Essential Checklist for Professional Social Media Videos

I had the opportunity to work with really talented videographers on a daily basis in my past life as a television news reporter. They are the hidden heroes of any newsroom. From behind the camera, they capture the images and sounds that make a story great.

I learned a lot from these folks during my news career — many of them Emmy-award winning veterans of the business. I’ve carried their lessons with me into my role as a marketer. It’s an incredibly handy skill set to have while capturing and editing video for social media.

Video is an essential part of any social media strategy these days. (That means more than just maintaining a YouTube channel.) Strategically implementing video across your network of social platforms will increase your reach and engagement. Sites such as Facebook reward you for video uploads. Facebook’s magic behind-the-scenes algorithm makes sure more people see your video if you post it natively — meaning you use Facebook to upload the video rather than copying and pasting a YouTube link.

According to Advertising Age, in 2015, people around the world posted 75% more videos to Facebook than they did a year ago. The number was even larger in the U.S. where people are posting 94% more videos to the social network. And get this: More than 3 billion videos are viewed on Facebook every day. Yes. That’s billion with a B.

It shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Almost everyone, even your grandma, has a camera phone these days. But how can you rise above those low quality, shaky, barely audible, vertical videos of your Granny’s cats? Use this checklist to add a level of professionalism to your social media videos.

1. Use a good camera.
The average camera used by local TV news videographers typically costs more than $10,000. Your library budget most likely doesn’t have room for that. Which is fine. You don’t need a top-of-the-line, professional level video camera to shoot professional social media video. For most of your social media video needs, your camera phone will work. Of course, the newer the phone, the better the video quality will be. If your library already has a DSLR camera for photography, it most likely also has a video option. That works great too and is even used by many commercial videographers.

2. Get a tripod.
Invest in a tripod if at all possible. This will keep your video steady and level and will almost instantly put you above the Average Joe. Tripods come in a variety of makes and models and price levels. I’d suggest shopping around on Amazon for something that matches your budget and needs. There are even lots of tripods and similar accessories for camera phones.

3. Invest in a mic.
How often do you click a video on social media and you can hardly hear what anyone is saying? Or there is tons of background noise that drowns everything out. It’s sloppy and you shouldn’t settle for it as standard. Invest in a microphone. I would argue this is more important than anything else you could buy for your camera. If at all possible, get a lavalier mic — the kind that clips onto your subject’s shirt. You can easily hide the mic wire and it picks up great sound for interviews or lectures. There are even mics made specially for camera phones. Get one.

4. Consider lighting options.
In professional videography and photography, the standard is typically a three-light shoot. Set up such as this:


If you have the money to buy a simple light kit, do it. However, you mostly likely can survive without lights if you shoot smart. A few quick lighting tips:

  • Don’t shoot someone sitting or standing in front of a window. It will look terrible.
  • The main source of light should never be directly behind your subject. It’s best if it’s directly behind you, facing the subject.
  • If you’re outdoors, or have a decent natural light source indoors, you can brighten your subject with a reflector rather than an entire light set. You can buy one, or there’s this blog on how to make your own.
  • Be conscious of shadows. They won’t flatter your subject. Use your reflector or an extra light (even a regular lamp) to fill in for shadows.

5. Learn the “Rule of Thirds.”
Watch almost any TV news interview and you’ll see this rule at play. What it means is your subject should be “framed” or positioned so he or she is either left or right of center. Like this:

Source: shutterfly
Source: shutterfly

Ideally, the left or right vertical on this diagram should split the face of your subject right down the center. Your subject should also be looking to one side of the camera, not directly at it. You can help by standing next to the camera (out of frame) and asking the person to look and talk to you. This instantly makes your video standout.

6. Shoot for your platform.
Vertical videos on Facebook look terrible. Your screen is meant for horizontal video. If you’re using a camera phone to record your video, or even take a photo, always hold it horizontally. This will make sure the end product fills the screen.


Almost always this works better. Snapchat is one exception. It is currently built to feature vertical video. Horizontal video on Snapchat will force your users to rotate their phones to see it properly. Annoying.

7. Use a decent editing software.
Lastly, you’ve gathered all of your super-professional video and now you’re ready to put it all together. One great resource for beginners is Apple’s iMovie app. It’s available for a few bucks in the Apple Store and it is perfect for editing video on your phone. (My wife, who is also in marketing, recently brought this to my attention after mastering the app in just a few hours of toying around with it.) If you’re looking for something professional for your desktop, Adobe Premiere is what I use and like best. There are tons of YouTube tutorials available too for those just learning. (Stay tuned for a future blog post on video editing tips.)

In the meantime, enjoy adding a new level of professionalism to your videos which will help increase your results on social media. 3…2…1…Action!

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Learn more about the author.

Opinions are my own. This post does not necessarily reflect the views of my past or present employers.


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