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How Facebook Could Force Brands to Pivot to Video

In a recent New York Times Magazine story, Jacob Silverman writes, “Pivoting has become the new failure, a concept to describe a haphazard, practically madcap form of iterative development.” Those who work in digital media know this madcap iteration all too well.

In 2017 alone, MTV News, Vocativ, Sports Illustrated, the Huffington Post, Fox Sports, Vice, and Mic have all pivoted to video, leaning on the euphemism to explain why they’re firing teams of writers and editors. Most people understand that the economics of publishing a blog post online aren’t great, so these companies have decided to bet that the ad dollars from video content can save their bottom lines.

While these websites prepare for their pivot to video, the rest of the media world wants to see them fall. This makes sense—writers hate watching other talented writers lose their jobs, especially when their employers continue to raise millions of dollars off of nine- and ten-figure valuations. (Earlier this summer, Vice’s valuation hit $5.7 billion.) Also worth mentioning: Video is hard. It’s incredibly expensive compared to writing, takes longer to do well, and requires technical expertise. But what if pivoting pays off?

According to new data analysis from BuzzSumo, Facebook could eventually force all companies to invest in video, meaning those that get comfortable with the medium now would have a distinct advantage over everyone else. As BuzzSumo director Steve Rayson points out, there are three major trends we should all pay attention to:

1. Since January, the average number of engagements on Facebook posts from brands and publishers dropped by more than 20 percent.

2. During that same period, engagement on video posts from brands and publishers held fairly steady while engagement on posts with images and links fell significantly.

3. The average video post now receives twice as much engagement as all other posts.

We’ve seen this type of action before. Facebook introduces gradual changes that limit organic reach and push brands and publishers to respond in ways that benefit the platform. First, Instant Articles were given priority in the News Feed over links that took users to external sites. Then, native video started getting better engagement than links to clips on YouTube and Vimeo. Facebook Live bullied away competitors like Snapchat and Periscope. This latest move tells brands and publishers they’d be silly not to invest in video at the expense of written articles, photography, and other visual content like infographics.

In moderation, nudging brands toward video could be good for content creators. Senior marketers plan to invest in video more than any other type of content in the next five years, per a 2017 Contently survey. So in an ideal world, videos and articles complement each other. The internet has proven to be a great place for interview clips and short explainer videos with motion graphics. The written word, meanwhile, works for breaking news, short analysis, and longform reporting. Since some people prefer to watch video while others would rather read, striking a balance could lead to bigger audiences. The real issue, though, is how this topic has become an all-or-nothing proposition.

In 2016, a Facebook VP said she believed the network will be “all video” in the next few years, arguing that “it conveys so much more information in a much quicker period.” I don’t expect media companies to rid themselves of good writing, but after reading those words, you can almost see the executives limbering up in their boardrooms, preparing their pivots. Adjusting to the whims of the most powerful distribution platform stings a lot when smart people lose their jobs, but it is, at the very least, a logical response.

SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?

For starters, its really time for innovative solutions through videos. We have been constantly sharing news about the importance of video for business (not because we are a video production company), this is the reality, the trend, and this is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has been talking about "Putting Video First". Ultimately, we can't deny the amount of videos that has been flooding our newsfeed. And the best part is, video conversion rates outperform other marketing content.

Let me know if you need our help to bring your product, services or concept to video, and let's continue engage your audience with compelling brand stories.

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