The Third Screen is Racing for First Place

Media professionals have been talking about the so-called “third screen” for years now, but it’s even conceivable the handheld phone will not only be one of the ways you consume video, it could even become the primary, based on current trends.

Online video now accounts for about 50% of all mobile traffic. As the so-called “third screen” is becoming more commonly everyone’s smartphone more so than a tablet device, IAB research recently found that 35% of viewers polled watched more video on their smartphones in 2015 as compared to 2014. In the same survey, 58% of smartphone owners use their Apple or Android device to watch short videos on a daily basis.

For the marketing, public relations and communications professional, among the challenges for leveraging this medium is that while there is a huge amount of video consumed on mobile devices, getting your video seen is just as challenging as generating views for any of your other content. We need to not focus quite as much on technology and go back to the more old-fashioned approach of making the content appealing and functional in the mobile marketplace.

To make the most of a mobile strategy, brevity is key. Keeping messages short and easily digestible is better for engaging the audience and is often a requirement on delivery platforms like Snapchat and Vine (where you still have just six seconds). The same has been true for text content on the web, and it’s logical to apply this approach to video as well.

Typically, unless the video is delivered through a custom app, iPhone users will usually see video full-screen, without any buttons or other elements on screen. Most e-mail clients will not automatically play a full video clip. Most though will show a short GIF, providing a few frames of video or animation as a preview. This kind of video playback will not have audio though and will not be very high quality.

Even though the mobile screen is increasingly sharp and functional, limit your call to action to something basic like an e-mail or a phone number. Though you can now develop mobile-friendly forms, it’s often too much to ask of the mobile consumer. But consider that the smartphones your target audience are using have great video capabilities themselves—perhaps you ask them to respond to your video with their own.

Buying video ads on mobile platforms is costlier than traditional TV, but you are reaching a segment you may not have been able to reach before. The potential for high-level interactivity is only partially tapped at the moment. Facebook live is among the latest success stories demonstrating on how engagement is moving from the desktop to the laptop to handheld devices. Engaging with fans on these video platforms may not only prove to be more effective, it could also encourage them to create more content to enrich your social video assets and they tell your brand story for you.

Questions, comments, feedback? I’d love to hear from you.