FACE TIPS: Facebook have just posted a ‘how to’ guide to make videos that will get seen and it’s really handy


Tucked away on a corner of Facebook is a newly-published blog post about what makes a decent video on the platform. It’s well worth a look.

Often social platforms will hide and leave it to guess work and experimentation as to what works on the platform. That’s fine if you have the time and resources to test. Not so if you haven’t. You can read the full post here.

What’s absolutely clear…

Three minute videos for Facebook… and with a storyline

Facebook are really keen on you making and posting three minute video. That comes as a surprise after years of pushing really short and snappy 15-second content.

The reason for this is that they’d like to put ads part-way through videos that you’re watching.

As Facebook’s post says:

Make longer videos that engage people and inspire them to watch to the end. Research has shown us that people on Facebook find value in longer videos that have a storyline. We prioritise longer videos (three minutes or more) that inspire people to continue watching. So make sure that you plan your video’s opening, build-up, tension, pacing and payoff in ways that will catch a viewer’s attention and hold it until the end.


This is really interesting. I can see from a business perspective why they’d like to make more money from ads. But aren’t people used to watching short snippets on Facebook and scrolling onto the next? I’d say so. But on YouTube people are happy to be served video after video that are longer. The gamble for Facebook is that will be replicated on their platform, too.

They’ve created a new platform for posting video to Facebook

Facebook Admanager is a really good Facebook platform for creating and managing ads.

By the looks of things Facebook have created a platform for video to allow you to keep better tabs and have better insights on what you are posting.  Facebook Creater Studio is that new tool  to help you understand how long people are watching.

They want your video to be original and not re-posted

Facebook would like original videos, please.

That would appear to have really put the kybosh on stock video libraries where you can download footage. That’s not such a bad idea, to be absolutely honest. Often these stock libraries are as original as a stock image.

They’re also keen on stories, plotline and narrative arcs.

You can help give your Page a better originality signal by sharing videos that you wrote, shot, edited and published yourself or with the support of a production partner. The best way to create the type of original content our distribution system supports is by making sure that your Page is participating as much as possible in the creation of the videos that it posts.

They want you to get people talking and sharing

The post also talks about how they’d like to see video that gets people talking and debating. But they explicitly warn against using click bait terms that encourage people to share or create cliffhangers where there are none.

Videos that do this well will:
  • Inspire people to have meaningful, back and forth, respectful discussion in the comments. This has to happen in a way that is not spammy or gratuitous.

  • Be authentically shared. Shares remain one of Facebook’s most powerful tools for organic distribution.

  • Be engaged with. We also look at likes and reactions to help us determine which content should get distribution priority. These interactions should happen organically and not through engagement bait.

They want you to think of the metadata

The metadata is the information that goes with a video that makes it easier to find. That means tags and also a clear headline to explain what your video is.

That’s actually common sense but its worth while just being reminded of that.

Less is more

One conclusion of these changes is that less surely has to be more.

You need to put more thought into what you are posting to create something that’s three minutes long and worthwhile. So, if in the past there were maybe a fistful of 15 to 30-second videos the future surely is one longer video that’s well made.

The challenge is to make something really worthwhile than a blizzard of content.

Create for the platform

For the last couple of years I’ve mapped the research to create a optimum video length post. Last year, it was three minutes is best for YouTube, 45 seconds for Twitter and 15 seconds for Facebook.

That’s now simplified to three minutes for YouTube and Facebook but don’t be tempted to chuck the three minute video up onto Twitter too. I’d argue that making a shorter edit for Twitter, Instagram or your favoured platform. That still makes sense.

Picture credit: istock.

Retro old TV set on the vintage background.I deliver the Essential Video Skills for Comms workshop with Steven Davies For more information and to book head here. I’d love to see you there. Any questions? Drop me a note: dan@danslee.co.uk.






VOTE: It’s official! Here are the top 10 most irritating phrases as voted by comms people

Democracy is a wonderful thing.
So is hearing common sense talked but unfortunately as comms people we can’t always have both.
So, on the rather amazing Public Sector Comms Headspace group we ran a poll to find out the most irritating phrase heard.
You’d have thought that phrase was ‘can I have a press release.’
But no.
The public has spoken and as the returning officer I hearby announce…

The most irritating phrases heard by comms people


1. “It’s been signed off already…”

We’ve all been there. The email requesting a clip art poster be sent as an all-staff ewmail to 4,000 people. The press release with spelling mistakes and Too Many Capital Letters.
Take a bow rank pullers. And do one.

cameras-composition-data-1483937 2. “Weave your magic…”

In other words, I really don’t know what I want. I don’t know what you do. But can you do it, whatever you do.
But I reserve the right to say: ‘That’s not what I actually wanted.’

3. “Can you comms it up?”

