By Alexandra Zamfir

September 15th, 2016

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That’s the astonishing prediction from a recent study by Cisco, who believe digital video will comprise 82% of internet traffic by 2020. Video is not only here to stay, it’s defining our online behavior. This has definitely been the year that saw the explosive growth of video, fuelled by the major social networks and increased mobile adoption.

Here are four current major trends that can help us predict the future of digital video:

#1 – People are spending more time watching digital videos than on social media, and the trend is being primarily led by mobile.

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According to eMarketer, the gap will continue to widen in the next two years. However, the pace looks set to slow, which could signal a possible saturation of this type of content, and the need for even newer ways to reach audiences. But overall digital video remains one of the main choices for online viewers, and is therefore a must-have for all brands looking to stay relevant and modern.

#2 – YouTube is still the most popular platform to watch digital videos, however Facebook is emerging as a strong no.2.

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With Mark Zuckerberg’s latest statement on Facebook becoming video-first, it is clear that the network is playing the game to win. Their latest developments, such as the addition and boosting of live videos, are proof of that. The other social networks are also betting big on video and mobile-first content, suggesting that the video battle is set to heat up in the years – or even months – to come.

#3 – Live video: Facebook surpasses YouTube.
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In 2016, Facebook surpassed pioneer YouTube as the preferred live streaming medium. This is mainly down to its ease of use and mobile availability. Facebook has made it possible for everyone – from important influencers to your next door neighbor – to share information in real-time with just a push of a button and no technological knowledge required.

In a recent move to take back the live streaming crown, YouTube announced the release of live video options for mobile. Following in Facebook’s steps the company is making videos easier to create and share on whichever device the audience is on. However, the competition doesn’t come just from Facebook, smaller players with a more agile offering are joining in.

The emergence of Snapchat and Instagram Stories has come as a response to a clear gap in the market: impactful video content that is short-form, easily shareable and, most importantly, mobile-first.

With people increasingly turning to their mobile phones for information, and mobile behavior now broken into 1.2 minute sessions repeated dozens of times per day, it’s safe to predict that the gap between the top players and new entrants will diminish, and more publishers and advertisers will include these networks on their radars.

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#4 – US digital video ad spending will see double-digit growth annually through 2020.

With monetization now in the ring, digital video ads are the hottest commodity in town. If there is an epic showdown looming between the social networks, it will most likely kick-off at the ad level.

The same eMarketer study as in the images above found 72% of marketers planned to invest their next 12-months’ digital advertising budget primarily into YouTube, with only 46% of marketers directing the money towards Facebook. This shows that even though Facebook and others are strong contenders in the video space, especially with live videos, the time spent on each network still influences brands to choose YouTube as the go-to platform for video advertising – for the time being.

With a prize as shiny as advertising budgets and viewership, the other networks aren’t standing still either.

In a move to direct more and more publishers to their network, Twitter also recently introduced monetization to the platform. It allows video creators approved by the Amplify Publisher Program to run pre-roll ads against the content and receive some of the generated revenue. Video creators can enjoy the same benefits on Twitter’s proprietary livestreaming app, Periscope. While YouTube also repays video creators, the main differentiators here will be the percentage of revenue that these publishers receive, alongside the success of their campaigns.

Pinterest also recently entered the game by rolling out promoted videos to selected advertisers. Pinterest feeds are also experiencing the video takeover with a reported 60% increase in the last year, which made this direction a natural next move.

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The threat Pinterest presents to the other networks lays in its appeal as a shopping destination: According to recent data from Mary Meeker, 55% of Pinterest users want to find or shop for products on the platform, whereas only 12% say that about other social networks – which must be music to Pinterest’s ears.

Time is moving fast for video on social media

The incessant updates introduced by all social networks (sometimes daily!) make one thing clear: the lines haven’t been drawn in the sand and there is no clear-cut winner in the video arena – or social media for that matter.

Social media is still in its infancy in terms of what it can deliver to brands and how it can help them better connect with customers – video is the latest test. Cross-channel videos and video advertising have transformed how brands interact with audiences during the customer journey, enabling them to create highly immersive and attention-grabbing experiences. This development is particularly relevant to how brands communicate on social media, where they also have to compete with personal content shared by family and friends.

Anticipating how this playing field will change in the next year may be a fool’s game. Nevertheless, the trends mentioned in this article outline some of the major directions in which digital video is heading – and how it will influence the relationships between brands and audiences on all social networks.

The battle for video content on social media is just getting started – may the best network win!

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