The Winding Road of Social Video Strategy

The Precarious Pivot to Video

Like many things on the internet, the value of social video has taken a few sharp turns in recent years. At the end of 2016, the digital publishing climate seemed to be weathering an all-in video strategy storm. The shift was elevated when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the platform would embrace mostly video in the next five years, sparking layoffs at publishers — including Vox Media and BuzzFeed. The trend continued over the next year with the steady rise of short, readable videos, benchmarked by the success of Tasty and NowThis News.


However, when 2017 came to a close, the complete shift to video appeared to be misguided. The huge push was mostly driven by ad spend, rather than consumer preference. Even the Pew Research Center found that millennials — today's coveted ad target group — still prefer to read the news rather than watch it. So now publishers are shifting again. But it doesn't mean that there isn't space for social video in your 2018 content strategy.

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The Pendulum Swings Again

While publishers shouldn't be going all in on social video, the value of the visual format is not completely dead. The pendulum is now swinging away from short, sub-60-second videos to ones that feature mid-length duration and higher production quality. Prioritization of video creation as a skill set — not a quick way to create ad revenue — is resonating with users.

For example, media conglomerate Condé Nast is doubling down on its video content in 2018. Part of their shift to video is thanks to the performance of their media property Bon Appetit, which is experiencing enormous success with its food content. Their own take on "Tasty"-style videos lifted Bon Appetit's YouTube subscribers from 34,000 in 2016 to over one million today, and the extra reach is paying off. Videos are now responsible for a quarter of the annual revenue Condé Nast's Lifestyle Collection — Bon Appétit, Architectural Digest, Epicurious, Condé Nast Traveler, Self — produces.

PBS has also found a new audience on YouTube and Facebook thanks to social video. Their 25 social channels pull in millions of views a month, and netted them 316 million views total last year. Like Condé Nast's videos, PBS banks on the mid-length format. One of their most popular videos was a three-minute documentary that featured a behind-the-scenes look at the world's largest aircraft, netting over 22 million views.

The Rise of Content Series

The shift to higher-quality, mid-length video has also brought on the evolution of appointment-style programming, or over-the-top (OTT) content. Research performed by Digiday found that 81% of media executives plan to expand OTT efforts in 2018. While discovery of OTT content can be a challenge for publishers, it yields loyal viewership with the right kind of content. BuzzFeed's content series "Worth It" nets millions of views with every episode:

Facebook Watch — the platform's first true television competitor — continues to book new shows. Publishers like Bustle and Curbed are experimenting with episodic-esque programming on Instagram Stories.

While the publishers who went all in on short-form video in 2016 and 2017 may have gotten burned, there's still space for video in every social strategy. And while viewers may never "tune in" for a specific program like they do with TV, they're likely to engage similarly in the social feeds if the content remains dynamic and relevant.

The Importance of Content Diversification

The dramatic turn from "It's video or nothing!" to "Tread lightly!" can be confusing for a publisher, brand, or new media company still trying to figure out where their content fits in the social ecosystem. If anything, the winding road of social video content reinforces the importance of diversification — no matter the content, no matter the strategy.

The ticket to diversification is investing in good writers and content creators that understand how content travels across platforms, so they can cater their craft to what works best for each outlet. This may or may not be video. Once you have the right people in place, conversation-starting content can then be used to create multiple streams of social revenue that satisfy each platform.

Continuing to experiment with video is important for any publisher with the resources available to create dynamic, visual storytelling. But it's just as important to test the content's true value across each platform to see if it's a lucrative strategy for long-term revenue growth and audience building.

Let Us Keep Track of the Next Pendulum Swing

At RebelMouse, we offer lean tech that allows you to save costs on expensive dev teams, so you can instead focus on experimenting with new revenue streams. Our product is built by growth experts who also can help you with your video content strategy, even without buying our product. We keep up with platform changes and pendulum swings so you can focus on content creation. Let's create something together.

