Mobile First: Watch This!
In the last year, with the introduction of Vine—along with updates to both the Instagram and YouTube applications—the consumption of videos through mobile devices has seen a huge jump. These applications have created the platforms on which to share content, but the other part of this equation is how users consume video content through their smartphones. Let's first take a look at what each product did to help foster this video growth across mobile.
Prior to Twitter introducing this app in January 2013, users who wanted to share videos would have to upload their clips to Facebook. The problem was the majority of their videos were a minute or more of actual footage, and Facebook's mobile app didn't have a very friendly interface to upload videos. What Vine did was set a short time limit per video and allow users to share videos from the same app they used to record them. The results where astounding, as the new platform grew by millions of users in a matter of months.
Six months after Vine launched, Instagram updated its app to also include video. Already the fastest-growing social network, Instagram quickly gained ground by following Vine's lead of limiting video length, but made the length longer. While Vine only allows 6-second clips, Instagram allows for videos to be up to 15 seconds long. Both Vine and Instagram solved the distribution problem for mobile videos.
Before mobile was the leader for digital engagement, the majority of online videos were based on the Adobe Flash protocol, which was not supported by mobile browsers. Once YouTube began converting videos to be mobile optimized and accessible via both an app and mobile Web, the biggest barrier for consumption was removed.
Short-Form Video for Marketers
The two issues addressed by these apps were consumption and distribution, specifically for mobile devices. They can be summarized as such: On mobile, short-form videos distributed through social media networks are the preferred method of content, as they are not only easier to upload and consume, but easier to share, as well.
If we look at the numbers from an infographic from eMarketer and Digitas, it's pretty easy to see that video through mobile is only going to grow in the near future. According to the infographic, smartphone video viewership will increase by 61 percent between 2013 and 2017, growing from 72.1 million to 116.1 million.
Combined with the fact that the majority of time spent on mobile is on Facebook, as demonstrated by an April 2013 study conducted by Flurry Analytics, we can safely conclude that users will continue to view the majority of their videos through a social media network.
Now, what does this mean for marketers? The high-level answer is that to reach consumers, you must speak to them where they are already engaging, and in their preferred method. Clearly, this is short-form videos. The next question is how to accomplish this, as there are numerous platforms and no clear path to ROI with any of them.
If we take a step back, short-form videos from brands can accomplish a variety of things, but the most obvious ones are:
- Bring awareness to an existing product or the brand itself.
- Drive users to a larger format video.
- Aggregate consumer-generated content as an engagement play.
- In terms of tactics to accomplish this from the brand side, the videos can be one of two things:
- A slideshow of static images.
- A fully produced video, which can be taken from a longer clip or shot completely new.
• Bring awareness to an existing product or the brand itself: This is the easiest play, as it's basically a TV spot, but shorter and with no media spend needed. A great example of a low-cost option is what Nike accomplished with an Instagram video—which is a simple slideshow, but with the music feels much more powerful to the end-user.
• Drive users to a larger format: With the amount of money brands spend on video assets, they want to gain the most reach as possible. YouTube helps this tremendously, as these assets now have a permanent home with an infinite lifespan. The problem is there are so many videos on YouTube that it offers endless choices for users. With short-form videos, a 15-second clip can be enough to entice the user to watch the full video, whether it's on YouTube or any other digital property. Lululemon created a video on its YouTube page which demonstrated the numerous ways to use one of its products. The company then created a smaller version for Instagram to drive users to watch the entire video on YouTube.
• Aggregate consumer-generated content: One of the latest trends is having users create their own videos and then tagging them with a hashtag related to the brand. This does two things—it not only converts fans into evangelists for the brand, it also creates visual assets that the brand can then reuse. One of the best examples of this is General Electric's campaign on Vine, where it asked users how much science they could fit into a 6-second clip. This resulted in more than 600 videos, which they then combined into a Tumblr blog.
Brands should begin to use these new channels, as there are cost-effective methods that provide excellent results, and it's already where their customers are engaging.
Fernando Espejel is the director of digital platforms for Chicago-based Draftfcb. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.