Facebook has announced a range of new video tools and improvements to further their quest to become the destination for online video content. And while the one with the most immediate impact will likely be that autoplay videos will now be switched to 'sound on' by default (which we've covered specifically here), each of these updates has significant potential for the future of the platform's video ambitions.
Here's what's been announced:
1. "Bringing Sound to Videos in News Feed"
As noted, the first big announcement is that videos will now autoplay with sound on by default in your News Feed. The sound of each video will fade in and out as you scroll by "bringing those videos to life".
It's hard to know exactly what benefit this will bring - previous research by Facebook showed that:
"When feed-based mobile video ads play loudly when people aren't expecting it, 80% react negatively, both toward the platform and the advertiser"
But then again, another Facebook research report showed that 41% of videos are meaningless without sound, because content hasn't traditionally been developed with auto-mute in mind. It seems that rather than trying to change the creation process, Facebook has decided further align with existing practices and enable sound on - while Snap Inc. has also been touting it's 'sound on' video ads as a key differentiator for their platform, giving Facebook another reason to offer the same.
You can, of course, switch the default back to sound off for all autoplay video content, and the audio won't play if your phone is set to silent. But it is an interesting turnaround in approach.
We look forward to seeing the data on how users respond, and the subsequent effect on ad CTR.
2. Vertical Video Improvements
As shown in the video above, Facebook's also making some improvements to the way vertical video content is displayed on mobile devices.
Facebook first updated the presentation of vertical video in the News Feed last August. This new update further expands upon this, making vertical video a more immersive option.
The vertical video format is a divisive topic in social media circles - as demonstrated by the Facebook comments on one of our recent posts. Overall, the consensus from professional creators seems to be that vertical video is an inferior option, quality-wise, and that it shouldn't be encouraged. But at the same time, a growing number of people are consuming video in vertical format.
Obviously, Snapchat has also played a part in this element - the platform has put a lot of emphasis on its full-screen, immersive, vertical video format, which, Snap Inc. says, has lead to 9x higher completion rates over video shot in horizontal playback.
Facebook also notes that in their testing, people have responded positively to the larger, vertical format.
The enhanced option will add a new consideration for video marketers. As noted, with people holding their phone vertically 94% of the time, many of them don't bother to turn their device to the side when watching a video. As such, taking up more of the screen could provide a boost to the effective video campaigns.
Not everyone will agree with the approach, but it may be worth experimenting with vertical video presentation and audience response in light of this new update.
The new vertical video format is now available on both Android and iOS
3. "Watch and Scroll"
Facebook's also improving their 'watch and scroll' option, which they first started testing back in 2015.
As explained by Facebook:
"We know that sometimes you want to watch a video and also want to keep scrolling through your News Feed. It's now possible to minimize the video you're watching to a picture-in-picture view that keeps playing in the corner of your screen while you browse other stories in News Feed."
Users can drag the video to any corner of the screen, while on Android, you can also keep watching a Facebook video even when you exit the app (you can see this in action near the end of the above video).
Similar capacity is also available via the Facebook TV app which they released last year - while you're watching a Facebook-originated video on your TV, you can continue to scroll through your Facebook feed as it plays.
Which leads us to the final element of this latest update...
4. Facebook Video App for TV
Facebook has now confirmed this, with a new app rolling out soon for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV - and more platforms to come.
"Our video app for TV is a new way to enjoy Facebook videos on a bigger screen. Last year we rolled out the ability for you to stream videos from Facebook to your TV, and today's announcement expands this capability. With the app, you can watch videos shared by friends or Pages you follow, top live videos from around the world, and recommended videos based on your interests."
As we've noted several times, for social platforms to truly capitalize on the value of live-streaming and become genuine competitors for TV ad dollars, they need to also reach our TV sets. Our homes are built around the TV as a communal entertainment option - while online media consumption is on the rise, TV remains the leading home entertainment device, and will for some time yet.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all making moves on this front, signing up deals to broadcast exclusive content - Facebook's even looking to fund scripted content to air on their platform, according to some reports.
As the intensity rises in the battle for online attention, this is the next big battleground. Pretty soon, all of these platforms will have easy to access video apps, making them a more immediate and relevant alternative to TV channels. This will have significant implications for both creators and advertisers.
There's still a way to go, but Facebook's continuing its push into the video arena - in addition, The Social Network has also re-stated that its new, dedicated video tab is also being rolled out to more users.
Back in 2014, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would be 'mostly video' in five years. The potential implications of that shift are slowly becoming more clear.