How Consumers Watch and Share Videos

Zoe Dowling of Focus Vision
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

​What? Social media videos have exploded in popularity and will only continue to grow. How can marketers take advantage?

So what? One billion hours of YouTube videos were consumed in 2017 and 500 million users watched Facebook videos.

​Now what? Marketers must understand the reasons behind why consumers watch and share their video content.

​Dec. 8, 2017

Social media users are flocking to video, but do marketers understand why they watch? Zoe Dowling of Focus Vision shares results from her company’s research into why users watch and share. 


Consumers prefer to interact with video versus text or static images. Just look at social media flocking to GIFs, Snapchat and live streaming on Facebook and Instagram.

As marketers, we’re quick to jump on the video bandwagon, but what impact does the explosive growth of video as a marketing tool have on consumer behavior? Are we able to make a connection between social media video likes and the consumer’s propensity to buy?

In 2017, 1 billion hours of YouTube videos have been consumed each day and 500 million users have watched videos on Facebook. Consumers use more video data than all other types of data traffic and they’re going to use even more video data over the next year. 

How did video grow so large? There are two underlying trends key to video’s success: one is cognitive, one is cultural. 

On the cognitive side, video is multi-sensory but relies on visuals. Visuals are processed by our brains 60,000 times faster than text. We’re able to process images in 13 milliseconds of exposure—talk about instant gratification. In addition, four times as many consumers prefer to watch a video about a product versus read about the same product. This preference applies in work environments too; 59% of executives would rather watch video than read text. 

Video is also part of the rise of participatory culture, where “fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content,” as stated in 2006 by Henry Jenkins. According to what Sarah J Arroyo, professor of English at California State University, said in 2013, “online video is becoming the prototypical experience of the internet.”​


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The prototypical experience is the theory, but what about how consumers behave? To find out, we gave 500 U.S. and 500 U.K. consumers a 15-minute mobile survey to explore their online video sharing behaviors and motivations. We wanted to understand how much they watch, how they share and where and when they do both. We also asked about their motivations for sharing videos and what kinds of videos they like to share. 

A lot of people love funny cat videos, but people go beyond just watching cute mewing and silly pounces. We found that 60% of viewers are mainly interested in “informative” branded content, followed by 55% who want “entertaining” and 46% who want “funny” videos. Millennials are more likely to engage with “entertaining” content than older generations. “Informative’ content is the safest bet for cross-generational interest.

Above all, we found that successful videos resonate in a personal way with viewers, channeling​ a shared experience with friends and family. Video is not only watched and shared by young viewers—although millennials use more platforms to share video and their sharing is more often interwoven with their offline social lives. One of the participants said of their morning running session along a canal: “I saw beautiful fish enjoying the sunshine, so I had to share that.” From these descriptions, we saw that video sharing is a social exchange that touches on real experiences and emotions. 

Our research found that branded video content is a powerful engagement trigger. After watching branded content, 61% of consumers stated they ‘liked’ the video, 54% visited a product or brand website and 28% claimed to buy the product. We found that 32% of people who shared a branded video went on to purchase the product or service. 

So what are the implications for brand marketers? As video content becomes a mainstay of the marketing mix, brands must understand what videos drive engagement and sharing, as well as what kind of impact video can have on driving consumer engagement with the brand. 

As with all marketing, knowing your audience is key. Our study found that 58% baby boomers share video content featuring pets or animals versus 52% of Generation X and 40% of millennials. Millennials are more likely than older generations to share entertainment content, while Generation X is more likely to share music content than any other category of branded video. The study also found that 39% of men report watching fully branded content (the entire content of the video is promotional), compared with 25% of women. Men are also more likely to share the fully branded content than women (44% vs 29%).

Our study shows that video content can drive direct engagement with the brand. While there are some cross-generational elements of video sharing and consumption, there are clear differences that can help marketers make the videos their consumers will watch and share. 

Marketers should remember that consumers are most interested in information. They want to learn about your products, but they aren’t interested in being sold, so marketers should use video time meaningfully. There’s certainly many ways to use time: From six-second snippets to five-minute stories, digital video is not a constrained medium like the 30-second TV ad. 

Successful branded videos are entertaining and informative, thought provoking and inspiring, silly and serious. This is one media that is set to run and run. 

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Author Bio:

Zoe Dowling of Focus Vision
Zoe Dowling is the lead research strategist of marketing research technology company Focus Vision.
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