This op-ed was originally published on May 22nd, 2017 on Adweek.com, and was written by SundaySky’s SVP of Creative and Industry Solutions Guy Atzmon.
If you’re on Facebook as often as I am (read: constantly), you probably see at least one Facebook personalized video in your News Feed every day celebrating a friend’s anniversary with one of their friends. As someone working at a company specializing in personalized video engagement, I’m torn in my opinion of these videos.
On the one hand, it’s great to have Facebook’s validation of the value of personalized video. The social network has obviously bought into the idea, having dedicated its resources to creating different versions of personalized videos each year for friendship anniversaries, Facebook’s company anniversary and more. And the fact that I see one of these videos almost every day proves that people are engaged with personalized video as a medium—they are creating the videos, watching them and sharing them. There is clearly an appetite for personalized videos.
Facebook is also setting the bar high in terms of what can be done in personalized video, thanks in large part to the immense amount of data the network has on its users. The unique nature of the platform enables Facebook to tap into deeper personalization opportunities that aren’t available outside of its environment, such as featuring a user’s photos and social sphere. And from a creative standpoint, these videos have high production value and feature cool executions.
However, the personalization in these videos leaves much to be desired. If you’ve seen one Facebook friendship anniversary video, you’ve seen them all—the only difference being the photos shown in the pre-allotted fields. The videos all have the same flow, structure, length, animation and music. The magic of the personalization becomes very apparent after you see a few, which is a flaw for videos meant to be shared in a public arena.
Facebook missed an opportunity to adopt a more modular approach to video construction and to personalize the entire video versus just select fields in prescribed scenes.
For example, scene order and scene selection could be determined for each user based on behavior and profile. That way, a Facebook power user who posts three times per day and has thousands of friends may have a longer video showing his or her Facebook friendship stories, while a user who barely posts and has 100 friends but uses the platform daily to stay up to date with news and current events would have another type of video with entirely different scenes.
Instead of relying on a strict template, personalizing the video further and using real time data to render changes in the video each time a user hits play will tell more compelling, relevant stories to Facebook users, who will then be more engaged in the video experiences.
To date, Facebook has used personalized videos for purely celebratory and fun experiences. However, personalized video has the potential to do so much more when used in an action-driven, service-driven way.
Imagine the possibilities: Facebook reveals a new feature and unveils it to users through a personalized video that educates them on how to use it based on their most likely application, as determined by previous behaviors. Or a user logs into Facebook for the first time after a hiatus from the site, triggering Facebook to deliver a personalized video recapping what he or she has missed, both in terms of what’s up with friends and what’s new on the platform, and encourages the user to update profile information and share a photo.
By transitioning personalized video from a nice-to-have feature to a purpose-driven tool, Facebook can see greater value, from greater adoption of new features to longer time spent on the site.
I’m glad Facebook is embracing personalized video as an entertainment medium for its users. Facebook’s approach to personalized video affirms my belief that personalized video will be the preferred communication channel between brands and consumers in the near future. I look forward to seeing what Facebook has planned as it continues innovating and improving personalized video experiences.