Facebook for Business announced it is testing a feature allowing advertisers to place videos that will automatically begin playing in users’ news feeds. After some delays the feature, which will used by businesses and marketers, will begin rolling out this week. The social network says that early tests on the auto-play feature show a rise in user video views by 10 percent and lead to increased engagement.
The company says its goal has been to make it easier for users to watch videos and find ways for brands to “increase awareness and attention over a short period of time,” according to the press release.
Auto-play videos will start automatically when users scroll down through their news feed, but the user must click or tap the video to start the audio. Once a video has finished playing, a strip of videos related to the content that has just played will appear, much like on YouTube. This setting is “making it easy to discover more content from the same marketer,” explains Facebook.
The video ads will add a new dynamic to marketing through social media. They should be largely welcomed by businesses after a recent report showed that only 2 percent of social media clicks led to direct online sales this holiday season.
Video content will download to mobile devices in advance when the user is connected to Wi-Fi, so advertisements will not eat into data plans. Currently, the feature is still in its initial testing phase and will begin appearing later this week.
Marketing and advertising agencies have asked for the auto-play feature in the past, but Facebook was reluctant to allow it, fearing auto-play ads could be annoying for users, says Forbes. The feature was scheduled to launch this past summer. After witnessing the success of Instagram videos and refining some of the auto-play functions, Facebook moved forward with the feature.
“It sounds as if they are doing it in a reasonably sensitive way, but if they get this stuff wrong people may stop being active and posting new content,” says Alys Woodward, an analyst with global marketing research firm IDC, speaking with the BBC regarding the news and any potential drawbacks.
Facebook has not added an option to turn off auto-play videos and has said, “If you don’t want to watch, you can simply keep scrolling and the video will stop playing.”
The new video advertising feature is being used in conjunction with the film Divergent. Facebook is working with the Summit Entertainment film studio and advertising agency Mindshare to promote the film using auto-play video ads. Some of the first auto-play video ads that users see will be promoting the film. These ads will give many businesses an idea of how the new feature will look and feel. The cost of these advertisements has not yet been released.