Eighty-five percent of internet users in the United States watch monthly video content, while 54% express wanting to see more video content from the brands they support. Videos have become a favorite content type for social media users, but when brands are competing for supporter attention, does it matter if your video has high production value?
Below, we’ll review two studies to share what they found in terms of the correlation, if any, between video budget and engagement. Then, we’ll explain how your nonprofit can use these findings to make your video content more appealing to your supporters.
What Does the Research Say?
Video content ranges from shaky livestreams to polished brand advertisements. The former requires a willing staff member’s time, whereas the latter can involve professional lighting, sets, script writers, wardrobes, video editors, and more.
Greater production quality comes with a cost. When nonprofits are working within tight budgets, every penny counts. Thankfully, new research on what makes video content engaging can help you find that production value sweet spot.
Nonprofit Video Index From Tectonic Video
The Nonprofit Video Index™ is a study from Tectonic Video that looked at how 778 nonprofits used video on different social media channels. The study randomly selected organizations from a database of over 10,000 nonprofits that:
- Were verified as an active 501(c)(3) in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service
- Posted a video to their Facebook account in 2019
- Posted a video to another social media channel in 2019
It then pulled data for videos posted on each nonprofit’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts throughout 2019 to evaluate video post engagement and organization engagement.
A key takeaway from the study was that the majority of the top 100 most engaging videos reviewed had low production value. They were either recorded on smartphones or “prosumer” equipment without professional lighting or sound. This shows that high production value doesn’t necessarily correlate with greater engagement.
Your supporters are ultimately more likely to enjoy your homegrown, behind-the-scenes short videos than expensive, polished content. This is good news for nonprofits with resource constraints. It means the barriers are low to creating video content for your audience.
Wistia’s “One, Ten, One Hundred” Ad Campaign
Wistia also conducted a study to answer the question of whether production quality matters for video advertising. In their experiment, called the One, Ten, One Hundred campaign, they launched three advertisements for the same product, but one had a budget of $1,000, another had a budget of $10,000, and the third had a budget of $100,000.
They promoted the ads on YouTube and Facebook using similar targeting and messaging. The key measurement of success was the ad’s “cost per install” of the product they were marketing. In the end, the $10,000 ad performed twice as well as the other two.
The study team reflected that the $10,000 ad had the best narrative out of the three options. They determined that rather than production value, creativity and good storytelling were the real drivers of effective videos.
They also noticed that which social media channel you use matters depending on your goals. Their YouTube ads had more conversions, but they mentioned their Facebook ads were likely stronger for increasing overall brand awareness.
Creating engaging videos for your supporters means prioritizing your platform and story carefully, rather than worrying excessively about budget.
So, What Does Matter for Great Videos?
Knowing that a high budget isn’t necessary for creating engaging video content can be a relief for nonprofits looking to grow their reach. However, if it’s not the production quality that drives engagement, what does? The previous studies provided some tips.
Tectonic Video wanted to know if there were specific subjects that drove more engagement when it comes to nonprofit videos. Again looking at the top 100 most engaging videos from their research, they identified five top content types:
- Animals, kids, and cuteness
- Emotional reactions captured in real time
- Political or controversial topics, especially topics like human rights or the environment
- Emotional stories of beneficiaries transformed by your work
- Timely, topical videos for events like holidays, anniversaries, or “throwback Thursdays”
If you’re looking to drive engagement, consider how your nonprofit can lean into these content types. If you’re a food bank, you could record a testimonial from a family who received one of your holiday meal kits. If you’re an animal shelter, you can video the kittens waiting for adoption at your facility.
And consider how your organization might connect its mission or messaging to current issues as a way to invite your supporters to be a part of critical social and environmental movements.
Short, creative videos have risen in popularity, as evidenced by increased use of social media tools like TikTok and Instagram Reels.
The Tectonic Video study found that videos with the highest engagement were often less than one minute in length. On average, popular videos on Facebook ran for 69 seconds and those on Twitter ran for 52 seconds.
To engage your supporters, remember to keep your videos quick and aim to inform or entertain within that space.
The Nonprofit Video Index also observed how frequency of video content impacted supporter engagement levels. It found that nonprofits with larger audience sizes posted more videos on their social media channels more regularly than those with smaller audiences. Overall, there was a strong correlation between large audience size, high frequency of video posts, and high engagement levels for nonprofits on social media.
Your nonprofit can be small or have a lower annual budget and still garner a large audience of supporters on social media if you pay attention to publishing consistent, frequent content. If your staff and resources are tight, you might consider focusing on one social media channel to ensure you have the capacity to post frequently enough to grow your audience rather than stretching time and energy thin across multiple channels.
Focus On Content, Not Budget for Nonprofit Videos
Nonprofits may want to respond to supporter demand for more video content, but worry about whether they have the budget to do so. The good news is that research shows budget doesn’t impact engagement. If you can’t afford high production quality, don’t sweat it. Focus on your creative storytelling, content types, length, and frequency to share your video messages.