Tag Archives: VIDEO

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How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

Video has become an important tool in the marketers’ tool box. Video storytelling is a useful and increasingly popular way to engage customers.

But if your video doesn’t work properly or cripples your website or app performance it will become a major frustration to customers, marketers and techies alike.

In the previous two parts of this column on data and download speed and autoplay and audio we learned:

  • Video dominates mobile data traffic
  • When implemented correctly, mobile video should not impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device
  • Mobile users start to become impatient after waiting just two seconds for a video to load; by 10 seconds a fifth will have given up.

This column will explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues with videos to give your viewers the best possible experience with your video content and keep them engaged and watching your videos.

Jump to:

How to detect problems with video
How to avoid problems with video
How to remedy problems with video

How to detect problems with video

Detecting issues with video, audio or any other web or app issue a) can be straightforward; b) should be everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO down; and c) helps to keep agencies, techies and marketers on their toes.

1. Use it

Blatantly obvious – but when was the last time you checked out your site and videos from a bus, train or bar? Incentivize employees to use the site/app (during beta testing and routinely after goes live) and report issues and suggest improvements.

Check for:

  • How quickly did the site/page load? (Count the seconds)
  • How long did you have to wait for the video to start?
  • How good is the quality?
  • Does it stall / (re) buffer during playback?
  • Was it worth watching/watching to the end?
  • How do you feel about these conclusions?

2. User test it

Recruit customers and monitor their behavior and reactions as they use your web site, using different devices, networks and locations. Score against the above checklist. If this cannot be conducted in person use a remote service such as UserTesting.com.

User testing should occur at each stage of the development process. For more on why user testing is so crucial, see my previous column for our sister site ClickZ on Why user testing should be at the forefront of mobile development.

3. Test it

There are different types of testing, including:

  • Page performance – tools such as WebPageTest (free) show how/if the video is impacting how fast the page loads. It shouldn’t. The image below shows the WebPageTest results for how quickly Sam Dutton’s mobile video explainer on YouTube loads on a mobile device. The page took 6.6 seconds to load 809kB.
  • A/B testing – tests alternative experiences with different groups of web (or app) visitors. For example, test hosting the video on the homepage versus on a dedicated page.
  • Video testing tools – AT&T’s Video Optimizer (formerly known as Application Resource Optimizer) is a free-to-download tool used by developers (requires technical knowledge) to detect issues such as delays with start-up and the frequency and duration of stalls and optimum segment size.

4. Monitor it

  • Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, track visitor engagement with video – e.g. number of views, who viewed, how long, and with the webpage itself, including dwell time and bounce rate. See this introduction to using GA to assess video engagement.
  • Heat map tools, such as Clicktale and Crazyegg provide a visual representation of how users interact, or attempt to interact, with webpages and video.

How to avoid problems with video

Following best practices while creating/producing the video or coding the page, website or app that will host it should help avoid many of the common issues – videos that won’t play, are slow to play, or have broken playback.

Industry guidelines on mobile video are thin on the ground, considering the increasing popularity of the format. What guidance is available tends to be a bit techie and thus a turn off for non-techies.

The following recommendations have been compiled with the help of:

1. Make it worth it

There are many costs involved with video/audio:

  • For the producer: the cost of production and distribution; impact on web performance
  • For the network: the impact of network congestion
  • For the viewer, in terms of data consumption, battery life and time it takes to consume.

This makes it imperative that the video is meeting a known user need, contains quality content, is the right length, optimized in terms of bitrate, segments and compression.

2. Be aware: video is greedy; HD greedier; 4K much greedier

When it comes to bandwidth, standard video is greedy, requiring 0.5 Megabits per second (Mbps); high definition (HD) is five times as greedy as SD; and 4K is 30 times as greedy.

Cisco’s Usha Andra explains:

“Mobile video and multimedia applications have higher bandwidth and lower latency requirements than non-video applications. The requirements can range from a low of 0.5Mbps for standard definition (SD) to 2.5Mbps for high definition (HD) and over 15Mbps for 4K/ultra-high definition (UHD) downloads and much higher for virtual reality (VR). Latency requirements can range from 100 milliseconds (ms) to 15ms for UHD VR video applications.”

3. Know the limitations of mobile networks in your target markets

Even among developed telecoms markets, the capability of mobile networks varies considerably. Check the Cisco GCI Global Cloud Readiness Tool for an averages of each country.

