The All-Video Era on Social Networks

Video has taken over social networks and transformed how content is created. What impact has this social shift had on video and how to take advantage of it?

Whether streamed on a live or deferred basis, whether lasting one hour or one minute, whether with or without audio, video is currently taking over all Internet channels, beginning with social networks.

Annual video content growth on social networks worldwide from 2015 to 2016, Shareablee/Statista

Video has since replaced text at the core of the social algorithms that are so coveted by advertisers and broadcasters. Nicola Mendelsohn, Vice President for Facebook in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, made the following statement during a lecture in 2016: “Within the next five years, Facebook will definitely be mobile and will probably be all video. We already observe a decline in the use of text and an impressive increase of the number of videos. Therefore, if I was having a bet, it’d be video, video, video.”

It is therefore not surprising that creators and producers are increasingly interested in distributing their videos on social networks. But how do social networks impact video creation?

To each network its generation and its uses

In February 2017, Brightcove presented the results of a study conducted with over 5,500 Europeans on “the science of social video.” These results should interest companies that are looking to use the video format on social networks to increase their visibility and, thereby, their sales.

This study highlights generational differences with respect to viewing habits, engagement levels with proposed videos and the famous conversion rate. Here are its main findings:

  • The 18–25 age group squats Snapchat and Instagram: They are those who spend the most time watching videos on social networks, i.e., an average of nine hours per week. They watch fewer videos on Facebook, spending only 24% of their total viewing time on that platform compared to an average of 36% in the case of the other generations. Conversely, they are particularly fond of Snapchat and Instagram, which currently take up 9% and 8% respectively of their online content viewing time.
  • The 26–34 age group trust brands and interacts with them: They form the generation that places the most trust in branded content (51%) and editors (53%). This generation interacts a lot with brands on social networks: 89% versus 80% on average. This age group is also the one that is most susceptible of making a purchase after having watched a branded video. Moreover, 60% confirm that they have done so in the past.
  • The 55 and up age group is addicted to Facebook videos: If YouTube is by far the preferred platform to view videos, all generations considered, internet goers who are 55 years of age and older watch as many videos on YouTube (48%) as they do on Facebook (47%). By contrast, they are very skeptical of influencers. Close to one person out of two (46%) would not trust video content originating from a celebrity or blogger, but 80% would trust any content recommended to them by a family member or friend.

Just like in a nightclub, what counts is standing out from the crowd

People are solicited on a constant basis, and the challenge for content companies and creators therefore becomes to successfully stand out from the crowd and develop privileged relationships with audiences. “The Internet is like a nightclub,” stated Pierre Orlac’h, responsible for content on the Gentside website, during the Web Program Festival 2017. “There are thousands of people inside. Therefore, how can I manage to attract someone in the crowd and develop an intimate relationship with this person?”

Orlac’h manages a site that is constantly progressing. It was visited by more than 50 million unique visitors in March 2017 and his group uploads 3,600 videos per month. “Gentside is a site with a high level of ‘affinity.’ We developed 13 video channels according to 13 highly different and specific themes. For example, we would no longer launch a channel on video games in general, but on one video game in particular because we know that a true community revolves around a single video game. There’s a true passion that brings people back on a regular basis. It’s a niche within a niche.”

Also at the Web Program Festival, Laure Lefèvre, cofounder of MinuteBuzz, echoes Orlac’h’s comments: “We began with text but quickly turned to video, simply because we are constantly overseeing our algorithms!” Oft presented as the “French Buzzfeed,” this media created in 2010 made the decision to take its website offline in 2016 and fully devote itself to viral and video content thereafter.

Apparently, the gamble paid off seeing as the media’s sales figure—with 4 million Facebook fans—has increased constantly. In 2016, the media was also bought out by the TF1 television channel. “What’s important is to never forget why we do what we do: we exist to put a smile on our viewers’ faces each and every day,” she adds.

“Today, we no longer use a piecemeal strategy, meaning a strategy for each individual platform or webseries. Our objective for the brand is to stand out permanently in everyone’s bookmarks. We need to have a global strategy. We upload 30 pieces of content per day between our four different brands. All of our videos must share the same spirit and the same backbone regardless of subject. The form is constantly evolving, but the substance must not change.”

Content is what counts most

In her most recent study commissioned by Kantar Media, Marie Dollé observed a strong trend among French brands to create viral videos. A total of 9, 250 viral videos were produced in 2016, up by 21% compared to 2015. This inexorable migration of videos and brands to social networks influences how videos are scripted.

“Initially, we were really involved in brand content whereas, today, we are more involved in content marketing,” points out the media expert. “Today, the focus is on bringing value to the consumer through video: the video needs to generate real interest for the internaut, which explains why many brands develop video channels with tutorials, info-magazines and so forth. The brand is much less visible.”

The search for quality content is also what pushed many a brand to launch its own webseries in 2016. “They allow you to reach audiences on a regular basis and incorporate the brand in a contextualized manner without generating an advertising rejection phenomenon. That’s a highly convincing argument at a time when the use of adblockers is in constant progression!”

Another major impact of social networks for viral videos is the increasing presence of influencers such as YouTubers and bloggers among others. “In the past, brands would approach YouTubers to incorporate themselves in their universes. Today, it’s the opposite. YouTubers welcome brands into their universes. There exists a co-creation dynamic and more freedom is given to YouTubers because they know their communities best.”

Social network branding also influences how videos are structured and dressed up. Marie Dollé explains that social networks allow brands to speak up differently: “Not only can brands propose longer formats than TV spots, but they also speak to new generations by telling a story about their identity, their territory, and their values. It’s what we refer to as storytelling.” Videos adopt new trendy scripts, and it has become common practice to use emojies and other Snapchat filters in videos. It’s a way of showing a young audience that the brand is in tune with its time.

What does the future hold?

The marriage of video and social networks is still in its early stages. The phenomenon is set to accelerate given the systemization of live streaming and the announced development of 360 videos and virtual reality, namely on Facebook. Certain actors like Snap (Snapchat’s parent company) seem to be betting more on augmented reality. Evan Spiegel’s company, which today promotes itself as a “camera company,” should continue to innovate by proposing hybrid formats that are at the crossroads of its camera glasses and the drones that Evan Spiegel’s firm is speculated to be working on… To be continued in our next video!

Alexandre Pierrin
Alexander Pierrin works as a writer/director on projects ranging from documentaries to humoristic webseries and radio performances. He wrote and directed the fictional webseries “doXa” for Studio 4 (France Télévision) as well as SURVIVRE, a documentary webseries on survivalists for the IRL platform (France Télévision). Finally, he was nominated for the “Prix SACD-Longueur d’ondes de la Fiction radiophonique humour 2018” for the collective creation Yoga Citoyen.
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