Social-First Video Guidelines

Video continues to be one of the best ways to engage an audience on social media. As a manager for your school, department, hospital or practice’s social media channels, you are encouraged to produce multimedia in a way that is optimized for each individual social platform. You don’t need a high-quality HD camera to do this. With the right knowledge, equipment and software, you can produce engaging, on-brand videos that resonate with your social media followers. While videos produced for the website can, of course, be repurposed for social media, the videos that will perform best on social are those that are produced using a social-first approach. Below is a set of guidelines and best practices to set you up for success. If you have any questions about producing video for your area’s social media channels, please contact Carley Weinstein at


Mobile Device- A newer-generation iPhone is best for photo/video, and if your phone has “cinematic,” we highly recommend shooting in this mode as it will keep your subject in focus and lightly blur the background, ultimately adding a higher-definition look/feel to your videos.

Tripod + Light- You want to make sure you are shooting steady, so a tripod (any tripod) is your best bet for a solid shot. You also want to make sure you have good lighting. A ring light with various levels of brightness is ideal so you can adjust based on where you are shooting. It is very important to note that you do not want to shoot with a window behind your main subject. Even with additional lighting, this could make the lighting around your subject very dark. If shooting outside, avoid very sunny days as this can cause unwanted shadows and/or your subject to squint. Overcast is typically best for shooting outside.

Microphone- Whether it’s a wired or wireless lavalier or a boom mic, you will want to make sure the people speaking in your videos are using a microphone. This will guarantee crisp audio and also tune out any background noise, white noise or wind. This will also make editing your video a lot easier, limiting the need for noise reduction, which could get very complicated and compromise your primary audio. If you are using a wired mic, be sure to hide the wire under your subject’s clothing. The microphone, however, should be outside of any clothing, and you should avoid having the tip of the mic touching anything, including hair. Be mindful of any jewelry your subject may be wearing, as well, because if they move too much and cause the jewelry to jingle, the mic will most likely pick up that noise.


Length- The shorter, the better. If you do not capture the attention of your audience almost immediately, they will keep scrolling. And if you hook them, you’ll want to make sure you keep their attention. The longer the video, the lower the retention. This is particularly important for Instagram Reels. Aim for 30 seconds to one minute across platforms. Some will, of course, need to be longer than others, but you should always aim for as brief and engaging as possible.

Open/Close- The branded opening/closing slides provided by the Department of Marketing and Communications are primarily meant for video that is posted to YouTube and the website. Social media videos typically perform best without the presence of logos. However, this does not mean that branding should be thrown out the window. When possible, you should still follow brand guidelines, which can be found here.

Style of Shooting- While you may be used to seeing more formal, direct-to-camera/interview-style video on the website, informal/casual/organic video performs best on social media. This can mean selfie-mode, shooting in a setting other than a studio with a backdrop (office, outside, etc.), no lower thirds, no script/teleprompter, and/or shooting real-time or behind-the-scenes footage at events. It’s also highly encouraged to capitalize on trends. For example, creating a video that uses a trending sound or particular style of editing. Examples can be found further on in this guide.

Orientation/Sizing- Social media is mainly accessed via mobile devices. This means that shooting video in the vertical orientation (1080 x 1920) is typically best for social-first video. If you need the video to be repurposed for the website and can only shoot once, you can also film horizontally (1920 x 1080) with your subject far enough from the camera and with enough space above, below and on either side of them. This will allow for you to crop/zoom in post-production, so you can size/format your video for various platforms.

Customizing for Every Audience and Platform- Every audience is different, and every platform optimizes video differently. So, while it may be easier to produce one video and post on every platform, it is highly recommended that you customize for each platform, even if the differences are minor. For example, you may have a video on Facebook that does not have burned-in captions (captions added to the video during the editing process). You will want to make sure you add captions to the same video on Instagram, but be sure to use the in-app captions feature instead of adding captions prior to uploading. Another example is if your audience is more laid back on Instagram but more formal on Facebook. In this case, you may want to consider filming twice- one for each platform in slightly different styles to fit your audience.

Posting Video- Your videos will have the best chance at success when you upload them natively to your social platforms. This means avoid linking out to YouTube or another platform and instead upload your video directly to a social post, where your video will play right in the social media feed where you are posting to. This is yet another approach that social media platforms prioritize.


While social media platforms prioritize (grant more reach) to videos that are shot in-app and use in-app editing features, such as captions on Instagram Reels or green screen on TikTok, you can also edit your videos using software like Adobe Rush or Adobe Premiere.

Do not use copyright-protected music in your videos unless it is available to you in the app you are publishing to. For copyright-free music, please reach out to Carley Weinstein at

As previously mentioned, straight-to-camera video is not great for social media. However, if this is unavoidable, adding b-roll (images or videos to cover/act as an overlay) to parts of your video can help to make your video(s) more engaging. This will prevent your video from simply being a talking head and increase your chances for higher retention.


Always ensure captions can be accessed for your videos posted to social media. While Facebook and Instagram do have auto-generated captioning available, if you choose to rely on this, it’s imperative that you proof the captions to ensure spelling is accurate. For Instagram, it is still highly-encouraged to use the platform’s in-app captioning feature. Again, it is important to proof/edit the captions for accuracy. Twitter does not currently have auto-generated captioning available. For platforms like this, either add captions manually in the editing process or use a paid service like to generate burned-in captions. In many cases, you can also upload a time-stamped transcript when posting your video, which is another option for adding captions to your videos. Not only is accessibility important for the sake of your content being accessible to all, but this will also increase the chances of your videos being watched. Many people scroll through social media in public, and oftentimes they will scroll right passed a video if they don’t want the sound to play in front of others. If you have captions and your videos are easily digestible without sound, more people will keep watching.


Always secure signed consents for your videos. Consent forms can be found here.


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