With Instagram recently declaring they’re no longer a photo-sharing app, TikTok dictating trends in all kinds of spheres, and Pinterest rolling out shoppable videos, it’s clear video is the format taking over social media. But this isn’t a new trend; we’ve seen this before. Some apps that started as native video platforms have flamed out, while social media behemoths evolved to include it and have seen great success.
There are some lessons from the past that creators should take into account to build for the future, especially as social media continues to prioritize video. As time goes on and video becomes more the norm than a novelty, we’ll see the legitimization of quality production on those platforms and find it a worthwhile investment of time and resources.
The beginning of video on social media
Some time ago, internet reliability made the idea of an entire site dedicated to video laughable. But in February of 2005, YouTube, a whole website dedicated to the sharing of videos, was born. While it grew unparalleled in video sharing, it’s not particularly seen as a social platform. For one, the comment section on videos is notoriously toxic. Plus, leaving comments in the comment section is more of an engagement afterthought rather than intentionally posting.
So who would bridge the gap between video sharing and social media? Enter: Vine. Vine briefly brought together these two concepts on their app dedicated to 6-second videos. Soon, more prominent players like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat took Vine’s video concept and rolled out their own interpretations of what social video could be.
Instagram incorporated video to their platform in 2013 with 15-second videos you could post to your feed. It was a clear move to eclipse what Vine could offer. You could splice together your video in-app, select a filter, and upload it to your grid. Unfortunately, Instagram had a difficult time keeping the quality of the posted video consistent, and the square format wasn’t enough to make people stop in their tracks and watch.
Snapchat was the platform that had the eye-catching, full-screen market cornered. They upped the ante and released Snapchat Stories in 2013, where individuals could share videos with all their followers. But it was what they did with this page in 2018 that really made an impact in the video world. Below your friend’s stories, you could ‘Discover’ content. Brands, networks, and publications would post daily or weekly stories you could subscribe to, and it took off quickly. Soon E!, MTV, and NBC were producing shows in a full-screen vertical format for Snapchat users. Indie productions and small documentary filmmakers were also jumping in and showing their content. It was a hit and continues to be to this day.
Social media has come to incorporate stories, posts, albums, and more, all of which can host videos. The biggest outstanding question now is, where should you post your video content?
What platform works for you?
When you consider where you should invest your time in social media, you need to decide your intent. Snapchat is an incredible medium for a recurring series, especially now that they’ve invested in Snapchat Originals, proprietary shorts, and shows on their Discover page. It’s a great platform to set up news segments, recurring shorts, or narrative-based content.
If you’re looking to build your brand story, the Meta family may be the place for you. Nowadays, Facebook video posts receive 59% more engagement than regular posts, and Instagram videos perform higher than their static counterparts. Consider short, funny videos, or inspirational content for Meta. Instagram also built their own TikTok competitor, Reels, that could reward your hard work with money.
Speaking of TikTok, you will want to consider this platform if you’re looking to explore dramas or simple observational video styles. Day in the life videos perform well across all interest groups, and sensational stories—real or fictional—can gain cult followings. Build up your storylines through replying or stitching videos with each other, or creating playlists so people can binge-watch your work. Pro Tip: use editing software that exports directly to the app.
TikTok also just announced they will be featuring their first-ever weekly sponsored segment in partnership with Buzzfeed. The videos of this partnership will be centered around Buzzfeed’s vertical Tasty and will show cooking videos. It will be a highly collaborative process, with the opportunity for sponsors to be spliced in. Only time will tell how much this initial project will grow into a movement.
Put down the phone and pick up the video camera
Just like black and white gave way to technicolor and standard definition gave way to high definition, we’re on the precipice of seeing phone-quality video give way to professional-quality video. Growing likes, comments, and shares as influencers update their kits underlines that being a cut above the rest is well received. Take old @wisdm8 engagement versus new @wisdm8 engagement, for instance. There’s also a running joke on TikTok that those in the west get the ‘bootleg’ version of the platform while Asia produces cinematic-style videos to much adoration. Audiences are asking for better content in the form of execution, storytelling, and more. And with how much video content they’re already exposed to, they’ve become discerning critics. Now is the perfect time for professionals to step up to the platform.
While clout isn’t everything…
It certainly counts for something. Making your videos available for public consumption on social media can exponentially grow the attention you receive for your hard work. For agencies, you could see people watching your advertisements or brand sizzle reels as a genuinely engaged audience (rather than people who can’t click away fast enough). It can also get you a high audience reach or even virality without investing a dime to obtain those eyes. For filmmakers, it’s a great testing ground to hash out new concepts and establish a base of supporters.
With the back and forth nature of social media, you can not only receive feedback but also build a rapport with your audience. Social media’s viral nature could end up giving you free PR coverage on your latest project. Filmmaker Victoria Metsu turned to TikTok during the pandemic and racked up a following of 120,000, with one of her videos getting 1.3 million views—a number that 5 years ago a YouTube video would be lucky to hit. Or, your account could launch you to network television.
It’s time to get serious
As social media continues to prove it is a legitimate space for advertisers to express brand personality and filmmakers to showcase their work, we will undoubtedly see the quality of content on those platforms skyrocket. And when that standard of work becomes the platforms’ norm, those who have learned how to build their work as “social-first” video will see their investment of time and resources pay off. Video-only apps of the past, such as Vine, have died, but the evolution of platforms like Facebook and Pinterest and the advent of TikTok show that video on social media is here to stay. It’s about time we start taking them seriously.