Facebook Video Use Rises Sharply Ahead Of Ad Launch

After some false starts and delays, Facebook’s video ad format may not launch formally until next month, but may even be delayed until the summer, according to some reports. The auto-play format is a controversial model that many fear will only muddy a Facebook feed that already feels cluttered with so-called sponsored posts.

The good news for Facebook as it ramps up these plans, however, is that people are embracing the social network as a video consumption platform. Investment analysts at Sterne Agee drilled into the latest comScore video reports for January and found that Facebook was handily beating the market in video growth. Overall video consumption in the U.S. declined by 3% for the month, but on Facebook it actually skyrocketed 33% in videos served. Even more impressive was the time spent with streaming media, up 67% per user and 79% overall.

“While these numbers do not include any advertising video, the surge in video consumption on Facebook bodes well for the ongoing rollout of their video advertising product,” Sterne Agee said in a research note. The video outlook for Facebook may improve in February since the company just introduced a “Look Back” feature that allows users to create video highlights of their most shared moments on Facebook.

Even apart from any specific paid media product, marketers have already embraced Facebook as a video distribution platform. In a report late last year from RealSEO, 86.8% of marketers surveyed said they used Facebook to distribute their branded video, which was higher than Twitter (69.9%) and any other social network aside from YouTube (94.1%).

Regardless, it is still an open question whether users will find auto-playing video ads in their Facebook feed somehow more intrusive than they find auto-play content in Instagram and Vine. Are the contexts and expectation different among these three experiences? Is the more invitation-only environment of Facebook too intimate for TV-like spots? Facebook is taking its time analyzing the numbers from the test campaign it ran in limited release last December. According to reports, it is in discussions with movie studios as the first category of advertising that will hit the video ad channel. That is understandable. If you are going to risk disrupting the user experience to unpredictable effect, you might as well start with the content type that most people will resent least -- entertainment, the product that literally sells itself.  

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