There is perhaps no better content marketing vehicle available to today’s brands than video—a form of media that has undergone significant change over the years. From early broadcast advertising spots to digital clips inspired by the YouTube generation, the ways in which we consume video and the approach taken in producing visual content continues to shift in new directions. In today’s mobile-first era, video has once again taken a new trajectory.
We are currently witnessing the rise of a new subset of digital video—social video—and it’s an exciting time for brands to get involved. Let’s take a closer look at how video has evolved over the years and the direction in which it’s currently going.
Analog Video: A Look Back
Video has played a crucial role in advertising campaigns globally since the dawn of the television commercial over 80 years ago. With promos and commercials carefully orchestrated to fit programming structure, analog TV advertising was in itself an undeniable artform that molded generations of viewers and continues to do so to a certain extent. Early commercials would run for 60 seconds, with the industry eventually settling on 30-second spots as an agreed upon best practice (though 15-second spots have their time and place, too).
Much has changed since the birth of digital, however—specifically, how people consume video content. The “Netflix Generation” has voiced time and time again a major disinterest in cable television and traditional TV formats, a shift that has rapidly progressed since first popping up during the early days of YouTube, when user-generated content (UGC) took hold of the Internet for the first time.
A Shift Toward Digital
As YouTube gained popularity after launching in 2005, the slickly produced content inherently found in TV commercials took a backseat to an entirely new approach. User-generated content on YouTube exploded in popularity due in no small part to its production value—raw, humanistic and “real” in ways that the general public simply was not used to at the time. All of a sudden, seemingly random “YouTubers” were becoming overnight celebrities in their own niche markets, posting content such as video game playthroughs and product “unboxing” videos that would inevitably rack-up millions of views.
Savvy marketing managers quickly learned that these early YouTube stars—often referred to as “influencers”—served as unique marketing opportunities for a new generation of consumers, and it wasn’t long until an entirely new economy was born. Video was once again being used to sell products and build audiences, yet in a completely different way than what people were familiar with from growing up around traditional TV advertisements.
From Digital to Social
As YouTube’s reach continued to grow over the course of the past decade, so too did the prevalence of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat quickly gained prominence, creating communities that many of us continue to utilize to keep up with friends and family, learn about new products/services and more. Over time, video integration became the norm, drastically expanding the amount of content (both professionally and user-generated) available for consumption on a given day.
The never-ending wealth of content scattered throughout social media and the web has served as somewhat of a double-edged sword for advertisers looking to get the most out of a changing format. Information overload has resulted in attention spans that are shorter than ever in the past—an average of only 8 seconds today—allowing brands no more than a small window to attract and maintain attention. 60 second ads may not have been uncommon when advertisers began to use television commercials to expand their reach in the post-war 1940s, but in the mobile-first era, the “3-second Rule” tells us that brands have only 3 seconds or less to grab a viewer’s attention with a video of any length.
Perhaps the biggest factor to influence how video is consumed today is the increase in mobile connectivity. People across the board are spending more time browsing social media communities via apps on their smartphones than they are using laptops or desktops, which means the vast majority of today’s video content is being viewed from a smartphone or tablet. Many apps are now auto-playing videos as soon as the user scrolls past them, removing a step from the engagement process and further emphasizing the importance of this type of content for brands large and small.
Thanks to the ease-of-use associated with mobile devices, audiences are interacting with brands at exceedingly young ages. A two-year-old may just be learning how to formulate cohesive sentences, for example, yet they may also know exactly how to find what they’re looking for on YouTube simply by interacting with their tablet. In this way, the landscape for building brand awareness is entirely more robust than just 20 years ago.
The Future of Social Video Content
Digital marketing is constantly in flux, with algorithms and best practices changing on a regular basis. As social video continues to evolve, so too will the ways in which successful brands utilize it to tell their story. Major social platforms are constantly unveiling new UGC-centric features that not only assist users in deepening personal connections with one another but also allow brands to further humanize their products and services, making them more relatable to consumers.
Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and other, similar features have changed the way we interact with social media and have already been utilized to great effect by brands such as J Crew and Taco Bell. As influencer culture evolves alongside these new tools, so too will best practices for campaigns that allow brands to grow their audiences and boost appeal. Important to realize too is that new social media platforms are popping up all the time, and it likely won’t be long until another major player enters into the fold alongside today’s most popular channels.
Emerging technologies such as 360 Video and Virtual Reality (VR) will also play key roles in social video and how it’s consumed, especially as headsets and other devices become more ingrained in everyday life. The notion that brand interactions may be able to occur in fully developed virtual worlds is beyond exciting, opening entirely new options for selling and promoting the hottest products to hit the market.
Finally, social video will surely continue to evolve in terms of its digestibility and will have to in order to play a role in the future of digital marketing. Whether it be for advertising or entertainment purposes, a piece of video must be short and succinct enough to maintain audience attention while actually providing something of value—increasingly difficult in an ADD-minded world. This effectively levels the playing field, however, creating opportunities for brands to either find success or fall behind.
The Bottom Line
Video has long been a format that people easily identify and connect with, incorporating audio and visual components into one attractive storyline that can be used effectively by marketers. Gone are the days of long-form digital video and slick production values—home-grown, succinct content is favored by both audiences and brands alike, which continues to trend in the same direction. While the ways in which we consume and produce video content will continue to evolve, the importance and prevalence of social video is only going to grow with time.
For brands that are looking to carve out their own niche in the market and differentiate themselves from competitors, social video is king, and now’s the time to get involved.
Seth Silver is the Founder of Social Control, a leading social media agency based in Los Angeles. An evangelist of technology, and educator to the business community, Seth writes about social behavior and the integration of brands within the lifestyles that drive consumer passions.