Just as marketers were beginning to wrap their heads around how to effectively connect with consumers via digital video, along came the rise of mobile.
It is estimated that somewhere between 48 percent and 55 percent of global web traffic now originates on smartphones or tablets, with that share expected to steadily increase in the coming years. In other words, we have firmly moved from the desktop-first age to the mobile-first age.
When it comes to video, this shift is about more than simply switching from one type of screen to another. The move to mobile impacts every aspect of video marketing, from how pieces are created to the ways in which they are consumed.
Specifically, brands looking to engage audiences with video should keep these five key mobile-driven changes in mind.
1. New Length Preferences
A fundamental difference between mobile video viewing and desktop video viewing is ease of access. It is much simpler to watch pieces from anywhere on a smartphone or tablet than on a traditional computer.
While this is a positive development overall for marketers — more viewing opportunities mean more chances to connect via video — it also entails revisiting traditional thinking around things like how long videos should be.
Because they are often on the go or scrolling during brief periods of downtime, audiences tend to gravitate towards shorter pieces on mobile devices (streaming on platforms like Netflix being the exception). Marketers appear to be increasingly picking up on this preference for brevity. A recent analysis by Vidyard found the average length of brand videos has dropped by 33 percent over the past year, and nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of pieces are now less than two minutes long.
2. New Sound Preferences
Going hand in hand with evolving length preferences are evolving sound preferences.
Whereas audiences are often prepared to engage with digital videos on desktop computers with the sound on, this is not necessarily the case with mobile. On smartphones and tablets, people may be rushing around and unable to turn the sound on and/or engaging through players that have sound disabled by default.
In other words, as consumers shift towards mobile video consumption it is no longer safe to assume that they will be listening to your videos. That’s why savvy creators such as BuzzFeed-owned Tasty are increasingly catering to sound-off audiences by eliminating voiceovers and including text overlays in pieces.
3. New Orientations
Although laptops and computer monitors have the same orientation as televisions — horizontal — people default to holding their smartphone and tablet screens vertically.
This seemingly small difference has important implications when it comes to video. In particular, it means that traditional formats, such as 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, are not well suited for mobile devices unless they are switched from portrait mode to landscape mode.
Not surprisingly, audiences appear to prefer vertical-friendly video formats, such as 1:1 and 9:16 aspect ratios, when viewing on their mobile devices. An analysis conducted by Buffer and Animoto found vertical-orientated videos garner 30 to 35 percent more views and 80 to 100 percent more engagement from mobile audiences compared with horizontal-orientated videos.
As with sound preferences, creators are getting the message on orientation preferences. Some forward-thinking video producers such as Tastemade have even shifted their entire development processes to prioritize vertical formats.
4. New Formats
A key thing to keep in mind is that the move to mobile has not only affected video viewing — it has also impacted how videos are created.
Smartphones have become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget how incredible they are. Most Americans now have a device with them at all times that has a powerful camera, ample storage, and a consistent Internet connection.
This has made it possible for nearly anyone to record snippets easily and has birthed fresh formats in which video is not tangential but the core content type, such as Snaps, Stories, Facebook Live and IGTV.
For marketers, this evolution provides opportunities not only for new organic video pieces but also for new types of ads. Increasingly, forward-thinking brands such as CrossFit are utilizing paid placements in video-centric, mobile-centric formats such as Instagram Stories to engage audiences in fresh ways.
5. New Creative Approaches
To see how mobile is transforming video, one need look no further than TikTok.
The content on this quickly growing platform bears little resemblance to online video from a decade ago. It is accessed through an app, is vertically orientated, and is incredibly short.
Moreover, the videos feel different. Their mobile-centric nature is apparent in everything from the quick cuts to the text overlays.
The takeaway here isn’t that brand videos need to look like TikTok videos. Rather, it’s that marketers should think of the shift to mobile as having creative implications as well as technical implications when it comes to video. Properly engaging audiences on their smartphones and tablets means rethinking not only the orientation and length of pieces, but also how they are shot and structured.
It’s also important for marketers to keep in mind that things are quickly evolving. As devices improve and connections get faster — especially with the rollout of 5G in coming years — the quantity of content is sure to explode, as is the number of formats. For brands, then, the changes wrought by mobile on video marketing are by no means finished — in fact, they may be just beginning.