We’ve read dozens of articles citing how many millions of views social video garners every day. We know that teenagers now watch more online video than broadcast TV every week. Adults watch many times more online video now than they did a few years ago. Social video is definitely a thing.
And so far this year, one of the biggest emerging trends in video has been streaming video. Facebook is adding streaming functionality. Meerkat has more than 2 million registered users. Periscope says their users watch 40 years of video every day, and claim 2 million daily active users. There are guides and listicles aplenty to help an excited new user get the hang of Meerkat or Periscope.
But streaming video is actually a very small portion of the overall social video conversation. Vine videos loop more than 1.5 million times a day. Snapchat gets 3 billion video views daily and has 100 million daily active users. Facebook gets more than 4 billion video views per day, with nearly a billion daily active users. YouTube watch time has grown 60 percent year-on-year and has more than 1 billion users. These sites are generating tremendous engagement with video content, and very little of it is live streaming. The future of video doesn’t lie in streaming; it lies in the stream.
The stream — your timeline, your News Feed — is how you consume social media. You open a social app, and content streams past. And if you’ve been on social media for a few years, you’ve probably noticed your stream has gotten a lot more visual lately. How much of that content is video? A lot of it, probably. Why? Because video loves the stream and the stream loves video. Here are just a few reasons why.
Video that fits the medium the user is in – content created to make the most of where it’s posted – performs better than video originally posted on an external site. Facebook is very enthusiastic about native video and gives preferential treatment to videos uploaded directly to Facebook instead of cross-posted from YouTube or Instagram. Tumblr recently rolled out a new video player to improve the native video experience. And this makes sense; native video looks better in the stream. It’s easier to consume; it breaks up text posts and static images and brings life to your stream.
It may sound ridiculous, but removing something as simple as a click can significantly impact how a user interacts with a video. As more social channels like Twitter and Facebook have added autoplay, video views have increased dramatically. Now certainly some of this is due to the fact that now every display in every stream generates a view, but engagement with and attention to those videos has also increased. Removing any barrier, no matter how small, improves the video experience.
Video ads keep getting better and more creative as brands get more sophisticated. Some of the most interesting advances in advertising are in digital media, specifically video. The more engaging and relevant an ad is, the more authentic it feels to the medium and the more successful it will be. Brands and agencies have figured this out and are creating high-quality content to achieve that success. Shown in-stream, the right video ad feels like it belongs there.
Maybe we really are too lazy to rotate our phones. There’s some evidence now that mobile viewers are more likely to stick around to watch content that’s intentionally created to be viewed vertically. Snapchat is spearheading this movement, but we’re seeing it more everywhere. Not having to change your phone’s orientation makes for a better experience, and is less interruptive to the mobile experience. This is a tough one for video purists who prefer horizontal video, but we’ll continue to see lots more vertical video, so you’ll need to get used to it.
But not streaming video
This streaming video trend will prove to be just that — a trend. The truth is, most of us just aren’t that interesting. On YouTube and Facebook, we can prepare a script, rehearse and edit to make a high-quality video. On Snapchat and Vine, the videos are short, forcing their own sort of creativity. But most of the time on streaming platforms, there’s just nothing there to watch. Getting more celebrities and brands who have more streamable content (and lives) will help, but the average user just won’t have much of their own to stream. Streaming video isn’t a standalone product; it’s a feature in the rest of the social stream.
Jenn Deering Davis is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Union Metrics, the company behind TweetReach and several other social media analytics products. Union Metrics makes social media analytics applications, including TweetReach, Union Metrics for Tumblr and Union Metrics for Instagram.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.