Like glaciers edging towards the sea the media landscape is changing slowly but surely.
When I first started blogging about video six years ago Facebook was putting a toe into the water and and TikTok hadn’t even been born.
And TikTok is probably the largest change over the past 12-months. I’ve blogged about the real short video platform before and it makes its debut in the charts this year.
Video remains a powerful way that people are consuming media. In the UK that’s true and the stats bear this out. Ofcom say that 70 per cent of the internet is video and almost half watch short video.
Notes and queries on the research
YOUTUBE: The maximum length of 15 minutes can be increased to 12 hours through a straight forward verification step. Optimum length is much shorter
INSTAGRAM: Maximum length was increased from 15 seconds to 60 seconds with research via Newswhip suggesting a much shorter length.
PERISCOPE: A maximum length and the sky is the limit but there is no research on what the optimum length of a live broadcast is.
FACEBOOK LIVE: Can run for 240 minutes but 19 minutes is best say Buzzsumo.
TIKTOK. Irritated by the lack of data on the best video lengths I conducted my own measuring TikTok’s top 100 videos of 2019 to reach a 16-second average.
I’ve helped train more than 2,000 people from 300 organisations over the past five years. For more on workshops near you click here. Or give me a shout by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve blogged optimum lengths of video for the past few years and things have evolved over time.
TikTok is a video and music platform beloved of young people.
Frustratingly, there’s no data on what makes an optimum length for a video.
So I went out and did my own research.
I watched the top 100 TikTok videos in 2019 selected by the platform themselves and these are the results.
The optimum length of a TikTok video is 16 seconds.
It’s a music-themed short form video app. It’s come to the fore in that last 18-months with 800 million users in late 2019. Data is hard to come by and in particular UK data is almost impossible to get hold of. I’ve blogged an explainer here.
Optimum TikTok video length is 16 seconds
I watched and timed TikTok’s best 100 videos for 2019.
TikTok used to be a maximim of 15 seconds but has increased to 60 seconds.
The average length of the top 100 was just over 15.6 seconds – rounded up to 16 seconds.
While creators are able to make longer video the optimum length would appear to be shorter.
Creators using the full 60 seconds available were in a minority.
80 per cent of videos in the top 100 were 20 seconds or less and two per cent ran to the maximum length.
It’ll be interesting in 2019 to see how people use it.
What’s striking is that one size fits all video is over and won’t be back. In a fractured landscape a portrait video for younger people works on TikTok. A landscape film that’s three minutes works on YouTube.
The challenge for a communicator is to understand the landscape and then educate.
Picture credit: istock.
SHORT VIDEO: How TikTok works in 2020 and how the public sector could use it [updated with UK user stats]Posted: January 18, 2020
I‘ve always been slightly dubious of new platforms since Google Wave promised to revolutionise the internet.
Google Wave, Dear Reader, died 10 years ago 12-months after it was launched to great fanfare.
So, to TikTok, the portrait video app with 800 million users. At the start of 2020, there’s no reliable UK data but its safe to guess there’s an upward trajectory.
But there’s also a health warning with TikTok that I’ve blogged about before.
The Information Commissioner is investigating the platform amid fears its to easy for users to send uninvited messages to its younger user base. So, it’s not all good news. TikTok have been trying to tackle this issue with advice to parents as well as adding a version of TikTok for younger users.
That said, how can the public sector use it?
What the hell is TikTok?
Hootsuite summarises TikTok as ‘Real Short Videos.’ That’s a good description.
These are videos that are created specifically for the platform.
The ingredients are portrait video, text, effects and music create quick to burn bright and then fade away. They’re short so you can get through lots of them and 60 seconds at most.
TikTok is a video app that’s best friends with music. You view the videos in portrait mode. Switch on the app and you’re served with videos selected for you. Or you can switch to videos from those you’re following.
Through the discover button, you can search TikTok for videos. It’s hashtags rather than users that really drive TikTok. You’ll find on-topic videos through a list of what the trending hashtags are. Trending on TikTok isn’t the same as trending on Twitter. While Twitter is news, events and what’s happening TikTok is more ways to escape and amuse. So #seeya has attracted 600 million views around the theme of when you say ‘see ya’. Click the hashtag and you can scroll through hundreds of videos of a similar theme.
One thing to like is that its easy to make video on TikTok. There’s a powerful editor that allows you to experiment. Alternatively, you can upload your own portrait videos that have been edited elsewhere.
