More than a decade after its launch, Facebook has finally found its feet as a powerful marketing platform. When Pricewaterhouse Coopers surveyed 19,000 online shoppers around the world last fall, it found that fully half of them used Facebook as part of their overall shopping experience. At the same time, Brafton reports, Facebook video plays grew 785 percent from 2013 to 2014, with engagement up 25 percent over the same period. Facebook itself reported 50 percent growth in video views last summer, breaking through the billion-a-day barrier. It’s now up to three billion per day. The conclusion: marketers can find customers on Facebook, and they can engage them with video.
“Facebook is becoming a real player in the video space,” says Jonah Goodhart, CEO and co-founder of Moat, which measures online engagement. “It’s actively encouraging developers of content to upload directly to Facebook. I think it’s realized that having appropriate metrics and tools is critical to building a video marketing ecosystem.” It’s also a huge opportunity to divert branding dollars from TV, Goodhart notes.
And video has a powerful pull. When social media tracking agency Socialbakers looked at 670,000 Facebook posts from 4,445 brand pages from October 2014 to February 2015, it calculated that video had an organic reach of 8.7 percent, while photos had a reach of just 3.7 percent.
According to Visible Measures, a leading content advertising company, Facebook videos accounted for 25 percent of all Super Bowl ad views this year, a real roundhouse punch to YouTube. Facebook accounted for 27 percent of all viewership of the top ten campaigns, where eight of the top ten ran content. The top performing campaign of Super Bowl XLVIX, Budweiser’s Lost Dog, garnered an impressive 54 percent of its viewership from Facebook.
“For years, brands have relied on the YouTube view counter to judge the measure of their videos’ success because it was the core platform for distributing and watching content. But the recent unveiling of public video data on Facebook has shown definitively that YouTube is not the only platform where brands are posting videos or consumers are watching them,” Visible Measures said.
Why are all these numbers spiking now? Because Facebook has spent more than a year launching wave after wave of programs, features, and enhancements to its video marketing arsenal.
- In March 2014 it introduced 15-second Premium Video Ads that start playing without sound. If viewers click, the ad expands to full-screen view, and the sound kicks in. The ads are bought and measured TV-style, with ratings points and oversight from Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings (OCR).
- In May it added new video metrics in its Page Insights and Ads Reporting programs that include measurements such as video views, unique video views, the average duration of the video view, and audience retention.
- In June it improved its video rankings for the NewsFeed. The new formula includes not only traditional factors such as likes, comments, and shares but also new measurements of whether a viewer has actually watched a video and for how long. The goal: to get videos people actually watch in front of a larger audience.
- In September, it extended the availability of autoplay videos to more content from more brands in the U.S. market.
- Just this month, it declared it would charge advertisers for viewed rather than served ad impressions. “We measure an ad impression the moment an ad enters the screen of a desktop browser or mobile app. If an ad doesn’t enter the screen, we don’t count it as an ad impression,” Facebook said in a blog post.
Add to that Facebook’s $500 million acquisition of online video ad platform LiveRail last July, and all the pieces that let Facebook deliver video inventory to marketers, and display ads most effectively seem to be in place.
Tips and Tricks
So how can you best use Facebook as a video marketing tool? Here’s what the experts have to say:
Find your best audience: “Because Facebook is a more passive experience than, say, Google, you’re not going to get the crazy clickthrough and conversion rates you’ll get on Google until you understand who your target audience is,” says Brad Goldberg, vice president of ad operations at Facebook-centric ad agency OrionCKB. One way to target your ads at people most likely to engage with them is to use Facebook’s Custom Audience Pixels code, which lets you aim your Facebook ads at people who have visited your website and remarket to people who have expressed interest in your products. “You want your ad to get in front of people who will be happy to see you in their NewsFeeds and who will consider you to be at least sort of a friend,” Goldberg adds.
Control your creative: You know your business and your brand best. If your approach to video is to outsource production to an ad agency, that’s fine, but try as hard as you can to retain creative control. “The first step is always going to figuring out the content, no matter what kind of ad it is,” says Goldberg. “The content is always key to getting that first pop of attention, especially in the entertaining NewsFeed environment.”
Add a call-to-action: One of the most important video features Facebook has added in the past year is the ability to embed a clickable call-to-action within a video. You’d be crazy not to take advantage of such a compelling opportunity to convert a viewer.
Test and measure: You may not strike gold on your first try, but now that so many metrics are available within Facebook, it’s much easier to step up to bat again with a better idea of what will work and which tactics will generate the most conversion. Plan to be iterative.
Understand Facebook’s view on viewability: “My problem is that Facebook—and Google, by the way—are measuring viewability on their sites using their own definitions,” says Goodhart. “Facebook said viewability is a no-brainer metric, and it’s great to see it’s embracing it, but it doesn’t allow independent third-party measurement. Isn’t it important for Facebook to let itself be measured by the independent and unbiased third-parties that advertisers demand? Is it okay for them to say ‘No, we believe in self-measurement?’”
Combine relevant ad formats: Video is undeniably powerful for storytelling, but the strongest campaigns combine several ad formats in whatever sequences and combinations prove to be most effective in reaching the target audience. According to 2014 research from social media ad tech firm Adaptly, a 12-day Facebook ad campaign featuring different “sequenced” ads that first told the brand story and later provided product information before finally inviting people to sign up yielded 87 percent more people visiting the landing page than a test group who simply saw the same ad over and over. “If you’re building a brand and have a little patience, it’s an interesting approach,” says Goldberg.
Prioritize on mobile: Do you look at Facebook on your phone? Facebook says that almost two-thirds of video views on Facebook happen via its mobile app. If your video ad ultimately leads to your website, then you must make sure your site is optimized for mobile viewing.
Get free advice from Facebook: Facebook’s marketing team shares an extensive amount of research and coaching in order order to get more marketers on board. It’s well worth following along as the company continues to make its case for its improved metrics, ad integration, and optimization tools.