Optimizing your short-form video content

From establishing an ownable identity to finding trends to participate in, tips from Ragan’s Social Media Conference.

Making short-form content

Ragan and PR Daily’s 2024 Social Media Conference kicked off Wednesday with a memorable pre-conference workshop slate. During an afternoon session, Mackenzie Perna, co-founder at Sun & Sol Co., and Tyler Paget, social media director at Fox Racing, did a deep dive into how organizations can create impactful short-form content on TikTok, Reels and Shorts.

Here’s what we learned.

Establishing an ownable identity

Perna began by sharing how brands can create an ownable identity to show they’re truthful by embracing truth in various ways.

“We recommend that brands take on a very editorial approach and show their human community truth,” she said. “If we look around, we’re all diverse in ages and ethnicities, in what we like to do on the weekends. And consumers are looking at some of this from their brands as well. So when you’re programming your content showing diversity in your audience, and what you’re providing in regards to the entertainment and content, you’re sharing consumer truth. We all want to trust the brands that we’re purchasing from as well as the content we’re investing our time into.”



“The days of speaking through a one-way megaphone are over,” Perna added. “We really want to dig in.”

Lead with the hook

It’s important to remember that the hook is everything on TikTok — and action should come first. “Jump into a scene — don’t set it,” said Paget, emphasizing that this will encourage your audience to join you in the scene – and stay with you..

Some examples of effective hooks include:

  • “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but..”
  • “This is for you if [describe your target audience’s needs]”
  • “Stop scrolling if you [describe your target audience] who [desire or dislike]”
  • “Here’s 5 things to [desire]”
  • “You need to do this if you [desire]”
  • “Here’s a hack to [banish/attract]”
  • “Did you know that…”
  • “5 mistakes you are probably making…”

Optimizing your content

Creating a great video is only the beginning. When you’re putting the finishing touches on a piece of content, make sure you’re also considering:

  • Showcasing premium content by staying in safe zones. “There’s a lot of stuff going on on your screen, a lot of business with engagement icons … making sure your content is within that safe zone is very pertinent,” Paget said. Checking preview mode can help here.
  • Leveraging audio and voiceover to create an immersive expereince. Remember that TikTok started its life under the nameas Musical.ly, and music is still rooted in its DNA. Leveraging royalty- free, in-app music is the best way to go here.
  • Optimizing keywords. These should be optimized in your profile, text on screen, caption and copy. “Social media has really become a search engine,” said Perna.
  • Alt-text. Right before hitting post, you can find alt-text in your settings and add a description for what the content you’re sharing looks and feels like. This helps people with disabilities access and enjoy your content.

Telling a story and being a human

A 2024 Sprout Social Report found that most customers want to see more humans show up on brand social accounts.Front-line employees, social media teams, community employees and corporate leaders were most desired.

When spotlighting these employees, it’s crucial to not overthink it or try to be flawless. Accept that the aesthetics won’t be perfect and don’t stress having a strict storyline. Shakiness will happen, as will spelling mistakes and background noise. “If anything, it’ll cause chaos in the comment section, which is great for engagement,” Paget said with a smirk.

When to step in and when to stay out of trends

Just because a trend is happening on TikTok doesn’t mean you should be jumping in. Finding trends requires being an active participant. “Whether you’re on your lunch break or you’re having your morning coffee, just scroll through your brand’s account,” Perna said. “See what your community’s talking about. See what sounds and formats and conversations are happening in real time and allow this to be applied to your strategy on a daily basis. This allows your team to be quick and reactive.

When determining whether to jump into a trend,ask yourself:

  • Is it authentic? 90% of consumers say that authenticity matters when choosing brands to support, from retail to healthcare to higher ed and beyond.
  • Is it relevant? Citing Gary Vaynerchuk, Paget reminded us that good content is not about selling your content or services — it’s about understanding culture to decide when you can enter relevant conversaitons taking place online.
  • Is it memorable? Visual appeal, evoking emotions and leaning on the tenets of storytelling will help you get there.

“If you answer no to any of these questions, consider sitting out of that trend,” Perna said.

Justin Joffe is the editorial director and editor-in-chief at Ragan Communications. He oversees the editorial strategy for Ragan across brands and products.


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