Adding music is also really easy as there’s millions of licensed tracks.
In summary, TikTok is a video timesuck where wit and humour works and attention quickly moves onto the next thing. If outrage drives Facebook then what drives TikTok is entertainment. Dancing, singing, clothes, humour and fashion all work. It’s here today and gone in an hour let alone by tomorrow.
Who the hell is using TikTok?
With stats hard to come by there’s lots of guesswork. The app says you have to be 13 and over to use TikTok so the audience is younger.
A leaked deck gives 800 million users in late 2019 with 50 per cent under 30 and 26 per cent aged 18 and 24.
But until Ofcom catch up and include it in their annual stats review its hard to pin down UK users.
UPDATE: Comscore have issued some really useful numbers here on TikTok. There’s 3.3 million UK users as of December 2019. They’ve also broken down the demographics which is really useful of them. It’s overwhelmingly younger people.
5 ways the public sector can use TikTok
All that said, the platform is large enough to take it seriously.
Firstly, the public sector needs to remember that this isn’t their party and these are not their songs. Nobody is waiting for them to join. The flip side of this is that the platform isn’t filled with trolls who can’t wait to talk about potholes. That in itself is a relief.
Human comms: Staff deliver the message with their own profile
One of the most striking examples of a TikTok video is an NHS GP warning about the dangers of not immunising. This isn’t a black and white six minute public information film. It’s a clued-up GP pointing to text she’s added by the app while dancing in time to a track.
It’s a brilliant video. It can be watched without sound as well as with. It delivers a message in a fun way. It’s also delivered by a real human rather than a faceless logo.
Aside from being good content, the author and regular blogger Dr Nicole Baldwin has added the hashtags such as #vaccinate to reach a wider audience.
Create a corporate account
Having the corporate voice is fine but I’d probably argue that on TikTok it’s not as effective as having the engaged staff contribute to the channel as themselves. Public sector corporate accounts are few and far between and there’s the odd third sector account.
Create or join in with a challenge
Tiktok has challenges that you can find with a hashtag. They can be asking you to join in a dance or complete a challenge. Like the chair challenge. Film it then post it with the hashtag.
Create an advice video
Because TikTok is so ephemeral a quick how to video is do-able so longs as its a simple thing.
As this video shows, a video to demonstrate the difference between paper straws and straw ones can make a point visually and supported with text really quickly.
While green issues and recycling is one thing this health advice video is excellent. The author is a blogger and psychologist and the advice she gives in 60-second chunks is excellent.
Bearing in mind the younger demographic this kind of advice for younger people is potentially gold.
Create content on other users’ accounts
The number of people who want to follow the council TikTok? Pretty small, to be quite honest. Sixty seconds of raw footage from finance scrutiny isn’t going to fly anyone’s boats.
But there’s things the public sector does that is of interest to the sub-34-year-old demographic. On first view things like recycling and leisure really would lend themselves to TikTok. But rather than the organisation creating content encouraging users to create it feels far within the spirit of the platform.
I once heard a healthwatch group working with young healthwatch members to encourage them to share health messages in their own voice using their own accounts. On the face of it, it makes sense. It’s young people talking to young people. But you will be giving up message control. But, frankly, that’s not such a bad thing.
Create a duet
TikTok has the functionality of letting you create a video in response to a video. The original video runs in half of the screen while your new video is in the other half.
As with anything, its the audience. TikTok is a younger demographic and if you’re not using the platform as users are using it there’s no point using it.
To get you started
TikTok’s list of 100 most popular clips of 2019 is here. Enjoy. The animal ones are especially good.
I was asked recently what the best way to embed new ideas was, ‘a bar of chocolate’, I replied.
Because if you put up a bar of chocolate as a prize to encourage people in the team it seems to inspire people to great heights and I’m not even joking.
The first time I noticed the amazing power of chocolate to embed new ideas was at a training session.
Always, at the end of video skills we round-off by suggesting that the next video they make is not work related but something fun and shot and edited in downtime. So, footage of the view out of the train video, video of their cat or dog or their child talking about how much they like ice cream.
If you make a fun video like this you’re learning and you’re building confidence.
The chocolate bar?
At the end of a session I offered a bar of chocolate to the person who makes the best short video on any topic in the next week.
The first week, three people entered. The following week it was five. Then nine. All to win the Dairy Milk but while they were striving for the chocolate they were learning along the way.
