Can Video Ads Save Social Media?

By Bob Wallace June 26, 2014

Though video has met with marketing success in such business-to-consumer efforts such as TV, gas pump-top screens, in store TV systems and live streaming sports, can it help Facebook play a significant role in consumer purchases?

Results of a Gallup poll released this week covering consumer buying and social media revealed stats that should have execs from Facebook and Twitter, among others, awake all night, and scrambling, claimed that social media has no effect at all on the purchasing decisions of a majority of Americans (62 percent).

In what’s a ‘captain obvious’ conclusion for users but perhaps new ground for potential and current advertisers, the survey concluded that the vast majority of Americans use social media to connect with friends and family.

From Gallup: “Despite tremendous numbers of Americans using social media institutions such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter, only 5 percent say social media have "a great deal of influence" on their purchasing decisions, while another 30 percent say these channels have "some influence." These data, from Gallup's new State of the American Consumer report, are based on Americans' self-reported estimates of how much social media campaigns affect their purchasing decisions.”

Given that Facebook was not originally created as a revenue generator and is most heavily used to communicate and share comments, pictures and videos with different circles of friends (often remotely located and thus difficult to spend time with, the Gallup poll results confirm what most already knew.

The legions of “social media experts” are still in business as social media can be used for more than selling. Though poll respondents said it has little sway on purchases, social media can be used in marketing, branding, image creation and product awareness undertakings that are informational rather than commercial in nature.

Video to the Rescue

Since Gallup concluded its polling months before Facebook announced and launched its video ad offering to potential businesses, it didn’t cover this type of advertisement. This leads many to wonder if video, which can be engaging and captivating in other uses, can help the site with its selling woes.

It’s a tough task because seemingly more people skip ads on social media than they do or would like to on TV, meaning businesses and their agencies, etc., need to keep in mind why the bulk of Facebook member use the site and craft their video pitches accordingly.

As part of its video ad undertaking, the social media site is working closely with businesses to make their spots engaging (and hopefully targeted so they are relevant to those that see them in their news feed.)

Early, and Later

“In these early stages, I’ll bet Facebook users feel the video ads are even more intrusive than the static ads that normally appear on your page,” explained Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst, Broadband Access and Pay TV at Infonetics Research, a market analysis, forecasting and advisory firm. But little in advertising is an instant success, with an entire (and growing) segment of the video industry focusing on advertising approaches, technologies and solutions. Witness the history of the annual Online Video Ad Summit held earlier this week. It’s the fourth time for the event.

The future should be brighter for Facebook, and other social media sites, Heynen believes.

“Ultimately, I think people will accept these ads, which have been tailored to their likes, dislikes, group affiliations, etc.,” he predicts. “The targeting will get better and will also be based on whether the user hides these ads or prefers to see them. Ironically, it will probably function just like a recorded TV show: you skip through the ads you don’t care about and perhaps give a second glance at the ones you do care about.”

‘Ad’vice to Live By

Social media sites and businesses need to follow Heynen’s ‘four keys to success.’

 The video ads need to:

  1. Not run automatically when you scroll through your news feed
  2. Be as targeted to the user as possible
  3. Be limited to a very small number with each time Facebook is accessed
  4. Use content that is already-recognizable, such as an existing commercial a user might have seen on TV.


In the announcement of its video ad initiative, Facebook said it has partnered with Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings and Ace Metrix (who reviews ad quality and engagement level before the ad runs) to help businesses optimize their video ad efforts.

These premium video ads are expensive, with reports having them at anywhere from $600,000 to $2.5 million a day. I suggested in March that businesses use their 15 seconds of marketing fame wisely.  It’s worth noting that the ads are shorter than traditional 30-second or longer TV ads.

Creative and funny work but only if you remember the product and who makes it. Ads featuring sedans racing around closed courses and race tracks with professional drivers underwhelm on TV let alone the web. Magnetic and memorable are paramount. Get “re-creative” for a different delivery method.

The Bottom Line

Gallup’s findings span generations, with millennials somewhat more impacted by ads than older demographics, but not enough to exclude them from targeted video ads offered by Facebook’s business customers as part of the social media kingpin’s months-old initiative.

If Facebook’s early customers’ video ads are effective, it will be largely because they are targeted to a finite-sized audience as opposed to the shotgun, blast to the masses approach that advertisers have often taken online and still use widely on traditional TV.

Facebook possesses the user information needed to create truly targeted video ads that are relevant to the site’s users. For now, it’s all in the execution.

Stay tuned to see if video ads do in fact transform social media sites’ ad streams into wide and deep revenue rivers.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC

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