Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Video in fundraising – square versus landscape

Video in fundraising – square versus landscape

Let’s start with a few striking stats. Did you know, for example, that:

  • People watch more than 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day, that’s over 8 billion videos? And that represents just under 11,500 years of videos, watched every single day, on just one platform…the enormity of it!
  • YouTube brings in nearly 4,9850,000,000 videos views daily
  • Snapchat alone fuels more than 10 billion video views every single day!

In this vast ocean of videos – and if you’re neither Coke nor Netflix – how can your charity or not-for-profit organisation get the attention it deserves? There are an array of factors to take into consideration when making a video for a social media platform – as you need to think about what will make your video successful, or shareable – such as video type and content, format, length, captions, CTA, to name a few.

I’m going to focus here on just one: square videos.


Coloured squares pattern

Why square video?

  • Square video (1:1) takes up 78% more space in a person’s mobile news feed than landscape video (16:9) does.
    Studies show that square or 1:1 format outperforms landscape videos by 30-35%
  • So in other words, square videos are definitely worth fundraisers knowing about… Here’s why!

Mobile content consumption has gone through the roof, unsurprisingly

A recent study by VentureBeat unveiled that Facebook now boasts 2 billion mobile daily active users – that’s a 22% increase year on year! And this means that over 92% of Facebook users access it via a mobile device, making it crucial for charities to optimise their content for mobile users.

This tremendous shift from desktop to mobile has been accelerated by social media platforms. Fundraisers need to understand and master the strategies and tools that are specifically adapted and designed for mobile audiences.

If you have the resources to do so, try experimenting with video format as it’s one way to deliver mobile-friendly content to supporters.

Square video outperforms landscape video

A survey by Animoto unveiled that square video outperformed landscape video on each social media network in terms of video views, completion rate (% of times the video played to the end) and engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.). This is hardly surprising when you consider that square videos take up 78% more space in the mobile feed! I don’t mean to ramble but just want to make sure that this sinks in…

In some cases, square video resulted in 30-35% higher video views and an 80-100% increase in engagement.

Green wall tile squares

Video format – regardless of the content – seems to play a significant role in how many people watch videos, how long they watch it for, and how willing they are to engage with it.

In terms of engagement, experiments by Animoto revealed that square videos are much more price-efficient than landscape videos. It costs 7.5% less to get someone to engage with square video on Facebook, and a substantial 33% less to get someone to engage with square video on Instagram (fewer views needed to get people to engage).

Users also happen to watch more of a given brand’s video on social media. Meaning that the more video content the better! It’s a virtuous circle.

Putting your advertising money on square video on Facebook and Instagram will therefore help you achieve better results for a lower cost.

Square or landscape? Choosing a format for your video

Square and landscape videos can help achieve different goals on different platforms or distribution canals. So, when you’re brainstorming to make a fundraising video, which one do you choose over the other? And when is it a good idea to create both?

Go square

Square is the recommended format of Facebook and Instagram, simply because square videos take up so much more space on a viewer’s news feed – OK we are rambling – making them look more appealing. They get viewers’ attention, and viewers are in turn more likely to have them engage with it.

Too simplistic an argument?

Buffer ran a variety of ads on their social media accounts, including square videos, landscape videos, and landscape videos letterboxed into a square player. Brian Peters, Digital Strategist at Buffer, said that “both square video and letterbox video (1:1 format) outperformed landscape video when it came to average engagements, views, and completion rate (%) – particularly on mobile devices.”

BuzzFeed found that 75% of their most shared videos over a one month period were square.  As supporters become more used to not having to rotate their phones to watch videos clips on natively vertical platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, that expectation now extends to other platforms. Supoporters don’t want to have to tap into full screen and rotate their phone just to watch a video that’s just a few seconds long.

Square videos seem to be best suited to social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest), where an eye-catching video ensures greater engagement.

Square social media channel logos


Go landscape

As is the case with any type of fundraising material, one of the first questions to ask yourself is “How and where people will be watching?”. If the answer is computer or television screen, landscape just makes more sense.

Also bear in mind that a lot of non-social platforms simply don’t support square video formats. Many websites and blogging platforms will cut off part of your square video so that it’ll fit into a landscape player.

What about YouTube? The primary YouTube player is landscape so you should stick to landscape, or your videos will be displayed with black bars on the sides. However the company did recently announce that their mobile app will soon support square video viewing. Watch this space!

Make both

Create both square and 16:9 videos when you are planning for a cross channel distribution. Let’s say you’re working on an awesome About Us video that you are planning on sharing on your charity’s website — and promote on social media to convey an emotional image of your charity. What do you do then? Well, you make two versions!

What’s not to like about square videos? They are eye-catching little gems with the ability to have engagement go through the roof – provided that all the basic elements of a successful video are in place:

  • Inspire supporters
  • Educate your audience
  • Be emotional
  • Be humorous and entertaining (where appropriate)
  • Use a call to action

Does your fundraising strategy involve social media? If so, we would suggest you give square video a shot.


An alternative version of this post was first published on
Vasileios Kospanos is Head of Marketing at wooshii.


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