The hurdles to truly “social” video experiences

video future

By Will Overstreet, {grow} Community Member

In my business, I work with some of the biggest television networks in the world. Over the last year, I have been approached by several of these customers about delivering video as a part of our product offering to them. My first reaction was “huh?” Can’t they do video better than me?

But what I realized what they were really asking for is a more SOCIAL video experience. This begs the question — why hasn’t video evolved from just different ways to watch what we have known as TV? Despite all the technology changes, we are basically interacting with video essentially the same way we did in the 1950s. We observe.

Think about it.  Our expectations for all other forms of content are that they will have numerous ways in which we can interact without diminishing the experience or the value of the content. We expect content where you can:

  1. Research a term in a separate browser tab or window
  2. Click on terms within an article
  3. Come back to exactly were you left off
  4. Zoom on images and or infographics
  5. Read and add your own comments
  6. Copy a select piece of the article and send to a friend
  7. Print the article
  8. Participate in a poll or with some other type of interactive experience

Video doesn’t allow for any of this.

Along with these options, we also have an expectation that when we post and create, it will elicit a response from a publisher, brand’s social team or the community at large.  Each new contribution we make has the potential to extend the life of the content, add to it, personalize it, or even transform it into something new.

The ways we can interact with a video are more limited that how you can interact with me over this blog post! Think about a video you recently viewed on the web …

  • Can you input a response?
  • Can you click on items within the video to get more information?
  • When you leave a webpage and then return does the video begin playing where you left off?
  • Did the video have a call to action?  Do you know what action the brand would like for you to take?
  • If the video was an ad was it any different from the TV version?  Did it ask you to call a phone number instead of sending you to a website or Facebook page?
  • Did the video entice you where you felt you might want to respond?
  • Can you copy and paste a snippet of the video to send to a friend?

Why the Lack of Innovation?

The industry has not pushed for innovation in terms of user experience because, much like print media five years ago, the overarching trend shows an increased consumption of the core product. In other words, why mess with success?

We can see some similarities between how social video might evolve along the lines of what has happened to social “print:”

  1. Decreasing Margins Due to Lower Barriers of Entry – Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can create video content.  Creating video used to be more difficult but with the advancements of technology, this is no longer a barrier and a major reason for the projected growth in video consumption.  The increased number of video publishers will also dilute the value of video content and make it much more difficult for customers in the video industry to justify paying higher cost when the three amigos can have the same impact with tools that are next to nothing in price.
  2. How the Industry Views Itself – The majority of companies in the industry sell to CIOs and CTOs.  In addition, they compete based on price, reliability, and speed.  In other words, the industry views and sells itself as a commodity and not as a key sales and marketing tool.
  3. Evolving Consumer Behavior – My company sells to the sales, editorial, and marketing teams.  The revenue generating side of the house views video as a way to increase topline revenue.  They need packaged solutions and providers that speak their language, don’t involve internal IT resources, and are able to execute quickly. This can mean higher margins for the industry but can only be realized when a change in direction of the company occurs.

And, we are part of the problem

You and I, the video consumers, are the other reason for delaying the innovation and evolution of online video content.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. We love to be passive. – Who doesn’t love to be a “couch potato?” This desire drives our expectations for video content, but in the case of taking a class or watching a how-to video, we may want something more.
  2. We Are Indoctrinated – Our viewing behaviors have been conditioned over many years from watching TV and movies.  My personal belief is that because TV makes more sensory connections than print or radio (I can see it AND hear it) the separation and differentiation between TV and the Internet was going to be last.
  3. Video is a Victim of Its Own Success.  Video is still arguably the most powerful tool for communicating a message to a mass audience.  The only thing better currently is the real world face-to-face meeting.

The use of video is exploding on the web. Think of the potential if we could truly make it “social.”  The shift could be as monumental as the first introduction of the television.

