Why brands need a short-form video strategy for new plays by Facebook and Instagram
Facebook is back in love with short-form video, just as rivals like TikTok take over the internet with snappy content. In one of its biggest updates so far this year, the social network is about to test ads in Instagram Reels and change how brands buy video in News Feed.
On Thursday, Facebook announced a series of updates to its video advertising system, a product reveal that coincides with the run up to the NewFronts, when digital media platforms present programming and ad services to potential brand sponsors. Facebook will be competing with YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok for the affection of brands, and the video experience is core to that proposition.
“Facebook is now a very formidable competitor and option for video advertising," Carolyn Everson, Facebook's VP of global business solutions, says in describing the video update.
Facebook has taken a slightly new tact to keep up with the times: It is prioritizing video in News Feed, which is where most viewership resides, as opposed to Watch, which is Facebook’s more official video destination. Facebook now says it has 2 billion monthly viewers consuming video across the platform, not including Instagram.
Facebook also is developing new ways to serve ads to videos based on topics, making the targeting contextual rather than based on personal audience traits, which has always been Facebook’s main way of selling ads. Facebook is looking for ways to target ads contextually at a time when Apple and Google are locking down the ability to share data, putting a wrinkle in some of the old ways of conducting digital ad campaigns.
At the same time, Facebook is adding a new e-commerce feature to Stories videos, which also are short-form. Now, brands can create ads out of stickers, which are virtual filters used to decorate videos and photos. The stickers have an e-commerce component, because they contain shopping links to products depicted in the stickers. Also, the first ads are going to start being tested -- outside the U.S. -- in Reels, the short-form video section on Instagram that Facebook launched last year to compete with TikTok.
Short-form video is not a new focus for Facebook; the social network has always had an affinity for the quicker pace of content. However, for years, especially since Watch launched in 2017, Facebook has invested in longer-form content in an attempt to turn the service into more of a video-on-demand destination, something like YouTube or Netflix.
The trend in social video is shorter, Everson says. “I think there are places to watch longer form video, Netflix, Amazon, etc. But in our environment, the shorter-form videos definitely have more traction. We would say the creative community, the creator community, is definitely erring on the side of more shorter form video, where advertisers are going to be able to insert ads in between. So that definitely fits more of the direction our platforms are headed.”
Brands are starting to get used to the fast action of social video, too, as they experiment in digital playgrounds like TikTok and Snapchat. For years, brands were trying to mimic the sweeping scope of TV commercials and wanted to find digital places to run those same spots, but now advertisers are picking up the language of the social media creators who populate apps.
“Since last year, we saw an increase with people needing to use and engage with short-form video for escapism and entertainment, and just really focusing on the positivity,” says Danisha Lomax, SVP and national paid social lead at Digitas. “That was happening across a platform like TikTok and others, to just escape what was happening in the real world. So a real reason why brands should take advantage of short-form video is because people are there, and the platforms have increased their usage do to it and the inventory.”
Facebook's topic targeting announcement is geared toward serving ads to those 2 billion monthly viewers based on the content in the videos. Everson says there are about 20 main categories that cover topics like pets and sports, and there are hundreds of subcategories. “It’s been a gap in our offering to not have the ability to be very specific about topics,” Everson says. “And now that we have that I think it’s going to unlock a lot of opportunity.”