Vanishing videos: What's the appeal?

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Rings have been spreading in the internet ocean lately, as the social media heavyweights are pointing their periscopes towards vanishing video and user generated content.

The rings are predominantly coming from the Facebook mother ship, which has had its torpedoes targeted on Snapchat for a while, but last week it sent out its two biggest vessels to join the battle: Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook has long been a believer of video content as social media ruler and last year they launched Facebook Live, offering general users as well as brands and businesses a way to live-stream video content to their followers.

In 2013 Snapchat surprised many when they refused a $3bn offer from Facebook and with these recent market moves, Zuckerberg and his disciples are finally waging full-blown war in order to attract the sought-after millennial crowd.

Now Instagram has introduced perishable photos and videos in direct messages, as well as live-streaming, while Whatsapp has launched a feature enabling videos to be instantly streamed.

Reversing the ad experience

What most brands and retailors have realized by now is that user generated content, especially video content, is a future leader of generating sales and boosting marketing.

But why are vanishing videos so highly rated and how can it possibly translate to profit through marketing?

An example: the Snapchat Sponsored Lens, which innocently allow you to see what your face looks like inside a piece of toast or swapped onto your mom’s head, last year generated an 8% increase of sales for sports drink giant Gatorade. In one day.

For the Super Bowl, Gatorade purchased one of the lenses, allowing users to take a virtual shower of the sports drink. The lens received a staggering 165 million views – that’s more than the game itself generated.

Needless to say the cost for placing a lens or a GeoFilter (another successful Snapchat feature) quickly adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It works well for several reasons. Most of all users are actually having fun with the ad, so much they even want to share with their friends. That is the complete contrary of the usual online ad-experience, evident by numerous studies and the rise of adblockers.

But other factors are in play as well.

For instance, once you paid the exorbitant price and put the resources into creating an advertisement only to be showed on one platform for one day, you are in a very exclusive club with almost no competition.

An era of eCommerce and video

Naturally the potential of this reaches far beyond the borders of social media, but how do we use this knowledge for the good of the users being bombarded by commercials?

In the wake of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where online sales totalled over $3bn and growth rates hit the double-digits, the consumer behavioural shift to eCommerce is more evident than ever.

But even though eCommerce is skyrocketing, studies show that most people still prefer to do their shopping in a physical store, due to the ability of seeing, feeling and trying the product.

Through product related video content, directly created by the brand or consumer, it is already possible to give shoppers that experience (almost) via the wonders of visual storytelling and without ever leaving the house.

Watching the latest Nike spot featuring Roger Federer as well as an unboxing or review video from a fellow shopper provides a unique blend of inspiring and informative content.

With that in mind it is baffling how Amazon and other online retailers have barely changed their platform design since their births.

The time has come for the two worlds of content and commerce to merge and begin the dawn of a new era, where the online decision journey is enhanced and compressed into a singular instance.

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