Vertical vs Horizontal Video

Before social media seized control of our daily lives horizontal, or landscape video, reigned supreme. This is still the dominant format if you take a trip to the movie theater or turn on your television, but as a marketer you now must content with the vertical vs horizontal video conundrum. Between landscape, square, and portrait videos, which one do you use? Which video format delivers the greatest return on investment?

Let’s break down the preferred specs for each video format and when you should use them.

Horizontal Video (Landscape)

Horizontal videos have been the traditional video format for decades. In 2018 marketers should first consider the platform where their videos would be viewed.

Data show that horizontal videos perform worse on nearly all mobile social media platforms. In mobile newsfeeds the view-through rate of a square video is 54% greater than that of a landscape video. The dimensions of a smartphone are not conducive to consuming horizontal videos.

However, landscape videos are still the preferred video format for desktop and TV users. If your ad will be viewed on TV or on YouTube in between binges of gaming videos or celebrity interviews opt for a horizontal video. To optimize a landscape video:

  • Use a horizontal video for TV and desktop ads
  • For YouTube videos and desktop video ads use a 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Ideal video dimensions: 1280 x 720 pixels

Square Video

When choosing between vertical or horizontal videos don’t neglect square videos. The square video format utilizing a 1:1 aspect ratio was popularized by Instagram in 2015 and has since become an effective video format across social media.

If you are creating a branded video to post on multiple social media channels go with a square. When compared to landscape videos, square videos take up 78% more space in an average newsfeed. This removes distractions and creates a more immersive viewing experience.

Because of this square videos lead to 30 to 35% higher video views depending on the platform. On Facebook it costs 7.5% less to get someone to engage with a square video versus a horizontal video, and it costs 33% to engage someone with a square video on Instagram. That’s a sizeable difference, and is crucial for social media marketers.

Follow these simple guidelines for square videos:

  • Use square videos for timeline posts and videos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
  • All square videos will have a 1:1 aspect ratio
  • Ideal video dimensions: at least 1080 x 1080 pixels

Vertical Video (Portrait)

Vertical video specs are relatively new. Vertical video formats were created to fill the entirety of a smartphone screen to target social media platforms and web browsers on mobile devices. Few videos have been traditionally shot with vertical dimensions, but increasingly this is becoming a necessary video orientation for marketers.

A brief history: the first social media platform to traffic primarily vertical videos and images was Snapchat. Since then both Instagram and Facebook have retooled the popular aspects of Snapchat to create Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, respectively. These ads take advantage of the fact that 90% of mobile use is oriented vertically, including social media consumption.

The adaptation to the way media is consumed translates to better metrics for marketers: vertical videos have a greater organic reach and receive more engagement than horizontal videos.

Luckily Instagram vertical dimensions do not differ from vertical videos on Facebook and Snapchat. All platforms have the same vertical video specs.

Stick to these parameters to correctly leverage vertical videos:

  • Use vertical videos for ads and Stories on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook
  • Vertical videos use a 9:16 aspect ratio
  • Ideal video dimensions: 1080 x 1920 pixels
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