Facebook and YouTube have become the platform of choice for online video distribution, delivering levels of engagement that outpace such competitors as Instagram and Twitter. That shift is one of several trends outlined in the 2018 Telly Trend Report [PDF], a new study based on a recent survey of 40,000 TV and video industry pros by The Telly Awards and Videoink, a web publication covering online video.

Facebook was cited as the best-performing platform in terms of viewer engagement by 36% of respondents, followed by YouTube, which was favored by 31% of respondents. Following at a distance were platforms including Instagram, Vimeo, Twitter and Snapchat.

Telly Awards Managing Director Sabrina Dridje told StudioDaily the migration to Facebook and YouTube is driven directly by viewer-engagement metrics rather than any kind of preference for different features or formats of different platforms. “They’re following their audiences, and following how audiences are interacting with their work,” Dridje said.

That’s not to say creativity doesn’t play a role in engagement. Dridje cited the appropriate use of text and other motion-graphics elements as well as vertical video framing as among the keys to drawing viewers in to video shared on social platforms. But she said there’s no one true path to success. “In the past, people have tried to find an ideal overall structure for social video,” she said. “But it really depends on the work, the platform and the audience on a case-by-case basis. There isn’t a formulaic way of making it work.”

One maxim that’s been applied to online content since the early days of the web still holds true — quality content is the best strategy for drawing audiences. Contrary to the stereotype of social-media users as short-attention-span consumers, Dridje said content creators have found that audiences will stick with a compelling short over the course of several minutes. As an example, she cites the work of CNN’s Great Big Story, which found such an eager audience for three-to-five-minute documentary shorts posted on YouTube that it’s now planning to launch a streaming app and linear TV channel. (Last year, Bloomberg reported that viewers who access Great Big Story content on Internet-connected TVs watch 38 minutes per session on average.)

VR: Still In Its Niche

Survey respondents were less enthusiastic about VR experiences. About half of them said they had experienced a piece of VR content during 2017, but only 13.5% said they had actually produced anything in VR during the year. About a third said they expected to work in VR in 2017.

Dridje was quick to point out exciting work is being done in VR, though it remains a small niche of the overall production market. “We’re seeing an exciting rise in VR-specific production companies, such as Within, Crimes of Curiosity, and Emblematic Group,” she noted. “But if you look at the whole community we audited, it’s not surprising to me that a lot of them are not dabbling in that because it’s not their specific production need or niche.”

Respondents were more bullish on live streaming applications, with 29% citing live streaming as the biggest advancement in video technology for 2018. 4K video and VR were tied for second place with 20% each. “A lot of our audience works in event production, so it makes sense that would happen,” Dridje said. “Live streaming is really accessible, and the advancements year on year have been making it easier and easier to film an event and put it up there.”

Branded Content Swells As Tellys Deadline Approaches

As far as the Tellys themselves, as the entry deadline this Friday, March 2, approaches, Didje said branded content is another big trend. “When we look at entries, there is a huge increase in both branded content and social video,” she said. “People want authentic stories that are beautifully told, beautifully crafted and unique, and that’s why branded content in the industry — and in entries for us — is up.”

Readers can keep up to date with the latest trends and best practices by taking advantage of Telly events during industry gatherings. The Tellys and Videoink are hosting a meet-up for SXSW attendees on March 11, and an April 9 event during NAB will feature panelists from Great Big Story, Vimeo and Vice.

The Telly Awards: www.tellyawards.com