Quite what this means, I’ll never know. Never in a million years.
But I think the correct response needs to be: “Let’s have a talk. A frank one.”

adult-blur-businessman-20728994. “Can’t you just put it on the internet?”

Ah, the magic internet. It’s an information superhighway, you know. You place something onto the internet and it magically reaches everyone you want it to reach… and you want to stop me from doing this?

adult-background-casual-9416935. “Sprinkle your fairy dust.”

Or, in other words, ‘I don’t know what you do, I don’t know what I want, but I do remember Paul Daniels on the telly when I was a kid.’
The wand doesn’t feel magical when its hit over your head.
Very FFS.

active-activity-beach-408156. “We need a poster.”

The common request of someone who isn’t that great at their own job but knows fine well exactly how to do yours. Why? They’ve been making this quest since 1977.
Ever since in fact someone important told them that was how to do it.
Closely followed by: ‘But its our budget.’
adult-african-award-1153215 (1)

7. “Tell them its not a story.”

Journalists are great but that question they’ve asked which is a but awkward is a bit inconvenient, tbqfh. If only you would tell them that its not a story it would all go away.


8. “Can you make it look pretty?”

Again, this is a variation of not knowing what you do or what they want. What can this possibly mean? Do you know? No, nor me.
But I do know that whatever you do won’t be the right thing.
One to have a conversation with.

9. ‘Can you make it go viral?’

What? The picture of two 45-year-old men? In suits? In a room? That’s low res? That has them staring into space? You want the kids to see? And you think I can make it go viral?
No, I don’t think I can. Not even backed with all the resources of the Allies on D-Day.


10. “Make it whizzy”

It’s a little known fact but the This Girl Can Sport England was 7.95 whizzy whereas the person who asked for it to be copied for tomorrow morning is actually -6.51 on the whizzy spectrum.
So, now you know.
Thank you.

Read the rest of this entry »

WORD UP: You can’t ‘use’ a community Facebook group, you connect with it


‘Words are power,’ Yoko Ono once said.

I’m not sure what words describe the artist’s 1967 installation where she invited the audience to hammer a nail into a piece of wood.

In the audience was John Lennon who offered her five imaginary shillings to hammer an imaginary nail into the wood.

But still.

Two years ago I started to research Facebook groups and next month I’m helping deliver workshops that feature them strongly but one word above all always jars with me and I have to force myself to stop using it.

That’s the word USE.

As in the phrase: ‘How to USE Facebook groups’.

Because USE isn’t the right word.

We cannot USE.

USE is a single-use plastic wrapper of a word.

Facebook groups are places where like-minded people form an online community where there are admin to police them but people are largely free to start or contribute to a conversation.

So, you need words like…





While it’s important to use those words its really even more important to adopt the mindset those words mean. If you don’t, no-one gains.

vital facebook skillsI’m running a new workshop to help public sector people understand how to better use Facebook.

I’ll be joined by Sarah Lay for VITAL FACEBOOK SKILLS at a city near you.

You can see more and book here





GOOD TONE: How talking human can put a human face on your organisation


I’m a slightly ambivalent about Twitter takeovers these days.

I’m proud to have been involved in one of the first in the public sector nine years ago but where once they boldly charted new territory they now often feel like tired box-ticking.

I did quite like content posted from lead nurse for recruitment Vicky Jobson on the corporate account of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

The purpose of a takeover is to be human

Some critics of Twitter takeovers complain that there isn’t a call to action to go with them so why bother doing them?

I both get that but disagree. Yes, comms will be judged on what people have done as a result of all that comms activity. How many sign-ups to that thing is critical, for example. But to judge social media activity solely on the bottom line fundamentally misjudges how best to use social media.

I’ve blogged many times before on the need for an 80-20 split between your content with the majority being human over corporate content. It’s the recipe that just seems to work.

So some of the content that shows real people at work really hits the mark.

Consciously or not using a human tone for eight pieces of content will make it easier to land those prompts to become a nurse with the other two. Would 10 posts that start with ‘work for us’ land better? Not on social media, they wouldn’t.

Conversations should sound human

I’m reminded of lines from the Cluetrain Manifesto. This amazing document from 1999 was the result of crowd-sourced discussions between early internet pioneers which sets out what the internet could look like. It described social media before it properly happened.

Included in the manifesto are…

  • Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  • Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
  • We know some people from your company. They’re pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you’re hiding? Can they come out and play?

Essentially, takeovers are reminders that humans work here.

But I genuinely think that these human voices should be the default setting rather than a special occasion.

Sure, you have to break bad news from time-to-time and you need to handle that.

But wouldn’t that formal tone be better coming from an organisation that has already long won people over by being human?

FACE UP: The questions you need to ask yourself to nail your 2019 Facebook strategy


With major changes in direction to Facebook its clear that the public sector needs to drastically re-think their approach to the world’s largest platform.