The stats suggest that download speeds in the US and UK are 40% lower than Norway and South Korea, and 25% lower than Canada:

  • South Korea – download: 31.0Mbps; upload: 14.3Mbps; latency: 68ms
  • Norway – download: 29.1Mbps; upload: 11.6Mbps; latency: 40ms
  • Canada – download: 24.2Mbps; upload: 9.0Mbps; latency: 51ms
  • UK – download: 18.2Mbps; upload: 8.0Mbps; latency: 55ms
  • US – download: 17.1Mbps; upload: 10.0Mbps; latency: 88ms.

Usha Andra adds:

“Please note that these are average speeds and latencies, which means many users experience higher or lower speeds compared to the average speeds. When the speeds and latencies are lower than what an application warrants, the end user experiences delay in video, garbled audio, etc.”

4. Home page or own page?

Few of the most popular sites, including those that have a strong video focus – YouTube, Vimeo, BBC and CNN – host videos on the homepage or category pages. These sites promote their videos on the homepage as image links (often with play button icon overlaid) and text links, which when clicked or tapped go to a page dedicated to that video.

Why? Keeping video off the homepage keeps it leaner and faster to load on mobile devices. See the Twitch example below.

5. Avoid autoplay

Forcing mobile web visitors to view video whether they want to or not, is:

  • Frustrating for the customer (especially when it happens in a quiet environment)
  • Prone to using up the customer’s bandwidth and battery life unnecessarily
  • Liable to slow down how quickly the page loads
  • Contrary to accessibility best practice (as it can interfere with the screen readers used by visually impaired people)
  • A common technique for artificially inflating video view stats.

There is a (vaguely plausible) argument that sites such as YouTube are an exception to the no autoplay rule. As the visitor is clicking through to the video on a dedicated page it is implicit that they intend to watch.

Consider Twitch, the surprisingly popular site where fans watch gamers playing video games live, captured in the image below. On the desktop homepage, Twitch.tv has a live game on autoplay, while on m.Twitch.tv, there are no videos hosted on the homepage.

Comparing the download size and page speed of Twitch homepage when downloaded to a mobile and desktop device on HTTP Archive (April 15 2017) delivers dramatic results:

  • Mobile homepage (with no video) took 5.8 seconds to load 354kB of data over 24 requests
  • Desktop homepage took 19.9 seconds to load 16,255kB of data over 275 requests. Of that, 11,827kB is video content.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

6. Viewer experience (VX) and choice

Make sure the video and host page is intuitive. Let the viewer take control. Make it easy to:

  • Choose video quality – low quality, HD or 4K
  • Select and exit full-screen view
  • Change device orientation change
  • View and operate. Ensure the video fits the device screen and that buttons are intuitive
  • Allow playback when the device is offline.

7. Make the video accessible

To make video/audio accessible for:

  • Visually impaired people, provide a written transcript of the audio.
  • People with hearing impairments, provide subtitles.

For more advice on making mobile content accessible to a wide audience, the BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines are an excellent resource.

8. Minimize video start-up delay

The delay to start-up is caused by two essential processes:

  1. The authentication process (including digital rights management).
  2. The downloading of the video. Video files are subdivided into segments. A sufficient number of segments need to be downloaded to the buffer (temporary store on the client device), before the video starts to play.

A delay is inevitable, but the video should be optimized to ensure delays are kept to a minimum.

As can be seen from the 2016 data from Conviva study below, videos tend to take longer to start on mobile devices, both on WIFI and Cellular, than Tablet or Desktop. It’s no coincidence that mobile has the highest proportion of exits per attempt.How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

9. Keep the user informed

While the authentication, downloading and (re) buffering occurs, tell the user what is happening and/or distract them. Watching a spinning wheel icon can be frustrating.

10. Minimize video stalls

Stalls occur when too few video segments stored in the buffer to allow playback to continue. The video will not continue until sufficient segments have been downloaded (called re-buffering).

The key is to find balance between slow start and stalling, says AT&T’s Doug Sillars:

“The 2 biggest metrics for video are:

  1. Startup delay (how long from click to stream).
  2. Stalls (video stops, maybe a spinner).

These are (of course) interrelated.  If you startup too quickly – there will not be enough video stored locally on the device… and you might get a stall.  Or you can take too much data at the start (long startup delay), but have no stalls later.

