Uploading university videos directly to Twitter

I wrote last week about quick turnaround videos we uploaded to Twitter on the day of our recent graduation ceremonies.

This project was the first time that we uploaded video directly to Twitter, rather than embedding from another service. Here’s what we’ve found from the different ways we’ve promoted video on Twitter recently:

Embedding YouTube in a tweet

Our preferred method has been to link directly to YouTube videos from our tweets. This means that the video is:

  • playable within the tweet,
  • trackable through YouTube analytics,
  • contains captions

As we already upload all our video to YouTube it also means that we are only having to create a single video.

But Twitter can be temperamental with making YouTube videos embeddable within a tweet. Sometimes all that is visible is the url of the video you are linking to, particularly in the first minutes that the tweet is live. 

The biggest disadvantage of this approach is that we’re linking straight to the video on YouTube, when we’d often prefer to link to our own webpage which displays the video with more context.

We’ve persisted with this process, but we also wanted to investigate other solutions.

Embedding a screenshot(s) of a video

Replacing the playable video with a link lacks the kind of impact we seek to make when we promote a video on Twitter. One workaround that addresses this is by taking a screenshot of the video and adding that as a picture.

We gain a bit of impact again. Significantly, as it’s a photo we also acquire the ability of being able to tag other user accounts as being related to the photo. In a typical university setting there will be several accounts that we think a video we produce is relevant to; tagging them in a photo allows us to draw the tweet to their attention.

The flaws of this technique are that the screenshots we’ve created aren’t as visually compelling as an embedded video (a problem we could ameliorate by selecting screenshots more carefully!), and that the understandable user response of clicking on the photo doesn’t have the desired effect of starting the video; it simply opens the image at a larger size.

It kind of feels like a hacky solution and that’s because it is kind of a hacky solution. Here’s a slightly more successful variation with multiple screenshots that don’t include the YouTube Player graphics:

And for long-form video content (in this case a full recording of a 45 minute lecture), a screenshot of the PowerPoint opening slide:

And here’s a final modification, this time with a scene of the filming of the video, deliberately taken on the day for this specific use on Twitter:

Using Twitter’s native video functionality

Most recently, we have experimented with uploading our video directly into Twitter.

The advantages are:

  • we can use Twitter’s analytics to track usage
  • the video is always playable within the tweet

The disadvantages are:

  • we can’t tag other accounts as being related to the tweet
  • we have to create a version of our video in the format acceptable to Twitter for desktop upload (mp4, <512MB, <2min20s)
  • we lose the ability to display captions
  • for analysing any one specific video, we may now have to combine analytics from two sources that collate their statistics in different ways – YouTube and Twitter analytics

Our current plan

We’ll be experimenting further with using Twitter’s native video functionality. We can seek to address one of the compromises – losing captioning – by embedding captions within the video file itself, as is used well by major news platforms.

If anyone has a quick workflow for syncing those kind of captions properly, please let me know!



Web Manager for the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham.

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