The future of social media is video

December 21, 2016
Posted in Social Media
December 21, 2016 Stephen Davies

“In five years, most of Facebook will be video,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s inaugural town hall meeting in November 2014.

At the time Zuck was responding to a question about Facebook’s infrastructure and if it could withstand the rapid growth of photos being shared on the platform.

Clearly an increase in image based content would not crash the Facebook servers. Zuckerberg’s response had in fact shown that his sights were set on five years into the future.

That future was predominantly video and now, two years later, it looks like his prophecy is coming true.

Video on Facebook is not a recent feature users have been able to upload their own and watch other people’s since 2007. Other than improving video quality for many years the feature was mainly unchanged.

The company had more immediate priorities. The timeline, mobile, images, fan pages, games, apps, groups, messaging, user privacy, news publishing and the other successful and unsuccessful features the company has introduced. Often much to the annoyance of its users.

Technological and cultural changes have caused Facebook to double down on its video efforts.

Today’s smartphones are as capable at recording high definition video than dedicated handheld devices; mobile data costs are coming down giving concerned users all-you-can-eat packages and the wild successful of YouTube is going from a site for hosting grainy cat videos to a video behemoth.

These changes, along with cultural changes in how people expect to receive content, nudged Facebook to introduce new and more compelling video features to the platform.

In the last 18 months alone the company has launched new offerings in the form of 360 video, Facebook Live and instant video in its Messenger app.

Facebook’s focus on video is part of the wider trend of prioritising among social networks.

Facebook makes the point very well but it’s only part of a wider trend of how most social networks are doubling down on their video efforts.

YouTube

YouTube, as already mentioned, continues to grow exponentially. Ranked second largest website in the world (its parent company, Google, is first and Facebook third), almost 5 billion videos are watched on it every day.

The videos on YouTube are mainly uploaded from its 1.3 billion audience but increasingly media organisations are offering their content as part of its partnership program.

The platform has turned regular people into celebrities, some of which are making millions of revenue from their videos. The high profile ‘YouTubers’ are is as much demand as more traditional based TV celebs.

Indeed, brands are allocating more of their TV ad spend to YouTube so they can target that diverse 16 – 34 year old demographic who increasingly prefer to watch YouTube over TV.

Instagram

Facebook owned Instagram launched its first video offering in 2013. Since then it has refined the video experience, introduced longer playing times, launched Boomerang, introduced Stories and just this month it will roll out live video.

Video ads on Instagram have surpassed static image based ads because the data has shown they receive a better engagement rate.

Twitter

Keeping up with Joneses, or just keeping its head above the water, Twitter has improved its video offering also.

Users can now capture video directly from the app or upload it from a smartphone or desktop. Video length on Twitter has gone up from 30 seconds to 2m 20 seconds for us mortals. For select publishers that limit is 10 minutes.

In 2015 it acquired Periscope pre-launch giving its users the ability to broadcast livestreams to their Twitter feeds directly from their smartphones. Periscope has recently updated its offering with ‘Periscope Professional’ which is a suite of tools to help users create higher quality live videos.

In August this year Twitter launched Media Studio, an ad sharing program for video content creators that allows users to edit and schedule media from the platform.

In October Twitter subsequently announced the closure of Vine. Such is the nature of the beast, especially when it involves Twitter.

Snapchat

The newest kid on the block is Snapchat and again another player in the video space. Its popularity with the young demographics has spurred both Facebook and Instagram to copy some of its features. Particularly the ephemeral nature of the content shared.

Snapchat reportedly receives a staggering 10 billion video views per day according to a report by Bloomberg.

How should you take advantage on the growing use of video in social media?

The growth of video based content shows no sign of stopping soon. Increasingly we’ll see more use by both consumers and brands as the technology continues to develop.

Video in social media doesn’t have to be professionally created of course. People crave that raw and real feel of video that’s taken in the moment.

That said, even when the skills of a professional editor is not required it’s still critical for both brands and individuals to have the capability to capture, edit and share video content when necessary.

Teams should be well versed in adding graphic overlays, setting up a live feed, basic editing and shortening, and so forth.

This requires an investment in both technology, software and skills.

If you’re a big enough brand you should be looking at developing the the know-how internally and working with agencies that can support the process.

Smaller businesses and individuals should be developing their own skills, ensuring they have the latest smartphone technology and accompanying accessories (tripod, external mic and so on).

If you’re an agency then it could be wise, if you haven’t already, to double down on your social video offering. Expect client demand to increase in the coming years.

Skate where the puck is going not where it’s currently at.

If you work in social media you’ll know that things don’t stay the same for too long. Video is already hugely popular within social but we’re just at the beginning.

In the last 18 months each of the big social networks are making video their core feature. Whether that’s high definition, 360, livestreamed or ephemeral video that lasts just for 24hrs.

The next 18 months will see all these new features improved upon and added to.

There’ll still be a place for text and image based content in social as there always has been.

But as Zuckerberg prophesied those two years ago, the future is video.

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