Arts Marketing: Facebook Killed the Video Star

Social media is changing all the rules for arts marketers.

I suppose all things must come to an end. While video may have killed the radio star, it is clear now that Facebook killed the video star, or, more importantly, how viewers watch videos. What does it mean for how your arts organization’s marketing efforts? Well, the first step is acceptance: the tried and tested method of creating commercials — something that has been used since the dawn of commercials — is over.

Here at Oklahoma City Ballet, we have spent countless hours on our Facebook page going through all of the current features offered for video metrics. Regarding the content we create for social media, we noticed several things that gave us pause. The first thing that we noticed is that the average time that a viewer watches your video is less — dramatically less — than we anticipated.

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Your time is running out.
Your time is running out.
Looking back over the past two seasons of OKC commercials, we observed that after three seconds, we lost viewers at a rate of 15 percent per second. This was the case almost across the board for all of our commercials. By the time someone is just seven seconds into a 30-second commercial, we were down to less than 40 percent of our original audience. And sometimes less than that.

Social media is now the acknowledged juggernaut when it comes to video outlets and the way potential customers get their information. More and more arts companies (and non-arts companies) are pulling their videos off TV and posting, boosting and sponsoring them on social media for maximum views. The problem with this is that videos are still being created using methods and approaches appropriate to TV content — that is, commercials. Not videos created directly for, or catering to, social media.

Almost no one watches videos with sound.

It has long been believed that a proper TV commercial will spend the vast majority of its time selling you its product; once you have made the decision that this product is the one you need, then you will get all of the information you need to purchase it at the end of the commercial. This is what is known as an “end card.” But OKC’s analysis showed that less than 10 percent of the audience that began to watch our videos on social media ever made it to the end card; for some of our videos, it was as low as two percent.

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What do we do with this dispiriting information? We know, first, that we need to get critical information about our product to the viewer: the name of the ballet, the dates, how to get tickets. So we are starting to create commercials that start with that critical information — a “start card,” if you will. That way we know that the vast majority of the viewers will at least have that information, even if they watch nothing else. And having that information alone might be enough to get people to buy tickets. You don’t need to watch a 30-second commercial about The Nutcracker to know what it is.

I can think longer than you
I can think longer than you

In 2015, Microsoft released the results of a study showing that from 2000 to 2015, the average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. The study also noted this is one second shorter than the average attention span of a goldfish. As marketers, we need to figure out how people want their information, not how we want to give it to them.

The second thing we did to address the attention-span challenge is that we no longer create 30-second commercials, whether for TV or radio. It’s a better use of our money to spread out our commercials and cast a wider net than buy commercials that waste, on average, 22 seconds of time and our money.’

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A “start card,” if you will.

Another thing we noticed in our dissection of social media video metrics is that almost no one watches videos with sound. Fewer than two percent of viewers watch our commercials with sound and only 20 percent of viewers watch our video interviews with sound. This is mainly due to the fact that the vast majority of them are on auto-play — the video defaults to not having sound and the viewer must click on it in order to hear it, and viewers aren’t clicking. Part of this is just a matter of viewer convenience (or, if you like, inconvenience), and the other part is that people are looking at their phones in areas where they may not want others to hear what they are watching, like at work. This is important for a couple of reasons. In the past, we used voiceovers in commercials to tell our story. Now, however, we are trying to use text instead of voiceovers. We also are going to use subtitles for interviews, even though they are in English. This will allow viewers to continue watching and get the information we want them to have knowing they are most likely to watch our videos on mute.

Social media is changing the rules. We have no choice but to play along.