Is creating video for social platforms becoming too complex?
Over the last few weeks, one of the most important upgrades in social media that’s likely to happen this year has been rolled out. After making an announcement in February, Facebook finally seems to be adding sounds to videos embedded in news feeds which are seen from its mobile phone apps – though not via the web. Put simply if you hover over the video it starts playing, as it did previously, but this time not silently but with sound.
It is a controversial move and one that has already sparked a fairly significant social media backlash. Critics of the move have taken to Twitter (of all places) to announce that they are now deleting the Facebook app and only accessing the platform via the web. They cite instances from a decade or so ago when MySpace, and many other sites, delivered autoplay ads with the sound up. That didn’t end too well for the company did it!
The move has accompanied the creation of a new service called Facebook Watch in which the platform attempts to assert itself as a key place for short form professional video. Rolled out in the US last week Watch features content from as many as 30 partners and is being positioned as a rival to content from Twitter and Snapchat.
It seems as if the platform is finally making good on a promise from a few years back that video would be the heart of the platform.
In theory this should be good news for brands as it opens up yet another way of creating engaging videos. In reality it is likely to be an issue that they don’t consider or even just ignore. That’s because online video on platforms is now starting to get extremely complex.
Of course, if you hate the idea then there are ways round hearing the audio. You can obviously turn the sound on your phone. Alternatively you can access Facebook Settings and turn it off. That isn’t the point though. The interesting part for Facebook and brands is to see how many people will actually make the efforts to tame the sound. There is evidence that a lot of tweaks to social media are initially hated by users, who as times goes by grow accustomed to them.
Ironically the move has largely been driven by brands. Facebook knows if it wants to broaden its video advertising (and video is so such an important part of its strategy) that it needs to be able to offer autoplay sound from the off. So it needs to get its users accustomed to auto play sound.
Yet most of that ad content was originally created for other platforms – like TV – and is being repurposed for Facebook, and isn’t necessarily native to the platform.
The move does however have implications for video content creators, especially those who focus on Facebook video. Sound has arguably been a lower priority for some content creators as they seek engagement on the platform. For many having a viewer watch a few seconds with no sound on auto may has been enough to promote a message. It has meant though that the start of videos have been optimised to grab the viewer’s attention and then they have been hooked in with the moving images and the subtitles.
Now the question is how should content creators approach Facebook video? Does it make sense to make the most of the addition of sound and use that as an initial hook. Or keep to the established way of doing things without sound initially and with subtitles?
The grammar of Facebook video production could be set to change, but only if Facebook users respond in a certain way. It may simply be that the majority of videos are still watched on Facebook on autoplay with the sound down.
The future of video content on social platforms seems to be in a constant state of flux. Snapchat recently allowed its users to record six videos at a time while dropping its ten second limit on recording.
For brands social networks remain at the heart of their video distribution strategies. The only problem is the proliferation of platforms, different methods of presentations and customisation options are now starting to cause real headaches. Video is the future for social networks, but brands scan very easily get stuck in the past.
Commissioned by The CMA