Facebook content and brand strategies that win in a silent autoplay world

A new study reports the slightly astonishing statistic that fully 85 percent of Facebook videos are played with the audio turned off.

The business of Facebook native video is relatively new, with the company switching on its own platform only about 18 months ago. Not incidentally, the company also began advantaging native video in the News Feed over posts with outbound links to YouTube and other sites. And recently, the company further enhanced its video focus, rolling out a series of initiatives that should vastly increase the amount of live-streaming video on the site.

So it’s safe to say this gigantic video platform is still substantially Under Construction, as creators evolve best practices for success on Facebook. As brands and creators focus on what works with Facebook, it’s insightful to see what is happening with all those silent autoplay videos.

Development of this playbook is similar to what happened over the past decade with YouTube as its ecosystem built out. There, creators learned to use YouTube Cards to overlay text to entice viewers, as well as extensive annotations that helped drive views through YouTube’s powerful search and suggestion capabilities. Now creators are adapting their playbook for demands of the SVOD platform YouTube Red, YouTube Gaming and YouTube’s live-streaming and virtual reality offerings.

And creators and brands are adapting to Facebook similarly, modifying their approach to the demands of this new platform. Consider that each Facebook video autoplays for three seconds (that’s an official Facebook “view,” even), allowing a brief chance to convey why a viewer should watch longer. And the News Feed algorithm then pushes popular and relevant video even higher in the stream if the creator can effectively get people to watch.

Taking advantage of the silent treatment can be the key to success.

Facebook has so far resisted pre-roll advertising (on its own site, anyway), which it deems  “interruptive” to viewers. But creators and brands both should consider those first three seconds as their own version of pre-roll, a chance to at least silently tease key points and pull in viewers for the rest of the video.

This means smart Facebook video publishers are packing that brief window of opportunity with more onscreen captions, interesting titles, brand messages and eye-catching imagery.

I love seeing how brands and creators are adapting to this new platform. And the tricks learned here can help on several other big platforms, too. Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and many standalone websites autoplay video silently until a viewer clicks the audio button. It’s an opportunity to use visuals to tell a brand story, connect with audiences and engage them willingly for a longer conversation.

Just as importantly, these findings once again force brands and publishers to think about what counts as a view on Facebook and on other video-playback platforms. Know what you’re getting from each platform, and know how you’re telling your story in a way that’s truly native to that platform.

As video, especially audio-free autoplay, becomes increasingly prominent across Facebook and elsewhere, taking advantage of the silent treatment can be the key to success.