Video is king of social media, what next?

Brands without a social media video strategy will soon be left behind.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many people expected internet usage to surge as opportunities for offline interactions become rarer. However, while average usage did increase by 9 minutes between 2019 and 2020, that’s a slower rate of increase than in previous years. In addition, internet usage has been at its highest when the UK was locked down, in spring and winter. As the country unwinds from lockdowns, we anticipate that this growth in internet usage will dissipate.

What’s significant for brands is that the way people use the internet is changing, and this change is substantial and permanent. A fascinating aspect of internet usage is that users, in particular young people, are consuming far more video content than they used to.

The surge in social media video content

There are more young people watching more video content, than ever before. TikTok went from 3.2m to 11.5m users between September 2019 and 2020, and now 74% of young people say they watch video content online. The typical 18-24-year-old now watches 76 minutes of content every day, as much as many full-length films. Contrast that with the average across all age groups, 43 minutes, and you can see how important video is for younger internet users.

Video consumption appears to follow a similar trend to internet usage as a whole, peaking during lockdowns and dropping afterwards. People are going to video first, prioritising it over other types of content. The below diagram shows a typical 25–34-year-old’s app usage throughout the day, with the size of icons representing length of time spent using an app.

social media video

(Source: Ofcom Online Nation Report 2020)

This user spends much of her time on TikTok. It’s a video-only platform, which means she’s deliberately seeking out video content as her go-to source of entertainment. There are plenty of brands who advertise on Twitter or Instagram to reach younger generations, but as you can see, this user doesn’t open either app even once.

The social media video platform environment

YouTube is by far the most prolific video hosting site in the world, receiving over 43m unique UK visitors in September 2020. Because YouTube videos are embedded and shared on other platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest and Reddit, the actual reach of these videos is far higher than the unique viewer count suggests.

The sheer size of YouTube makes it a fairly generalist platform, and many platforms compete by offering a more targeted experience. Twitch focuses on gaming, while TikTok and Instagram are closer to social networks with user-generated video content. Though they’re smaller than YouTube, they still pull in significant numbers of users:

Unique video platform visitors in September 2020

  • YouTube: 43.8m
  • Instagram: 27.4m
  • TikTok: 11.5m
  • Twitch: 4.38m

A wide range of strategies are viable for brands looking to reach customers. We’ve spoken before about the importance of marketing to networks, and brands that choose the right platform have an excellent opportunity to distribute their message.

Advertisers are spending big to reach video consumers

It’s no surprise that advertisers are piling into video marketing. UK advertisers spent £2.7bn reaching video consumers in 2020, £600m more than the year before. The Interactive Advertising Bureau puts video display growth at 19%, significantly outpacing 5% growth across digital advertising as a whole. Growing ad spend reflects the increased importance of reaching this sector, and the willingness of brands to divert budget to it.

Influencer marketing is an easy route to video content

A major aspect of social video advertising is the growth of influencer marketing. Worth £1.24bn in 2016, it is expected to exceed £10bn by the end of 2021. There are two reasons why influencer marketing is so appealing. Firstly, influencers cultivate an authentic online persona, and ‘let people into their lives’ in a way that no brand can. The increased value of online authenticity makes influencer marketing very appropriate for reaching modern consumers.

In addition to this, influencer marketing is also a cost-effective way to create video content. Brands needn’t hire a director and crew, scriptwriters, and pay for studio time. They simply reach out to someone who can help them find the right influencer and let them do all the work. It’s straightforward, quick, and it produces real results – it’s easy to see why influencer marketing is so popular.

Bringing social video video in-house

The downside of influencer marketing is that the brand is totally reliant on an external individual to convey their message. They may not follow instructions properly, which can lead to embarrassment, or may create a misleading post that draws the attention of the Advertising Standards Agency.

But brands have plenty of options when it comes to creating social video content. The days when you needed a six-figure budget to make something worth airing are long gone. Modern smartphones deliver stunning quality, and there’s now a London International Smartphone Film Festival. Steven Soderbergh’s ‘High Flying Bird’ was even shot entirely on an iPhone.


Post-FX processing, built-in to apps like Instagram and TikTok, lets creators airbrush their skin, change lighting, sync music and add in visual effects to create the perfect piece of content. The results can be astonishing, and no brand should turn their nose up at phone-shot content. Everyone has all the technology they need to shoot great video content; it’s just a question of having something worth shooting.

Personality sells video content

Now more than ever, video content is about personality and authenticity – the everyday can be very popular if it’s properly positioned. For example, Auri Katarina, a cleaner, has more than 4 million TikTok fans, who love her bubbly personality and cleaning tips. Our video for Origin Workspace follows this formula, focusing on an individual and their daily experience.

Video content takeaways

  • Social media video content has grown far faster than the rest of the internet, and is particularly popular with young users.
  • Users, particularly young ones, seek out video content in preference to other formats.
  • There are lots of platforms to reach this audience on, from the generalist (YouTube) to the specialist (Twitch).
  • Personality and authenticity count for everything. You don’t need a big budget, but you do need the right person in front of the lens.

If your brand wants to reach people under the age of 40, you need to have a video content strategy in place. For clever social video ideas that get your brand heard online, drop Ambitious PR a line today hello@ambitiouspr.co.uk.

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