Facebook significantly improves video experience but more work remains


A video on Facebook

While Facebooks made a big step toward improving its mobile video experience for advertisers with autoplay video ads, the user experience for videos still needs to improve for the social network to be an important player in video.

Facebook this week started rolling out autoplay videos in users newsfeeds that actively play with the sound off until users click on them, which turns on the sound. The move is an important step toward improving engagement rates for mobile video ads.

This allows you to provide a more holistic preview of the video, not just one image, said Shuli Lowy, marketing director at Ping Mobile, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

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Initial testing shows that it increases clicks by 10 percent, she said.

There is no doubt that is more engaging than a stagnant image.

An innovative move
A new report from BIA/Kelsey shows that native social ad revenues are up 77 percent in 2013 for a total of $2.4 billion. This underscores the importance of mobile ads to social networks, as native ads are the preferred format in mobile because they are less disruptive to the user experience.

At the same time, Video viewing on mobile devices is rapidly growing, which has not been lost on a variety of interested parties that are all trying to innovate in the mobile video space.

For example, online video service Blinkx recently acquired mobile video platform Rhythm NewMedia, while Twitter continues to enhance its mobile video experience. Additionally, the major networks are scrambling to figure out the best way to deliver video on mobile that will not undermine their ability to generate revenue.

In general, Facebooks video experience has lacked the kind of editing and filtering capabilities that are driving user uploads on other platforms. This is surprising considering that Facebook owns Instagram, which offers many of user-friendly editing tools.

The introduction of autoplay is an important and innovative step in the right direction for Facebook, but it focuses more on improving the experience for advertisers. Next year could see Facebook try to also enhance the user experience.

This is a big step to enhance the video experience, but it is better for advertisers users wont use it as much, Ms. Lowy said. If youre just putting more flashy ads in front of people they are not going to respond as well.

Right now, the video user experience in terms of uploading videos is archaic, she said. They have the technology to do it with Instagram, and we expect Facebook to step up in video even more next year.

They need both users and advertisers to be engaging people with good videos.

Brand advertising
Facebook is currently a leader in terms of providing ad variety on mobile with video ads, in-stream ads, app recommendation ads and ads focused on what a users friends like. It also has a significant mobile user base.

However, Twitter is quickly catching up in terms of ad variety and could make a big impact on mobile advertising next year with its retargeting strategy that ties desktop behavior to mobile targeting.

“Facebook and Twitter have proven beyond doubt that mobile advertising can be extremely effective for brand marketers, but only if it stays away from traditional display and focuses on introducing high quality content into the news feed, said Scott Button, CEO of Unruly, New York.

Facebooks move into video is a natural extension of existing in-feed ad formats, and it will provide a significant boost to the nascent mobile video ad landscape and help to extend mobile marketing from performance-based buying to upper funnel brand advertising, he said.

One of Facebooks challenges with autoplay video ads is making sure the experience is not too intrusive for users.

The intersection of social, video and mobile is a sweet spot for advertisers, so therell be no shortage of demand, Mr. Button said. The challenge is user tolerance.

Inserting video into a social, intimate, high engagement channel such as the news feed places stringent requirements on content quality, he said. Engagement and shareability are key.

As long as Facebook continues to respect the demands of this new paradigm, it should have a winner on its hands.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York


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