There is a magic “Goldilocks” point in the middle – not too hot, not too cold – that balances the two factors.” 

11. Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size

Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size for the device and network connection.

  • Re-buffering typically occurs where the video is played at a speed, measured in bitrates (bits per second), that is too fast for the download speed (bitrate) of the network connection, so the buffer is emptied quicker than it is being filled.
  • Digital videos are divided into files, called segments, of 2 to 10 seconds, which are downloaded to the buffer and then played in order. Segments of optimum size for the connection will download, buffer and play faster.
  • A Codec (coder/decoder) is a tool for compressing and decompressing audio and video files. There are a number of different compression formats, e.g. MPEG-4, each with pros and cons. Different video quality and the client device/connection will influence choice of format.

12. Use adaptive bitrates.

Adaptive bitrate streaming creates and stores digital video at a number of different quality/speeds/bitrates. The video player on the client device requests the most appropriate of these based on a) network speed, b) device capability, and c) capacity of the buffer.

There are two types of adaptive streaming, DASH and HLS, because one industry standard that worked on all devices would be just too easy (find out more here).

13. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A content delivery network speeds up how quickly web media, including video loads and plays on a mobile device by reducing the that the video has to travel between the original web server – e.g. your webserver in California, USA and a viewer in Timbuktu in Mali – by replicating and storing the video on servers around the world.

According to BuiltWith, 53.8% of the top 10k websites use CDNs.

Akamai Edge, which was one of the original CDNs, founded in 1999, remains one of the most popular. According to BuiltWith, Akamai is used by 11.4% of the top 10,000 sites, followed by Amazon CloudFront at 4% and MaxCDN at 1.3%.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

14. Host or embed?

Hosting websites on a third party network, and embedding the file, removes several headaches, including video compression, adaptive bitrates and engaging a CDN. This helps to explain why 15.2% of top 10k websites embed YouTube videos and 3.6% Vimeo, according to BuiltWith.

How to remedy problems with video / audio

1. Page weight or load speed issues.

Regularly check the key pages using a testing tool such as WebPageTest (this is the tool used by HTTP Archive).

If this highlights issues of excessive page weight, slow download speed, and it appears that video is a contributing factor (rather than oversized images or inefficient use of JavaScript), the options are:

  • Kill autoplay
  • Ensure the video is not preventing the page loading correctly
  • Move the video to a dedicated page (with a prominent picture and text link)
  • Use A/B testing to verify if this solves the issue.

2. Video fails or is slow to start or stalls during play

If the video performance is an issue, here are some troubleshooting tips to try:

  • Try loading the video to a dedicated video service such as Vimeo or YouTube. Compare the performance of the video on the third-party site, embedded on your site and with the self-hosted version to highlight if problems lie with the video, as opposed to the website, webserver or CDN (or lack of CDN)
  • Test the video with a tool such as AT&T’s Video Optimizer (requires development skills) to detect issues with video segmentation, compression, buffering etc. and fix them
  • Have the video re-edited to make it more concise; and optimized to improve bitrate and compression
  • Use or replace the CDN.

If video performs better on some devices and over different connections e.g. PC on cable versus smartphone on 3G:

  • Prepare a number of versions of the video in different formats, with different quality, bitrates and compression to suit the most common scenarios of device and network type
  • Use device detection to discover the client device, its capabilities and the type of connection to serve the most appropriate version of the video
  • Use adaptive bitrates.

Resources (and sources)

These resources are aimed at developers, but are useful for all (if you ignore the techie bits):

 

This is Part 3 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the previous installments:

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How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

Mobile video is a major up-and-coming trend in content, with brands everywhere converging on the new and lucrative mobile video market.

Mark Zuckerberg said on a recent shareholder conference call that he sees video as “a megatrend on the same order as mobile” – which makes mobile video, the intersection between the two, the ultimate sweet spot of engaging content to draw in new consumer eyeballs.

But sadly, there are still some technical hurdles to overcome before the mobile video experience is as smooth as companies would like it to be. In our previous installment we looked at how video can be a massive mobile data hog, and why it shouldn’t (but still does) have an impact on download speed.

In this part we’ll look at the contentious subject of autoplaying videos and their impact on mobile webpage performance, as well as how audio can delay page speed, and what kind of conditions make for a poor viewer experience (VX).

