When Facebook Plays Dirty

What does it mean for the written word?

You may have noticed while scrolling through your Facebook feed in recent months that there has been an increase in the amount of videos rolled out to you, especially with the recent development of Facebook Live.

As the competition for screen time between Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook goes on, Facebook has been pushing forward, and pouring vast amounts of money into live video. As such, it has been revealed that Facebook has been paying brands and celebrities to create live videos, including behemoths such as Buzzfeed.

For the first time in the history of the internet, it seems that video is set to take the place of the written word as the preferred method of communication.

However, the expansion and proliferation of visual media over the written word is not exactly new. For example, Snapchat will celebrate it’s 5th birthday this year, while Instagram will celebrate its 6th. While these apps have grown steadily in popularity, it is only recently that the balance between the written word and visual format has shifted to the visual, and is reflective of the changing habits of audiences.

As revealed in Deloitte’s most recent Australian Media survey, across generations, some 92% of all survey respondents are on Facebook. In addition to this, Millennials as the early adopters are also leading the way of users on Snapchat and Instagram, with 39% of Leading Millennials (27-32) and 56% of Trailing Millennials (14-26) using Instagram, and 23% of Leading Millennials and 47% of Trailing Millennials using Snapchat.

This move towards the visual format is reflective of a wider social media trend, and desire of consumers to communicate via video. For brands, this does not necessarily mean the death knell for text, but the explosion of video has led to a year on year decline in the use of text.

Facebook representatives have made it clear that live video is the direction they are going in. This, in turn has consequences for the written word. However, this isn’t the only time that Facebook has been in the news of late regarding video. Facebook has gotten itself into even more hot water when it was revealed that they had miscalculated the average time users spent watching videos, and due to auto play, had likely overestimated the average time spent watching videos by 60-80%, for approximately for two years. This of course not only has enormous ramifications for Facebook as a brand, but also for brands who rely on Facebook’s algorithms and analytics.

All these elements add to a change in the narrative. How millennials engage with media today, gives us a glimpse into their habits of the future, and more than ever means that brands must stay abreast of audience habits. So, at least for today, due to auto play, brands have three seconds to grab viewers attention with videos that are preferenced in the feed.

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