Six months later I bumped into the head of comms.
“How is video going?” I asked.
“Really well. We’ve embedded our team as video first.”
All from some training and a bar of chocolate.
Picture credit: istock.
There’s something rather exciting about researching for the new iteration of a workshop.
New research is new data and new numbers and a further shining of the light of where we are and where we’re headed.
I deliver Vital Facebook Skills sessions with Sarah Lay and I’m proud to do so. They look at how to create better content for pages, how to connect with groups and how to create better ads.
As I’m working I thought I’d share some of the insight.
So here is a pile of numbers that helps you map out where the largest social network in the world in 2020 is and is heading.
In summary, your strategy for Facebook is to have a page but not to rely on it. It is the starting point of your relationship with your audience not the destination. So, share content there but it is vital to look at ways to get it in front of your audience. If you have some budget think about ads. If you haven’t groups for public sector people are your way in.
Facebook isn’t just one platform, its an eco system with WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram all part of the landscape. These stats concentrate on blue and white trad Facebook.
There are 1.62 billion daily active users globally an increase of nine per cent (Source: Facebook, 2019).
There are 63 million UK internet users (Source: Digital in 2018, Hootsuite / We Are Social).
88 per cent of UK internet users have a Facebook account (Source: Online Nation 2019 Ofcom).
43.5 million is the number of Facebook users in the UK. (Source: Ofcom, 2019)
11.2 million UK 25 to 34-year-olds use Facebook – the largest demographic on the platform (Source: Statista, 2018)
Why people use Facebook
The reasons for using the platform are many and varied.
53 per cent of UK Facebook users use the platform to access groups with similar interests (Source: Online Nation 2019 Ofcom).
49 per cent of UK Facebook users do so to stay up to date with the news. (Source: Online Nation 2019 Ofcom).
44 per cent of football-related conversations on Facebook in the UK were driven by women (Source: Facebook Insights).
25 per cent of UK Facebook users do so to meet new people (Source: Online Nation 2019 Ofcom).
37 minutes is the average daily use of Facebook (source: emarketer)
6.4 per cent is now the average organic reach of a page (Source: sproutsocial, 2018.)
54 per cent of UK people say that they use a mobile device to connect with local interests (Source: Facebook Insights).
121 per cent is the increase in the number of community pages over the past two years (Source, research by Dan Slee).
I’d love to talk to you about how you can polish how you are using Facebook. The workshops are here or drop me a line email@example.com.
Turn the clock back six or seven years ago and video was the expensive nice-to-have tool in the comms toolbox.
Wind forward to 2020 and its clear that video has become the essential asset that needs to be tucked into every team’s skill set.
There’s been a perfect storm with video. Austerity has trimmed budgets. Better technology has made shooting video on a smartphone achievable. Since 2015, feature films have been shot on them and you’ll be hard pushed to buy a phone that won’t shoot 4k footage. And to top it all off, social platforms have been rewarding video posted directly to it.
Video is not a golden bullet that will reach every audience but it is a handy tool.
It dodges ad-blockers, it can tell a story, it is sharable, it can show how to as well as provide trusted evidence in a way that pictures can’t and words definitely can’t. Fake news? While deep fake video is here there’s still a residue of trust with the moving image that we have spent a lifetime investing in.
“Over time we would expect more short-form video to be consumed via smartphones. Screen quality is improving, making images more vivid. More content is being created for mobile, with certain genres, such as memes, working particularly well. Traditional video creators, such as TV news programmes, are getting more adept at repackaging their content for viewing on smartphones.” –
Deloitte Mobile Global Mobile Survey
I’ve helped deliver video skills to comms people for the past five years. I’m proud that myself and Steven Davies were the first to offer bespoke training.
Big picture video stats
In the UK, video is a large chunk of the internet
70 per cent of the internet by bandwidth is video (Source: Online Nation, Ofcom, 2019)
46 per cent of UK smartphone users watch short video every week (Source: Deloitte Global Mobile Survey 2018 UK Cut)
38 per cent of UK smartphone users every week watch short form video through an instant messaging app such as Messenger or WhatsApp (Source: Deloitte Global Mobile Survey 2018 UK Cut)
In the UK, these are the channels where people consume video
The one-size-fits-all for communications died a long time ago. So, it should be no surprise that different demographics consume different media. Delve into the data and you’ll see the differences.
50 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds watch YouTube every day.
