“The question is no longer IF virtual reality will be successful, it is WHEN and most importantly, HOW?” Dave Raynard, Head of Sony’s London VR Studio
The answer that that question right now is Facebook’s 360 video, which poses huge opportunities for brands and charities in 2017.
But how much do you know about the functionality and possibilities this groundbreaking medium brings to everyone’s favourite social platform?
If you don’t already, follow National Geographic. Facebook are working closely with them to experiment with 360 content, so no doubt they are ahead of the game. In December last year they published the first 360 Live video on Facebook, and their content is among the top 10 most viewed 360-degree brand videos with over 7 million people watching a bear fish for salmon in Kamchatka, Russia.
And BBC are following suit with this incredible opportunity to meet the largest dinosaur ever discovered with David Attenborough, which has over 3.4 million views on Facebook.
Facebook really is one of the best places for marketers to be experimenting with 360 video right now. It’s easy for publishers to use, with insights that tell you exactly how your audiences are engaging with your content through heatmaps and reports. It’s also easily discoverable for audiences, with tools to guide them through the experience.
In terms of actually creating the content, the key difference is in the post-production where editing and stitching the footage together takes slightly longer and therefore costs slightly more. Otherwise the creative and production processes are mostly the same as a normal video. And there’s loads of advice to get you started from Facebook themselves.
This example from Salvation Army shows that you don’t have to go surfing or walk on the moon, or indeed walk with dinosaurs, to make a 360 video. In fact, the best thing about 360 video is it’s effectiveness at building empathy – making you literally walk in someone elses shoes. Salvation Army used this to make you think twice about what you see on Facebook this holiday season.
They produced a simple piece of content specifically for the platform, which at first glance looks like a typical family’s post, but in fact turns out to be a shocking insight into poverty.
One thing to bear in mind is that 360 video does not autoplay on Facebook on a mobile device, unless you’re connected to WiFi. This is because the file sizes tend to be larger, using up more data and taking longer to load on mobile devices, so instead an icon identifies it as a 360 video.
The user taps on the icon to play the video in their news feed. They can then turn their handset to landscape for a more in-depth view and then can choose to watch in VR with any VR viewer, from the super accessible Google Cardboard to the more fully fledged HTC Vive.
While this does at first glance act as a barrier to your content, remember that audiences will be used to setting up their hardware and looking for 360 content on other platforms. But here they don’t need to – they can simply move their phone around in front of them if they want to.
Marketers therefore need to leverage the level of intrigue and build a narrative from there. Don’t introduce your film by asking them to ‘check out our 360 video!’ – they already know and it’s not enough. Instead, think about the whole journey; how can you lead audiences to start watching? What happens when they do? What will stop them from leaving too soon, and would it be worth them digging out their Cardboard?
Questions? We’ll be running events in the next few weeks to give marketers and video producers the opportunity to try out some content. You can also visit our 360 lab at anytime – just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.