It’s Time for Vertical Integration

It’s February now, and I want to know how your New Year’s resolutions are going at work, because mine have been an unexpected challenge.

Not like, “Oh, using Instagram more has been so hard! #FirstWorldProblems” because that’s going GREAT. We’ve been doing our due diligence; interacting with posts, honing our brand, utilizing Stories, and we’ve more than doubled our engagement over any month from last year, and have also grown our following by ten percent in just one month. If we keep that up for the rest of the year, which I don’t think is unsustainable, we could wind up more than tripling our following. In one year. That ain’t bad.

Instead, my problem is more like “Oh crap, I’ve accidentally learned a lot about this platform and it’s changing everything I know about this other thing and if we don’t get out ahead of this it’s going to haunt me for the rest of my career.” Makes perfect sense, right? Follow me.

First, check out this video. Give it a look. What’s the first thing you notice?

 

 

Actually … let me back up a second. This summer, I got to present at #NATOA2019 (which, for the uninitiated — as I was — stands for National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) advocating for the agonizing death of what I called “The Meeting Channel,” old guard PEG (Public Access/Education/Government) channels that exist solely for the purpose of acting as background noise while pensioners sleep in chairs.

I’m obviously a huge proponent of transparency, but there’s no future there.

Since I started in Gaithersburg, we’ve made strides in this direction, starting with shooting a lot of video for mobile first — and that was my point, largely: producing for TV is old and busted. But something happened at the end of that talk that I don’t think even I realized the full impact of, when I pulled this slide out at the end:

 

"There's a time and place for vertical video" powerpoint slide

 

It did not go over well. There were groans, sneers, I think someone threw a chair through a window … I mean, I kid, but in all seriousness, floating this idea was like trying to fly a lead zeppelin.

Then, just last week, in NATOA’s Facebook group, some brave soul piped up: “Facebook Live: portrait or landscape?” even acknowledging how the content was specifically geared for mobile devices and so I answered, “Try vertical! It’s what Facebook recommends” … because it is. I literally got outvoted in favor of the following answer:

 

“I always shoot horizontal. And if the viewer has a problem with it, they can just rotate their phone to view it 🙃”

 

For the record, I am still mad.

Who are you producing video for? YOU?

You’re producing content for the people who need it. I don’t care if you’re a government agency, or a huge university, or Mom’s Coffee Shop, this is about reaching people.

Now, back to that video up there. You no doubt know that song. It was huge. It was at the Grammys. Did you notice that vertical video has 150 million views? Yeah, wonder why. Because vertical video is real, y’all. It’s happening. Remember all those years you kept shouting “stop taking vertical videos, ugh!” at YouTube? Well, guess what. People kept doing it, because it’s natural — because that’s how we hold our phones.

And guess what? Seeing it over and over made it natural to view it that way … because that’s how we hold our phones — and now, vertical video has become something that big names can do to make their videos look like the homegrown, relatable ones that you’ve secretly been frenemies with for years now. Not just big names in music like Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, either — think the Spielbergs and Goldwyns of the world, too.

So now, as a result of all that, vertical formatting is becoming more and more ingrained in the platforms on which we make our living. Twitter’s moments feature is fully vertical; while Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all taking a page from Snapchat’s full screen vertical playbook and doubling down on their version of Stories, and advertising dollars are not far behind.

For the record, in the interest of practicing what I preach, I’ve recently originated a video series on our Facebook page in which I detail upcoming Mayor & City Council meetings in plain English, and going forward, I will be adapting that to a vertical format. That’s how we start. Just one.

I have a lot of respect for you, fellow Gismos, but we’d be fools if we went and ignored some of the biggest companies on the planet because “that’s how we’ve always done video.” The future is literally right in front of us, and we each have the chance to be among the first generation of experts … and if that doesn’t excite you, why are are you even in social media?

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