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5 Short-Form Video Marketing Best Practices for Online Retailers

Thanks to the rise of TikTok, short-form videos have exploded in popularity over the last few years — leading many marketers to consider if their business should jump on the bandwagon.

When done properly, short-form video marketing (like TikTok and Instagram Reels) can bring success for your business. But in order to generate real results, you’ll need a fully fleshed-out strategy (not to mention a great deal of time and effort).

If your online business is considering short-form video marketing, familiarize yourself with these five best practices first:

1. Follow (but don’t force) the trends.

There’s nothing Gen Z can sniff out quicker than a desperate brand. While trending memes often dictate the most popular content on TikTok and Instagram, your business shouldn’t try to replicate every content style. It’s awkward, transparent and rarely works.

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Instead, judiciously consider which might work best for your brand. Social media users are sick of being “sold to”; any organic or paid content you run should fit in with popular video styles and should never obviously try to sell a product.

You don’t even have to be on TikTok to take advantage of trending content, either. Remember the Ocean Spray longboarding video from 2020? Rather than jump in during the video’s initial success, the drink brand took a step back, allowing momentum to build before gifting the TikTok star a brand-new car — laden, of course, with plenty of Ocean Spray products.

2. Take advantage of user-generated content.

The Ocean Spray example leads us to our next point: Let your customers do the speaking for you.

Unless you’re a natural TikTok or Instagram Reels user, it can be hard to replicate the tone and style of a trending meme. Instead, start with what your customers are already saying about your brand.

If you can find videos that already incorporate your product or logo, ask for permission to repost — and then use it for your own marketing efforts. You’ll have short-form video for your accounts without ever lifting a finger!

3. Connect with influencers.

If you can’t find any existing videos to use, partner with social media influencers to bring some into existence.

Your brand mention doesn’t have to be an obvious post singing your products’ praises. Consider more natural appearances in influencers’ videos through product placement rather than direct shout-outs.

Learn more about TikTok influencer marketing in Episode 28 of Retail Remix.

4. Use cross-platform content when it makes sense.

Depending on your brand and products, you may be able to deploy certain content across several social media channels — not just TikTok and Instagram Reels but also Facebook and Twitter, too.

But, for the best results, you’ll need to run some tests first.

Not all short-form video content will perform the same across social platforms. Even TikTok and Instagram users are different, and what plays well for one audience could fall flat for another. Before you fall into the “mass promotion of content” trap, run a few experiments. Are the short-form videos you pull from TikTok working for your Facebook ads? It’s not a “failure” if they aren’t; it’s valuable research you can use moving forward.

5. Focus on what works for your business.

Digital marketers are drawn to new, shiny platforms and opportunities — but dropping everything to invest in TikTok and Instagram Reels isn’t the smartest path for every business.

TikTok and Instagram are notoriously expensive advertising platforms. Even if you focus solely on organic campaigns, you’ll still need to invest energy into generating quality creative.

If your marketing budget is strapped for cash and time, it may not make sense to experiment with these platforms quite yet. Instead, stick with what’s working for your brand, whether that’s other social media platforms, online content marketing, or another avenue.

Social media is a fickle, ever-changing beast. You’ll need a tuned-in team to stay on top of trends and produce the best results for your business. Until you have that on hand (or decide to hire a social media agency to do it for you), we recommend simply dipping your toes in the water, not jumping in headfirst.

Then, when the time comes, you’ll have the knowledge and experience needed to succeed.


Entrepreneur and digital marketer Mike Belasco has been the founder and CEO of eCommerce digital marketing agency Inflow since 2007. His background as a web developer and SEO expert built an agency that has worked with major brands like Amazon, Overstock.com, Dish Network, and many more. Today, Belasco leads a team of PPC, paid social, SEO and conversion optimization specialists as a boutique, fully remote ecommerce marketing agency.

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