Video on social: things in perspective
At the time of their launch, Facebook (2004) and Instagram (2010) only allowed still images and textual content, introducing video only 3 - 4 years after release. Newer players such as Snapchat, TikTok or, very recently, Lasso (Facebook’s answer to TikTok) have already been designed as mobile- and video-first, answering to the changing audiences and technology: widespread access to mobile data, increasing connection speed, as well as a society going mobile. Over the last years, we’ve seen how the social media landscape has become video-driven. From very diverse YouTube content that became a go-to source of entertainment, information and opinion, to live streams and short formats that pushed out a traditional text+photo status update.
Social media going mobile transformed the way we connect. A pivotal point was the introduction of the ‘stories’ format by Snapchat in 2013. Today, stories are a default way of sharing ‘life updates’, becoming the counterbalance to unrealistic standards set by the ‘picture perfect’ Instagram feeds, as well as highly professional YouTube content. The latter became a high threshold for some of the aspiring young creators, who now turn to micro vlogging, stories and TikToks as alternatives. Rather than aesthetics, the focus of these short formats is entertainment, (live) interaction with their community and new forms of influencing. What’s interesting, brands already start to mimic this DIY look and feel, even in productions with higher budgets.
TikTok has been taking short, fun and raw video content to a new level since 2017. Launched into the era of video, mobile, and a generation of creative natives, it’s now booming mostly among Generation Z, slowly making its way to the mainstream. Research shows that tiktokers are a highly creative community — 70% of them claim to be regularly posting their own content. At the same time, Instagram users are mostly passive consumers. TikTok is also a first true challenger: 70% of users prefer it over Facebook. If we believe the speculations, TikTok itself may also actively work on market disruption, allegedly paying Instagram influencers to join their platform.
TikTok hasn’t been monetized yet — it’s something that’s expected to happen soon. This will come with more substantial insights into its users’ demographics and their behaviors. Regardless of that, a general content creation trend seems to be clear: new generations of influencers will most probably demand more and more creative freedom. And that’s something brands should be able to provide and embrace. Trusting the influencers with their process and unique approach to the very short video formats.
After all, it’s all about short attention spans, isn’t it? This mantra repeated by marketeers is not as true as it seems. Long attention spans do exist, even on social. Let’s now look at live streams that represent a whole different dimension of video consumption models.
Because of the unscripted, real-time interaction it enables, live stream builds a different type of connection between influencers and their audiences. With more trust and higher engagement, longer attention spans and less distractions, live streams are in fact great news for influencer marketeers. On the social level, this may just be a starter for new forms of companionship, developed around either the general need for togetherness or very specific niche interests. It’s a digital, interactive form of ‘slow TV’ (originating from Norway, it involves for example live footage of a train passing through the countryside) that form a refreshing alternative to quick and ‘hyper-active’ feeds of Insta Stories and TikTok, with Twitch remaining a leading platform.
Twitch has a strong gaming heritage with 3.6M monthly streamers. It rebranded in 2019 and launched a brand awareness campaign “You’re already one of us”. All this to invite new users to the platform and expand the set of topics beyond gaming. For now, non-gaming categories on Twitch are scarce, except for one: ’Just chatting’. This category grew four times faster than Twitch did in 2019. This seemingly innocent category may change the face of live streaming in 2020. Miscellaneous topics, Q&As, discussions, live music performances in the living room and pretty much anything that involves a streamer talking and the audience reacting to it in real-time. Non-content may just be the next big thing nobody thought about. Based on un-staged and spontaneous interaction, ‘just chatting’ live streams keep followers in front of their screens for hours.
Live streams in all types and forms will surely grow in the near future, including entertainment, sport, education and more serious topics like politics. The Washington Post already uses Twitch to live stream full and uncut versions of political sittings, such as hours of impeachment hearings (up to 14h of uninterrupted stream). The number of viewers and real-time engagement in the chat bulk was impressively high. Is it a sign of a new form of democratic participation?
People turn to video to find information, advice, inspiration… and plenty of relevant content is available on YouTube, the oldest video platform that’s become the second biggest search engine. What will elevate video to new levels in the future will be an advancement in search. Google has recently made it possible to search for content within the video (with a little help from creators) by allowing them to highlight the key moments. This way you can skim through the video, just like you would through text. Assessing whether it offers the answers you’re looking for, without having to watch the entire video to find out.
But what if we could get a perfectly relevant result as we google? Another thing Google’s been working on is the BERT model, an AI pre-training technique for natural language processing (NLP). In the words of its authors, it can “consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it — particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries.” This will influence SEO copywriting; redirecting the focus to search intentions of users, which will also become important for content descriptions, including video. By switching perspective from search keywords to the actual content and potential answers their video is providing, creators will be able to position their content accordingly.
Video evolves together with technology, business models and last but not least, society. What earlier seemed to be a high-threshold creative endeavor, became a common mode of self-expression, companionship and a go-to source of knowledge. The upcoming decade is bound to be a decade of video, soon also reinforced by different forms of AI tools becoming widespread.
Aside from user-generated content, online video is also about big productions developed in open competition with TV. Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube Premium are shaping the video landscape of the future: ‘streaming wars’ are on and the last word hasn’t been said yet. Especially that video became an interesting target even for platforms that have nothing to do with it at first glance.
At the end of 2019 I stumbled upon a surprise in my Spotify interface: a bunch of videos and interviews from a live Spotify session with The Lumineers. Intrigued, I searched for more information about the feature, only to discover… absolutely nothing. A couple of weeks later, the content wasn’t available anymore. It turns out that Spotify’s been working on introducing video in different forms since as far back as 2015, with no official launches despite giant budgets invested. At the moment, their search bar only suggests to look for “artists, songs or podcasts”, but considering the very recent tryouts, who knows, maybe we’ll still get surprised by video on Spotify in 2020.
Another type of video productions you may not see coming will be the ones by… Airbnb. Rumour has it that the future vision for Airbnb is to become “all travel everything”. Part of this strategy is to launch original video productions such as traveling documentaries that will support the core business of Airbnb. Brand storytelling is taken to yet another level?
TikTok audience insights: GetHero report
Twitch figures: TwitchTracker
Other statistics: Statista