Our third and final part will consider some solutions that webmasters can enact to counter the issues with mobile video.

Video autoplay and page performance

Comparing the data on HTTP Archive for average content for the top 100 most popular sites (according to Alexa) with the top 1 million (shown above) reveals some interesting stats.

On average, video content is just 17kB (rather than 128kB) which is 2.1% of total page size, which, is a (comparatively) slender 828kB.

There are three reasons why this might be:

  1. Top sites avoid using video. (Considering these include video specialist like YouTube, BBC and CNN, this is the least likely of the three reasons).
  2. Top sites avoid using video on the (mobile) homepage. (The homepage of YouTube, for example, is made up of image links to videos, rather than videos themselves. Each video has its own webpage).
  3. Top sites use video more efficiently (as Dutton suggests).

Querying this apparent anomaly of video usage between all sites and the top 100 with the web performance experts at HTTP Archive, we received the following answer from Rick Viscomi, a leader of the HTTP Archive project and Developer Advocate at Google:

“I think the answer is: efficiency. To be more specific, I think it comes down to autoplay. HTTP Archive just visits a page and records the page load without clicking around. Autoplay videos would be captured on those visits, while click-to-play would not.

“Autoplaying is wasteful for everyone involved because a page visit does not always demonstrate intent to watch. One notable exception is YouTube, where visiting a watch page is definitely intent to watch. Keep in mind that only home pages are crawled by HTTP Archive. So my theory is the top sites choose not to autoplay in order to keep bounce rates low and conversions high.”

Notably, autoplay video and audio is also frowned on from an accessibility perspective. See these BBC guidelines for example. The reason for this is that people with visual impairments rely on screen readers to read aloud a webpage. Clearly if audio or video media starts to play (including advertisements) it will interfere with the screen reader and will make tricky for the user to find out how to make it stop.

The impact of audio on page performance

One of the most useful features of HTTP Archive or WebPageTest (from where it is captured) is the filmstrip which shows how a website loads on a mobile device second by second.

The loading process for New York Times mobile site on May 1, 2017 is captured by HTTP Archive in the image below. The audio story The Daily is at the top of the mobile page, above the fold, allowing us to see clearly how audio may delay page speed.

The audio does not finish loading until 22 seconds, when the play button finally appears and the site is visibly complete.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

Poor viewer experience (VX)

Assuming there is no autoplay, a correctly coded website should not require the video to be downloaded until the user requests it by clicking on the play button.

However as soon as the mobile user clicks on that play button, the level of expectation changes…

There are three potential VX problems with video:

  1. The video is too slow to start.
  2. It fails to start.
  3. It stalls during play back – this is due to (re) buffering or a dropping connection, typically shown by the spinning wheel.
  4. Poor video quality – or quality that is less an optimal for the connection.

Research by Conviva and nScreenMedia (November 2016) illustrates the difference in VX quality when a viewer is indoors (WIFI) or outdoors (cellular) failures for videos to start increases from 1.5% to 2.9% and buffering issues rises from 7.9% to 14.3% of views.

This has a noticeable impact on user satisfaction out of home 11.8% exit before the video starts versus 9.0% in home.How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

Research carried out by University of Massachusetts and Akamai, of 6.7 million video viewers, in 2012, also shows a growing intolerance to slow, stalling video.

Ramesh Sitaraman, Professor of Computer Science, UMass, Amherst tells ClickZ:

“Mobile users are impatient and abandon videos that do not start up quickly. However, they are more patient than users who have high-speed Internet access (say, Fiber), since their expectations of speed are lower in comparison.

“Mobile users start to abandon a video after waiting for about 2 seconds. By the 10 second mark, if the video has not started, roughly a fifth have abandoned.”

And on stalling:

“We don’t have data split out just for mobile. But, we studied a cross-section of users that included mobile. Overall, people watch videos for a shorter period of time when the video stalls than they would have otherwise.

“Roughly, a 1% increase in stalls leads to 5% decrease in the minutes watched.”

 

This is Part 2 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the previous installment: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed.

Or read on to the next part: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues.

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How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed

Mobile video is great. When it works.

Implemented correctly, video or audio *should not* impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device and when the play button is pressed, it needs to start quickly and work well.

