This week Twitter has launched autoplay for videos link – following in the footsteps of Facebook, which has seen real success from video that plays the minute the page is loaded. Removing the need to click ‘play’ certainly removes a barrier between the consumer and the content, but it is also a more natural design for a mobile device – where less content is on the screen so if a video is featured it is likely to be noticed and watched. As more video (both short and long-form) is being consumed on mobile globally it is only natural that we are designing in this way.

Video on mobile and autoplay content raises a number of creative and technical issues – how do you make sure the autoplaying of the video enticing enough to attract attention, but not so intrusive that you stop it so it doesn’t disrupt other things you might be doing. But the biggest creative challenge comes from the nature of mobile consumption overall – that much of this video content will be watched with the volume muted.

As we’re walking down the street, sitting on the bus, or browsing Twitter whilst in a bar or at work, we are likely to have volume turned right down. It’s just anti-social to have it turned up, and maybe we don’t want the strangers around us to know what video we’re watching. So video consumed socially will not only autoplay, it will also typically be played without any sound at all. So brands that want their video to be a success not only need to make sure the video is relevant and won’t be lost to the consumer as they are exploring other content. They also need to make sure that it works with no sound.

And this should lead to digital formats that don’t just replicate what works elsewhere, but that are designed specifically for social. Taking full creative advantage of the opportunities and constraints. Designed for silent. With autoplay on Twitter, and the rise of social and digital video consumed on mobile we are almost witnessing a revival of the silent movie – or at least taking our cues from how a narrative was conveyed in that format.

Once again this shows that digital change is not always about things being new. It’s often about using skills and a craft that might actually be quite old. Silent movies and social media content have more in common that we might once have thought they would.


Matt Rhodes

About Matt Rhodes

Head of Digital Strategy for work. Marathon runner and charity trustee for fun.

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