In case you hadn’t noticed – though I’m guessing you have – consumption of online video has been steadily rising in recent years. According to a forecast by Cisco, video will represent 80% percent of all consumer-based internet traffic by 2019.
In the information age, the average person has a shorter attention span than a goldfish, and unless your content is extra special, people are unlikely to pay attention.
A compelling video stands out from generic mass marketing and communicates your message more impactfully than text-based content.
In terms of generating engagement, text-based content simply can’t compete with sensory-rich, emotive videos.
In addition to the compelling visuals present in well-crafted videos, there’s evidence that when you listen to someone speak (as opposed to reading their words), your brain patterns will sync up with theirs.
This makes video a highly effective communication tool for marketers – and 360-degree videos are some of the most effective of the bunch.
While the technology for streaming live 360-degree videos has existed for a while, it only really entered the mainstream consciousness in December 2016.
National Geographic was the first brand to utilize Facebook’s Live 360 functionality – broadcasting an immersive video from the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, complete with researcher interviews and showcases of the latest space technology.
While only a limited number of brands have access to Live 360 broadcasting currently, Facebook plans to make this functionality available to all during 2017.
In a study on 360-degree videos – those that weren’t live streamed – 29% more people viewed a 360-degree video than the same video in traditional format. Given this popularity, we can expect Live 360 to make an immediate impact when it arrives.
When using a desktop, 360-degree videos can be navigated by scrolling with the mouse. However, 360-degree videos truly come alive when they’re viewed on mobile devices, since navigation only requires tilting your device.
The fact that 360-degree videos are designed with a mobile audience in mind is particularly crucial, since 56% of Facebook users only login using mobile devices. In 2016, 51% of video plays were on mobile devices – a 15% increase from 2015 and a 203% increase from 2014.
And given that Facebook is already significantly invested in virtual reality, 360-degree videos could play a huge role in the future of content marketing.
Although Facebook’s Live 360 functionality is not universally available yet, you can get hold of the equipment now and start shooting standard 360-degree videos to get yourself prepared.
There are a range of 360 cameras available on the market, with a huge discrepancy in price from the lower to higher end.
At the top of the food chain, Nokia’s Ozo Camera costs a staggering $45,000, shoots at 30 frames per second (the live video standard, compared to 24 frames per second you see in movies) and can produce both monoscopic and stereoscopic video.
Fortunately, if you’re a hobbyist rather than a Hollywood director, you can get an adequate setup for a few thousand dollars or less.
At the lower end of the market, the Ricoh Theta S costs approximately $350 and has two lenses, each with a 190-degree field of view, which covers the entire 360-degrees of vision.
The Theta S is easy to handle, features automatic stitching and is controlled with a smartphone app via a Wi-Fi connection. While the quality isn’t as superb as Nokia’s Ozo, people are generally more forgiving regarding video quality when they’re watching a live stream.
Shooting a good 360-degree video is a steep learning curve, but it’s certainly rewarding once you get past the initial challenges.
The biggest difference from shooting 360 video content compared to standard video is that everything is in view. You can’t hide unwanted objects (and people) behind the camera, so plan your scenes with this in mind.
Because all shots are from a wide angle, it can be helpful to keep the camera closer to the action compared to the way you’d film with a standard camera.
Additionally, try to keep key objects in the center of your shots – you don’t want to have problems with stitching if they’re at the edge of your lens.
With 360-degree videos, moving the camera around can leave your audience feeling seasick (particularly if they’re using a VR headset), so it’s best to use a tripod.
Try to find a slim tripod so that its legs take up a minimal amount of the frame (check out this recommended list of tripods if you’re using the Ricoh Theta S).
When setting the height of your tripod, chest-height can be appropriate, but you might also want to try eye-height to maximize engagement. Be aware, though, that if you go too high or low, people’s sizes can quickly become distorted.
Since you can’t place your lighting equipment outside the field of vision, traditional lighting advice goes out the window when shooting in 360. Dynamic lighting can cause chaos when shooting in 360, particularly in regards to stitching, so aim for flat, even lighting throughout.
