Square Video: The Right Angle for Social Media

Is square video the best shape for social media content?

Attracting an audience on social media is always a challenge and it turns out that size matters in the race for eye-catching, attention grabbing videos!

Vertical Viewing

Mobile viewing of posts and videos is a part of everyone’s daily routines. Data collected by The MOVR (Mobile Overview Report) found that we naturally hold our phones portrait for over 90% of the time. Now unless something really catches their eye, viewers may not turn their phones landscape to watch a video full screen. So how do you get them to watch your marketing video? Think square! 

Size Matters

Square videos display much larger in a social feed with a staggering 78% more screen space than a traditional 16:9 landscape video. It’s no surprise that square videos appear to perform better too. Research conducted by Buffer and Animato found that, regardless of the content, the shape of the video had a huge impact:

“Square videos outperformed landscape video on each social media network in terms of video views, engagement (likes, comments, and shares), and completion rate (%). In some cases, square video resulted in 30-35% higher video views and an 80-100% increase in engagement.”

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest all display square videos. YouTube still favours the traditional landscape format, but is currently developing a dynamic video player for its mobile app which automatically adjusts size.

square video

What About Vertical Video?

Sounds like a no-brainer, but there are others who argue that vertical videos are better still at capturing audience attention. This is essentially standard widescreen video flipped on its side, tall and thin with 9:16 aspect ratio, providing a full screen of video imagery and no letterboxing (black stripes at the top or bottom.) Most social channels now support vertical content, but sizes vary.

Snapchat championed vertical video content and made it popular, particularly with the under 24s. Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories have all popped up in hot pursuit of the popular vertical video model. The only downside for the video marketer is that video ads must be a snappy 15 seconds or less.

Silence is Golden

According to multiple publishers, as much as 85% of videos are viewed without sound. Both square and vertical videos have extra space for the captions, subtitles and text overlays needed to tell the silent story. You’ll also get more engagement with your viewers too, as Facebook’s own internal testing had shown that videos with captions are watched for longer.

Dare to Go Square?

So, when you’re commissioning a video, yet another element to think about is whether it should be horizontal, square or vertical!  And this must be part of the thinking before the production starts, because if a video is shot in horizontal format and then cropped to square, the composition of the shot is likely to be compromised. And don’t even think about whether your horizontal footage could be turned into a vertical video!

We advocate a versatile approach. With careful planning at the storyboard and filming stage, video outputs in any two of the three formats can be created from the same footage… which means more outputs for more platforms for the same (or pretty much the same) cost!

Get experimenting and see what works for your audience. But whatever shape and size you opt for, here are a few tips on:

How to Survive the Social Scroll

1/ Keep it brief
Attention spans are short… so keep it brief, particularly if key info and a call to action is at the end.  Alternatively make your point and CTA early on!

2/ Engage your Audience
Make them laugh… make them cry.  Create memorable content that resonates with your audience emotionally.

3/ Make it Move
Exciting, fast-paced imagery that catches your viewers’ attention.

4/ Plan for Silence
Integrate text and graphics into your video to tell the whole story to those who watch in silence.

MOVR (Mobile Overview Report)
Buffer and Animato Research
Vertical video stats
Silent World of Video
Facebook captions
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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Great post – creating shots that can be manipulated into a variety of different frames is a great way to ensure you always have footage tailored to each individual social channel you share it on!


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