Facebook is running a small test on News Feed video audio in Australia. According to reports from Mashable Australia, a couple of different features are being tested, though one in particular is getting more attention.
The test has all videos in the Facebook mobile app on autoplay, as it already did, but with sound included. This means that someone looking around on Facebook may suddenly hear the videos they see, as will anyone within earshot of their phone.
Users can avoid surprise sound by turning off the volume in their settings or on the video itself. As part of the test, the other sound feature that’s being tested keeps the videos silent, but includes an icon on the video to quickly enable sound.
“This is one of several tests we’re running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable.
Testing began in Australia on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
Facebook Video: Evolution and Stats
Videos began playing automatically in desktop and mobile Facebook feeds in December of 2013. At that time, the videos were automatically muted for everyone. Facebook said that during testing it saw a 10 percent increase in general video engagement.
It’s especially interesting that the social network is now taking the route of automatic sound in News Feeds, as its own research found that 80 percent of users react negatively to unexpected sound from their mobile devices. Facebook went on to suggest that advertisers should consider this response when creating video, and creatively convey messages without sound being essential.
Digiday reported that various online publishers see approximately 85 percent of their video views happening without sound.
Perhaps you’ve noticed several videos featuring text or captions to make sound unnecessary. This seems to be a typical way to attract attention to a silent video, and much more in tune with popular opinion than videos that automatically play sound.
Implications for Advertisers
So how is this going to affect advertisers? Many may feel forced to be a nuisance to users with automatic sound on video ads. And they may see conversion and click-through rates suffer. Further, if the majority of users turn the sound down anyway, any audio will simply be wasted.
How do you develop a strategy for not being intrusive if the social network forces you to be? If the change rolls out globally, this could all get very challenging for advertisers.
For now, comments on the test are mostly disapproving, as well as surprised that Facebook would contradict its own research.
Only time will tell how the users themselves will feel about autoplay sound.
What Can Advertisers Do?
Advertisers can always stick to text overlays and captions (you may be able to include these automatically). Users are accustomed to them and certain to find them non-intrusive.
If all videos end up with sound—and sound is a big component of your ads—consider scheduling your ads to go out when your customers are less likely to be irritated (not at 1 a.m. when a husband is browsing Facebook next to his sleeping wife, for example). A platform like ours at SearchForce can help you schedule those ads to only go out from, say, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The bottom line: Don’t go into panic mode quite yet. This is only a test, and it’s limited to Australia. And many are hoping that’s as far as it will go.