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In an effort to build user retention and increase conversions, publishers are making a common mistake. They're adding more features to their websites, including ad placements, but losing sight of the main revenue driver: user experience.

The key to unlocking user retention lies completely in site performance. Currently, publishers are trying to build optimized websites that translate easily across devices and platforms, but fail to deliver an experience that checks all their boxes and prioritizes their readers. It takes less than a second of delayed load time to turn away a user. This is why Google has made page speed a top ranking factor on search, and shepherded the entire open web's newfound prioritization on site performance.

Game Changer: Google's Core Web Vitals Announcement

Google cemented its seriousness about page experience with the announcement of its Core Web Vitals measurements in Google Search Console. Core Web Vitals are three specific metrics that Google uses to determine a site's overall usability. While these data points will evolve over time, the 2020 version of vitals consists of three specific metrics:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): A website's LCP is the time it takes to load the main content on a page. Google wants LCP to happen within 2.5 seconds of when a page first starts loading.

First Input Delay (FID): This metric quantifies a user's experience when trying to interact with unresponsive pages. This usually occurs between First Meaningful Paint (FMP) and Time to Interactive (TTI) (more on what these two mean below). You want your FID score to be low to prove the usability of your site. According to Google, pages should haven an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift Score (CLS): CLS determines how often your users experience unexpected layout shifts or changes on a page. To ensure visual stability, you want your CLS score to be low. Google wants pages to maintain a CLS score of less than 0.1.

From Google.

Google says Core Web Vitals scores will be considered across every page, and will be a ranking factor in its Top Stories feature. While relevant quality content will always be the most important, the page experience ranking is now a make-or-break metric for your site's survival.

"A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search." —From Google's page experience announcement, May 2020

Core Web Vitals will determine every site's performance score. You can see your site's Core Web Vitals specifically via Google Search Console, but your website's overall page performance is measured using Google's PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse tools.

At RebelMouse, we guarantee a performance score of 90 or higher via PageSpeed Insights. To do this, we've built out a platform infrastructure that exceeds industry standards on Google's key metrics, particularly its Core Web Vitals, outperforming most industry leaders.

You can read more about how we've mastered Google's KPIs here. But the truth is in the data. Below is table that provides a snapshot into how RebelMouse-powered sites score:

And here's what the scores look like for some of the biggest sites on the open web:

As you can see, there's a lot of data Google takes into account even outside of Core Web Vitals. Here's a quick summary of the other important metrics that Google trusts to measure page performance:

First Contentful Paint (FCP): This metric measures the time from click to the time when a user's browser renders the first bit of content from the Document Object Model (DOM), which is your site's HTML structure. According to Google, this is an important milestone for your readers because it provides signals that your page is loading.

First Meaningful Paint (FMP): This is the amount of time it takes the most important content, what Google calls "hero elements," to load on site. Hero elements are different for every site, but should be intuitive based on your content. This metric helps determine your site's usability.

Time to Interactive (TTI): This is the most important metric to keep an eye on. This is when the site is fully rendered and ready for user action. This is a critical point when slow load time can occur, usually because JavaScript or other complex content hasn't fully rendered. So, in short, think of TTI as how long it takes for your site to load in its entirety.

Total Blocking Time (TBT): TBT measures a page's load responsiveness to quantify how long a page is non-interactive prior to becoming interactive. You want your site to have a low TBT to maintain its usability.

Speed Index (SI): SI is the measurement of how quickly the contents of a page are populated. You want your speed index score to be as low as possible.

Creating quality content is only half the battle in 2020, and publishers are already burdened with the around-the-clock task of creating content that resonates. This is why quality content must be supported by modern technology that can keep up with the speed of the web. RebelMouse provides publishers with a CMS that supports the new content lifecycle with an editorial suite designed for reach on site, search, and social.

Click here to read more about our modern approach to web performance. If you want to make performance a priority, request a proposal today. We can easily transform your site into one of the fastest on the web, giving you increased user retention and better conversion rates than ever before.

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