If you’d have told me a few years ago that the future of social media was text-heavy 90 second videos, I’d have laughed you out of the room. But ‘auto-play’ video on Facebook and Twitter is changing the game, when it comes to digital content creation.
Back in the day, you’d upload a video to YouTube or Vimeo and put a link into a Tweet or Facebook post. Across Africa, this was especially problematic because people would suffer ‘click anxiety’: not knowing whether that link would suck away all of their precious airtime or their entire monthly data limit. Mobile data is getting cheaper, although the difference between smart-phone and feature-phone users is still stark. In Kenya, Safaricom’s ‘bonga points’ can even give the illusion of ‘free’ data, as you can effortlessly redeem loyalty points for data bundles.
Then, a few years ago, social media functionality changed. Twitter and Facebook started automating preview images when video links were added to tweets and posts. This started to address the anxiety because at least you had a single image to judge the link by before you decided to click. More recently, Twitter and Facebook have changed again, and auto-play videos are changing everything. You still get the preview image but as the tweet or post comes into your timeline or feed, the video starts to play automatically. The preview become a moving picture.
Crucially, however, the auto-play videos are on mute. They are silent movies until you click on them. So how do you get the click? With on-screen text subtitles.
It’s Back to the Future for social media content, because just like a Charlie Chaplin movie, the best on-screen text is big and bold and (unlike a Charlie Chaplin movie) colourful. The media organization leading the way in this new era of social media storytelling is Al Jazeera, with their AJ+ Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Auto-play videos are changing everything but digital media is changing all the time. So the only constant in your digital media strategy should be perpetual revolution and a relentless embrace of change.
Richard Darlington is Head of Strategic Communications at Well Told Story. Follow him on Twitter: @RDarlo