Video content is top of the agenda for many brands. It is proving a great way to engage customers and visitors, but when viewed on mobile devices, particularly those on cellular connection, video (and to a lesser extent audio) should come with a health warning.

Users are increasingly impatient with slow-to-load and stalling video and will start to abandon a video after waiting just two seconds, research from UMass and Akamai shows.

This column, the first of three parts, will take a close look at how and why video affects page performance. In the second part, we’ll look at the impact of video autoplay and audio on page performance, as well as what makes a poor viewer experience (VX).

Finally, we’ll explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues to prevent users tuning out.

Video is a massive mobile data hog

The provision and consumption of video on mobile devices via web and apps is growing rapidly. Mobile video is already 60% of total mobile data traffic worldwide and is expected to be 78% by 2021 according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI).

All other elements will grow over the next five years, but their proportion of overall traffic will be less. Audio will be 5% compared with 8% today and mobile web will be 14% compared with 30% of traffic today.

Video – and audio – used wrongly or inefficiently will impact mobile user experience (UX) – or should we say: “viewer experience” (VX) or “listener experience” (LX) – massively, but not necessarily in the same way as oversized images and poor or inefficient use of JavaScript.

Images and JavaScript, as seen in previous columns, are the biggest causes of slow loading mobile web pages. As discussed below, video can still contribute to page size and therefore contribute to page load delays, particularly (it seems) where autoplay is used, as we will discuss below.

But the biggest impact on VX comes after page load when the video is slow, or fails, to start or stalls.

The two charts below are from HTTP Archive, which twice monthly records the page size and download speed of the homepages of the top 1 million sites to desktop and mobile devices, using the excellent WebPageTest.

The first chart shows the breakdown of content types by bytes – images, JavaScript, video, stylesheets, HTML and fonts – as an average of all homepages recorded on April 15, 2017.

Video is 128kB or 5.5% of the total bytes loaded (2312 kB or 2.3MB). This might appear small, until you realize that 97% of pages monitored by HTTP Archive have no video content (we examine this surprising stat below).

Pages that do have video content will therefore show a higher proportion of video content.

The second chart (captured April 15, 2017) shows the content breakdown for the homepage of the US digital agency Huge. Here video content is 727kB or 14.5% of the total bytes. The total weight of the page is 5MB, which is a homepage worthy of the company name, and, when measured, took 25.8 seconds to load on a mobile device, according to HTTP Archive.

To be fair, many agencies (digital, media, advertising et al) have surprisingly slow loading, heavy weight sites (considering the importance of digital to their businesses), though Huge is exceptionally large. A trimmer example is Young and Rubicam. On the same date the Y&R homepage took three seconds to load 783kB on a mobile device (on other dates it took nine seconds) according to HTTP Archive.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed

Video shouldn’t affect page load size or download speed

Implemented correctly, video (or audio) should not impact the size of the webpage or the speed that pages load on a mobile device, according to the experts.

Even when video is present on the page, to render the page, the browser only needs to load the video container, teaser image, start button etc. it doesn’t need to download the entire video (as the visitor may not want to watch it at all). Thus video and audio ought not to be a significant proportion of content recorded by HTTP Archive / WebPageTest – as we will see when we look at the most popular sites.

Sam Dutton is a Developer Advocate at Google who provides educational materials and workshops for techies in mobile video. He explains:

“Video is not a big issue for page loading, since in general video shouldn’t be part of the cost of loading a web page.

“HTTP Archive measures the bytes to load a web page, not the total bytes crossing the internet. When you load most web pages, you don’t load a video (but you do load images, HTML, CSS and JavaScript).

“Top sites are less likely than less popular sites to require video for page load since (hopefully) the top sites realize the detrimental effects on page weight and (therefore) bounce rates, etc.”

 

This is Part 1 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the next installment: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio.

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Investing in video: when and how to succeed

In digital marketing, we’re always trying to keep up with the hottest new thing – advertising methods, ad types, targeting types, etc. – being pitched heavily within the industry in general.

Whether it be the “year of mobile” to the “year of RLSA,” there is always another trend to consider investing heavily in.

Over the last year-plus, video has been most frequently cited as the new digital frontier. Whether it’s important to a comprehensive marketing campaign isn’t the question, though. The question is, how do we best make use of it?

