CK Insights

April 14, 2016

Hip to be Square

Michael Katz

There’s no doubt you’ve seen them in your Facebook newsfeed. Mesmerizing, overhead footage of food being prepared to perfection. Videos of food that look so delicious you’re compelled to watch them multiple times so you can make the dishes yourself.

 

Since Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel hit the scene in July of 2015, there has been an onslaught of recipe-based videos filling our newsfeeds. Everywhere you look, there are eggs being cracked, spices being sprinkled and a whole lot of mixing. A new genre of video has emerged that won’t be going away anytime soon.

 

While I could write a whole post on the recipe revolution, my focus here is on why these types of videos are catching fire, with many others following Buzzfeed’s recipe for success.

 

There’s no doubt you’ve seen them in your Facebook newsfeed. Mesmerizing, overhead footage of food being prepared to perfection. Videos of food that look so delicious you’re compelled to watch them multiple times so you can make the dishes yourself.

 

Since Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel hit the scene in July of 2015, there has been an onslaught of recipe-based videos filling our newsfeeds. Everywhere you look, there are eggs being cracked, spices being sprinkled and a whole lot of mixing. A new genre of video has emerged that won’t be going away anytime soon.

 

While I could write a whole post on the recipe revolution, my focus here is on why these types of videos are catching fire, with many others following Buzzfeed’s recipe for success.

 

Full Plate

 

It’s been a long time since the advent of high definition video and it’s 16 x 9 (widescreen) aspect ratio. As a video producer, this is how I’ve been conditioned to shoot, edit and deliver my video for all mediums, including social media. So, why are Tasty videos, gulp, square?

 

The answer is quite simple. Facebook made them do it.

 

Facebook currently displays uploaded video two ways within the feed: square or widescreen. (I’ll omit vertical video for now since it gets cropped or squeezed within the square, making for a less than ideal viewing experience.) The below image shows the variations (square & widescreen) side-by-side.

 

As you can see, square videos take up almost twice as much real estate as their widescreen counterparts. There is a clear advantage to having your moving images displayed in the maximum space allotted. More space helps videos stand out amongst the adorable pictures of babies and pets and all the other items competing for your attention. It also takes more time to scroll past it, giving the viewer additional time to take in the story – even if they don’t want to.

 

Take Out

 

So we now know that square video is perfect if you’re watching on a computer, but what if, like the majority of people, you’re viewing on a mobile device? Good news: square video is optimized for mobile viewing too.

 

Have you ever clicked on a widescreen Facebook video on your phone? It’s tiny, forcing you to do the unthinkable…rotate your phone. Now you’re stuck awkwardly holding your phone sideways just so you can enjoy the trailer for the next season of Game of Thrones.

Square video, on the other hand, fills up most of the screen and allows you to continue holding the phone vertically, as God intended. Phew, crisis averted!

Portion Control

 

I know what you’re thinking. We get it, square videos are super awesome and optimized for Facebook, but that can’t be the only reason they’re popular. Well, you’re right.

 

Another reason Tasty-style videos have taken off is because they’re short. A majority of them are at or under the one minute mark, which makes them easily consumed and digested. They’re also bite-sized enough to share with others – knowing you’re not wasting too much of their time.

 

Silent Dining

 

Since the introduction of Facebook’s auto-play feature, we’ve grown accustomed to having our videos play automatically as we scroll past them. It’s also forced us to watch videos that are completely devoid of sound, something that was almost unheard of in the past.

 

Viral sites such as Buzzfeed and Tip Hero have taken full advantage of this feature by creating content that uses interesting visuals and titles to tell the whole story. The background music in this case is just the icing on the cake.

 

Still not convinced Tasty-style video is the way to go on Facebook? Consider this – According to Newswhip’s Spike, a real-time social media monitoring system, within the last week of writing this article, eight of the top ten shared videos on Facebook were square. Seven of them didn’t need sound for context, including the non-recipe based ones. Finally, the average length of the top ten shared videos was 45 seconds.

 

But what if you have widescreen video that can’t be cropped into a square? Not to worry, just fit the widescreen video in a square and put eye-catching titles in the black bars above and below like this guy.

 

So there you have it. The top reasons Tasty-style videos have taken over your Facebook feed. Now that you know the “secrets” that make them so popular, maybe it’s time to rethink how your videos can be optimized for better Facebook engagement.


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