people who are actively trying to listen to you! Reward them with a soundtrack worth tuning in for. Just try not to blast from the start - use your visuals to draw people in. Research has shown that the majority of videos on Facebook are watched without sound, and 80% of people will react negatively to mobile ads that interrupt them in a loud and unexpected way. This is certainly true of me, and probably true of you.

Your audience engages with video at higher rates than any other type of content, and that popularity can be achieved with the volume up or down.