“People around the world are posting 75% more videos to Facebook than they did a year ago,” explains Tim Peterson for Ad Age.
According to the Zuck himself, “people [on Facebook] went from watching 1 billion video views each day to now more than 8 billion” in the last year. Online video viewership is expected to grow even more in the next few years – “accounting for 80% of the world’s internet traffic by 2019.”
How can you prepare for the future of ecommerce and make your brand videos irresistible and engaging for online viewers?
A Lesson in What Not to Do
In early January, Huffington Post announced that it was shuttering its HuffPost Live video streaming news network, to focus instead on “shareable video content and long-form, documentary-style productions.”
As this Observer.com post explains, HuffPost Live didn’t work because the media company was producing the same content as competitive cable TV news networks.
But if the average Facebook Newsfeed scroll (where Huffington Post will grab most of its attention) looks like this…
Image via Institutionalized Love
...It’s no wonder it just wasn’t capturing people’s attention.
We have shorter attention spans, and content is getting blasted at us constantly. For a video to stand out, it doesn’t just need to be targeted to the right people, it should be tailored to the landscape of the feed in which it lives.
Who’s Attracting Online Video Viewers and Why?
“The future of video can be anything. There won’t be one answer. It can be one-dimensional or three-dimensional. It can be full of sound or silent. It can be six seconds or two and a half hours long,” says Jeff Jarvis, a professor at the CUNY School of Journalism.
But many of the videos that are heavily watched and shared on social networks today do have some key things in common:
- They’re typically brief (although we’ll discuss long-form a little later on).
- They engage directly with audiences, as part of a conversation (similar to a blog).
- They grab your attention in busy feeds by telling stories without sound (for optimal mobile viewership), while also inviting you to press play.
1. News Examples
i. NowThis News
A Pew Research study revealed that more and more people are discovering news and entertainment content from their Facebook friends’ newsfeeds than ever before.
So, to cater to that growing audience, NowThis News offers a new online video platform that focuses heavily on creating Facebook-specific news content – with videos that are often under a minute in length.
“When video is watched in a fast-moving social feed we believe you can’t waste someone’s time. You’ve got to make every second count if you want to make their thumb stop next time they see one of your videos,” says Sean Mills, President of NowThis.
In fact, the company made the decision to eliminate its website last year and create content that caters to specific social media platforms only.
The Facebook-specific news stories offer subtitles so that people can watch the videos without sound if they prefer.
And the company’s strategy has paid off so far, with now over 3 million Facebook followers and growing.
ii . AJ+ News
Have a look at the video below from AJ+ News (Al Jazeera’s new online news network that’s self-described as a “fresh experience, designed to inform and engage people – wherever you are”).
Notice anything different about how they’re presenting a news story?
It looks more like a John Stewart (or Rick Mercer if you're Canadian) rant, doesn’t it?
That’s because AJ+ is trying to start a conversation about the topic on social media, rather than just giving you the facts. They’ve produced the video specifically for an online audience.
The video was edited for a Facebook-specific audience; it’s a bit shorter than the YouTube version which offers a more detailed story. Plus, the video takes cues from silent films and uses text to tell the story without sound. There are also signals throughout the video to entice you to press play as by listening; you get even more out of the story.
2. Entertainment & Media Example: Jimmy Fallon
What’s more, the show regularly engages with social media audiences through the very popular “Hashtags” segment, which gets the audience to write the jokes for the show by responding to a Twitter hashtag with funny anecdotes.
Not only does this tactic keep viewers engaged when the show isn’t on TV, but it gets people who contributed jokes on Twitter to tune in again to see if their tweet was chosen.
Jimmy’s team also uses animated GIFs on Facebook and Twitter as a preview of the full-length video on YouTube. Check out the GIF of puppies predicting the Super Bowl outcome from a recent Jimmy Fallon show below.
Image via Tumblr
Finally, the show creates fantastic music videos (with the help of famous musicians) to promote future shows, using “classroom instruments” performed by The Roots (the Tonight Show band). The close quarters, joking looks, and use of “common” instruments helps to demystify the celebrity and help appreciate their talent all that much more.
Applying Best Practices for Your Ecommerce Website
1. Newsworthy Content
For example, Shopify Plus customer SpiritHoods provides informational product videos on its YouTube channel, Facebook Feed and via Instagram to help its customers stay on top of the latest and greatest from the brand.
The video formatt is quick, upbeat and educational. The company also features a lot of musicians (via short video clips) playing tunes while wearing their Spirit Hoods to showcase the lifestyle associated with the brand.
How-to and DIY videos are extremely popular online. You can create compelling videos on your own, or recruit an employee who looks like your target audience to host the videos for you.
Lauren Stokes, CEO of the popular southern-girl-inspired fashion line LaurenJames.com created an excellent demo video for her customers on how to properly tie the bow on her iconic dresses. The video is relatable because Lauren looks like her target customer, and educational because she comes across as an expert.
Examples from sites like Facebook, Instagram and Vine have some key things in common:
- An attention-grabbing opening shot
- Getting straight to the point
- Engaging viewers with the sound turned off
3. Unboxing, Enhanced Product Descriptions, and Reviews
Unboxing and product review videos help customers understand what your product looks like and whether it offers exactly what they are looking for.
For example, Walmart.ca embeds toy video reviews and more in the “description and features section” of its product pages. Check out the “Designer Desk” video below created by Hasbro for its Star Wars toys:
Starbucks recently created a documentary-style video series called “Meet me at Starbucks”. It features 11 short videos that give the viewer an intimate look at the lives of real Starbucks customers and who they meet when they visit the global coffee chain stores.
This style of filmmaking builds an emotional connection between customers and the brand in a way that cannot be achieved in a 30-second TV spot.
6. Virtual Reality and 360-Degree Videos
The benefits of using these formats is that brands can create more detailed views of their products and develop more creative and engaging brand experiences – making customers feel right there, inside the video.
Check out some recent examples below of 360 degree ads on both platforms.
Facebook: AT&T Racing Experience
Immerse yourself in Ben Albano’s 360° racing experience, and hear how he uses the AT&T network. #StrongCan #adPosted by AT&T on Wednesday, November 11, 2015
YouTube: Clash of Clans 360 Raid
As virtual reality ads and experiences mature online, brand videos will become even more engaging, and the story opportunities will be almost limitless.|
Brand Case StudyAfter creating 1800+ product reviews and informational videos over the past few years, Revzilla.com, a motor cycle gear company, has “accumulated over 9 million customer views on their website.”
No matter which platform was used, all Revzilla videos are short, informative (with a goal to help customers make the right choices versus just selling products), and encourage conversation.
Plus, Revzilla videos on Facebook and Vine begin with the sound turned off, with the aim to entice the user to click and listen in.
A Final Note on Longform Video Content
While I would argue that brands should use shortform videos for the majority of your video content marketing efforts, there are instances where longer form video content is suitable for promoting your brand.
For example, not only are more brands starting to make full-length feature films (e.g. the LEGO Movie franchise), as is explained in this Contently post, but many businesses are now opting for longer form documentary-style videos as well.
LEGO has also done a great job of creating documentaries as well with its Story of LEGO video available for viewership on YouTube.The benefit of creating longform video content is that it enables you to own the story and message about your brand in a way that cannot always be achieved in shorter video clips.
It’s clear that video content is increasingly helping brands to build a stronger connection with customers online. As long as you tailor your message for specific audiences, grab their attention right away and engage them in a conversation, you’ll be able to gain their brand loyalty and keep them coming back for more.
About The Author
Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing, and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.