Telling your organization’s story in video does not always require investing in expensive equipment. Advances in technology now mean that many nonprofits most likely have access to basic video storytelling tools. Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, can be really powerful storytelling tools.

Understanding what mobile applications to use, the limitations of your tools, and what makes a good video were the goals of TechSoup’s recent Mobile Storytelling tweet chat. The tweet chat was held one day before the official launch of the TechSoup Digital Storytelling Challenge (TSDigs). On hand to share their film expertise during the chat were Aaron Bramley and David Neff from TSDigs partner, Lights. Camera. Help.

Mobile devices seem to be everywhere and are easily used to take photos and record videos. Your mobile device’s native photo and video applications are a good place to get started but applications, or apps, can sometimes do a better job or improve on your product. For instance Instagram and its many photo filters can make photo stills used in video much more compelling.

SoundCloud offers recording tools not found natively on most mobile devices that make it easier to create narration for video. Of course, apps also help share video content on YouTube, Vimeo, and Ustream – all of which have apps.

Mobile Video Is Great, But Has Limitations

However, for all their relative benefits, mobile devices do present some challenges. Would-be mobile storytellers will quickly find that audio and lighting capabilities on most mobile devices are limited. Before shooting video on a mobile device, composition and distractions should be taken into consideration.

If at all possible it can be worth purchasing an external microphone or handheld LED light. If that’s not an option outdoor lighting and a quiet environment were highly encouraged by the tweet chat’s participating video experts.

Compelling Stories Matter Most

Ideally an effective nonprofit video can tell a compelling story in a relatively short amount of time. Although 60-90 seconds is considered ideal, a longer video can be effective if it can keep the viewer engaged.

Another alternative for longer stories is to break them into installments, similar to The Story of Stuff, with embedded links to videos in the series. No matter how long a story is the focus of a video must be clear and interesting.

Use Mobile Storytelling to Let Volunteers Share

Organizations should not overlook how powerful it can be to have their story told by its supporters and volunteers. Mobile devices are great for capturing honest, in-the-moment testimonials from supporters and volunteers.

The ubiquity and relative ease of use of mobile devices also creates another opportunity to engage supporters and volunteers as videographers. Organizational supporters and volunteers can help by taking photos and videos at events, sharing video online, and experimenting with mobile apps.

The hour-long tweet chat covered a lot of useful advice for creating mobile video. However, the digital storytelling conversation is only beginning with more tweet chats and webinars scheduled for the month of February. Those interested in learning how to use video to tell their organization’s story is invited to learn about TSDigs here.  

Susan Chavez
Online Community & Social Media Team, TechSoup Global