Few underestimate the power of online video. Its importance has been apparent since at least 2006, when Google acquired YouTube in a deal worth north of $1.5bn.
But a lot has changed since then. So much, in fact, that it’s worth asking if video is effectively the future of the internet. The answer: perhaps.
If it is, here’s what brands need to know.
Video is changing the face of non-video services
One of the strongest pieces of evidence to support the notion that video is the future of the internet is the impact it’s having on some of the most popular online services that, unlike YouTube, didn’t start out with a video focus.
For example, when Instagram, which rose to prominence as a social photo sharing app, announced a new 60-second video limit earlier this year, the company revealed that the time its users spend watching videos has increased by more than 40% in the past six months.
There’s no reason to believe that trend has stopped and, while it’s still a popular photo sharing app, video is increasingly becoming a bigger and bigger part of the Instagram content mix.
The impact of video is even more apparent when looking at Instagram’s owner, Facebook.
The world’s largest social network is now one of the most popular platforms for sharing video, and a real threat to YouTube.
But Facebook doesn’t just have the potential to overtake YouTube; it could find that it is overtaken by video itself.
Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s VP for EMEA, made headlines recently at a conference in London when she predicted that the social network would “probably” be “all video” in the next five years.
“If I was having a bet, it’d be video, video, video,” she told the audience. Why? Video packs a lot of punch…
The best way to tell stories in this world – where so much information is coming at us – actually is video. It commands so much information in a much quicker period so actually the trend helps us digest more of the information in a quicker way.
Video ads are big, but…
For brands looking to take advantage of mobile, video advertising is the low-hanging fruit.
While digital video ads – at least the good ones - aren’t repurposed TV spots, they’re the easiest way for brands to dip their toes in the online video waters.
So it’s no surprise that many brands are going beyond video ads. For example, brands are creating original content for platforms like Instagram, including mini-series, and encouraging consumers to create content as part of contests.
They’re also working with influencers to co-create content, and using product videos to increase conversion rates and basket sizes.
In short, there are plenty of ways brands can embrace online video and while some are associated with advertising, some of the most effective aren’t.
Live video is not a fad
According to Facebook’s Mendelsohn, Live has been “a bigger, faster phenomenon” than the company expected, and engagement on Live videos is “much higher,” with Live videos receiving ten times as many comments as pre-recorded videos.
While live video’s rise is most evident on social platforms like Facebook, brands should keep in mind that live video isn’t exclusive to these platforms, as evidenced by Amazon’s Style Code Live, a live 30-minute show the online retail giant produces and streams daily Monday through Friday.
It features an interactive player that highlights products as they are featured in the show, giving viewers the ability to more easily purchase them.
Mobile isn’t a barrier
If there were reasons to be skeptical about video’s potential, one of the biggest might have been concerns over mobile performance, as well as bandwidth and data utilisation.
But advances in mobile technology and reduced data costs mean that widespread mobile usage isn’t a permanent impediment to the growth of video on the internet.
The statistics back this up: Facebook’s Mendelsohn revealed that the company’s users are watching an average of 100m hours of video every day on mobile devices.
Sound is optional
Video has traditionally been an audiovisual medium, but the internet is changing that.
On Twitter and Facebook, videos autoplay without sound, challenging brands to find ways to deliver video content that’s compelling even without audio. One of the more increasingly common techniques: texted video.
Video is for more than big brands
Content is king, and producing high-quality video content can require a royal budget. But costs are coming down and companies have more tools than ever to create video content without spending five, six or seven figures.
For instance, there are plenty of services that offer stock video, and video platforms are increasingly aiming to make themselves accessible to even the smallest of companies.
Just recently, YouTube launched YouTube Director, a free app that provides templates and editing tools, and is even offering businesses that spend as little as $150 on YouTube advertising the services of a filmmaker who will come to their location to film an ad spot.
New technologies will change the game
New technologies, such as virtual reality, are offering new opportunities for brands to create compelling original video content.
Naturally, some of these technologies are expensive – pro VR cameras can cost tens of thousands of dollars – but some, like drones, don’t require mega-brand-sized budgets and they can still captivate.
Drone-captured video, for instance, has been used to great effect by small businesses like Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari, which has racked up millions of views on YouTube.
There are riches in niches
The internet, as compared to mediums like radio and television, is the most niche-friendly, and given the appeal of video content, it’s not surprising that digital video is giving birth to and supporting lucrative niches.
One of the best examples of this is Twitch. Launched in 2011, the video game-focused streaming service was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for nearly $1bn.
Last year, its users watched 459,000 years of video, and that number should only rise as eSports continues to grow.
For brands, there are great opportunities to get involved in these niches through advertising, sponsorship and original content.