Is 360 Always Appropriate?
Ultimately, there needs to be a reason why you’re shooting in 360. Just because you can do it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to create a better experience for your consumer if you do.
Perhaps you’re in an amazing locale and want to showcase the view from all sides, or you’re shooting a sporting event and want to create a highly immersive experience.
If you suspect that 360 video will annoy your consumers rather than enhance their experience – stick with traditional video content until you have a better application for 360.
Video has been an effective marketing tool for decades – especially so since the advent of high-speed internet. In a video marketing survey, 4X as many consumers stated they’d rather watch a video about a product than read about it.
Facebook’s Live 360 videos will provide marketers with an astonishingly immersive channel of communication to their audiences, allowing for a number of ways to use this revolutionary tool:
Imagine taking a virtual tour of Space X’s amazing factory with a 360-degree field of vision. Now imagine that Elon Musk is the tour guide and that he can respond to your questions in real-time.
Okay, so your workplace might not be as amazing as Elon’s, but an intimately shot, 360-degree video will still help to humanize your brand and provide insights regarding your company culture.
In a world where business is often conducted online, without any face-to-face interaction, interactive video content can really help to differentiate your brand from your competitors.
In addition to conveying the human element of your company, live 360-degree videos can be used to showcase your products – in-depth and unfiltered.
In particular, you can showcase your production process, as well as answer any questions that arise in real-time. This demonstrates that you’re a company with integrity that has nothing to hide, boosting your credibility in the eyes of consumers.
As a great example, check out Nescafe’s 360-degree video showcasing one of their coffee farms in Brazil.
The coffee industry has received plenty of bad publicity in the past due to issues with environmental destruction and worker’s rights – videos such as these can help alleviate consumer fears over unethical business practices.
Strictly Come Dancing is a television show in the UK that features celebrities taking part in dance contests. In 2015, the show uploaded a 360-degree video broadcasted from the stage, which gave viewers an incredibly personal perspective of the show.
As one of the commenters states: “I have seen this 20+ times, and each time I see something new”.
For those that aren’t able to attend your event in person, charging a fee for access to a 360-degree video stream of the event could be another way to increase your revenue.
Additionally, once the stream has finished, the video can be saved, uploaded and distributed as part of a content marketing strategy to promote the next event.
The hospitality industry is another one that can benefit from live 360-degree videos.
If you’re researching a location for your next vacation, a live 360-degree video will give you a clear impression of it then would be possible with traditional video or a brochure.
With a digital tour guide, you could see your accommodations and the surrounding environment in beautiful, 360-degree video, as well as have all of your questions answered at the same time. This could be a highly effective lead nurturing technique in the luxury hospitality niche.
Sports clubs around the world have begun using 360-degree video to provide behind-the-scenes footage to their fans.
The Sacramento Kings have utilized 360-degree videos on numerous occasions. In one engaging video, the team’s new arena and training facilities are showcased for fans to enjoy.
In addition to behind-the-scenes footage, it’s only a matter of time before live 360 video is used to broadcast sports in real-time, creating an intimate viewing experience like no other.
Imagine watching cage-side as Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor trade blows in the UFC octagon, or as Lebron James storms from one side of the court to another to deliver a slam dunk. Fans will feel like they’re actually inside the arena.
Because sports are such a good fit for 360-degree video, there will always be an opportunity for promotion. A captivating 360-degree video of an extreme sport, such as rock climbing or skydiving, can be treated as a content marketing asset – one that you can attach your brand to and promote yourself vicariously.
In 2012, millions tuned in to watch Australian daredevil, Felix Baumgartner, skydive from space as part of a Red Bull promotion. Since then, mobile internet access has skyrocketed and with Facebook’s Live 360 videos coming to the mainstream shortly, the opportunities for creating viral extreme sports content are endless.
Can you think of any other ways that live 360-degree videos can be leveraged for marketing purposes? Please let me know in the comments below.
About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including IBM, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Googl