Stop blaming your bad ideas on data

Whatever you do — don’t let your Facebook video run longer than 15 seconds — that’s what the data tells us. Also plan for people to watch without sound so be sure and add subtitles. And while you’re at it be sure and smash as much of the important information in those opening few seconds because analytics show most people are going to scroll past your video pretty quick.

There….now your video will be a success.

So many people approach content in this clinical, antiseptic way — reverse engineering their ideas to fit with the popular theories on what drives impressions. What they miss is that this same formula helps perpetuate the cycle of middling content and keeps this data accurate.

Of course people flip past that content quickly — it’s bad. Of course they stop watching after 15 seconds — you’ve given them no reason to stay. It’s time we all stop blaming our bad ideas and worse creative on what analytics are telling us.

So analytics are pointless and stupid?

This doesn’t that mean you should ignore the data and information you’re getting. Of course not — but like any tool, it’s only as powerful as the person wielding it. Your analytics can be a wealth of insights when you know what you’re looking for. But applying a massive generalization to your audience, content, brand and approach is ultimately going to do more harm than good.

When I see stats telling me the optimal length for a Facebook video, I take that to mean keep your video short, sweet and to the point. Unless you have a really good idea and feel like you need more time. There are plenty of videos on Facebook that go far longer than 15 seconds. It happens that people get restless after about 13 or 14 seconds if your message is boring.

Solution — be more creative, engaging and care a little more about what your fans are interested in.

Remember these three basic questions:

  • Why should anyone care?
    Your brand is authentic and original, and blah blah blah. But seriously, why do people care about your brand and more importantly why would they care about this particular piece of content? What’s their way in and what’s the value for them?
  • What would you like the audience to do?
    There should be a reaction you’re aiming to elicit. Something as simple as joy or as precise as a sale. Either way, you should know.
  • What does success look like?
    Are you looking to garner a specific metric at the end of this? Are you aiming for engagement or impressions (ugh) or clicks or shares? Ultimately your idea should be engineered to garner that result.

Best practices are a guide — something to steer your hand and help you make decisions. But ultimately it’s up to you to break those rules. If something is hilarious, griping, emotional or intriguing it doesn’t matter if it’s 15 seconds or 15 minutes, people will stay. The second you start self editing good ideas to fit a prescriptive “best practice” you’ll almost always going to end up with watered down results.

This post originally appeared on the East End Digital blog.

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