We are all storytellers. Developments in mobile technology and social media since Facebook launched publicly in 2004 have provided us a platform from which we can immerse and engage one another in our everyday lives.
According to research, at the end of 2015 there were approximately seven billion mobile connections globally. That’s almost more connections than there are people. Never before have we seen a technology adopted faster. Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other similar networks enjoyed banner years, with more subscribers (over two billion active accounts, according to recent surveys), content and credibility than ever.
Recently I’ve been captivated by the ‘On This Day’ feature on Facebook. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. The concept makes for incredibly emotive and intriguing browsing, reliving moments from our past and trying to recall why you were “loving life” on a random Saturday in January 2009.
Whilst browsing posts from what was evidently an unusually busy date in the history of my life, I couldn’t help but notice the evolution in the ways in which we narrate the moments that matter. In the noughties, short strings of text gave my friends a snapshot of my emotions and activities, but over the years these stories became far more visual, leveraging multimedia to immerse the audience in my everyday life.
Evolving from text, to pictures, to videos and beyond – the way in which we tell our life story has evolved over the past decade and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Advances in technology allow us to capture important (and even mundane) moments in high resolution, inviting our followers to share in the moment through still or moving image, and in turn dictating how immersed we want them to be. The history of traditional advertising is not too dissimilar.
Brands have also taken advantage of this shift. Many have recognised the impact of video and its ability to achieve cut through in a crowded and fragmented media landscape. The rise of video-sharing networks such as YouTube and Twitch and the emphasis brands are placing on creating content for these channels is evidence of this. Indeed, teenagers around the world are making millions by telling their stories through YouTube, and with 43% of Australian millennials using the network to discover new content, there has never been such a platform from which to reach and engage the masses in our lives.
Communication has become more visual than ever – an explosion of illustrated storytelling. Facebook register over eight BILLION video views every day – something the brand admits it continues to underestimate – whilst 40% of comments contain emojis. In a world where consumers demand more engaging content than ever, the written word is quickly becoming a barrier.
This poses the question – what’s next in moment sharing?
In 2015 YouTube and Facebook announced the support of 360 degree videos. In response, Disney launched an immersive and interactive clip for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To date, the official video has been viewed over seven million times. According to Facebook, this was one of the most viewed brand assets posted to the network last year.
This emerging technology is set to make its way into the hands of the consumer very soon, with the show floor at CES 2016 filled with devices capable of capturing 360 degree photography and video. Affordable and available now, this technology poses exciting opportunities for those of us that enjoy finding new ways to bring our followers into a moment. In the same way that 3D films gave viewers a new sense of depth and landscape, 360 degree content gives them context, immersing the audience in the moment and the wider world surrounding it.
Virtual reality (VR) is also making a move to the mainstream, having been on the news agenda for well over a year now with Facebook-owned Oculus intriguing commentators and consumers alike. The Eureka Park – the home of budding startups and CES – showcased a number of cost-friendly and effective solutions to create VR content with a regular smartphone. Whilst VR is a slightly more involved way to consume content, with cheap viewing solutions such as Google Cardboard already readily available this is an exciting area to watch.
Until now, our hands have been tied. We’ve told our stories from a fixed perspective, and one that gives the viewer little-to-no control of how they engage in the moment. The arrival of 360 and VR cameras could change this forever, but scale and awareness is crucial. In the same way the smartphone facilitated the mainstream adoption of photo and video sharing, device manufacturers need to come to the table to make content capture easy and accessible. Equally, social media networks need to recognise its potential, building interactive content into their DNA and enabling their users to share said content.
We’ve come a long way since the launch of Facebook, and if we’re lucky we could be on the verge of entering the next generation of moment sharing. Here’s one avid storyteller hoping to see you in a new, 360 degree world, very soon.