Video: The Future of Social Media

Posted by Evan Seto

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is just a bunch of pictures, then shouldn’t a video be worth a lot of words? I don’t know about words, but in social media advertising, videos are definitely worth their weight.

Videos are great for grabbing people’s attention. Why? For the same basic reason they entertain babies. Color and moving pictures have a way of grabbing people’s notice regardless of what they’re about. They certainly are better at it than words and even still pictures are. They demand to not be ignored.

From there, videos work along the same rules as other types of media. Great content is more likely to be noticed and shared. There is a downside to videos in that they take a certain amount of time that text and pictures might not. With most videos, there’s a diminishing value of returns the longer they go on.

If you have experience with Facebook advertising, I’m sure you’ve noticed the relevance score. On a ten-point scale, Facebook ranks the relevance of your ad to your audience based on a formula of its own design. Facebook ads with video almost always grab higher relevancy scores than image based ads, even when controlling for other factors like copy and content. If you’re more inclined towards metrics less nebulous than the relevancy score, just check click-through rates and conversions. They’ll tell the same story.

Of course, it helps that the two of the three major players in social media advertising have really opened up the possibilities of videos in advertising (Google’s video ads are still mostly on YouTube and are still mostly reserved for bigger brands). On Facebook, the first big innovation was auto-play. I’m sure you noticed the change. Videos on your news feed will play automatically as you scroll through. Other than some people complaining about data usage on mobile, these have been a smashing success (Nigel Thornberry approved!). They’re a more forceful way to stand out on the platform, but it doesn’t seem like people find it intrusive. Building on that, Facebook has taken it to the next step, by allowing you to pop out these videos and let them scroll along with you, so you can watch and scroll if you so desire. Even though these video changes apply to all videos (cats, babies, and your friends doing dumb things included), but make no mistake, these changes were primarily for advertising purposes.

Twitter has also implemented a similar video structure as Facebook. They haven’t gotten to the scrolling video yet, but if it works out for Facebook, expect it to also make a debut on Twitter. They might even try and get ahead of the game by making this a mobile feature as well (currently, Facebook’s feature is more desktop mobilized, and Twitter as a platform is weighted more towards mobile).

Here’s an example that might help illuminate the power of video. The other day, I was scrolling through Twitter on my phone and I happened to get distracted. As I was paying attention to the other thing, I was holding my phone to the side. As I neglected my phone, it went into landscape mode. When my attention came back to my phone, I was surprised to find a video playing. It just popped out of my feed and demanded more attention.

Videos are better for advertising organically because of their attention grabbing nature. However, Facebook and Twitter have doubled down on it by introducing features that make videos stand out even more in their feeds. Businesses who are advertising on these platforms should take advantage of that kind of free value added boost.

Embracing video seems to be the way a lot of newer social media platforms are trying to monetize their business strategy. When Vine was bought by Twitter, Facebook quickly added a Vine-like feature to their own new acquisition, Instagram. Both platforms are soon going to starting advertising structures on the platform. Popular independent social media platform Pinterest is also starting to do ads, expect videos to show up soon. But perhaps most intriguing in the field is Snapchat. Snapchat is valuable for two huge reasons. First, the entire platform is built with video in mind. Second, it’s captured the magical demographic. While Facebook and Twitter have aged, Snapchat is currently what’s hot with the 13-24 age demographic. It’s what made it a good gamble for Snapchat’s founders to famously turn down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook. The company is now valued at $15 billion. For most advertisers, we’re not getting on Snapchat anytime soon. However, it is illustrative of the power of video, and where video and social media advertising are going in the future.

In some ways, we’ve come full circle. I mean, what was the pinnacle of traditional media advertising? The television ad! (It might be obvious, but I’ll just point it out anyway, television ads are videos). The platforms have changed and they’ve gone through growing pains, but eventually we’ve come around to the same conclusions, videos grab people’s attention. Advertising has become smarter certainly, as media has fractured, we’ve started to realize that television was no longer the best way to advertise. However, we’ve also now managed to separate video from television and realized that while television might not work any more, video still certainly does.

Now if only the word “video” didn’t sound so 1980's...

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