The Rise Of Vertical Video And Its Impact On Social Media
57% of user-generated videos are shot vertically, and 94% of users hold their phone vertically, so it's safe to say they are just more ergonomically sound for the modern user from a user experience perspective.
You hear it all the time these days: "Vertical videos are the most important aspect of your content strategy for 2023," or "TikTok and Reels have the best organic reach," and -always- "The algorithms are favoring vertical." But why exactly are vertical videos taking social media, and indeed the wider digital marketing landscape, by storm?
The introduction of vertical content to the world
The answer to this question goes back to July 2011 when Snapchat was initially released to the public. With its innovative concept of short, 10-second photos or videos sent to your friends, only to be wiped off the face of the earth immediately after being viewed, Snapchat was an instant hit with young millennials.
The app continued to develop further, introducing the wildly successful "Stories" concept to the world. Unfortunately, in hindsight, that wild success turned out to be the beginning of the end of Snapchat's initial rapid growth, as Instagram developed its own version of Stories, rendering Snapchat borderline-obsolete to many who had used it to stay connected with their friends on a daily basis.
Before Snapchat, almost all video content was shot in landscape orientation, and for most of that time, that was probably for the best. TV screens, laptops, desktop screens, and almost everything we used to consume media was set in landscape orientation, so it was only natural that most digital content at that time followed suit. It wasn't until the introduction of the iPhone that most people started to consumer media using a vertical screen.
Why vertical content makes sense for today's world
When watching landscape videos on an iPhone screen, the most common format for all but the past few years, users would have to rotate their phones in order to be able to watch in full screen. You would think that this minor step would not have a significant impact on our likelihood of viewing video content in a horizontal orientation, but in fact, according to this comprehensive infographic from breadnbeyond, less than 30% of users will actually turn their phone sideways to view an ad, and those who do, watch just 14% of it on average!
Now, vertical content is the more convenient format for mobile users, who made up 57% of all worldwide video plays according to that same infographic, but that's not the only reason. Vertical videos are also notoriously immersive. Just ask anyone who's ever spent hours upon hours scrolling mindlessly through TikTok or Instagram Reels. While these platforms are already designed and optimized to keep you engaged, there's an inherent quality about vertical videos that makes them more immersive, especially for younger generations, than horizontal videos.
Image courtesy Igloo.
Since the advent of social media and its condensed content formats, the average human attention span has developed to be smaller than that of a goldfish! There are two factors about vertical video that make use of this: most vertical video content on the internet today is between 10-60 seconds to cater to that dwindling attention span, and vertical video content, while not allowing for many details to be present in the frame, makes it easier and more convenient to just focus in on the action by removing the unnecessary peripheral details.
Two more important factors are that 57% of user-generated videos are shot vertically, and 94% of users hold their phone vertically, so it's safe to say they are just more ergonomically sound for the modern user from a user experience (UX) perspective.
How the digital landscape has shifted
Nowadays, it's not just TikTok, Snapchat, and Meta focusing on the vertical video trend; YouTube, the global hub for landscape videos, launched its own version of a vertical video platform in Shorts. Even Elon Musk has considered bringing Vine back to give Twitter its own platform in a rapidly growing market.
In either case, vertical video looks set to be a staple in the coming years, barring another revolutionary change in the way we consume content. With platforms investing more heavily in the format and algorithms, and user interfaces (UI) being manipulated to serve more of it to users, it's safe to say vertical video is not just a social media trend that is bound to change within weeks or months, but a crucial paradigm shift in the digital marketing industry for years to come.
How your brand can create effective vertical videos
The challenge for brands that are not already riding the vertical video trend at full speed is that they do not have effective vertical video content that was specifically shot and created for that purpose. What we see a lot of brands doing is repurposing their existing landscape or square-sized video content into vertical videos by resizing, cropping, or rotating it to deliver the exact same message. The problem with this, as is usually the problem with taking the power of repurposing too far, is that the content that results from this process is usually irrelevant for the audience consuming it.
People usually aren't on TikTok or Instagram Reels to see the same boring mix of "look at me!" content mixed in with some educational GIFs and a flash sale every week. They want to see something different, something that is more entertaining, humorous, emotionally touching, educational or inspirational, among other things.
Image courtesy Igloo.
If you've fallen into the trap of simply resizing your content, or haven't yet explored the potential of this powerful format, following these six must-haves will enable you to create content that engages and delights your audience:
1. KEEP AN EYE ON TRENDS Original ideas are always going to be an important asset in your marketing team's toolkit on new-age social media channels, but following recent trends and capitalizing on those that could be relevant and effective for your brand is a great way to piggyback off others' success.
2. CREATE A STRONG HOOK FOR YOUR VIDEO Because of the UI of most vertical video-viewing platforms, it's extremely likely that your audience will swipe past your video before they even know what it's about. Creating a strong hook is the only way to make sure as many of your viewers as possible are watching your video until the very end.
3. TELL A STORY Storytelling is built into our DNA, and incorporating storytelling principles into your content, even if it is brand or product-centric, can keep users engaged, and help them imagine possible real-life use cases for your product.
4. USE THE RIGHT DIMENSIONS There are few things more frustrating for users than having to watch a video with the wrong dimensions, and having a black frame take up 50% of the screen, or for a key detail in a video to be missing because it was cropped out. It's definitely a good idea to shoot your vertical videos with that exact purpose in mind, so that your entire message is relayed properly.
5. THE DETAILS REALLY MATTER Intricate details such as including a clear call-to-action, using stickers on Stories, localizing your content, and using voiceovers and captions to bring your content to life can be the difference between a good piece of content and a great one.
6. KEEP AN EYE OUT ON NEW OPPORTUNITIES With such a rapidly advancing landscape comes new opportunities on a regular basis. Watching out for, and pioneering, the use of new social media channels, or leveraging ones that your competitors aren't, can lead to massive growth for your brand.
It's time to get out there and start recording!
You can read about the importance of vertical video and watch tutorials and "how-to" videos for weeks, but nothing will help you learn how to create great content for your brand like actually getting out there, experimenting with different techniques and directions, and doing more of what works, and less of what doesn't.
That's why the most useful thing you can do today to kickstart your brand's vertical video content creation efforts -as is the case with most things in life- is to get out there, and just do it!