What you need to know about 360 videos on Facebook and YouTube

October 10, 2016

Author: Tiffany Lau

The next big thing in social media and online storytelling just might be 360 videos, which are videos created by camera systems that simultaneously capture all 360 degrees of a scene. Imagine a panorama photo taken on the iPhone; however, this is a video that covers all 360 angles, rather than a photo.

When online sharing first became popular, content mostly started out as text-based: short phrases with status updates on Facebook or micro-blogging (e.g., the 140-character Twitter limit). With the exploding popularity of social media, there has been a corresponding rise in the popularity of photo platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, and video platforms such as Snapchat (just renamed Snap Inc.) and Periscope. One feature that is specific to Snapchat and Periscope is the idea that they offer ‘in the now’ storytelling and online sharing. Snapchat snaps and snap stories are posted as they are taken, almost like a live posting of events as they happen.

So, how do 360 videos fit into the next transition? Last year, Facebook introduced 360 videos on its platform. When viewing these videos, a viewer can change the angle of the camera by moving the mouse or pressing a trackpad. While YouTube has also adapted 360 videos for its users, the two platforms have different and useful tools that marketers can take advantage of when creating 360 videos for immersive visual storytelling.

In August 2016, Facebook released new video analytics feature for creators of 360 videos. This feature allows users to track analytics such as the demographics of the viewers of their videos, which moments of their videos are most engaging, and more. Facebook also has come up with two new tools that help marketers achieve their storytelling goals when creating 360 videos. The Guide tool allows creators to steer their viewers to specific locations in the video, and the Heatmap tool allows creators to track the direction of where viewers are steering in videos. TechCrunch has an article about these two features.

Since YouTube first introduced 360 videos about a year ago, marketers such as Nike, Lionsgate and Gatorade have experimented with them. For example, Lionsgate created a 360 video for the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. YouTube continues to innovate, introducing their livestreaming feature in April 2016. As one of their first experiments with this feature, YouTube livestreamed the Coachella music and arts festival from April 22 to April 24 with the help of their T-Mobile sponsorship. BuzzFeed has also experimented with this new feature, livestreaming two employees exploding a watermelon by tying rubber bands around it; this livestream generated a total of more than 800,000 live viewers. Adweek has you covered on these stories.

In May 2016, Facebook released a list of top 10 most-viewed 360-degree videos, with National Geographic taking three of the 10 spots. Through 360 videos, viewers get to have a virtual, immersive experience of destinations not easily reached. It is worth noting that, while National Geographic exemplifies one way to successfully use 360 videos to generate viewers, the use of these videos is still new and experimental. The various possibilities of 360 videos are still yet to be explored and will undoubtedly exceed simply viewing travel destinations. What will become the next big thing for 360 videos is yet to be determined.