A shift to privacy and friends and families has been announced by Mark Zuckerburg. That means big changes for public sector communicators.

Facebook is used by more than 40 million UK people and the predictions are that it’ll grow. It’s not going away anytime soon.

But long gone absolutely are the days where a page is all you need.

Facebook’s algorithm and ‘Facebook zero‘ has strangled the routine reach of pages to limit the size of audience.

So what’s left?

Don’t panic.

You need… question, check, adjust.

I’m running a round of workshops with Sarah Lay to help you use Facebook better.

Ahead of them, here’s a steer on the questions you need to ask yourself to be an effective communicator.

‘Is it actually Facebook that I need?’

Facebook it is not a magic cure-all that reaches the parts other platforms cannot reach. So, the lazy email that asks you to post their clip-art poster onto the corporate page for an event for teenagers may well be pointless. Maybe there are other ways to reach teenagers.

Check your insights to see who your audience is and be ruthless about sticking to it.

‘Is my content the best it can possibly be?’

If you’re sure you’re audience is on Facebook, then knock yourself out and create something. But make it as good as you possibly can. Research show recorded video tops the chart for engagement, followed by a picture followed by a link followed by just plain text.

Check to see if you can make content that’s sharable, is engaging and tells a story.

‘Is this better as a Facebook Live?’

Facebook are pushing Facebook Live like crazy. It’s not hard to see why. The engagement rates are high and the audience who come-by to watch after the event are far greater than the original. It’s a chance to let your audience ask questions and see a behind-the-secenes glimpse.

Check to see if this would work as a live video.

‘Is my audience in a Facebook group?’

You’re promoting a new exhibition at your museum. Is there a heritage Facebook group where people like talking and sharing pictures and stories of days gone by? Or maybe, there’s a serious fire that you need to get a warning out to a village.

Run a search to see if there’s a Facebook group. See if you can join the group as a page. Alternatively, see if you can message the admin from your own account if you are happy to to see if they’d share your content.

‘Is my audience better off in a Facebook group?’

Dorset Council created a community for people looking to live healthier lives. They did this by creating a Facebook group. They set some ground rules and let them share recipes, diet tips and other useful things.

Think if the niche audience you are after world be better served in a Facebook group that you can create and manage.

‘Is there some budget for a boosted post?’

If you’re looking to find the brass band enthusiasts in your patch to market the brass band festival and there isn’t a group maybe a Facebook ad is the way forward.

Facebook is the biggest pile of marketeer-friendly data ever assembled. If you know that your audience likes brass bands and is likely to be aged between 30 and 60 you can tailor an ad just for them.

Look to use that small pot of money to boost your message to the right audience at the right time.

vital facebook skillsI’m delivering the Vital Facebook Skills workshop in London, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh. For more information and to book head here. I’d love to see you there. Any questions? Drop me a note: dan@danslee.co.uk.

Picture credit: Documerica / Flickr.

POST NUMBERS: Starting to crack election night comms

It’s now a few days after the local government elections and the dust has started to settle.

Candidates have caught up with lost sleep and so hopefully have council comms people.

I blogged the day after the results at the patchy quality of how the election results were communicated. You can read that here. I love local government. I really do. But the struggle to find out basic information made me despair.

I wanted to know who has won my ward.

I wanted to know who is in control of the council.

Yet, as I glanced around 16 West Midland councils, almost half didn’t mention the election results on their home page, half had no party-by-party results breakdown and none told me which party was actually now in charge.

As an ex-local government person I feel the pain of those trying to get the numbers out. But the truth remains that if councils can’t get the basics like this right, what hope have they got in convincing sceptics they can nail the really difficult things?

I’m encouraged there’s now  a debate on how to improve election comms.

One council caught me eye.

Step forward City of York Council.

They have three comms objectives and measured them

The comms team at City of York Council led by Claire Foale looked to encourage residents to engage in the process through easy-to-share content, they wanted to share up-to-date content in realtime that was also easy for journalists to share.

Evaluation shows they reached 157,000 accounts on Twitter, 2,900 on the live stream and their website had 105,000 views with a peak at 6pm the following day. Five people worked on the project. It’s important to say that this was a daytime count.


Hats off to Claire Foale and their team for drawing-up the plan, delivering it and then measuring it. It’s a really impressive performance.

This shows that yes, this can be measured and that yes, there is an appetite for the information if you create it in a sharable format. If you resource it, the numbers justify it.

I’m also glad they looked at creating content that media could share. The important thing is getting the information out rather than driving traffic.

