Online video is quickly becoming the common medium of our age, challenging marketers to rethink their strategies and toolset, and presenting them with new ways to engage their audience.
As I write this, my 6-year-old daughter is watching a lecture on iTunes U to complete an assignment about elephants; my 8-year-old is on YouTube, learning how to make a “French Cancan Candy Wrap”; and their 5-year-old brother is Facetiming with his grandma in Tel Aviv. Kids these days choose video by default: They do not “Google” stuff, they “YouTube” it; they don’t text their friends, they share short clips; and they generally read less and watch more (and more), both at school and at home.
Perhaps the best example of this mind frame is Snapchat, a messaging app that allows users to share short videos that disappear once they have been watched. The app’s ~100 million young users (85% under 35) watch almost as many videos each day as Facebook’s 1 billion. But one does not need to try the trendiest apps or watch particularly young users to notice the trend. The Facebook feed, our era’s most popular channel, is increasingly filled with videos — hosted directly on the company’s servers or shared through other popular platforms such as YouTube, Vine, or Buzzfeed.
In addition to hosting, Facebook is rolling out a feature that allows users to broadcast live video directly to friends and followers, as some already do elsewhere. Twitter users share more than 700 YouTube videos a minute. And users of Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming app, watch more than 40 million years of video per day. Even text conversation are becoming more video-like: Animated gifs, a low-bandwidth video alternative, are replacing emojis as the standard way to express emotions and capture the essence of public and private events on the world’s most popular messaging platforms — WeChat in China, Line in East and Southeast Asia, and Facebook Messenger in the US.
The rise of video is not limited to broad- or micro-casting; it also changes the way people interact in more intimate settings. Dating apps such as Tickr and DreamDating are taking away what mystery remained of first dates, and allow users to vet potential mates based on short snippets before allowing them to have a “proper” video call. And we hear even more exciting things are happening further down the adult dating industry.
Some marketers are already using video to engage audiences in ways that were not possible previously. Birchbox is sending out email blasts with embedded videos – active ones that allow users to tap on specific areas to access more information or talk to a sales rep. Research shows that video embedded on websites and landing pages can increase conversion rate by 85%. ASOS, an online clothing retailer, boosted their conversions by adding a catwalk view that lets users see their favorite clothes “in action”. Apple, meanwhile, have videos integrated into their product pages, increasing the time spent on the site and making a deeper impression. We anticipate new tools to offer new ways for users to engage with videos, provide feedback while they watch, create links to specific scenes, convert their favorite parts to animated gifs, add captions, trim, crop, and share directly to different platforms.
Video also enjoys an advantage when it comes to content discovery; it is much more likely for a video to appear on the first page of Google’s search results compared with a plain text alternative. This is partly due to the discrepancy between the number of text and video results, making it easier for the latter to achieve higher relative Page ranks. While this situation is temporary, it is nonetheless an opportunity marketers should exploit. In addition, video search results have a 41% higher click-through compared to plain text ones.
So what should the savvy marketer be doing to increase their use of video? It might be time to take a step back and reevaluate your marketing video program. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, of course—but also check out how folks in other industries are innovating. Can you distribute more of your video content to social media platforms? Can you create animated gifs for your followers to share? Maybe micro-casting could be a fun way for your customers to encourage each other. Or perhaps you can create a virtual catwalk of your own (even if your products have nothing to do with clothes). Most critically, as you innovate, make sure you don’t forget to include the metadata that will allow your videos to show up in those all-important search results.
New data and case studies on online video’s reach and appeal are published on a weekly basis. But the above is enough to highlight the new possibilities this medium brings, and the urgency of incorporating it into one’s marketing strategy and toolbox. Video is the language of the future. Content remains king. But it is getting a shiny new castle.