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Is long-form video on social media a fad or the future?

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The world of social media changes at a breakneck pace. An example of its evolution can be seen in the type of video content dominating social media platforms. Just a few years ago, video content tended to be short and designed to be quickly consumed.

Fast forward to 2019, and the trend is toward long-form video content, original programming, and live video streams. Last year alone, Facebook devoted up to $1 billion to developing long-form video content. Not to be outdone, Google spent hundreds of millions of dollars on original programming for YouTube; Twitter partnered with sports leagues to provide live video streams; Snapchat partnered with a number of media companies to offer shows and other long-form content, and Instagram started offering IGTV last year.

What’s driving social media to get into the long-form video game? How receptive are advertisers and consumers of this type of content? Even more importantly, what does this transition mean for traditional television as well as Netflix and other streaming services?

To answer these questions, the research team at MDG Advertising studied the data from a recent report from eMarketer, which came to the following conclusions:

1. Why the focus on long-form video content?

Social media platforms are embracing long-form video for two primary reasons. First and foremost, it works. Second, consumers are becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with the longer format.

Citing a survey conducted by ThinkNow, eMarketer reports that a sizable share of Americans watch video in a digital format in addition to, or in place of, traditional TV. For example, 61 percent of the adults surveyed stated that they watch shows on Netflix, one-third of adults watch Amazon Prime Video, and one-quarter watch Hulu.

Because mobile devices give us constant access to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to access video content. According to eMarketer, the public’s appetite for digital video content is expected to grow as mobile devices become even more central to our daily lives. By 2021, an estimated 84 percent of Internet users will watch digital video on a regular basis, with 83 percent viewing on mobile devices.

2. How does the shift to long-form content benefit social media?

The most obvious benefit of long-form video content is that it increases the potential for audience engagement. From a business perspective, it’s an opportunity for social media to gain a larger share of advertising dollars.

According to data from the IAB, 50 percent of ad agencies and marketing professionals plan to increase their spend on social media video content in the near future, and as many as 40 percent plan to direct more of their advertising spend toward online TV shows.

The rise in long-form video content on social media platforms opens up new avenues for brands looking to expand their marketing strategy to include video. It also attracts advertisers and marketers specifically looking to advertise through online TV programming.

3. Are consumers willing to watch long-form videos on social media?

Despite the potential benefits of long-form video content for social media platforms, it makes sense for marketers only if consumers are willing to watch. After years of watching short, easily digestible video clips on social media, it appears that the willingness to transition to longer content varies with age.

As reported by eMarketer, a survey by Shareablee reveals that younger consumers are the most receptive to the evolution to long-form video. Approximately 47 percent of social media users between the ages of 18–24 said they’d watch their favorite TV shows on social media. That number decreases to 38 percent for social media users between the ages of 25–54 and to only 23 percent for those over the age of 55.

4. How successful is long-form video content on social media today?

Are today’s consumers truly ready to embrace long-form video content on social media? Will it be several more years before the long-form video trend comes into its own as a viable marketing strategy?

A recent survey by Cowen and Company shows the extent to which social media users have embraced video. Over half of Americans who use social media watch videos on Facebook, while 48 percent watch on Instagram, and another 30 percent on Twitter.

While video content overall is a success, it’s harder to determine if long-form pieces are as successful as shorter videos. Surveys conducted by two firms offered different results. According to a Morgan Stanley AlphaWise survey, 40 percent of Americans over the age of 16 who use Facebook said they viewed Facebook Watch content weekly. On the other hand, a Raymond James survey showed that 75 percent of Facebook users responded that they never viewed Facebook Watch content.

5. Can long-form video succeed on social media?

Will long-form video have long-term success on social media? While current trends would indicate a bright future, the format is still relatively new. It’s entirely possible that the more pessimistic estimates are correct and that it may be some time before US audiences are ready to embrace long-form content as the norm.

That doesn’t mean that US consumers won’t accept it. According to the IAB, says eMarketer, 40 percent of Americans stream live video over social media platforms. This compares with 52 percent of consumers worldwide. In other words, it may just be a matter of time before the behavior of the US audience catches up with the rest of the world.

What does all this mean for marketers? It appears that long-form content is primed to be an important part of the future of social media. Like any evolution, however, there may be some challenges as the format finds its place in the social media realm.

Continued changes in audience behavior, the rise of tech-savvy younger consumers, and increased advertiser demand all indicate that longer video pieces on social media are more than a passing fad and that it won’t be long until watching shows on social media becomes routine.

About Michael Del Gigante, CEO of MDG Advertising

In 1999, CEO Michael Del Gigante founded MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency and digital marketing firm with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. With his unique insight and decades of industry experience, he turned what was once a traditional ad agency into an integrated branding firm based on an innovative 360-degree marketing philosophy that provides a full spectrum of traditional and digital advertising services. 




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