Time To Get Moving: Future Of Social Content Anything But Static

The social media landscape is shifting — and, by shifting, I mean moving. Assuming you’re one of the 2 billion-or-so people eMarketer is now estimating will visit Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or another social media site this year, you’ve likely seen something that didn’t exist just a few years ago: videos, animated GIFs, cinemagraphs and even ads that “play” only while you’re scrolling.

Motion has arrived in the social feeds, almost universally.

To start, Facebook video ads are proving incredibly effective across industries and objectives, in part because videos are becoming more popular on Facebook. A year ago, Facebook passed 1 billion videos views per day. Today, that number looks more like 3 billion, according to Facebook. If that pace holds steady, every Facebook user in the world will be watching roughly five videos on the site per day by next June.

This transformation into a video-heavy experience is the result of Facebook’s decision to auto-play videos in its News Feed. Facebook only counts those videos playing in your feed as “views” if you stop to watch for at least three seconds, so advertisers paying for views are still getting what they pay for.

Twitter treats video views differently, opting against auto-play and counting views only when users click to play. Nonetheless, video advertising on Twitter is also incredibly powerful, especially when it’s synced with television events. As I explained in a previous Social Media Insider column, Twitter is the ultimate real-time advertising platform when it comes to reaching users on the second screen.

Instagram has supported video posts for almost two years, too. In February, Instagram began auto-looping videos in its feed, in an experience similar to Vine’s. The platform, which has been calculated about how it ventures into the space, debuted its first video ads last fall.  

But there’s more to the motion revolution than just video.

Last week, Facebook announced support for animated GIFs, those looping, soundless stop-motion clips your nephew always sends you from Reddit. This move instantly spurred new life into the motion content trend. For now, Pages and ads don’t support animated GIFs -- but they will auto-play in users’ News Feeds, provided those users have auto-play enabled in their settings.

Twitter has long supported animated GIFs, requiring users to click “play” to view them, and treating the experience in much the same way it treats video. This has nonetheless led to a rise in popularity for a new form of media called cinemagraphs, which are becoming popular on Twitter and Instagram. These look like regular static images, but small elements in them move in seamless loops. They are very eye-catching, and some brands are even taking this idea a step further to create ads that deploy visual trickery to make them look like 3-D videos.

In a total departure from the other social sites, Pinterest last week introduced the new “Cinematic Pin” ad format. In these animated ads, the motion only occurs while the user is actively scrolling. When the scrolling stops, so does the animation. Users can click Cinematic Pins to zoom in and play them on a continuous loop.

Based on the last few months alone, I think it’s safe to say that motion graphics and video are something every brand should be exploring on social media. If all the new stats and opportunities to explore aren’t enough to motivate you, then at least check out what your competitors are doing with these new formats. Otherwise, if you’re not careful, you could give your customers the impression your brand is stuck in slow motion.

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