While contemplating this article, I scrolled through my Twitter feed and had a hard time discerning that the second post (not the first, because that’d just be too obvious) was actually sponsored content.
Why did I have a hard time telling a difference? Because it was a Tweet from a band I’ve been listening to for five years who was announcing their new album. I figured that I’d followed them and that they’d just Tweeted it—until I saw the same Tweet a couple of days in a row.
To make native video ads work, brands have to create content that feels like something we’d see even if it wasn’t paid.
Aside from having a forgettable name, Twitter First View is smart for following the same model as Instagram Marquee. By promoting paid content for certain periods of time (24 hours in the case of Marquee and First View), advertisers get big boosts when they need it most, and users never have a chance to realize that the video content isn’t organic (ethics aside). David Neuman, Director of Social Media Services for Prime Visibility, notes, “Users are so accustomed to seeing native ads across all of their social media feeds that the roll out of First View isn’t going to be met with much backlash or reaction from the Twitter community. Most users that aren’t involved in social media marketing might not even notice that this is a new Twitter ad offering.”
Neuman is on to something big: Video has gained so much momentum that users aren’t dismayed by the appearance of timely and relevant sponsored video clips. Social networks have gotten much better at tailoring who sees which ads (and constantly raising the bar for brands looking to place native content in their feeds) that they rarely seem off color or out of touch. And the fleeting nature of Marquee and First View is taking a page straight from Snapchat’s (super-successful) book: the less time you have to see a video, the more attention you’ll pay to it and the less it will feel like an interruptive ad.
The intrigue of paid video content on Twitter has its own nuances, too. Like Snapchat and Instagram, Twitter is known for its scrollable, quick-and-dirty feed. Within specific feeds, brands know a lot more about viewing behavior (and user interests) than they do with YouTube and TV, both of which now feel antiquated compared to the newest crop of native video marketing options. Matthew Mercuri, Digital Marketing Manager at Dupray, points out the logistics (and potential payoff) of targeted video on social media feeds:
“Generally speaking, it is more expensive than other forms of advertising. Consequently, many marketers will be scared off simply by the cost. What they fail to take into consideration is the efficiency value of having instantaneous access to a highly-engaged and highly-focused audience.”
And it’s true—every platform lends itself to unique browsing habits and, consequently, content styles. Mercuri continues by contemplating the user journey: “I’ve never watched a full ad on YouTube—ever. I always start videos after the first five seconds (of the ad). It would be a safe presumption that many others do the same. People use Twitter to read Tweets and see short videos. The native videos within the stream are more tolerable than any other type of video advertising.”
Indeed, Twitter is uniquely positioned to deliver videos as “part of the experience” as opposed to an inconvenience before the video you came to watch.
Because First View is a quick and boosted video service aimed at promoting video while it’s most relevant, it feels a lot more like one of the pioneering features of Twitter—the “Trending” section—than it does an incongruity. Marc Weinstock, President of Domestic Theatrical Marketing at 20th Century Fox, one of First View’s first customers, was ecstatic about the potential to reach customers during a critical 24-hour timespan (ie: opening weekend for a new movie): “Twitter’s First View is a great opportunity to widely distribute our trailer for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates while generating buzz and social conversation. We are able to hit a broad movie-going audience with great video in a way that not just garners views but actually creates social momentum.”
Weinstock hits on two interesting points about video content delivered natively. Garnering views is critical, though there’s much debate over what actually constitutes a view and what view counts mean for social marketing. Then there’s the idea of social momentum, which is much easier to generate when content is delivered natively in a feed. Instead of appearing as an interrupt advertisement that users are forced to sit through so they can access the content they came for, native videos can be Liked, shared, retweeted, and tagged the same way as other content in a social feed. A brand may have paid to have content in your News Feed, but if it proves entertaining, you might actually share it with a friend. And, because it’s native, you can do so easily and with the same buttons you’re used to using.
Twitter First View might have a forgettable name and not have made much of a splash in mainstream media. But it should not be ignored. Every major social media platform now offers prioritized video opportunities to advertisers looking to deliver autoplaying, native video in the same space as unpaid content. Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of Jun Group, predicts, “2016 is all about autoplay versus opt-in video. Twitter has jumped on the autoplay bandwagon started by social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.”
There’s no question that social networks must walk a fine line when it comes to incorporating ads into users’ sacred space, but that’s their burden to bear. From an enterprise marketing standpoint, the power of video is undeniable, and the future of video is on quickly-browsable feeds like Twitter.
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