It’s Snapchat’s fault. Its “Stories” function not only brought us a new format that is currently taking social media by storm. It also ensured that lots of videos have rotated by 90 degrees: because when we’re out and about, we typically hold our smartphones upright. And, as it turns out, we are not willing to alter that posture just for a video. Even in 2015, Snapchat used impressive figures in an effort to promote this: Vertical clips, they pointed out, had a nine-times-higher chance of being watched through to the end than horizontal ones.
So anyone who wants to reach users on the move is going to have to do some rethinking. Even YouTube has since been forced to realize this and has removed the black bars to the left and right of upright videos. Facebook had already come to the realization: users like upright videos. No wonder: after all, usage of the social web is increasingly mobile: on Facebook and Twitter, for instance, the figures already stand at 80 percent. Or, as I already pointed out in a different article: mobile video is growing more important all the time.
For marketers, this may sound like bad news at first. Because video is already an expensive and elaborate content format. The new, upright world means that second usage across platforms is more difficult now than before. Of course, it wasn’t advisable before, either: the usage situation is simply a different one. So, more than anything else, this trend is forcing people to view mobile videos as a serious topic.
The what and the where
The good news: mobile video often works better because it is shorter and not a high-gloss production. As the British newspaper “The Guardian” pointed out, for example: their extensively scripted upright videos from a professional studio were less well-received and generated less interaction than those that had been shot using simpler means. Which is not to say that a company can just pull out a smartphone and get started. This will only work well for a handful of brands and target audiences. What this does mean, though, is that a video can be a little rougher around the edges, a little simpler and more direct. This will make it a better fit for the setting, and it won’t come across like a promotional clip. But it has to be interesting and relevant to be noticed in the fast-paced world of the social web.
You can also view the upright format as a creative challenge. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, in its vertical spots, shows the car advertised from different perspectives at the same time. In this way, they have made use of existing material while adapting to mobile viewing habits at the same time. Facebook has taken lots of other suggestions and published them here. They are designed to show: rather than just cut something away at the left and right of horizontal videos, they should plan them in vertical or portrait format right from the start.
The question remaining is where best to publish these videos. Here, though, there is nearly no difference any more between the mobile and desktop web. All of the major players have already reacted to the change. In this respect, it is also about where you reach your target audience the best. In case of doubt, the two major networks, Facebook and Instagram, are good options. In this regard, see my article on the “Duel of the video platforms.” Of course smaller offerings such as Pinterest might be of interest, depending on the topic. And Snapchat, too, with its still very young audience.
Upright videos with high interaction and click rates shine on smartphones. Moreover, in a survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents said: brands that use vertical videos are considered to be more innovative. It is important to note, though: vertical videos are not the successor to the classic horizontal or landscape format. In other words, the point is not just to rotate all cameras by 90 degrees. Rather, we are dealing with a new type of moving image. It is a supplement and should be treated as such.