Facebook Video: 6 Reasons the First 3 Seconds are Vital to Success

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Facebook videos! They get results, sometimes they engage even better than a great photo, and brands are highly encouraged to try them out – especially if you have some strong video concepts elsewhere that can be adapted to Facebook. There's only one significant catch: You only have a few seconds to win people.

Does that sound harsh? In today's demanding social media world, it's pretty reasonable: Three seconds is actually a whole lot of time, as long as you use it correctly. Let's take a look at why that precious handful of moments has become so important.

1. People Make Up Their Minds Quickly

You see a lot of articles about human "attention span" and how it's only around 7 seconds. That's not exactly true: The time humans spend making decisions about content has dropped to around 7 seconds. They are perfectly willing to stay around for a very long time if they decide that the content is worth their time, but they aren't going hem and haw before making that call. When it comes to Facebook videos, people are going to pass their judgment very, very quickly – and if they do decide to watch the full video, most will follow the link to YouTube or Vimeo first, so make sure that video is accessible outside of Facebook!

2. Facebook Has a Lot Going On

We're talking about visual spectacle here. Literally every corner of Facebook is devoted to different types of information, from headlines and friend updates to ads and groups. It's a very, very busy place. When people log onto Facebook, they are most invested with either 1)checking up on the latest news or 2)passing the time when they are bored.

That first group is challenging to reach: They are scrolling down rapidly to catch up with friends and don't have much time for videos that are getting in their way. They will spare a second or two watching the video just to identify it, but not much time beyond this unless something really pulls them in. The second group, meanwhile, really wants to be entertained – if a video can promise entertainment in the first several seconds, they will probably give it a shot, otherwise they have a lot more content to look at.

3. Value Propositions are Created in the First Few Seconds

When people do have eyes on your video, what are they looking for? A reason to care (or not care, depending). People aren't waffling between two different decisions during their viewing time: They are also absorbing all the information you are delivering. A strong, high-performance Facebook video should smoothly place a lot of info into the first few seconds. You want to set the scene, explain the premise, show what people will learn, introduce any actors involved, and show where viewers will ultimately end up. It's an elevator pitch, but a very short one.

4. Videos are Now Silent, Which Cuts Down on Decision Time

Autoplay videos with sound are the bane of the internet, which is why Facebook now typically defaults to silent videos. Say what you want about sound, at least it makes people pay attention for a little longer. Silent videos only have a stream of visuals to convince people to keep watching, so those first few seconds become even more important. Ideally, the first frame should be an explanation of the video, and following shots should be augmented by overlaid or captioned text explaining the ideas.

5. Most New Uses are On Mobile

There are some interesting studies on mobile viewers that indicate they may actually spend more time watching videos. However, they also have smaller screens and more environmental distractions, so they aren't as apt to sit there and watch the full beginning of a video as someone on a desktop. Appeal to mobile users by getting to the point right away. 

6. The Quality of Videos is On the Rise

More brands are starting to understand the value of these first precious few seconds, and have begun to make better videos with stronger hooks. That means your brand is facing more competition and will need to step up its game. No one likes a boring video!

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Aleks Vizulis

As operations manager at 21 Handshake, I bring an analytical perspective to the discussion table. My vision is to take projects from 'just strong' to superb. Often you will find me capturing behind the scenes photos in the 21 Handshake office or at a clients location. I play a fierce round of 18 during warm weather and catch me on the slopes during the other months of the year!

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