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TikTok, Reels, and Shorts: Candid’s big swing at short-form video 

  • January 24, 2023
Screenshots of videos from TikTok

By now you’ve probably heard that short-form video on social media is an important tool for reaching new and younger audiences. This is not groundbreaking news, yet many nonprofit organizations (Candid included) have hesitated to jump in for a variety of reasons. 

Despite the real and perceived challenges of creating short-form video, there are compelling and research-backed reasons to consider incorporating it into your social media strategy: 

In September 2022 (and thanks to support from our Innovation Fund, which you can learn more about in Candid CEO Ann Mei Chang’s open grant report to MacKenzie Scott), we decided to dive into creating short-form videos for social media to evaluate the potential benefits. 

The experiment: taking a big swing at short-form video for social media 

Candid’s communications and brand awareness team proposed creating 22 social media videos that were under 90 seconds in duration over a three-month period, with the caveat that staff would not be overly burdened by the tasks involved. We used our existing Instagram account, though prior to this effort, we had rarely used the Reels feature. We also opened a TikTok account

The measurements of success for our experiment included:* 

  1. Engagement (e.g., likes, views, saves, comments): 2x increase compared to static posts 
  1. Followers: 20% growth on Instagram and at least 5,000 followers on TikTok 
  1. Staff time: On-screen staff would spend less than 30 minutes recording each video, and I would spend less than 15% of working time on video editing and production, as well as social media promotion and engagement.  

*This was a big swing and therefore risky, so we set goals that we knew would be challenging to achieve.  

The results: evaluating the success of our social media video experiment 

We ran this experiment from September 26 to December 9, 2022, and collected analytics to evaluate its success on December 12, 2022. In addition to posting a total of 52 unique videos, featuring six staff members as ‘talent,’ our three measures for success had these outcomes: 

  1. Engagement: On Instagram, we saw a 92% increase; TikTok had a 72% increase when compared to static Instagram posts. 
  1. Followers: We achieved a 12% increase in Instagram followers; on TikTok, we only hit 290 followers by the end of the experimental period. 
  1. Staff time: While the average time for on-screen talent was under 30 minutes, production time was much higher, ranging from 20–30% of my time each week. 

The next steps: What does this mean for us? 

This experiment was (mostly) a success. We reached a higher level of engagement with short-form video content than static content. As a bonus, we also saw an overall boost in engagement with our social media profiles and other content types. Though we didn’t achieve as much growth as we’d hoped, our followers increased on both social media platforms.  
 
In addition, this experiment offered us an amazing opportunity to connect with existing audiences, reach new audiences on social media, and showcase a very human side of Candid. Not to mention, it was exciting to see all the positive feedback about our new video efforts. 

Another lesson learned: It takes a much higher investment in staff time than we initially thought.  As such, we aren’t going to continue to make the same level of investment in social media videos as we did during the experiment. After all, creating a daily video is a lot for us to tackle; however, producing a video or two a week is much more realistic.  

The bigger takeaways: What does this mean for your organization? 

If you’re considering trying out short-form video on social media, here are some tips based on what I learned from this experiment: 

  1. You don’t need fancy equipment. Most of our social media videos’ ‘talent’ used their own phones and a $25 ring light tripod we provided. We did purchase an unlocked WiFi-only smartphone, which was used to film some, but not all, of the videos.  
  2. You don’t have to follow trends to make good videos. Some of our top videos were just authentic conversations on topics that we knew would be valuable for our audiences. No dancing, no music or other theatrics were necessary; our fans’ favorite videos just featured a staff member with some good advice to share.  
  3. If it’s not your thing, don’t do it. Creating video content takes time, energy, and enthusiasm. Sure, it’s normal to be a little nervous and camera shy when getting started. (I still get nervous making a 15-second video, even though I’ve now made like 40 of them). But if you really dislike doing them, it will come across in your video. 
  4. If your videos don’t perform well at first, keep trying. What worked well for our experiment is that we dedicated significant effort to it — but only for a specific, short period of time. This approach gave us the information necessary to assess whether we should continue. So, if you want to try your hand at videos for social media, consider what data you’ll need to decide if the effort is worthwhile for your organization.  

Have you tried experimenting with video on social media? Have questions or obstacles you’re facing? If so, please share them in the comments!

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  • John Briggs says:

    February 2, 2023 9:55 am

    Thanks for doing the "heavy lifting" of documenting your thinking, processing and highlighting your results. This confirms what I hope will be our outcome as well. It keeps my expectations real!

  • Regina Judith Faighes says:

    January 24, 2023 11:26 am

    This is a wonderful idea! The reels and shorts present the human side of Candid and they are wonderful tools for reaching out to our younger patrons. I had a lot of fun being interviewed by Kate for a video. It's refreshing to see Candid keeping up with modern trends and using technology as a means to further our mission and to get our message across to a wider audience.
    I'm excited to see where this will lead!