In this post, we’ll talk about when – and how – to put video in play for your marketing campaigns.

First, you need to determine if video will even be beneficial for your company.

Videos are best used as an educational/informational tool to help relay info to your audience. If you have a business that requires some explanation of the service or product, or have a variety of advanced features that need to be showcased, or even need to establish credibility and trust for the user to move forward, video can be key for your growth.

If you’ve determined that your business would indeed benefit from adding or expanding on video, how should you leverage it in your advertising efforts? What are some strategies to do so?

Well, below are some tips to make the most out of Facebook and YouTube video for direct-response/performance-driven efforts:

Start with Facebook

Facebook is probably the best platform to leverage video from the direct response perspective. You can get extremely granular with its targeting capabilities and ensure that you are reaching highly relevant audiences to whom you can introduce your brand and explain its value proposition.

As a reminder, the best practice is to keep video length less than 30 secs; that’s about as long as you can plan to keep a user’s attention.

Initially, you’ll want to use Facebook videos in your prospecting efforts. These videos will serve as a first touch to audiences who haven’t heard of you or don’t know you well.

The goal of these video ads is twofold: educate the user and also determine which users are actually interested in what you have to offer.

How do you determine that? Well, Facebook creates audience lists based off how much of the video users have viewed. If someone has completed your full video, they likely have a relatively high level of interest in your product or service.

Once you’ve identified this group, take that audience list of users who have completed the video and begin serving remarketing ads towards them to drive them onto your site and get them to convert.

Now perhaps someone came to our site from another method – paid search, organic, etc. You can also leverage Facebook video ads to help further convince users who haven’t converted why we are right for them.

One powerful ad type within Facebook is Carousel Ads, which let you show 3-5 images, concepts, and messages to help get your point across, deliver value props, and get people to convert.

What many people don’t realize is that you can actually incorporate video into one of your carousel cards. This becomes extremely effective with remarketing as it allows you to relay numerous different messages while also providing the user an educational video to further convince them.

Use YouTube for remarketing

We all know about YouTube and its huge traffic numbers. Of course you should consider advertising here, but note that YouTube is often seen more as a branding play than a direct-response. The one way to really make YouTube effective with DR in mind is to leverage for remarketing.

My recommendation is to develop and segment audience lists of users who visit your site but do not convert based on their interaction with the website (for example, people who get to a sign-up page have shown higher intent than someone who has only gotten to the home page).

Investing in video: when and how to succeed

Then test various different audiences using different video assets. Essentially, you should aim to further educate these audiences via YouTube and test which videos tend to work better with higher-intent audiences vs. those in research mode.

Videos can be an impactful format when trying to reach your audience and scale your business – but not before you determine when to use it, what channels to leverage it on, and how to strategize to invest your budget wisely.

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Can sub-three second video ad views deliver results?

Brands have been upping their investments in new ad products from popular social media services, but are they getting their money’s worth? 

Some are reportedly starting to ask that very question in the face of metrics that raise questions about their potential efficacy.

Take Snapchat and its ad offerings, for instance. Snapchat is one of the most popular social platforms in the world, and brands have been eager to take advantage of the opportunities Snapchat is increasingly giving them to advertise to Snapchat users.

But as detailed by AdAge’s Garett Sloane, “one top advertiser” using Snapchat video ads has revealed that the ads generate less than 3 seconds of view time on average.

“We still buy it, and are figuring it out,” the advertiser told Sloane. Another agency executive, who also spoke to Sloane anonymously, added, “The interstitial vertical video ad is challenging. People just tap through. That’s the behavior.”

Obviously, this is almost certainly raising concerns for brands hoping to effectively reach young consumers through Snapchat, but while the company wouldn’t comment on the average video view times reported by one of its advertisers, it does believe that its ads are effective.

A Snapchat spokesperson pointed to an eye-tracking study the company conducted, which found that Snapchat’s video ads captured more attention than the video ads on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Snapchat is also quick to point out that its video ads take up the whole screen and play with sound on by default, whereas video ads on services like Facebook don’t.

But the question remains…

Just what can advertisers hope to accomplish with video ads that don’t typically get more than two to three seconds of view time?

Snapchat apparently thinks those two to three seconds are capable of creating value.

One executive who works with Snapchat and spoke off the record told Sloane, “They want to create meaningful brand experiences, in as little amount of time as possible. You can’t make a sale in three seconds, but you can start a relationship with somebody.”