60 per cent of 65-year-olds will watch ‘how to’ videos – the most popular topic in that demographic.
In the UK the online platforms where video is watched
In the UK, people have access to the tools to watch video
70 per cent of social media users in the UK are watching online video (Source: We Are Social / Hootsuite, 2019)
97 per cent of premises can receive both decent fixed and mobile broadband (Source: Connected Nations Report, Ofcom, 2019)
80 per cent of the UK have a 4G signal indoors (Source: Connected Nations Report, Ofcom, 2019)
88 per cent of the UK use a smartphone (Source: Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey UK Cut, 2019)
More than four hours a day of smartphone use is predicted in the UK by 2021 (Source: emarketer, 2019)
Comms people are happy with the results
91 per cent of marketers are satisfied with ROI from creating video. (Source: Animoto, 2019)
92 per cent of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their marketing strategy (Source: wyzowl, 2020)
46 per cent of first-time video marketers started using video in 2019 because they believe video is becoming more affordable. (Source: wyzowl, 2020).
Video content is effective
85 per cent more people are likely to remember a video call to action versus a text call to action (Oberlo, 2019).
72 per cent would rather watch a video to find out about a product or service (Source: wyzowl, 2020).
86 per cent of people go to YouTube to learn something and be educated (Source: Google, 2018)
I help train people in how to plan, shoot, edit and post engaging video using a smartphone or tablet. More about that here.
When I was a kid, towards the end of 1979, my Mum told me a whole new decade was coming and it was going to be great. I can still remember the excitement.
As 2019 ends, a new decade will begin. Excitement isn’t the overriding feeling. If the last 12-months have been turbulent next year will be more so.
Always around this time of year I’ll look forward and make some predictions, some will be right.
What I got right in last year’s predictions
Last year I predicted Social media did get more closed, and Facebook groups would grow along with WhatsApp and Messenger. We’ve seen the public forum and we don’t like what the mob can look like.
Predictions of 5G roll-out, Brexit chaos and abuse of elected members now feels like shooting fish in a barrel although the food shortages and queues didn’t happen. Voice search did grow. More public sector people did sub-title their videos and the need to evaluate got more pressing. Facebook didn’t go away despite some predictions the game was up.
AI became more important but was a hidden set of skills as people bought new media monitoring and other tools. Local democracy reporters did prove their worth and they will expand in 2020. Comms teams did rely on gig economy work and innovation came from journalism.
What I got wrong
I spoke at the need for fake news rebuttals in minutes but we’re nowhere near close. More bankruptcies didn’t happen in the public sector although the threat remains. Trust in institutions continued to fall but the public sector didn’t respond by allowing more voices from across the organisation to connect. The public sector again shied away from properly engaging with young people through new channels just when I thought they’d get better at it.
So, predictions for 2020
The teams that root-and-branch re-shapes their strategy every single year will prosper
It feels like 2020 is a prime year for a re-boot. Eleven years since the first public sector organisation started using Twitter the holy trinity of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube badly is as dated. Twitter is now the joint 6th largest channel. Facebook pages are withering choked by indifference and deliberate Facebook strategy that starves pages of audience unless you advertise. Go back to brass tacks. Check your audience. Check your channels. Is it really a press release? Is it Twitter? Do it urgently.
Oddly, local newspapers and local radio will become more important
By local newspapers, I don’t mean the print edition. I mean the online version. There has rarely been more readers of their content. Reach plc has 39 million online readers and is only marginally behind the chart-topping BBC. With declining trust in institutions, the online mob and fake news growing the established voice of local radio and local newspapers will be trusted more. But to crack this comms people may need to entirely adjust the content they’re creating.
The need for well thought through regulation grows… but there won’t be any
It’s widely accepted tech companies, privacy and new technology needs checks. But with the long shadow of Brexit, Parliamentary time will be spent on other things by national politicians who don’t understand technology.
Brexit will continue to cast a long shadow
If you think Brexit is over because of a Conservative majority, think again. Leaving at the end of January will happen but will a transition period, negotiations, relocations, emergency planning and the chance of crashing out without a deal. Tactically, polish-up your emergency plans. Strategically, plan for smaller budgets.
Managers with EU members in their team need to be especially aware.
As the impact of Brexit becomes clearer louder will become the voices of the nations. Government and local government communicators will feel this pull. Not all of it will be attractive.