I would love to see the introduction of a device that allows you to upload a video and allow you to review it and classify the different objects within the video.  The player would then allow for any object within the video player to be touch screen enabled.  So for example, you could click on a pair of glasses that an individual was wearing to learn more about them or go to an E-commerce website and purchase the glasses for yourself.

This type of innovation would give the user the ability to freely experience video content as they saw fit and would allow for the viewer to add in their own content, ideas, thoughts, and opinions on the different clickable objects within the video.

What ideas would you incorporate into a video technology that is truly social?

will overstreetWill Overstreet is the founder of Voices Heard Media, a company creating new interactive web experiences. Follow him on Twitter and his blog.

Illustration courtesy BigStock.com

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  • Fascinating – thank you Will. I recently ran into this myself, as we produced a video infographic for one of our customers. I really thought it would be possible by now to produce some form of video that would allow for a level of interaction similar to what you can do with pictures or in online games or for instance Prezi. Sadly, and much to my surprise, Youtube and all other video services I’m aware of hardly allow any interaction at all. You’re lucky to be able to get a link in somewhere, but even that is tightly controlled bij Google. There is no easily accessible video format that will play in any browser where you can create the forms of interaction you mentioned. There are no tools for people like us in marketing to create interaction. At least – I don’t know them (if anyone does, please let me know).

    As for us being part of the problem: I think there is a clear distinction between passive and active video consumption. Passive consumption is what we do on our couch in the living room. Microsoft misunderstood that part when they went for multimedia pc’s, and really expected us to run Windows on our tv screen. You don’t want to ‘work’ on your couch in the living room. You want to sit back, relax, and be entertained. We can barely be moved to push a button on our remote – assuming we can be moved to go look for it in the first place.

    What’s on the rise is video consumption in a different, active environment: on the road, behind your desk. That’s a different attitude. I don’t think we should try and change formats that are aimed at passive consumption into interaction. I think we should start to look for new formats that are aimed at an active audience in a different environment: fast paced, action oriented, result driven.

  • Will Overstreet

    Volkert – Thank you for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed the post.

    I couldn’t agree more with the need for distinction between active and passive video viewing experiences. I am an avid TV viewer and love nothing more than to sit back and relax.

    My point about us being the problem is how we have consumed video since childhood is another reason why we have been slow to differentiate and identify the need for different experiences based on the type of video viewing experiences.

  • geofflivingston

    Really good guest post, and it reminded of hot and cold media, seeing video as primarily cold. An old theory, so just reminiscing, but nevertheless a big challenge.

  • Will Overstreet

    You’re right and it only becomes a bigger challenge because each day that social media continues to evolve and push for innovation while video remains static is another day that the gap between the two becomes ever larger.

  • Christopher Masak

    I’ve always wondered why the trend in “socializing” and “personalizing” videos seemingly hit a brick wall. I recall a few years ago seeing videos that would (through a variety of tricks) insert your name into the video content….similar to http://www.portablenorthpole.com/home I even remember an email marketer that syncronized a video with a phone call to your cell phone, essentially making it appear that the characters in the video were really talking to you. After seeing a rush of those videos they’ve now, for all intents, disappeared from my radar. Was this due to tech limitations or poor consumer reception? And where’s the next iteration of that tech? Shouldn’t we have videos tied to voice recognition tech, or even eye-tracking tech, allowing the video to dynamically respond to viewers as we watch? With the advent of things like Microsoft Kinect I’d hoped to be able to wave my hand at a YouTube video to push the ads out of the way, or (even better) flash a thumbs up sign while watching a video to automatically share it to Facebook without having to stop watching to cut-and-paste. As for your final point, Zeebox and others have made baby steps in that direction, but we’ve got a long way to go.

  • Will Overstreet

    I really like your ideas. As I was writing this post, the one question that kept coming back to me was why were the TV, cable and video game industries innovating while the computer industry seemingly did nothing?

    In regards to your question on why previous technologies disappeared, it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason. The technology can simply be to early, lack the ability to raise enough capital to penetrate the market, or never mature enough to clearly find and speak to the right value proposition.

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