In 2015, we told you vertical video is growing. And now, Facebook has shared several updates intended to make watching videos “richer, more engaging, and more flexible.” One key update was confirmation that vertical News Feed videos, which used to be cropped and shrunk into a small square within the video post, will now default to a 2:3 aspect ratio on iOS and Android. An additional click will then expand the video to take up the entire mobile screen. The format was introduced last year in a test phase, but will now be rolled out to everyone.
The full list of new updates to Facebook’s video platform includes:
• Vertical video automatically displayed at a 2:3 aspect ratio (universally available).
• News Feed videos auto-play with sound on (unless the phone is set to silent).
• “Watch and Scroll” function, where minimized videos play picture-in-picture as a user continues to scroll through the News Feed.
• A Facebook video streaming app that will roll out for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV.
Why This Matters for Brands
A simple change in aspect ratio can have major effects on performance, as Facebook determined during its test phase last year. According to Facebook’s study, seven of ten tests showed that vertical video ads “drove an incremental increase in brand lift, including a three- to nine-point increase in ad recall.” It also found that with vertical videos, users are more likely to watch for longer and with the sound on.
Additionally, vertical is the only way to view video on Snapchat, and therefore is presumably how millennial and younger audiences are used to consuming video. Facebook proved with Instagram Stories that not only can it adapt Snapchat’s formats and integrate them seamlessly into the platform, but also that Instagram’s somewhat older user base likes these innovations and is quick to adopt them.
Instagram has supported vertical video ads since November, and since it has followed or co-opted so many Snapchat features already, we expect the improved vertical video functionality to be rolled out on this platform as well in the near future.
We recommend moving toward a vertical focus for social-only videos. While vertical videos are as yet unsupported on Twitter and YouTube, now that Facebook has rolled out this new capability, there will no doubt be a groundswell of publishers and marketers going vertical. Initial results have already shown that when done right, brands see strong benefits from the improved full-screen real estate and default sound-on setting, thereby increasing the impact of each video creative.