Ethics will be challenged
The 2019 General Election saw ethics flouted and barriers pushed. There will be pressure on government communicators to build that fake fact checking account or create that Facebook ad with falsehoods. Institutions like CIPR, NUJ and LGComms need to batten down the hatches and make sure their ethical advice is clear and available. Managers and heads of comms need to brief their teams and stand behind them. NUJ membership has never seemed so sensible.
Aside from this, you may be asked to justify something you feel to be morally unpalatable.
From CIPR research, it’s clear that mental health issues are an issue. Beware managers, people and organisations who tell you to take lunch breaks then overload you with work. A yoga session once a year isn’t a strategy. It’s a fig leaf.
As debate continues to polarise, public sector communicators need to double down on their neutrality. Most communicators are politically restricted which allows them to be a party member but not campaign or make political statements. There will be more pressure on this and greater penalties for those who break it.
TikTok and influencers
TikTok will grow. This is a tricky. It has a growing audience. But there are barriers for the public sector. They’re Chinese-owned and they have issues as a platform around child protection. The bright public sector team may find most success by side-stepping to engage influencers rather than using it direct. Influencers doesn’t mean Zoella. They’re your museum visitors. Or the teenage carers’ group encouraged to create content on their own channels.
In the NHS, crisis comms
With NHS staff recruitment and retention problems and stretched budgets the challenge will be simply to keep the A&E doors open. Expect a year of attritional crisis comms caused by shortages and partner screw-ups. Where private companies are involved pay very, very close attention to who is responsible for PR in the contract.
In the fire service, crisis comms
Expect cuts and fires under the long shadow of Grenfell.
Get good at voice search or go home
Between 30 and 50 per cent of all searches are done by voice. The skill of creating online content for voice is poorly lacking. Your web team need to look at how to crack this problem to serve their residents. Reputational damage looms.
5G will see more video consumed
5G was introduced in the UK in late 2019 and will grow in 2020 as more devices are sold. In theory, downloading a movie takes seven hours on 4G and no more than 40 seconds on 5G. However, it will take time to roll out. Over time this only points to greater video consumption and over time a flattening out of the digital divide as rural areas enjoy far faster download speeds.
Facebook groups continue to grow
In 2019, research showed that the number of Facebook group members grew by more than 120 per cent. This trend will continue. Public sector people will need to develop the skill to connect with group admins and share content.
Public sector no-go zones and shareable content
Dark social platforms such as WhatsApp and Messenger have created a black hole on the internet where the public sector are not allowed or encouraged. These no-go zones are where misinformation and disinformation can circulate.
To counter this, the need for sharable content that works in whatsapp as well as social media is needed. So, images, gifs, memes and videos. Not unsearchable pdfs on websites.
Getting good at pre-buttals
A pre-buttal is getting your voice in before someone else does. The Royal British Legion in the run-up to Poppy Day are gold standard. They tell people that no, wearing a poppy doesn’t mean you support war and they create sharable content in doing it. Take a leaf out of their book and create things than can be shared.
In 2020, you are locked out of part of the landscape with WhatsApp, Messenger and hostile Facebook groups, this is part of the arsenal you’ll need.
Check in with AI
AI will grow. For me, you don’t need to know how to do it. You do know its happening. There is some great work done by the CIPR #AIinPR group. Keep tabs on their work.
Gig economy comms support grows
The cost of employing people full time as part of a team is onerous so the trend towards bringing people in project-by-project will increase. If you are skilled and freelance you’ll find clients.
Email marketing as a safe harbour
In a changing landscape where investing time on a platform doesn’t lead to long term certainty there will be safety in investing time in email marketing. Unsexy but effective. Collecting email addresses in a GDPR-compliant way will be worth it as part of any mix.
The tech gap widens
As new technologies emerge the public sector won’t be in the vanguard. Postponing the website rebuild for another year won’t show up on a balance sheet but it will further erode the point of the public sector to someone who banks and shops online.
Voter ID will be a headache
In 2016, there were two convictions for voter fraud. As a response, the UK government is bringing in legislation to require all voters to bring photo ID. If people think online grief about pencils in polling stations is a headache, boy, you’ve seen nothing yet. Plan. Communicate. Do your best. Don a helmet. Don’t get me started about Russian involvement in elections.
Climate change comms
The recurring issue will be climate change either directly through flooding or extreme weather through protest as the green movement goes mainstream. Expect more incidents to react to and more protest.