Game On for Social Video

If there was ever a moment that crystalized the advent of the social video age, it was the recent unveiling of Facebook’s Instagram Video.

Coming off the heels of the already hugely successful Vine app for Twitter, Facebook upped the ante with Instagram Video’s unique features, such as expanding the video length to 15 seconds, adding more layers of user control, and making the entire service available to 130mm installed Instagram users (10 times the 13 million Vine downloads to date).

The overall message—Game On for Social Video. Twitter and Facebook will go forward iterating on new features, promoting their services to new users, and generally compete in such a way that ultimately serves to raise the profile of social video to the benefit of us all.

Inevitably, there will be ongoing comparisons between the two social video formats, and already there’s chatter of Instagram Video being a “Vine killer,” but I don’t think one will completely overshadow the other. Sure, at first blush Instagram’s 15-second timeframe gives it the slight edge over Vine in terms of monetization opportunity. But let’s look at what both services together portend for the future of social video and the evolution of video advertising.

Reach

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Both Twitter and Facebook are under pressure to monetize their platforms in a non-intrusive way. Both have implemented “sponsored” posts/tweets systems that users have tolerated, but sometimes rejected as an annoyance. What’s more, they’ve been limited to banner ads, which are less effective both as a marketing and monetization tool that video ads. With Vine/Instagram Video, both social networks can now drop video units into their respective platforms, essentially creating an in-stream advertising channel where the “ad” can be both content and advertisement at the same time (see next point)

Brands

Between Vine and Instagram, we’re entering a new phase of social video that brands can participate in if executed authentically. Brands can use them to create their own videos that help them tell their story in a way that belies the traditional advertisement format, essentially offering a new window into a company’s message, culture, and personnel in a way that more resembles content than marketing. Done right, these will be entertaining and educational enough to deserve viral distribution and become part of the pop culture conversation or the social feed than just another promoted post to be ignored.

Content

There’s also the opportunity to brand user-generated content. Just as YouTube videos (user-generated or otherwise) have the potential to carry short advertising, so will these short-form social videos. But these are more personal, connected videos created on social networks than the broadcast-style content posted to YouTube.  These video ads will be in the feed, not just as pre-roll, which re-defines UGC really and the advertising around it. Instagram has the edge here, because the longer the video, the more permission brands have to attach an ad of some fashion. But Vine can easily lengthen its video limit at any time.

Mobile

Both Facebook and Twitter know their future is in mobile. And as video platforms, both Vine and Instagram are cross-platform by nature. This has huge implications on the future of mobile advertising. They are by definition more interstitial/integrated as vs. pure pre-roll ads. This adds a useful extra layer to brands’ mobile advertising strategy, which ultimately means more flexibility.

Monetization

The big question, however, is what these two video platforms will mean to the already growing problem of eroding CPMs. Ad inventory is exploding, with more and more content providers eager for a cut of the growing online video advertising market getting into the space. The number of online videos with ads against them nearly doubled last year, from 14% to 23%. While the overall spend on video ads is expected to grow 41% this year, the competition for a cut of that spend is equally increasing. As such, the average CPMs have fallen from $17 – $25 in 2011 to $15 – $20 in 2012. Both Instagram Video and Vine just created more inventory to this pie, and it will prove interesting to see what result that will have.

The online video giant has remained relatively quiet during this Vine and Instagram for Video explosion. Currently, YouTube’s mobile apps focus more on consumption and discovery, but it can jump into the creation game with a similar feature set in their Apps. Additionally  this perhaps would help YouTube solve its problem monetizing user-generated content by creating in-stream video ads versus pre-roll ads. As the biggest online video supplier on the planet, it will be interesting to watch – Game On!

Frank Sinton is the Founder and CEO of Beachfront Media, a video everywhere company that provides solutions for mobile, web, and TV Apps and monetization across all screens. For More information, please visit www.beachfrontmedia.com.

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