Is Video-First Marketing a Real Thing?

“Can you help us develop a video-first strategy?”

It was the first time that I had ever heard a client use the phrase video-first, in a real-world setting.

Sure, the phrase has grown in popularity over the last six months, and I’ve begun to see it appear in blog posts from respected sources, but this was my first indication that the market was actually beginning to think in these terms.

What is video-first marketing?

Simply put, a video-first content strategy is one that prioritizes video above other types of content. The strategy is based on the growing evidence that people prefer to watch their content, rather than read it, and that video can produce a greater return on your marketing investment, as a result.

A video-first strategy does not abandon written content. Blogs, whitepapers, e-books and other written content will always play an important role in every marketer’s bag of tricks.

Rather, a video-first strategy acknowledges the market reality that customers are increasingly relying on video and other visual forms of marketing for the information they want to consume, and that some of the giants of content are beginning to invest heavily in video.

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The Case for Video-First

Evidence has been mounting for years. Writing for Entrepreneur, web psychologist Liraz Margalit notes that video is processed by our brains 60,000 times faster than text. Reading requires a longer attention span and deeper cognitive efforts. “When we read an article, we don’t just look at the words in front of us – we create thoughts about that content, activating our mental structures.”

Compare that to video, which does most of that work for us.

The appeal of video is underscored by the overwhelming amount of video content now being consumed on a regular basis. More importantly, the investment being made in video by top content providers is staggering.

Want to reach more people on Facebook? Post videos. Want to reach even more people? Post live videos. Click To Tweet

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg told his investors in 2016 that, “we see a world that is video-first, with video at the heart of all our apps and services.” And, he’s been backing up that statement ever since.

In 2014, Facebook changed the algorithm that governs their news feeds to emphasize video posts. It’s also been reported that Facebook videos receive, on average, 135% more organic reach that Facebook photos. Want to reach more people on Facebook? Post videos.

Want to reach even more people? Post live videos. Facebook reports that people spend more than three times as much time watching Facebook Live videos than they do watching videos that are no longer live, and comment ten times more frequently.

Other content platforms are also achieving success with video. In 2016, Periscope users created more that 200 million broadcasts. Periscope users watch over 110 years of live video every day.

Brands are also flocking to video in growing numbers, as well. In 2016, Social Media Examiner reported that 73% of marketers plan to increase their use of video in 2017. The same report notes that 50% of marketers plan to use live video in 2017, up from 14% in 2016.

Based on evidence like this, it’s clear that the video-first marketing strategy is something to be considered.

Video-First Is Disruptive

The trend toward video, in all its various forms, has been strong for years. So, why haven’t more marketers already made the switch to a video-first strategy? The answer lies in the disruptive nature of video, which requires marketers to re-tool in order to push video to the front of their marketing mix.

In 2016, analysis by Buffer reports that 83% of social marketers say that they would create more video content if there were fewer obstacles like time, resources, and budget. (The same report shows that 43% of marketers would create more live videos, under the same favorable conditions.) These challenges to video marketing adoption are present across all marketing channels.

The times are a-changin', and the trend toward video will not be going away, anytime soon. Click To Tweet

So, adoption of a video-first marketing strategy is going to involve a reprioritization of resources if it is to be effective.

Some of the resources currently being brought to bear on written content are going to have to be applied to the creation of video content. And, that’s hard for some marketers to accept.

Written content has been the most important component in most everyone’s marketing mix, and it will remain so, at least for the immediate foreseeable future.

But, the times are a-changin’, and the trend toward video will not be going away, anytime soon.

It may come as no surprise that millennials watch a lot of video, but would you believe that baby boomers share more video than any other age group? Video content has universal appeal across age demographics.

The need for marketers to adopt video is clear. Ogilvy, in their Key Digital Trends for 2017, notes that, “to not have any kind of video support and/or strategy that lives with and/or complements your existing communications would be a fool’s errand.” They conclude, “it’s ‘time to learn to love video.”

'It's time to learn to love video.' - @Ogilvy Click To Tweet

But, is video-first going too far? I don’t think so.

Video is already first on Facebook, and it’s clearly moving toward first among digital content consumers and some of the more forward-thinking brands that serve them.

Alignment with audience preferences and clear trends among market leaders calls for the adoption of a video-first marketing strategy. Moving your programs around to make this happen will take some time, effort, and money. But, smart marketers are well advised to begin making the transition toward video, as soon as possible.

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