Will Facebook 360 Change Brand Storytelling Forever? by @chris_hart

Will Facebook 360 Change Brand Storytelling Forever? by @chris_hart
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Facebook 360 launched in 2015, but we have yet to see advertisers and marketers embrace it on a wider scale. In this article, we’ll look at how brands are using 360 content, and answer burning questions about the medium—including hearing from industry experts on how it’s changing the storytelling game.

Facebook 360 launched in 2015, first with video capability, and then photo functionality in 2016. The goal? Allow users to immerse themselves in the landscapes and experiences of those who’ve captured them and to elevate the storytelling experience.

Some brands have been quick to jump on the feature, producing visually stunning examples, while others still feel timid about Facebook 360, its potential and the effort involved.

We have yet to see advertisers and marketers really embrace it on a wider scale, but some are getting it right. Let’s look closer at what Facebook 360 is, examples of 360-degree content, where it’s headed, and tips to get started.

What Are Some Examples of 360-Degree Content?

Brands are using 360-degree videos for everything from marketing to education and simply connecting with their audience in new ways.

National Geographic is allowing people to explore geography like never before in their Facebook 360 videos. Here’s an example you can check out in a video on Victoria Falls.

YouTube offers the ability to upload 360-degree videos as well, and here’s a Sports Illustrated documentary on Everest using 360-degree capability that you can access via desktop or mobile:

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How Is Facebook 360 Advancing Storytelling for Brands?

Breathtaking imagery aside, 360 content has major potential for brands to rethink their storytelling.

“This medium has had an immense impact on how we think about stories moving forward,” says Mars Sandoval, founder and creative director at Syndrome Studio. “The interactive, non-linear format is a big departure from how content has been both imagined and consumed in the past, and the medium demands an entirely new and different approach to storytelling.

“Unlike the tightly controlled ‘one-way’ narratives of traditional video, the user experience aspect presents an ‘open world’ of discovery for the user and an exciting set of challenges and opportunities for content creators and marketers to consider.”

Facebook 360 does indeed put users into an immersive environment to experience moments in a way that’s a big departure from the traditional screen experience.

While this may seem foreign to many content creators now, it could be second nature in the future. Think back to when magazine publications had to transition to the online experience, and how that redefined the way content was consumed. The end result was much more interactive, where the user chose the path.

With 360 content, the user is again in the driver’s seat so long as the format is available by content publishers.

“Facebook 360 has changed content storytelling for the better,” says Kendall Bird, social media manager for Collegis Education. “It has become a way for the common photo or video to come to life and make an experience for the user … building excitement and motivating audiences more than ever to engage with content.”

Is Facebook 360 Considered Virtual Reality?

Facebook 360 allows users on certain devices to interact with video and content in new ways. On desktop and mobile, a person can scroll left, right, up or down using their mouse or a finger to view the scene almost as if they were there.

Facebook 360 content is indeed compatible with VR technology like Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR, though some doubt its place in the world of virtual reality proper, citing that just because it’s a 360 video, doesn’t truly make it VR.

As this article points out  on Quartz:

Both Facebook and YouTube now allow anyone to upload 360-degree videos to their platforms. That means if you have a Cardboard, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, or anything else that could be construed as a virtual reality headset, you can watch immersive videos on your device. But that doesn’t make them virtual reality, seeing as a video of someone surfing or playing soccer in 360-degree video isn’t virtual—it really happened!—so that’s really just reality.

Semantics aside, many of us see it as a form of VR because it’s taking our experiences with content to a new, more realistic level.

“The user can experience another place, from another time, through their own technology – and they don’t have to purchase anything extra,” says Kendall. “No plane tickets, rental cars, or trains, just you and your computer or mobile phone, and you’re experiencing a place and time as if you were really there.”

Mars has his own take on Facebook 360 as VR: “At the present, we would consider Facebook 360 as one of the many ‘flavors’ of VR. From a creator standpoint, the design and production methods are quite similar, although ‘pure’ VR is more layered, complex and usually makes use of VR goggles.”

He adds, “What makes Facebook 360 so exciting is how it democratizes the medium, opening virtual reality up to anyone with a smartphone/web browser and a Facebook account. It really is the Wild West right now—platforms, workflows, and people’s tastes are evolving so quickly. The medium is being redefined constantly, making it an exciting time for the entire field of VR.”

Isn’t 360 Content Just a Fad?

While there could be a slow adoption process with 360 video and imagery, market motivators may push its usage along. For example, this type of content couples well with the mobile experience, and research time and time again points to video as an effective medium for mobile users.

As brands start to think more about how to create mobile experiences for their audiences, visually appealing content—and particularly 360-degree video and photography—will take those mobile experiences to the next level.

“Like any new and exciting innovation, especially when tied to advertising, there is a high novelty factor early on,” says Mars. “Everyone jumps on the bandwagon at the onset, but over time, a few really grasp the medium and master how to use it in an effective way.”

“For example, think about how many companies rushed to release an app in the early days of the iPhone. Many of these first generation apps were simply a copy of a website, offering little else in terms of content, function, and user experience … As the medium matures, we are beginning to see some really great examples of VR being used in interesting ways … Many avenues for advertising are opening up, and as the medium is embraced by more consumers and the user base grows, there will be more opportunities to redefine marketing in the VR space.”

We can indeed imagine how this new medium might in the future merge online and offline experiences in real-time, or facilitate key initiatives for all sorts of sectors like education, sports, law enforcement and beyond.

As the glossiness of all new technology wears off after a while, what’s left is the substantive stories that are being told through the medium. Leading with the story and not the technology is going to be important for this new content medium to be effective and to have staying power in the marketing and advertising world.

Getting Started With Facebook 360

With the right equipment and a little imagination, brands can get in on the 360 action quite easily, and the possibilities are exciting.

If the popularity of the GoPro cams is any indicator, the perspective will greatly open up for the content consumer from a place of being more linear and prescribed to multi-directional and personalized.

You can learn more about getting started with Facebook 360 here.

Image credits:
Featured Image: Pexels / Hands Coffee Smartphone Technology
Video: Sports Illustrated / Capturing Everest Teaser | 360 Video | Sports Illustrated

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