Blog: How Facebook just made brand engagement a whole lot more interesting

Jerome Maas, co-founder and brand experience director at The Flash Pack, discusses how the move by Facebook to allow users to post video clips as profile pictures could create opportunities for brands.

Jerome Maas believes the move by Facebook to allow video profile pictures is a great opportunity
Jerome Maas believes the move by Facebook to allow video profile pictures is a great opportunity

In a bid to make the platform more visually stimulating and addictive, Facebook has announced that they are introducing the ability for users to upload a seven-second looping video clip as their profile picture.

This move has enabled brands to take the next step into using video within their experiential activity and creating a platform that allows their customers to create a fun, branded video that if done right, will then be used in place of a profile picture.

It isn’t that easy though. It’s one thing to create a video, but quite another thing for a person to choose to have that video as a profile worthy animation.

Historically, being asked to record a video in an event environment as a guest leads to one of three things: 1) stuffy, corporate content that takes a lot to edit to have any value, 2) shouting, screeching guests heavily under the influence of alcohol (again with no share value or likeable content), or 3) pure embarrassment from guests who simply don’t know what to say when you shove a camera in their face and tell them you’re recording a video of them.

How do you get it right?

So how do you get round this wall of video engagement with your guest to make that profile video happen? Break down the barrier and take photos instead, then merge them together to get your required video. This way the embarrassment goes and the moment is captured instead as a pose. Stitch these images together and hey presto, not only do you have some super cool content for social media (and the profile video potential), but you also have a very happy consumer relating their unique experience and show off worthy content to your brand.

Taking the technical angle: The video has to be less than seven seconds, or Facebook won’t allow it to be selected. It only supports video – so animated gifs are out for now, unless you can convert them before they’re sent. The video also has to be uploaded from the person’s phone – it cannot be uploaded as a profile video from a micro site, the user’s wall, or even from a desktop. So after the video is created, you’ll need to work out how to get that file onto the person’s phone, so that they can then upload the video straight to their profile.

Even once you get the techie part right, it’s certainly not a case of ‘build it and they will come’. We always talk about making great, shareable content and the profile picture is one step up from that. The profile picture space is hallowed ground - it’s a single image that conveys everything about a person. One image that relays how fun they are, what they like to do and what makes them tick. Much has been written about the profile picture and how to get it right. People take the selection of their profile picture very seriously, so why should they use a branded video to promote themselves?

It’s crucial to make the content to a high standard: if it’s low quality it’s simply not going to be shared, let alone used as a profile video. The quality of the content really affects how much it will be seen in the social landscape.

Don't make it too serious

The next step - make it fun. A study by New York Times found that creating emotive content could lead to increased sharing. The study suggested that content is more likely to be shared if it is funny and captivating. People tend to post interesting profile pics to show their personality and because they spark likes and comments from friends too. Facebook is a fun, personal site so the experience involved in creating the content needs to be fun, otherwise who will post it?

Consider your branding and don’t just overlay it at the end. Think about how can the brand can be incorporated into the whole video experience. The whole video experience - the colours, the activity, the setting - should all convey the brand, but do it subtly, and with humour. No one likes brand overkill. Yes, we know that an experiential experience should be brand led, but it is surprising the number of photo experiences we have seen that seem to be ‘stuck on’ to an activity and not fully integrated with the experience and the brand. Make it the experience itself and watch the likes roll in.

At the moment, Facebook is only allowing a selected number of iPhone users to upload videos as their profile picture, but this will soon change. The selfie generation is evolving and so social media is embracing new tech to stay relevant. Video and moving image will be having a huge impact on social media in 2016 and it offers brands an effective way to achieve cut through and presence in the forever changing social media landscape.

More: Documenting the selfie: why brands opt to include it in their activations

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