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3 Social Media Trends for 2019 and What They Mean for Higher Ed

New year. Fresh start. And a slew of trends for 2019. I’ve been reading a variety of articles forecasting what’s in store for the social and digital communications industry this year, and the following three trends stood out as having potential for meaningful impact in the higher education communication space.

Welcome to the Age of the Hour-Long YouTube Video

“Long, long, long video that last anywhere between 15 minutes and two hours have become not only common but successful on the (YouTube) platform.” – Wired reporter Emma Grey Ellis

This has been an interesting one for me to wrap my head around as new trend as we’ve been accustomed (practically ingrained) to create content that is short and sweet. In fact, in trends of years past, we learned that incredibly short is best due to the shrinking attention span of audiences.

But now, due to the power of YouTube (and Google), the trend is to create long-form video, anywhere from 15-120 minutes long. This is because watch hours is now a key metric for YouTube. YouTube favors longer video because it keeps viewers on its platform. Therefore, it rewards publishers with long watch times by making their long-form content more discoverable within its algorithm.

“YouTube has never wanted to be the place of the 30-second video, even though many people still assume one to five minutes is the norm.”

Scott Fisher, CEO and founder of Select Management Group

At #CSUSocial, we will not ditch the short and sweet video but instead strategically think about how we could incorporate long form videos into our storytelling. In higher ed, this storytelling tactic could lend itself well for any unit that provides info that could be shared in a tutorial/how to/guide format.

For example, CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital does an excellent job at making their veterinarians available to explain/show simple pet care tips. This type of video has the potential to work very well on YouTube, particularly if it ranges from 15-30 minutes long.

Colorado State is a land grant institution, and as such Extension is a significant way the university provides resources and information to citizens across Colorado. Video tutorials from Extension agents showing how to build a backyard chicken coop to spring gardening tips would be rich pieces of content that could thrive on YouTube.

Finally, extended campus tour videos could benefit from YouTube’s watch hours metric. The most viewed video on CSU’s YouTube channel this 15-minute campus tour video from 2013. Every month it continues to receive hundreds of new views. We think that this is because the title, Colorado State University Campus Tour, is a highly searched phrase and therefore the video shows up often in search results. We clearly should update the video because a lot has changed on campus in the past six years and to take advantage of this long-form YouTube video trend.

Vlogging

“Vlogging has become huge on YouTube. Vloggers film multiple aspects of their daily lives whether they be mundane, like preparing breakfast, or exciting, like going on vacation… Vlogging gives your viewers a peek in your life and can help you form a better connection with your audience.” – Syed Balkhi, guest writer for Entrepreneur

And who wouldn’t want that? #CSUSocial has been kicking around the idea of vlogging for the past six months but haven’t landed yet on if/how to execute a vlogging strategy. We really like the idea of providing an authentic perspective of a current student using a vlog. We know user-generated content is critical in helping establish trust between a brand and their audience. Vlogging content also clearly fall into the long-form YouTube videos trend.

A significant piece of what makes vlogging successful is the vlogger themselves. Audiences become attached to that person over time and tune in regularly to see what’s new with them.  The potential is there for the higher ed community to take advantage of this trend and showcase their brand through the experiences of a student, faculty or staff member in a video format. It’s a matter of finding that person(s) and setting up a construct that will make it successful. If/when we do land on a strategy, I’m sure we’ll blog about it 😉

Vertical Video: Changing How We Perceive Imagery

“Why do you think Instagram repurposed Snapchat’s story function? Because Facebook, the ultimate enforcer of the ‘I’ in brand marketing, is always looking to appeal to the individual. They appeal not just to people’s egos, but also to their innate desire to connect with other human beings. With a 9:16 aspect ratio, you put the focus on the individual, on their story.” – James Berry, Likeable blogger

Vertical marketing is going to be big in 2019. Vertical videos are immersive because they’re full screen and draw viewers in. In some ways, the vertical format delivers authenticity that audiences crave on social.

For higher ed, there is enormous opportunity to leverage Instagram Stories (if you haven’t already) and explore creating video content specifically in a vertical format to be shared on Facebook. It will be a challenge since filming in vertical format means that you’ll need tight/narrow shots but as James Berry noted, focusing on the individual and their story could be just what your storytelling strategy needs in 2019.