Video just keeps getting better.
Endlessly looping gifs delight and entertain. Stickers and text, now easy to add to video via social media, bring short vignettes to life. And now, 360 video is poised to further immerse us in an interactive environment.
For the uninitiated, 360-degree videos are filmed with a special camera that captures all possible angles of the surrounding environment. That means that viewers—whether on a smartphone or on the web—can tap, click, drag, or swivel directly inside the video to pan the perspective, allowing them to engage with the content from multiple angles.
Sensing potential, social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube are betting big on the format. Brands are dabbling with the content type, testing whether the interactive nature of the content will help break through the video clutter.
But is this the year 360-degree video marketing will finally go big?
On the consumer side, 360-degree cameras are far from ubiquitous, although falling prices may help popularize the format. On the marketing side, case studies point to better performance from 360-degree videos compared to their traditional counterparts—a prospect that could be a boon for brands wanting to stand out from the pack.
The Case for Betting on 360 Video
There’s a reason why marketers grab onto the latest technology. As humans, we’re primed to want to interact with anything new and novel, and we gravitate toward highly visual content. 360-degree video has great potential because it combines these factors while playing on our natural curiosity.
Consider this video from National Geographic that tracks the life of a young male lion. Who wouldn’t want to poke around the video, discovering the lion cubs that lie just beyond the frame?
If video helps us capture a special experience, 360-video could take things even further. Who hasn’t wanted to capture more perfectly an incredible destination, a fantastic concert, or a poignant family moment? The 360 format offers that opportunity at a relatively low cost. Unlike virtual reality, experiencing 360-degree photos and video does not require the purchase of any special technology, like headsets or goggles; a smartphone or a computer is sufficient. Those who want to create 360-degree video can purchase a 360 camera for as little as $125, according to the Wirecutter.
Creating a 360-degree photo on Facebook is even easier. Simply upload a panorama photo from your smartphone, and Facebook will stitch it into a 360-degree experience.
Social media platforms have quickly set the stage for a 360-degree video explosion. Facebook has unveiled live 360 videos to all users; YouTube had previously offered that same option. Twitter is on a similar path, offering live, 360-degree videos from select partners.
How 360-Degree Videos Perform
While data on the performance of 360 videos is still limited, several studies have uncovered some encouraging data points.
Google partnered with Columbia Sportswear to compare the performance of a traditional video ad to a 360-degree video ad. The 360 ad boasted a higher click-through rate, higher interaction rate, and more shares, subscribes, and other actions, driving 41 percent more earned actions than the standard ad, according to the company’s blog.
Movies and TV shows have also toyed with the format and achieved notable results. On Snapchat, for example, a 360-degree video ad for Fifty Shades Darker earned double the engagement than any of Universal Pictures’ other video ads on the platform, according to Digiday.
In another test, Magnifyre partnered with StoryUP to compare a traditional video of a ballet dancer on a stage with a 360 version. Again, the 360 version performed better: Average percentage viewed was 28.1 percent higher, and double the number of viewers watched the entire video, according to the company.
It seems clear that 360 content offers definite advantages when compared to traditional counterparts. But is it the right move for your video marketing strategy?
As usual, it depends. Highly visual industries—think retail, travel and tourism, and real estate—can obviously benefit from expanding their visual repertoire of content.
Other industries may want to wait and see. Despite the cool factor, 360 video has limitations, as noted previously in the Content Standard. With traditional video, the narrative moves forward through cuts to different scenes, new locations, and so forth; something difficult to achieve through 360 video. Viewers, too, may not be quite sure what to do with the format. YouTube found via its heatmap insights that users spend 75 percent of their time viewing the front 90 degrees of the video—suggesting that unless the content is really outstanding, many viewers may not want to swivel around to explore.
Moreover, it’s unclear right now whether 360-degree video will become a bona fide video category, or whether it will serve as a mere stepping stone to bringing virtual reality to the mainstream. For now, it’s important for marketers to consider the value 360-degree content can bring to their audience versus other content types. The format puts a new, unique tool at marketers’ disposal. But that tool is only meaningful when used strategically.