Do people watch videos on their smartphone or tablet?
Anecdotally, the answer is 'yes'. Just step onto the MRT during the evening peak to see how fellow passengers are passing the time. It is striking how many people are looking down at their tablets - earphones in place - watching everything from music videos, to Korean and Chinese dramas, to news.
But recent research from the United States suggests that people are much more choosy in what they watch on the go than you might think.
A study by Harris Interactive, based on a survey of almost 1,900 adults in the third week of April, showed that only one-third of respondents used their mobile device to watch video.
This group of people were three times more likely to be aged 18-44 (65%), were slightly more likely to be male than female (41% vs 30%), earn more than US$75,000 a year (42%), and are more likely to have a college degree (39%) and children (48%).
Perhaps even more interesting are the reasons for not watching.
The two-thirds of respondents who said that they do not watch video on the go said they had no interest (65%), complained that the screen was too small (28%), worried about draining their battery (18%) or the cost of streaming data (17%), with a sizeable group adding that the connection was too slow (11%).
These findings appear to be corroborated by Experian Marketing Services', which found only 2.3% of adults in their mobile and digital panel used their smartphone for daily video viewing.
That's not to say that they are not watching video at all – they do: 4.2 million different sessions of an average 5 minutes duration.
It's just that talking, texting, social media and web surfing take up significantly greater time of the 58 minutes or so they spend looking at their screens each day.
Plus, the Experian survey appeared to only cover smartphones, not tablets.
This is an important distinction, because other research shows that people use their smartphones differently from their PCs, where video viewing is prolific. And, as it turns out, they use their tablets differently again.
A separate survey conducted by Rovi Corporation in February shows that tablet users were more likely to be watching movies than smartphone owners (34.9% vs 28.1%) and TV programs (23.4% vs 14.9%), possibly because the bigger screen lends itself better to entertainment-style programming.
But smartphone users were more likely than tablet users to be watching YouTube (33.8% vs 24.3%), news (11.2% vs 10.1%) and music videos (7.8% vs 3.7%).
For marketers uploading their videos to YouTube, this suggests that your audience is more likely to be using a smartphone.
How are they watching?
Despite the rush to build apps, further research shows mobile websites – that is, websites optimised for small screens – are more likely to serve up video to mobile users.
Nielsen conducted research in 2012 which lays bare these viewing habits.
The numbers vary greatly from country to country, but watching via the mobile web outpaced apps in China (74% vs 55%) and India (60% vs 33%). Only Korea saw a more balanced ratio (46% vs 52%).
So, just because you stream your video via an app does not necessarily mean you are going to get more viewers.
Viewers are also much more likely to be using an Apple iOS device (60%) than Android (32%).
Among iOS users, the iPhone still dominates video viewing (30% of total video viewing) over the iPad (24%) and iPod touch (6%).
In general, I find not enough marketers are using websites optimized for mobile viewing.
Instead, they force smartphone users to scroll through the tiny text of their regular websites. It's cumbersome, and an awful user experience.
Given that 62% of respondents in the Experian survey visited websites every day, you can see how important it is to ensure your customers and prospects have a good experience on their mobile device.
Will they act on your content marketing message?
The benefit in using smartphones to reach prospects and customers is that the device through which you connect with them is already in their hands.
Sure, on the PC they are able to send you an email pretty quickly after they watched your content marketing video on your company's website.
In theory, smartphone users can go one step further and call you directly. But do they do so in practise?
For this to happen, your content marketing video needs to have significantly greater interactivity built into, or more to the point, around the video.
First, I am still surprised by how many content marketing videos leave out any sort of contact details. Not just your homepage URL, but a phone number which gets callers directly to your call centre or sales staff, or an email address which is more specific than a generic "enquiries@..." address, where the prospect is likely to have doubts whether anyone will get back to him.
Second, marketers are not building enough interactivity options into the website surrounding their videos. Your phone number and email address should be displayed immediately next to the video, to minimize the number of clicks (and therefore lost leads) between watching the video and emailing or calling in with an enquiry.
You can even annotate YouTube videos with clickable links.
If we can draw any conclusions from the research, we could say in broad strokes that your mobile video viewing audience is likely to be male iPhone users watching YouTube on a mobile optimized website or the YouTube app.
But as PC, tablets and smartphones become ubiquitous and new, distinct viewing patterns emerge, it is clear that while mobile cannot be the only means of delivering your content marketing videos to your target audience, it needs to be one of the channels you use.
**This article first appeared in the Marketing Institute of Singapore's Singapore Marketer magazine and is reproduced by permission. Click on the Attached PDF document below to see how it appeared.