Even though in 2016 professionally generated video content overtook user-generated video content, the advertising industry is still relatively hesitant in the use of short videos for marketing purposes. Some internet giants, however, have realised the potential and have already been expanding into the industry. Tencent for example invested $350 million in Kuaishou (a live-streaming app which began life as a destination for photo sharing), and Alibaba invested RMB 2 billion in the transformation of Youku Tudou from a large, formerly popular online video platform into a short video community.
If you are new to the world of online short videos, keep on reading for answers to five of the most common questions we get asked regularly. They are bound to help guide you through the basics of this rapidly growing online video industry.
What are short videos?
Short videos are usually shorter than five minutes, addressing Chinese netizens’ need for instant gratification and matching their short attention span for content. The videos feature all different kinds of people – from your favourite noodle maker to the most famous celebrities – telling engaging stories about topics ranging from sports and games to food and culture. The immense popularity of online short videos is partly due to this diversified content, as there is something interesting for everyone.
According to survey data from the CNSA, humorous videos are the most popular, followed by short videos covering news topics and introductions to movies.
Which devices do people use to watch these online videos?
The rise of short videos is easily the biggest change in the video industry over the past three years, and it has the popularity of smartphones and upgraded communication networks in China to thank for it. As mobile data in China is becoming more affordable, it is relatively cheap to watch videos on smartphones. As a result, 95% of online video users predominantly use their mobile phones to watch online short videos, according to the CNSA survey. A fact easily proven by looking around any Chinese restaurant, subway, or office during lunchtime!
Which platforms do people use to watch online videos?
There are numerous comprehensive short video platforms and apps in China where users can watch or record real-time short videos and share them with friends. According to CIWEEK, an internet content magazine, the previously mentioned Kuaishou is the most popular online video platform, closely followed by Miaopai and Meipai. All these platforms provide a one-stop user experience offering users the ability to apply various effects or choose different formats while filming and editing videos. And they offer a community where users can share their videos with friends. Besides these all-in-one platforms, there are also popular news apps that function more as content recommendation tools. These platforms, such as Toutiao, NetEase, and Tencent News focus on suggesting popular or professional videos to their millions of viewers.
Besides all these specialized ‘video based platforms’ displaying or referring short videos, social media channels do not want to miss the boat either. More and more social platforms are adding online short videos to their functionalities. Social media posts that feature a video are said to earn on average triple the engagement of those that do not, emphasizing that online videos are becoming a crucial part of the online entertainment ecosystem. A good example of a social platform turning to video is the famous dinosaur Sina Weibo. They managed to turn around the declining user numbers in 2016 by embedding short video platform Miaopai in their posts.
Can short online videos be viewed free of charge?
Yes, and no. Most apps specialized in online videos can initially be used for free via a regular “free forever” account. But more popular or exclusive content is then only available to paying users. Even though Chinese consumers have been used to getting most of their video content for free, users are becoming increasingly willing to pay for their favourite video content. The CNSA survey revealed that more than 40% of online video users are paid subscribers to some form of video service, and 25.5% of those who haven’t paid before would be willing to pay for good content. The main reasons are to get exclusive content and to skip advertisements.
How can my brands make use of short online videos?
Because the production cycle of short videos is quick with great flexibility, they tend to fit well into brands’ marketing plans. To help you find your way in the world of online videos, here are some key points about the use of online videos for marketing purposes:
- Short videos can be used for various types of promotional materials, such as brand introductions, product reviews, and the announcement of promotional activities. When used for delivering specific brand messages, make sure the content is interesting and meaningful. Content quality is often referred to as the key to the effectiveness of a campaign
- Video blogging and related livestreaming by online influencers (KOLs) can be one of the most powerful channels to bring your brand, products and services to life. 470 Million internet users in China follow celebrities and KOLs, and these online influencers are now producing the most popular content. Campaigns that cooperate with celebrities and KOLs often achieve great results.
- Through audience interactions and User Generated Content, short videos can offer your brand an opportunity to better understand your (potential) consumers’ preferences and subsequently improve your user experience. One upcoming channel for such interactive content is Douyin.
Important message to take home
In a nutshell, short videos should definitely be part of every company’s outbound communication plans, but be aware that more videos does not automatically mean more engagement. According to L2’s recent Intelligence Report, 56% of brands with video on the homepage actually experience shorter visit times, fewer average pages per visit and higher bounce rates than brands without video on their homepage. Which brings us to the most important ‘message to take home’:
“Online short videos are a great way for brands to expand their digital marketing in China, but only when designed and executed well.”
If you’re not sure where to get started, we at AgencyChina would love to hear about your brand and work together to ensure you maximize the opportunities of online videos!