How Social Channels Teach Businesses the New Rules of Video

In a world full of text-only blogs and static imagery, video is the way for brands to stand out. Don’t get left behind.

When you ask anyone under the age of 25 where they interact with their friends and get their news, a common answer today will be Snapchat. When asked where they like to follow brands for inspiration, perhaps they’ll answer Instagram.

It’s social media platforms like these that make it easy for anyone to share their content, from an up- and-coming social media star to major publishers like ESPN, Cosmopolitan and BuzzFeed to brands like J. Crew and Coca-Cola.

As Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report showed, video usage continues to rise, with Generation Z communicating primarily via images (live, moving, and still) versus text

The change to consumer expectations driven by social helps businesses accept that it’s OK–in fact consumers actually prefer it–when brands create videos that are authentic and evoke emotion. This increased demand and the ability today to create inexpensive yet engaging videos gives companies the financial and creative freedom to break free of six-week production cycles and massive video budgets. Having this freedom means being able to generate more impactful videos and more often, which means more engagement with customers, employees, readers–you name it.

As video consumption habits change, businesses will experiment more, get comfortable with making authentic videos\ and see how their videos are viewed more as a result. They will start to really succeed with video and further capitalize on quantity with quality (based on the wants of the consumer) for the very first time.

Snapchat takes the fear out of ‘unedited’

Brands that pay for space in Snapchat’s Discover have the opportunity to create bite-sized videos that automatically appear on every user’s feed. For most young consumers, checking their Snapchat feed is second nature and, therefore, brands see unprecedented engagement with these short, candid and honest videos.

However, only certain kinds of content lend themselves to Snapchat. Content like beauty tutorials, celebrity soundbites and instant replays from sporting events do well on Snapchat, as they are short enough to hold viewers’ attention without being skipped. Viewers also love to see behind-the-scenes footage of an event, video or photo shoot.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show famously took advantage of the instant gratification of Snapchat by posting live video interviews from all the models backstage. This raw footage appeals to fans as it makes them feel more engaged with the event and closer to the “characters.”

Using raw, unedited content has historically been scary to marketers–or realistically, any business person. We’re all familiar with revision history and track changes: When was the last time you put a true “first take” out into the world? Snapchat is bringing unedited into the mainstream with confidence. And the payoff? Both customer engagement and brand affinity.

Instagram makes short, sweet

In March, Instagram started allowing longer videos than its original 15 seconds in the feed; enabling users to record and share videos up to 60 seconds long. Some quick math shows that this mean four times more content per video—four times!

This offers an entirely new opportunity for companies trying to share their stories on the channel, and it also offers Instagram a larger revenue opportunity for video ads. Each video length has a time and a place.

Much has been written about how to make longer videos entertaining on these channels, as well, which is key. You don’t just want to put up a long-form video that was already kind of boring (like a one minute snippet from a five-minute product walkthrough), but rather create channel-specific content that uses the longer format to tell a compelling story aimed at Instagram’s key demographics.

BuzzFeed has done extremely well in this category with its cooking videos. Its Tasty series began on Facebook, but it took off with such success that BuzzFeed created its own Instagram handle dedicated to this type of content (this account boasts more than 3.5 million followers and an average of 350,000 views per video, mind you). The ability to post a longer video with a full recipe in the comments also makes Instagram a more strategic choice for this type of content.

Product reviews, travel videos and workout tutorials are all video-friendly content that can be edited and shared on Instagram by anyone today.

Know thy endgame

Businesses have to know their endgame when it comes to publishing a video, even if that video is going to be short, raw or ephemeral. Are you creating a video for brand awareness? Then perhaps social distribution is the way to go, versus hosting it on your site alone. Are you trying to get closer to a specific demographic? That could drive platform choice and subject matter. Are you trying to convert a prospect into a customer? You need to make sure you’re able to track who watches the video, what they liked best and also know how to contact them.

Years ago the common endgame was simply content virality. People knew it when they saw it, but they didn’t know how to create it consistently. But virality is all about reaching as many people as possible, no matter who they are or what they’re interested in.

Today, not being viral is the new viral because short, sweet, raw, authentic and targeted videos go much further than one-hit wonders. With the technology available today, a brand can create a video to serve any business purpose (hiring, customer support, training, marketing, sales, etc.). It can focus on the honesty of the human connection that the video creates and worry less about making sure that it has a big-shot art director signed up for the project. The endgame is what matters.

Big businesses can learn a lot from the way bloggers and social media influencers use platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Many take advantage of the popularity of videos on these platforms without the use of professional equipment or a background in video editing. They understand that the current generation favors video content above text and are taking advantage of this market shift. They post honest and relatable videos that viewers love and often share. Generally they use these short videos to grow their brand by driving traffic back to their blog or website.

In a world full of text-only blogs and static imagery, video is the way for brands to stand out. Don’t get left behind.

Chris Savage is the CEO of video marketing platform Wistia.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.