Autoplay video has become an expected guest at almost all social media parties. Scrolling through our feeds, we’re accustomed to seeing a glimpse of the TransAsia Taiwan plane crash next to video snippets of a friend’s birthday shenanigans. Although first met with some pushback from consumers, it appears most have accepted that the autoplay feature is here for the long haul. And besides, who needs the extra effort of clicking “play” anyway?
Autoplay first stepped onto the scene (or into our pockets) with Vine in 2012. Vine allows users to upload six second, looping videos that play automatically, i.e. autoplay. Instagram was next to add autoplay videos to the originally photo centric app in 2013. That same year, Facebook enabled autoplay for both its user uploaded videos and video ads (more on Facebook videos here). Twitter was last to the game, being the most recent to roll out autoplay videos for both users and brands this year.
Why It Matters
Four out of the ten most popular social media channels (and all that are known for video) now feature autoplay. As autoplay becomes the norm, audiences will begin to assume that any video post on social media will play automatically; and if it doesn’t they may mistake it as a photo. Media publishers, brands, and users will need to directly upload videos to native video players, which enable autoplay, on social media sites to ensure their content is seen. Autoplay raises two key considerations for video editors:
The first five to ten seconds will determine whether or not you’ve secured your audience’s attention.
Autoplay videos on Instagram, Facebook, and soon Twitter will be muted until a user clicks for sound.
These conditions will likely require many video producers to shake things up in regards to style, formatting, and storyboards. Videos tend to ease into the “meat and potatoes” of a story, gradually revealing main points. But if the first five (muted) seconds now determine whether or not your video has an audience, some changes in video strategy need to be made. David Cohn, executive producer at AJ+, clearly stated, “the first 10 seconds have to have very strong visuals and have to start to tell the story without sound.” Five to ten seconds of silent video may seem ridiculously limited in options to engage your audience; but after reviewing autoplay videos published on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve identified several trends among top publishers that succeeded in winning over my (short-spanned) attention.
Autoplay Video Trends
Top publishers are using their brand name to spur audience interest. Videos begin with their logo, big and bright, to grab the attention of viewers who are already familiar with the publication.
Many publishers are using text within video in a variety of ways. The text may include the type of story (technology, travel, etc.), a headline, or full sentences highlighting key points. Including text resolves the ‘mute’ predicament of autoplay, so your audience will understand the story topic regardless of audio.
Autoplay has lead many publishers to use transitions and style that are divergent from their more traditional media. Within the first six seconds, a video might flip between the publisher’s logo, a colorful title page, and then to the main feature. Flashy movements between frames (e.g. pop-ups, spiraling out, checkerboard effect) are also becoming more common in social media videos to catch audiences’ eye.
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Autoplay videos tend to immediately reveal the story topic to viewers, rather than slowly delivering the information. By combining above tactics like the inclusion of text and a descriptive caption, publishers put the story’s central message at the forefront to engage their audience.
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Despite the huge surge in video uploads to Facebook and Instagram, there are still minimal publishers with autoplay videos on Facebook. In order to fully benefit from autoplay, publishers should work to better utilize Facebook’s native video player. Twitter's recent adoption serves as additional motivation for media publishers to embrace this shift and start optimizing video content for autoplay. Based on what publishers are currently doing, the autoplay video trends I observed are most effective when used in combination with one another. Some tactics might not be right for every publisher, so video editors should experiment with what works best for their brand and audience. These trends in autoplay video production are also reflective of the device that many people use to consume social media: mobile. The short-form layout and attention grabbing tactics of autoplay videos show that publishers are aware their audience is living in a mobile world. Embracing these changes and implementing new video strategies will allow publishers to thrive in the age of autoplay.