Even if that is true, however, brands will eventually have to determine just how meaningful and valuable those three second relationships are.

If they ultimately don’t see lift and can’t trace action back to these ads, Snapchat, which is reportedly preparing to go public in 2017 at a valuation of $25 to $35 billion, could find that advertiser interest in its platform is as fleeting as the snaps that its users send.

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Eight content marketing trends to think about in 2017

It’s time to plan the year ahead, so how about starting with a look at the content marketing trends that will make 2017 easier and more effective?

Content marketing is an integral part of a digital marketing strategy, and as it grows even more popular in 2016, it’s time to maximise its effectiveness in 2017 and examine all the new possibilities that may be useful for your brand.

Next year closer than you think, so here are our suggestions on the biggest trends in content marketing.

Creating a documented content marketing strategy

According to CMI and its B2B content marketing report for 2017, only 37% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, while 41% of them have a strategy in mind, but it’s not documented.

Moreover, 17% of them don’t currently have a content marketing strategy, but they are planning to set one in the next 12 months.

It can be very useful to document your content marketing strategy, as it allows you to have a clear overview of your goals and your efforts. This allows your business to maintain its focus on the most relevant actions, without any distractions from “shiny” new trends that may not be useful for its particular case.

Producing more content

There is an increasing need for new content and marketers seem to understand that they have to produce more of it to keep up with the growing content consumption.

70% of B2B marketers plan to create more content in 2017 compared to 2016, while 25% of them will maintain the same amount of content.

It may be a trend in 2017 to find more content, but this doesn’t mean that quantity will overtake quality. It’s important to produce more content, but always keep it aligned with your marketing goals and the ROI it will bring.

Source: CMI

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has turned into a popular trend during 2016, with brands seeking for the best advocates for their products. It’s not just about the number of followers an influencer has, but also about the relevance for the target audience.

Thus, we are expecting a further growth in influencer marketing, but more in a contextualised way that benefits both the brand and the celebrity influencer.

The concept of the celebrity is also shifting, as brands don’t have to chase singers, or actors anymore to seal an effective collaboration, as internet stars turn out to be equally popular, bringing a new generation of influencers from all kinds of backgrounds.

Personalisation

As marketers seek for relevance in their content marketing strategy, personalisation becomes crucial, narrowing down the audience to increase the effectiveness of a campaign.

Content is not created anymore to reach a broad audience, but rather a specific target group, as this may be more useful for a brand trying to stand out from its competitors. This brings the need to examine all the segmentation strategies that will give a marketer the advantage to filter the customers in the most effective way.

This trend is not expected to disappear anytime soon, on the contrary, 2017 will probably ask for even more personalised content, depending on the needs of the particular audience on each occasion.

Increasing effectiveness

Content marketing is becoming more challenging, as it is becoming more purpose-driven. It’s not just about creating content, it’s about finding the link between value and ROI.

As content marketing will mature, marketers will be expected to come up with new ways to measure its effectiveness. There is already a changing trend year-by-year on their expectations from content marketing and its effectiveness and as we understand how content marketing works, we’ll be able to go deeper into the secret formula to make a strategy effective.

Eight content marketing trends to think about in 2017

Image: CMI

Video content

Video content isn’t new, but its explosive growth in 2016 raises the competition for 2017, with publishers already examining the numerous ways to include videos in their content marketing strategy.

Social media has significantly affected the rising trend of video content, with Facebook putting an emphasis on live videos lately, while it already highlights video content on users’ news feeds. According to Mark Zuckerberg, live videos have seen a 4x increase use since May.

Moreover, Snapchat introduced us to the idea of vertical videos, another trend that marketers were happy to embrace, as it looked more appealing on mobile screens, favouring completion rates for their advertised content. (It even introduced Spectacles, its own glasses with an integrated camera, which still counts as a new content opportunity.)

Video seems to be a great way to repurpose content and it’s interesting to experiment with it, and we believe that more brands will do so during 2017.

Ephemeral content

Content is not always destined to be evergreen and 2016 was the year that Snapchat taught us how ephemeral content can be engaging, even if it only lasts for 24 hours. Facebook found the idea appealing enough to try it out on Messenger and more platforms might be tempted to experiment with it.

