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Why aren’t my videos getting any views? Engaging short-form video tips for government accounts

Apr 04, 2023

Contributed blog by Angie Ramirez, Freelance Writer at Government Social Media

Video is a powerful storytelling tool and one of the most-consumed forms of content online. Since the launch of Snapchat in 2011 and Vine in 2013, the way we watch videos has drastically changed. While videos used to be made for TV and PCs, they're now being watched on mobile devices, on the go. 

Optimizing videos for mobile is no longer an option. It's a priority. 

As government social media communicators, it's essential we recognize how videos are consumed today in order to create compelling content that meets our community where they are.

There's nothing more disappointing than working on a beautiful video that nobody sees. I've been there, and I've learned the hard way that I needed to try a different approach. 

If you're struggling to get video views on social, I've outlined my top tips for creating effective short-form videos that can help you maximize your reach, tell your agency's story and keep your community informed.

Bonus tip! Before you tap post with these tips below, get our short-form video guide for dimensions on each popular platform and more.

Create for the platform

My number one most important tip for creating engaging social media content, including video, is this: create content for the platform it will live on.

While it may be tempting to resize a long horizontal website video for a vertical format – don't do it. Some may tell you otherwise. But, in my experience, viewers can tell when you're taking shortcuts, and it feels inauthentic.

When you take a video created for another platform (like your website or cable channel) and post it on Instagram or TikTok, the style will not match the best practices of the social media platform you are posting to, and viewers can tell. Instead of creating content that blends into social media feeds, you'll end up creating content that disrupts and feels out of place.

So, what does creating for the platform mean? For starters, vertical video is key on social media. If your content is intended for Instagram Reels or TikTok, shoot vertically. 

In my experience, I've noticed that footage filmed on a smartphone performs better than footage filmed on a DSLR camera. That's because most content on social media isn't created by a professional film crew. Less "produced" videos feel more authentic and less like a sales ad.

Using each platform's built-in text, audio, captions and editing features can also help create content that feels like it belongs. 

I find that filming content specifically for social — alongside (or instead of) higher-produced content for web, cable channels and other platforms — has the biggest impact. Now, this sometimes means double-shooting or double work. But, it's worth the ROI. 

Filming video content with the social media platform in mind (instead of repurposing other footage) can sometimes be the difference between tens of thousands of views or a few dozen.

Keep it simple

Social media content doesn't need a high production value to make a big impact. Short and simple videos can convey powerful messages to tens of thousands of viewers in just a few seconds. 

You don't need high-end equipment or a full production crew every time to make compelling social media videos. All you need is some creativity and a smartphone. As a perfectionist myself, I struggle to remember that done can sometimes be better than perfect.

Posting at least one piece of short-form vertical video a day (between 6-12 seconds long) can achieve far greater results in terms of engagement, views and reach than working on a few highly-produced cinematic productions a week.

Creating short-form video content that is straight to the point and incorporates the style/best practices of the platform it lives on is the best way to get your message across. If you try to create a masterpiece every time, you'll get burnt out. Take the pressure off yourself and get the best results by keeping video content simple, short, sweet and engaging.

The first three seconds matter

Have you ever stopped to reflect on your own social media scrolling habits? Our thumbs run several marathons a year just scrolling through social media and absorbing information at a breakneck speed. 

Getting someone to slow their scroll and watch more than a few seconds of a video requires thought and skill.

Viewers are looking for valuable content that will entertain, educate or make them feel seen. If they are bored or confused in the first few seconds, they will move on. If, instead, you hook viewers with an interesting opening, they'll stick around to learn more. They may even share the video with friends or family. 

Every time you create a video, think about how the opening shot relates to the key message. One technique I like to use is to add text at the beginning of the video, like a question or a headline. This will encourage viewers to slow their scroll to read the text on the screen. 

Another strategy that helps me is to step away from the content and ask myself, "Is this something I'd like to watch on social media?" If the answer is no, then you may need to find a more compelling way to tell the story or convey the message. If you're not finding value in the content you're creating, how can you expect your community to?

Use trending audio

If your social media videos are consistently getting low views/reach, your audio may be part of the problem. Using trending sounds on Instagram and TikTok can significantly boost your content in the algorithm, leading to more views and higher engagement. It's also an easy way to create fun and engaging content that blends in with each platform and speaks to your audience. 

If your Instagram account or TikTok is verified (or if you're using a business account), you may not have access to all trending sounds due to agreements between the social network and artists to avoid copyright infringement. If you don’t, don't worry! There are still plenty of trending sounds to choose from. While you may not be able to use a Taylor Swift song, there are tons of user-generated trending audios that you can add to your content in the Instagram or TikTok app.

While switching account types may seem like an easy way around the availability issue for trending sounds, it could have legal repercussions for your agency if you violate copyright laws. Additionally, certain account types offer certain benefits. For example, an Instagram business account provides you with insights and a contact button (just to name a few special features). When switching account types, a government agency should always weigh the pros and cons carefully (and consult with your agency’s legal counsel). 

In February, TikTok announced the creation of Sounds for Business and says the “collection of custom sounds is designed as templates for easy content creation.” As explained during the most recent SocialGov Roundup for GSM professional association members, many of the prompts seem to be geared toward small businesses. TikTok’s Creative Center allows you to customize your search for trending audio and notes whether a sound has been cleared for business use.  

Using trending sounds makes your content more relatable, relevant and entertaining. While it's an unexpected approach for government accounts, it's exactly what we need as socialgovs to break through the noise and deliver important messages to our community. 

Bonus tip! Each month, Team GSM’s Ariana Donley takes a look at the latest social media trends and how government accounts could potentially incorporate them. Catch up on the latest installment of the trends series

Use captions

Always use captions. Not only do captions help make your video accessible, but they also help make your videos more engaging. 

Text helps capture viewer attention, enticing them to stop scrolling and read the text on the screen. Not to mention, some viewers may be scrolling through social media without sound. Having text can make your video more compelling, accessible and help drive home key points. 

Get creative and have fun!

Last but not least, remember to get creative and have fun! 

How lucky are we that we get to work with such exciting platforms to tell our cities', counties', agencies' stories? Government already gets a bad rap for being old-school and stiff. As socialgovs, we have an opportunity to leverage social media to make government more accessible, more relatable and more human. And, video is one of our most powerful tools to do that.

When you start getting creative and having fun, the views will come! Just stick to the best practices and see what types of video content work best for your community.

Meet the author

Angela Ramirez (Pitts)

Freelance Writer - Government Social Media LLC

Angela Ramirez (Pitts) is the Communications Strategist for the City of Tampa. Her primary responsibilities include managing the City’s social media profiles and assisting the Marketing & Communications department with all external communication needs. Angela helped grow the City’s Instagram profile from less than 1k followers to over 100k in 5 years. She also helped the City of Tampa become one of the first municipalities to join TikTok. Her work in social media has been featured by national outlets, including CNN Politics and Smart Cities Drive.

Best communicate with the public you serve and get connected with fellow socialgovs by registering for the 2023 Government Social Media Conference happening in Reno-Tahoe, Nevada! Join our free network for bi-weekly Government Social Media Chats or professional association for member-only webinars. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on training, events and more.

We support the largest network of government social media professionals in the U.S. by guiding government agencies through complex social media issues. Government Social Media helps you successfully communicate with the public you serve, protect your agency and keep public trust while finding your support community. 


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