With Facebook pushing long-form video, should pharma jump in?

Pharma brands that use social video should carefully evaluate Facebook's recent signal of a preference for long-form video before investing heavily, say experts.

When Facebook talks, people—and brands—usually listen. In this case, the world’s largest social media platform has signaled a preference for long-form video with the announcement that it will weigh longer-form video completion more heavily when serving videos in news feeds.

But does that mean pharma brands should get to work on longer original content social videos? Not necessarily, said experts. As with most emerging digital trends, a handful of first movers generally jump in, while the majority take an experimental or wait-and-see view.

“Most pharma videos, even unbranded, aren’t going to go viral,” Brad Einarsen, senior director of social media at Klick Health, said in an interview. “The end result is that this telegraphs Facebook’s strategy of competing with YouTube, but it doesn’t necessarily help pharma brand marketers with their campaigns.”

However, he and others said, that doesn’t mean pharma shouldn’t be paying attention to social video. In fact, just the opposite. Facebook’s move reinforces its commitment to video.

“This is Facebook methodically doubling-down on its well-known assertion that they, and most social platforms, will become video-first. Whether it is an irresistible meme on Facebook, a moment-in-time video on Instagram stories or a temporary snap on Snapchat, social media has become visual bite-sized pieces of content. And industry, including pharma, has embraced this,” Doug Weinbrenner, VP of engagement strategy at FCB Health’s Area 23, said via email.

However, the trend in videos over the past year has been moving from standard 30-second spots to three- to four-minute-long video experiences driven by consumers who not only want choices but also the ability to immerse themselves in a story—even a branded one—when they want.

“Most consumers don't necessarily connect with pharma brands, per se—they connect with the story and the value that pharma's resources can enrich their lives with,” Weinbrenner said. “While this is an emerging trend, don't expect bite-sized to go away. It's a ‘both’ play with short-from still dominating for the time being. The downside to long form is the production commitment. The upside is richer metrics and meaning.”

E-consultancy tech writer Patricio Robles recently wrote that he thinks Facebook’s move is more about its ability to serve ads inside content. All brands should move cautiously into long-form social video, he says.

“Given the cost of producing longer-form video, and the risk that users won't stay engaged with this content no matter how much Facebook hopes they will, brands active on Facebook should be cautious about pursuing the creation of longer-form video in the hopes that it will help them eke out gains on the social network,” he said.