Explainer: What marketers need to know about short-form video

Another short-form video app, Byte, debuted this year, promising marketers another platform to engage audiences outside of the traditional funnel. So is it time to invest in short-form video?

At the start of this year, a fresh short-form video platform contender, Byte, debuted. The app is the successor to Vine and was developed by one of its co-founders, Dom Hofmann.

Short-form video is nothing new in 2020. But growing consumer engagement with platforms such as TikTok, driven upwards by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and heightened desire for digital connection, has seen this form of social media content gaining a mainstream foothold. According to Gartner, TikTok was the third-most installed app worldwide in the first quarter of 2019, behind WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and surpassed Instagram and Snapchat as the leading short video application with 500 million monthly active users.

Its popularity has led many high-profile consumer brands like Mini to take to short-form video to engage audiences in new and different ways. In response, TikTok launched new advertising products for brands in July to help them capitalise on its platform.

Similarly to TikTok, Byte is pitching itself as a short-form video social platform for communities and was launched earlier this year. Its debut comes eight years after Vine originally hit the market, and four years after Twitter purchased and then promptly shut down the platform. According to media reports, former Vine stars have joined the app and begun compiling their own 6-second short-form looping videos.

Available on iOS and Android devices, Byte allows members to view a feed of content from their connections, as well as search new content, and build profile pages. Users can upload videos recorded from the app as well as share videos via other social platforms, such as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

And the market continues to heat up. Alongside Byte's debut in January, Facebook's Instagram platform rival video service, Instagram Reels, is expected to arrive globally as soon as August, promising consumers and brands yet another way of exploring short-form video engagement.

The brand opportunity

L & A Social business director, Elena Fullerton, said short-form video apps like Byte and TikTok enable brands to tell a story through small, easy snapshots and join in larger conversations with digital communities.

“From a brand perspective, this combines branding with engagement without investing in high production costs, but still achieving positive brand affinity and connection with fans and consumers,” Fullerton told CMO.

However, Fullerton noted creating short videos is often a diversion from an established, brand-focused content strategy because they must be relevant and engaging, not focused on sales directly. “The biggest risk is brands not fully understanding conversation streams or understanding the nature of each platform they are creating content on,” she said.

Fullerton also stressed it’s essential to understand what works and the platform as a whole before jumping into creating content as a brand.

“As we get more into video and various apps that offer similar services, each app has developed a community and content offering that is unique to the platform,” she said.

Fifth Dimension managing director, Lyndall Spooner, told CMO video apps have enormous potential to grow brands. With the traditional brand funnel disrupted over recent years, many brands consumers are completely unaware of end up winning their brand decision, stealing the win from market leading brands, she said.

“Consumers are introduced to these brands right at the point when the consumer is about to choose a brand. These disruptive marketing channels include personal word of mouth, brokers and comparison websites, media and reviews, advertising and influencer content,” she said.

“The traditional brand funnel says the best way for a brand to win a brand decision is to build brand awareness, then brand consideration and finally preference. This marketing model, which is over 120 years old, is completely outdated. There are no formal brand consideration sets that consumers choose a brand from. If you take this section out of the brand funnel, you are left with two strategies to win a consumer.

"It's about building brand awareness and to disrupt the brand funnel right at the time they are making a decision with disruptive marketing.”

Fullerton saw a trade-off with Byte and other short-form video platforms in connecting the engagement to a truer form of purchase or direct brand growth. “However, these metrics will come along shortly no doubt as the platforms evolve and offer advertising,” she said.

Spooner said brands can significantly increase their growth by focusing more on salience than trying to communicate complicated brand messages or value propositions.

“Consumers do need a basic level of understanding of the capabilities of the brand and the products they offer. But once this level of understanding has been achieved, video can be extremely effective in maintaining brand salience – even short-form video such as Byte, Snapchat and TikTok,” she said. "Brand salience is far more powerful than brand awareness to drive growth."

What about brand risk?

Spooner sounded a note of caution for brands embracing these new platforms. “There are risks to brand reputation utilising video apps, but there are risks with all forms of marketing that messages will fail or draw criticism, video apps are just as exposed but no more so,” she said. 

“The people who consume content via these apps will be accepting of brands using these platforms to communicate providing their content is entertaining, interesting and genuine to the brand story.”

When marketing gets the message right, short-form video has the potential to be shared and gain exponential exposure for brands as consumers become active brand advocates, Spooner continued. "This is something they cannot do as easily and quickly with traditional marketing.”

L & A Social senior account manager and team lead, Claire Chapman, said concerns around Chinese-owned TikTok and its data privacy practices has seen several countries looking to ban the app. India for example, banned the app a few weeks ago and Australia and the US are now considering doing the same. 

But given the rapid rise and success of TikTok of this year, Chapman saw plenty of opportunity for other platforms to take the lead if it proceeds to be banned in other countries.

“Just look at Instagram, for example - while it is already an established platform, Instagram stories were Facebook's fastest growing placement,” she said. “There is clearly room for new short-form video to do the same, even if it is through a completely different app.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

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