Brands were initially cautious regarding this trend and how it can be part of their content marketing strategy, but as Snapchat pointed out in several case studies, the engagement can be higher, tapping into users’ FOMO (fear of missing out), which works well for many campaigns.

VR  and AI

Augmented and virtual reality content is not a trend for the future, but rather an interesting way brands can take customers to the future with the right use of technology.

The success of Pokemon Go in 2016 indicates how users are ready to embrace new technology, which means that you should plan and measure the effectiveness of the new types of content.

Google is focusing on artificial intelligence lately, which might serve as a good indicator on what to expect on the future from more companies.

Even if VR and AI don’t turn into the norm in 2017, it is still useful to examine the possibilities they may offer for your business, beating the competitors in the most impressive way.

Takeaway: what to expect in 2017

2016 brought many changes in content marketing, most of them pushing it towards a more mature phase and thus raising the bar for 2017.

If your brand is already investing in a content marketing strategy, then 2017 will be the year that you should investigate all the new ways to maintain your strategy’s relevance, depending on the latest trends and your audience.

If your brand is now ready to create a content marketing strategy, then it’s a good opportunity to examine the trends that have more chance to affect us next year and examine which ones might be useful to stand out with your content.

In both cases, content marketing will be important in 2017, which means that we’re all gearing up towards a more productive year, full of new plans and metrics that will helps us meet our goals.

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What makes social videos so effective?

As video content in social media increases, how can brands use it more effectively?

Video consumption is on the rise and while users enjoy it, brands face the challenge of creating more effective video ads to stand out in the overcrowded social feeds.

How do you measure the effectiveness of a video in social media and what makes it appealing in just a few seconds?

IPG Media Lab partnered with Twitter to examine how social video works and we are highlighting the most interesting points from the report.

In-feed, auto play video for relevance and trust

Auto play video ads that show up in a curated feed are considered more relevant, trustworthy and non-intrusive, comparing to skippable pre-roll ads.

People seem to feel that relevant ads are less intrusive, which highlights the importance of targeting the right audience before delivering an ad to their feeds.

The better the targeting, the less annoyed people will be.

Social video boost brand favourability

As in-feed video ads gain users’ trust, they are also more likely to increase the brand’s favourability, even with a single exposure to them.

Social videos seem to have greater impact compared to skippable pre-roll ads, despite the shorter time spent on them.

This means that brands need to capture immediately the audience’s attention and deliver the best message from the very first seconds. It may be challenging, but it also leads to an increased ad recall.

What makes social videos so effective?

Viewability increases ad recall and awareness

Viewability, or else time in view, marks whether a video is interesting enough to appeal to the audience. The first three seconds seem to be important, as they serve as the critical point where users decide whether they should keep watching a video.

Thus, a brand has to be creative in less than three seconds to ensure that it captures the viewers’ attention. The longer the view, the higher the awareness and the ad recall.

What makes social videos so effective?

Telling story early

As the first three seconds of a video are crucial, a brand should invest in a powerful message that is transmitted from the very first second.

An early story arc may be more persuasive if it conveys the right information as it can create the right context for the rest of the video. What’s more, ad recall may be easier, linking the brand with the story.

What makes social videos so effective?

The impact of branding

There may be a general consensus on how excessive branding can negatively affect a brand’s content, but this is not necessarily true for social videos.

When you have a few seconds to explain the aim of the video, heavy branding may be useful, as it manages to create the necessary association between the story and the brand.

The goal of every video is to improve a brand’s awareness of a brand, or even to boost ad recall and if heavier branding can facilitate this process from the very beginning, then it may be a good idea to try it out.

What makes social videos so effective?

Takeaway

Video content is becoming popular, but its metrics still evolve, so every marketer should understand how videos differ from other types of content and how they should be measured.

Social videos will only grow more more popular, which means that it’s important to define the right KPIs that will make them useful as part of your marketing strategy.

Keep in mind:

  • In-feed, auto-play videos are preferred by users, as they find them less intrusive. This is a useful way to build trust around your brand.
  • Always target the right people to increase the relevance of your content
  • Don’t be afraid to include heavy branding in shorter videos. It might turn out beneficial for your content.
  • Tell a story with a clear message. The first seconds are very important.

After all, you can still monitor the latest trends in video marketing and examine how they can be personalised to work in your own campaigns.

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