Was Pivoting to Video a Mistake?

Published: November 22, 2019  by 
hand holding a video recorder in front of a blue background

If you’re even tangentially connected to marketing or media, you’ve heard of, and maybe been personally victimized by, the grand Facebook video scandal. You know, the one where Facebook knowingly inflated their video metrics up to 900%, which caused advertisers and media companies to switch strategies, change budgets, and restructure departments, only to find out that the changes were in service of fake numbers. (There was a class action law suit. As of this November, Facebook has settled for $40 million.)

But here we are, living in the aftermath. Facebook forever changed the way we interact with videos online, especially as marketers. Even in this post–pivot-to-video world, clients are more likely to request video content, higher-ups are more likely to have “heard” that videos are what we should be doing, and your office probably has some new video equipment in a closet that no one’s sure what to do with. Because it’s too late to go back to our 2015 selves and whisper in their ears that Facebook is lying about the whole video thing, we want to help you navigate the 2019 video landscape: exploring the ways that video is used now, the new frontier of video engagement with apps like TikTok, and what makes video content powerful and sharable today.

When marketing and media shifted their strategies in response to Facebook’s numbers back in 2015, the videos we were expecting to entice our audience with were mostly the longer-form videos that you can still find some of on Facebook today. Companies like NowThis News excel at this style with a combination of live videos with breaking news, and sharable, tightly edited videos with a combination of images and text that work with or without sound. Platforms like Buzzfeed’s Tasty produce a constant stream of cooking videos that are ever-popular and shared. But besides these recognizable names, the way we’re engaging with video isn’t what we would have expected three years ago; it’s more bite-sized and personal, and more integrated into social media.

Instagram has tried to make long-form video happen just like Facebook did with the launch of IGTV, an in-app feature where users can upload and watch videos longer than the 1 minute allowed in a post. Views for the feature have steadily increased since Instagram allowed users to preview IGTV videos in a post, but it’s still not where the heart of video engagement on Instagram lies. According to Eva Chen, the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, Stories are where it’s at for connection in 2019. 400 million people use Instagram Stories every day. Instagram Stories are a place where brands can connect with their audience through a combination of video, text, and photos, which makes sense when taken with the larger tone shift of Instagram. Where staged photos and artistic grids used to rule the day, now Instagram is all about the behind-the-scenes access. Candid and personal photos and videos receive more engagement, as do photos and videos that are captured on phones rather than with professional camera equipment. This means that short video snippets that genuinely take the audience behind the scenes into a company or brand are more effective than a long and arduously produced IGTV or feed video.

TikTok is the recent darling of the internet world. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a video sharing app (the closest cousin would be the now-dead Vine) where users can splice together videos, music, and text to create videos from 3 to 60 seconds. TikTok was formerly musical.ly, and was primarily used for creating lip syncs and music videos, which you can still see in the DNA of the TikTok we use now. To put it another way: It’s a meme factory for teenagers. To learn more about the wild west of TikTok, and the ways it can be used for marketers, I spoke to our in-house enthusiast, Morgan Davis.

Like most people over the age of 18, Morgan first found out about TikTok on Twitter, where threads of TikTok’s greatest hits are plentiful. She described the feeling on TikTok like watching internet 1.0 again, and said it’s fun to watch them grow and figure things out. Systems like ads and verification are still up in the air; sponsored posts often aren’t disclosed; things trend with the drop of a hat, turning into meme formats based on a single hashtag or song.

Video challenges and bits that become memes for other users to recreate is the dominant ethos on TikTok, which is why it’s become a viral-organic-content assembly line. It only takes one video from a TikTok influencer to spur hundreds or thousands of similar videos, and as they trickle out to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, it’s being taken more seriously as a marketing tool.

Morgan thinks that TikTok is a huge opportunity for brands, especially in industries like music, food, and travel. TikTok is a rare space where brands can still see organic content take off and go viral. And it’s an opportunity to be creative and connect with a younger audience that’s less likely to see content from the other social media platforms.

I also chatted with Allison Kirbo, who (among her many roles and talents) makes sure our clients have exactly the videos they need to make the highest impact in reaching their audience. She loves using video to communicate who your company is and what they do, build brand recognition, and help your audience to understand hard-to-explain concepts. Things like brand identity can be hard to convey with just text or a photo, but videos can get through more information more quickly, and capture audience attention immediately because they auto-play.

For ads, she’s found Facebook to be the most effective tool for reaching the most people with the lowest cost per click. Facebook is prioritizing videos in a way that makes them a great tool for businesses trying to get in front of as many people as possible.

Videos are also taking over where blogs are falling behind. While blogs are still a tool for providing value to your audience and communicating parts of your brand, videos work more quickly and with less effort for the consumer.

They’re also built into the infrastructure of social media sites, so users don’t have to follow a link. Search engines like Google and Bing have started prioritizing videos over blogs, so having video content available on YouTube or Facebook could push you to the top of the search.  

One of her keys to making sure your video is engaging clients is to make them short, about 15 to 30 seconds is the recommended length to keep people watching. Clients sometimes come to Allison with videos they know they want to use, and she helps them break it down into easily digestible sections so they’re more likely to be watched and understood.

Keep in mind our top video tips:

  • Videos need to work with or without sound. Whether you apply captions, type out what you’re saying in your IG Story front-facing camera video, or creatively edit in text, it’s a must. You’re willingly sacrificing a hefty portion of your audience that will swipe right by if they can’t figure out what’s going on without sound. You’ll also show up lower in search results because search engines prioritize for accessibility.
  • Use the behind-the-scenes tone of Instagram to your advantage, and capture videos for your brand’s Instagram Stories that provide access and personalization rather than being perfectly shot and polished.
  • Communicate who you are and what the video’s about in the first 5 seconds of the video, no matter how long it is. That’s the way to keep people watching instead of scrolling past when they can’t figure out what’s going on.
  • Keep videos to short, 15- to 30-second segments. More, shorter videos are better than one long video that no one watches all the way through.
  • Give an actionable step at the end of each video. Remember, you want to give the audience a chance to respond and not lose any momentum.
  • Next time you start to write a blog post for a client, think about how you could communicate the concept in a video instead. Even if your client doesn’t have budget for video, or wants to stick with a blog for now, you’re flexing your visual communication muscles.