Four Things to Watch with Autoplay Video Content on Social Networks

Recently, there’s been some information shared about Facebook’s upcoming plans to launch a new advertising unit featuring autoplay videos. The autoplay videos essentially take up the user’s entire desktop and force the website visitor to watch the material. These ads are essentially an avenue for the large social network to penetrate some of the larger television advertising budgets. So far, Facebook has pitched the ad space to larger agencies and hopes to garner a few big clients by the summer launch.

Previous Uses of Autoplay

Traditionally, autoplay has been frowned upon. At 522, we’ve recommended against autoplay features and instead tend to give users a choice to “opt-in” to video content. In cases where autoplay has been a requirement from our client, we’ve implemented customizations to mute videos when first landing on a webpage. Over the years, we’ve experienced better results with this strategy since video is such an interactive medium.

Key Things to Watch with the Rollout of Autoplay Video Ads

At first glance, the opportunities presented by these ads seem to be an effective way to answer some of the questions from Facebook investors. However, what impact will these ads have on the overall user experience? Well, we thought we’d highlight four key items to watch as the new autoplay videos are implemented on Facebook this summer.

  • Bounce rates – One of the primary ways to detect the effectiveness of an ad is the bounce rate of the landing page. Essentially, as an advertiser, you want to know if the user found what they were looking for after clicking on an ad. In this scenario, we may find users who try to click out of the autoplay ad but instead arrive at a landing page. This, presumably, would cause a higher bounce rate since the intention of the website visitor is to kill the advertisement.
  • User experience – Major changes to the Facebook interface typically create an uproar with users. However, the integration of autoplay videos and taking over the entire screen is a new territory. It will be interesting to hear the feedback from users after the ads are implemented. It’s just a hunch, but I’m betting this is going to be a pretty negative reception with the user community.
  • Overall confusion – In addition to the initial user experience, I’m wondering how many users will simply end up being confused. With 10 tabs open (maybe two of them dedicated to Facebook) and autoplay videos running at the same time, I feel users will have some confusion as to what is happening on their computers.
  • Impact on the perception of brands – For the early adopters of this ad unit, it will be interesting to see how their brand is perceived by Facebook users. With “in your face ads”, this may have a negative impact on the brand. Or, we may find out that the brands who are able to purchase the units are already so established that it doesn’t have a notable impact.

Summary

Ultimately, the four things noted above assume the ads are going to have a negative impact. However, maybe the ads will be effective and provide a huge return on investment for big brands. Maybe studies will show that users reacted in a favorable way and the brands had a chance to reach their target market. As with most digital marketing and video advertising, we probably won’t have a solid conclusion until a sufficient amount of data is collected. In any event, I’m curious to see how these video ads perform over the summer.

Resources

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