News for Authors

How to Increase Social Media Engagement for Short-Form Video Content

by Jacky Bethea|March, 2024

Between Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts, short-form video content is on a major hot streak. These platforms can offer the opportunity for instant virality, so creating content for them can be an attractive way to promote your book and connect with readers. If you have scrolled through these platforms, you may have encountered a video that had an interesting topic, but something about it wasn’t right. Maybe the audio sounded weird or you could barely make out words on the screen. Most viewers will scroll right past. It’s easy to overlook the technical aspects of making short-form videos, which can absolutely affect how your content performs in the algorithm. Here are some tips to help you compose your videos for ultimate success.

1.Film and edit for the platform.

One of the best ways to set your videos up for success is to design them for the platform or platforms where you’ll be posting them. For short-form video content, your video will look most pleasing if it fills the screen. This involves filming vertically and using a 9:16 aspect ratio, to avoid any black bars on the top and bottom of your video. You can do this by filming directly in the app or by adjusting the aspect ratio in an editing app like CapCut.

You should also be aware of an area in the video frame that Meta refers to as “The Safe Zone.” This refers to the portion of the frame that should contain the visual focus of your video, so that content is not obscured by the app’s user interface (i.e., the like, comment, and share buttons). Reels, TikTok, and Shorts are all programmed this way, so be careful to avoid putting imagery or text too close to the bottom or righthand side of the screen, as anything in those locations may be illegible to viewers.

If you plan to repurpose or cross-post content, you should try to create that content in way that is considerate of the differences between platforms as well. A commonly overlooked difference between TikTok and YouTube Shorts is that Shorts allows video lengths only up to sixty seconds, whereas TikTok’s can be up to ten minutes. If you are planning to post a video on both platforms, make sure it is under sixty seconds, or the end of the video will be cut off on Shorts.


2.Use text features.

Adding text to your videos is not necessary, but it can really add to your chances for discoverability and engagement. A good rule of thumb is to do this editing in the app where you plan to post the video. On TikTok, text added to a video directly contributes to the algorithm. Give your video a relevant title at the beginning so people looking at similar content may be more likely to come across yours.

Text is also helpful for accessibility and clarity. Captions are great for this, and they can be automated by the app or added when editing. Text can also be a good way to include a call to action for your audience. Encourage viewers to leave a like, a comment, or follow for more.


3.Consider how your video sounds.

One of the most crucial aspects of video content is sound. It can be incredibly grating to come across a video with poor sound quality, and this can completely make or break your video’s performance. Of course, the solution is not to remove sound altogether. On TikTok, choosing a sound that is trending can give you a big boost in viewership and engagement. And Meta reports that 80 percent of Reels are viewed with the sound on. Instead of posting a soundless video, you can try a few things:

  • Keep an eye out for trending sounds as you scroll, or use TikTok’s Trend Discovery Tool for inspiration.
  • If you want to do a voice-over, record using a small microphone. There are plenty you can find for a steal online, or you could use the mic built into some headphones. If you are recording outdoors, be wary of wind, which can cause extra noise and muffle your voice.
  • When you upload, review your video and make sure the sound quality is good. Try listening to the video through headphones and make sure the audio is not too loud or soft and that no extra noise is coming through.

For a video with sound, including captions can not only improve accessibility for viewers with hearing disabilities but can make your video accessible to anyone who happens to be watching with their volume off, as well.


4.Optimize your filming environment.

Choosing an ideal filming environment can astronomically improve the quality of a video and help it to perform better. Good lighting is an underrated factor. Natural light from a window can provide a perfect source, but make sure the main source of light is pointing at your face instead of coming from behind you. Light from behind can make you shadowy and hard to see. Avoid any distracting backgrounds or movement behind you that could draw attention away from the topic at hand. While holding your phone can suffice, you could also invest in a tripod to avoid a shaky camera.


5.Other tips

Keep in mind that short-form video platforms thrive on snappy, attention-grabbing content and relatability. The first few seconds of your videos will always be the best place to hook your audience before they scroll past. If you want to plug your book in a video, mastering your one-minute pitch can go a long way. Additionally, videos on these platforms tend to perform best when there is a person on camera to relate with. Of course, create whatever kinds of videos are most comfortable for you—but if you are willing to be the subject, you may see more engagement with your content.


Thankfully, short-form video platforms do not require anywhere near professional production. Users of these apps tend to appreciate authenticity more than anything. The ideal is to be as clear as possible, and mobilizing some of these techniques can absolutely help.

If you find yourself stuck on any aspect of how to improve the quality of your content, try watching other content creators for inspiration, and don’t be afraid to reach out to other authors online for tips. And simply practice. Video content creation is a skill, and you are sure to improve with experience.


Jacky Bethea is Associate, Author Development for Penguin Random House.