Besides being useful, election night is the comms team’s first chance to impress the newly-elected or re-elected administration

Picture credit: City of York Council

They have a signpost to results on the homepage

Yes, I know a lot of people go via google direct to the Baswich library page to find out the opening hours but there’s something pretty basic about signposting from what is your flagship page the flagship numbers.

york homepage

They list who voted for who ward-by-ward

So, if you’ve voted in the Acomb ward, you can see what difference your vote made.

york individual

They also give an overview of where the parties are

Like a swing-o-meter, this graphic gives a picture of who is on the brink of power. If there’s an observation to be made, I don’t know if this is updated in real time during the night. I hope so.

And for bonus points, I’d like to know what the current situation is. No overall control? Is that a change from 2018? And is there a Full Council meeting where this gets resolved?

york byparty

They also give an overview ward-by-ward

Again, a visually attractive ward-by-ward breakdown. Bonus points if this was updated in realtime.

york by ward.JPG

They ran a video livestream in realtime

They also ran a video link live from a fixed camera position to allow uber-geeks to follow things in realtime. They also managed that rare thing of getting the sound something like alright.

Extra marks for making a note of when each ward announced, so people didn’t have to sit back through nine hours of coverage to see that special moment when the Hull Road ward result was called.

They ran a Twitter that posted results and answered questions

Ten years on from the first time results were posted in social media, the council Twitter fulfilled this role and also responded to queries in realtime.

Of course, the City of York were not the only council that did a good job. But they’ve done an impressive job with the resources they have.

Go them.

NEW CLICKS: You’ll never guess what reporters today are being asked to write stories about… the fifth box made me cry

Like sunshine on magic, a fascinating photograph has been posted that instructs  what London’s Evening Standard reporters are encouraged to write.

The 10-box grid sets out the ingredients that make a story for the web in 2018.

It’s a mix of fear, anger, curiosity, drama, weather and natural disaster.

The internet has responded to it with drama, outrage, anger and resignation.

It is a ‘suicide note for journalism’ one commentator tweeted.

The list of what reporters are encouraged to write about is here


Is it fake? Surely? On balance, surprisingly not. It appears to be real. It even gets carried in The Guardian media pages with a picture credit to the Evening Standard.

The list of things I was encouraged to write about as a reporter

It got me thinking.

News desk requests are nothing new.

My career in journalism is behind me, so I’m not betraying any confidences when I say that the list of things I was encouraged to write about as a reporter probably didn’t bear close public scrutiny.

At various points in my career I was encouraged and discouraged to write about:

  • Yes, to stories about dead kids.
  • Yes, to stories about dog shit.
  • Yes, to stories about ‘happy ill people’.
  • No, to pictures of people in wheelchairs or with tattoos.
  • No, to damp flat stories.
  • No, to stories about three people from our patch held by the US military in Guantanamo Bay.

None of these edicts were ever written down. All were always passed on by word of mouth.  If you think they’re bad, there’s a couple of other passed-down instructions which I’m not publishing because frankly, they’re actionable.

But what is new about the Evening Standard pic is that someone has codified them, printed them and an image has been shared on Twitter. Their grid is driven by web traffic rather than prejudice or that elusive experienced-based judgement call of ‘news sense’. That’s the journo’s sense that people on the patch will be more interested in a campaign to save a hospital than a story about, say, a damp flat.

Without looking at the numbers of what works, newspapers are dead. But what if the numbers don’t point to what could be called journalism?

Good journalism

I’m a huge fan of good journalism. BBC reporter Emma Vardey’s brave, courageous doorstepping of the the Republican Saoradh leadership in the wake of the murder of Lyra McKee is truly magnificent.  There is still some good journalism going on on a local level although newsrooms are smaller places.

But on the other hand, Reach’s Black Country Live‘s 26 Facebook posts over four days have just four updates that could be called local news. Most of what is posted are memes, Black Country dialect and culture jokes and re-nosed national stories. To a former journo who got a bollocking for covering a story 100-yards off the patch that’s a slightly a weird feeling.

Newspapers are on borrowed time. Some are making the shift to digital well. But they risk this shift by setting fire to 100 years of hard-won trust by pimping extreme weather stories in short-term dash for numbers. I’m seeing a backlash against this from newspaper readers on Facebook tired of being conned that three foot of snow is coming.

What this means for comms people

It means, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

The local newspaper that prints verbatim every cough and spit and is widely read is a thing of the past.

Some remaining print titles rely on a stressed junior reporter cutting and pasting your press releases. But here’s a warning. Impressive print cuttings from those hollowed-out shadow titles is not a long term strategy.  It’s not even medium-term. If you’re spending five days on signing off a press release without thinking about it, I’d say you’re wasting your time.

It all points to the point that you need to educate the client. In this case, it’s the organisation and quite possibly yourself.

To paraphrase the Evening Standard grid, if your content doesn’t tick those boxes chances are you shouldn’t be targeting the newspaper.

Credit to David Grindlay for sharing the Evening Standard image.