In the past year and a half, Ninad Wagle, Senior Director of Corporate Social Media at Visa, has spearheaded the introduction of animated video and GIFs into Visa's corporate social media content.
Ninad and his team wanted to evaluate if animated video could be a tactical and strategic differentiator in their social media content strategy.
The team primarily uses Twitter and LinkedIn to reinforce the Visa brand in areas like payment innovation, partnerships, security, thought leadership on global economic trends, Visa's commitment to diversity and inclusion, financial literacy, social impact, and more.
“Our key audience groups tend to be Visa clients and partners, merchants, governments, and policy makers,” he said. “In recent years, segments like women in tech, small businesses, and travel & tourism have also gained importance.”
Ninad explained animated videos can potentially have more “thumb-stopping power” than traditional static images or videos. Anecdotally, they also tend to yield higher engagement rates. “We started to wonder if animated videos and GIFs could be a good tactic to break through news feed clutter, especially since Visa's brand palette is so visually vibrant,” Ninad said.
Most of their content is global with regional variations, so it's important the video content aligns with that.
“Traditional video doesn't always play well in regards to cross-cultural content,” he said. “Many aspects of traditional videos — including the talent, backdrops, and behaviors portrayed — don't always translate seamlessly across geographies.”
According to Ninad, animation gives them more flexibility to build cultural aspects into the videos and swap out sequences depending on the audience. And, he mentioned, production cycles can be shorter than those of traditional videos, they can often cost less, and they tend to remain relevant for longer.
To get the concept of using more animation in social media content off the ground, Ninad started by informally shopping the idea around to leadership.
Then, when that appeared to work well, Ninad began to consider introducing longer and more elaborate videos into their social content.
At that point, Visa's 60th anniversary was approaching, and leadership was looking for engaging ways to celebrate and tell the Visa story across their digital channels.
“I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do compelling storytelling in a refreshingly different way. I explored how much it would cost to make a 90-second or two-minute animated video to run on social,” Ninad said.
It turned out the video wouldn't cost much, so he commissioned an animation-focused agency Visa had previously worked with to create it.
Production took about six to eight weeks and the video was unveiled across their social channels on September 18, 2018 — the date of Visa's 60th anniversary.
“We hosted it on our YouTube page and then embedded that link in several locations,” Ninad said. “But we also hosted the video natively on Twitter and LinkedIn because most social platforms favor natively-posted videos.”
Now Ninad is leaning into doing more animated GIFs because they're faster and cheaper to produce than their longer counterparts.
“The agency has a pretty rigorous process to create animated videos,” Ninad said. “Clearly we can't use the format for every context. We typically use it where we have the opportunity to tell a story in between 20 seconds and a minute or two minutes. And we're also using more animated GIFs when the turnaround times need to be super fast.”
While animation is steadily making a case for itself at Visa, Ninad said traditional video isn't going anywhere.
“There are some contexts where traditional video is unbeatable,” he said. When it comes to inspirational stories, behind-the-scenes life at Visa, or showcasing an executive or event, traditional video is more effective than animation.
“Traditional video will always have its place,” Ninad said. “But there are contexts where animated video can punch above its weight.”
According to Ninad, animated videos can be a great way to disseminate certain types of information in an engaging way.
He also explained that animated videos tend to have higher completion rates. “There are dropoff points in every video on social — some within the first five seconds,” he said. “But anecdotally we're seeing those dropoffs come later in our animated videos.”
Moving forward, Ninad hopes to develop Visa's animated video strategy even further.
“You can get pretty rich and interactive with animation,” he said. He's exploring using more voiceover — which tends to increase engagement value, but can be pricey.
Ninad explained they want to find a way to make their videos more engaging without falling into the trap of adding too many expensive bells and whistles.
For anyone looking to introduce animated video into their social media content, Ninad suggested evaluating the fit for your brand.
“You have to look at the format, voice and tone, appeal to the audience, and of course, brand appropriateness and cost,” he said.
Ninad recommends evaluating whether animated video or animated GIFs make sense for your business objectives for digital and social.
“We produce a lot of thought leadership type of content which can sometimes be hard to process in a fast-paced social media context. Animation is a powerful tool to help social media users understand complex concepts within seconds, and that's part of our objectives,” Ninad said. “So, evaluate the fit for your particular context.”