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Video Is Still a Catalyst -- and Facebook, Inc. and Twitter Want More

By Daniel Sparks – Mar 29, 2016 at 5:40PM

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And so do Facebook and Twitter. Here's why video is so important to social networks.

Facebook (META 3.01%) continues to demonstrate that it's not afraid to make big changes to the fundamentals of its core products. The most recent big change was a huge increase the length of videos users can post on its Instagram social network. Here's a look at the change and what it means, as well as why video is so important to social networks.

Image source: Instagram.

Instagram's new features
"We want to bring you fun, flexible and creative ways to create and watch video on Instagram." Instagram, which was bought by Facebook in 2012, said in a blog post on Tuesday. "As part of our continued commitment, you'll soon have the flexibility to tell your story in up to 60 seconds of video."

In one swift move, Instagram is quadrupling the length of its videos.

In addition to lengthening videos on its service, the company is bringing back to iOS the ability for users to make a single video out of multiple clips.

But there's more to come, according to Instagram: "This is one step of many you'll see this year."

The ability to post longer video on Instagram is rolling out to users today and will be available for everyone "in the coming months," Instagram said. Its "multi-clip video" is available this week on iOS.

This is the second major change the company has made to its services recently. The other big change was the introduction of a new Like button on Facebook in February. The social network's tendency to rapidly tweak and improve its services in major ways is consistent with the way it has operated its networks from the beginning. And it stands in contrast to slower-changing Twitter (TWTR), which has firmly maintained its 140-character limit even as URLs, mentions, media, and hashtags have become increasingly common in tweets.

The importance of video
Video is becoming increasingly important in social media. Both Facebook and Twitter have awarded it with more and more real estate in users' social feeds.

Facebook recently adjusted its newsfeed algorithms to give its recently launched live videos premium placement toward the top of feeds after witnessing encouraging data on the watch time and engagement for these videos. Instagram said on Tuesday that during the last six months, the time users on Instagram spent watching video has increased by more than 40%.

Image source: Periscope.

Twitter, too, is encouraged by video. During 2015, Twitter added native videos to its platform. The ability to post native videos drove a 220 times increase in video views between December 2014 and 2015. The company's Periscope platform, which streams live video, is also growing rapidly. Capitalizing on the success of Periscope, the company has enabled live streaming of Periscope videos within Twitter.

More video in social feeds means Facebook and Twitter have the ability to more seamlessly rollout more video ad products, which are often more engaging than other social ad products. With more organically shared video, a higher percentage of video ads would seem more natural in the feed. Further, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter could begin to include video ads before or during organically generated ads, similar to Alphabet's YouTube.

As global wireless Internet speeds continue to improve, and the time people spend watching video on mobile devices continues to increase, video is likely to get a lot of attention at Facebook and Twitter.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Sparks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares), Facebook, and Twitter. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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