Forget Millennials. Is Your Business Ready for Video Natives?

They’re more likely to share an Instagram Story than send an email. They own Snapchat Spectacles and aren’t shy to wear them. Day after day, week after week, they document their lives in HD video and upload to friends, colleagues and even customers. They think YouTube is old school.

Meet the planet’s first generation of “Video Natives.” They’re some of the youngest members of the digitally-savvy millennial cohort—and they’re more comfortable making and consuming digital video than any other generation in history.

The first wave of Video Natives were born in the late ‘90s. They came of age on Snapchat, spending their teenage age years honing skills before turning their video virtuosity to other platforms.

The result is that communicating via video is second nature for this generation: this includes consuming video from all the usual suspects (YouTube, Facebook, et al.) but also self-broadcasting video of themselves. In fact, it’s this broadcasting element—continuously producing content, not just consuming it—that’s the real difference maker.

And just like the current generation of “social media natives” has changed how business engage with customers, this new generation of Video Natives will come with its own set of challenges and rewards for companies. Here’s a look at how businesses can keep pace.

Forget what you think you know about video

It goes without saying that Video Natives have a preference for video over other channels. Sixty-two percent of millennials prefer to watch a video from a company rather than read something, for instance. They learn by video. And they’re even starting to ditch texting altogether in favour of sharing quick Snaps with friends.

But whether they’re producing or consuming video, Video Natives crave authenticity: short, casual videos resonate more than over-produced, big-budget vids. For businesses, this means that while high production value still has its place, it’s key to embrace video as a more casual, everyday communication tool, as well.

Salesforce’s how-to videos on YouTube, for example, are just screen captures with a voiceover: a low-budget way to communicate with an audience eager to engage with video. Hubspot has a whole YouTube channel dedicated to Q&As with expert staff members. Slack’s customer testimonial video is mostly talking heads filmed at their desks. The takeaway message: Now that everyone has an HD camera in their pocket, it’s time to take a cue from the VideoNatives and democratize video creation.

Find VideoNatives in their natural habitat

If Video Natives are the audience you want to reach (and you should want to reach them—these are young professionals with disposable income), you’ve got to go where they are.

Critically, Video Natives tend to “let content find them” via apps and social feeds, rather than going out and aggressively searching for it. This represents a significant departure from the previous generation of digital pioneers, for whom the search engine was the first stop for content hunting. In other words, you might have the best SEO in the world, but still be virtually invisible to Video Natives.

So how do you actually find your way onto Video Natives’ feeds on social media? This starts not with any technical gimmickry or optimization, but with creating video that people actually want to click on and share. That means content that entertains, informs and surprises… just delivering a sales pitch doesn’t cut it. SolarWinds is a great example of a company doing it right. Though they deal in IT management software (which isn’t always the most clickable topic), they’ve built a highly engaging Instagram feed featuring videos of funny product tutorials, sidekick bracket competitions and relatable #ITProblems.

Rethink workplace communication

The Video Native wave also has real implications on how we communicate inside the workplace. At Vidyard, VideoNatives (who make up about half of our staff) are more likely to fire off a quick video to coworkers or clients than to spend time drafting out the perfect email—and I think that’s a good thing. At the same time, video is an invaluable way to bridge the divide for remote workforces: a mounting priority now that nearly half of Americans spend some time working from home.

Personally, I’ve also adopted this approach at an executive level, sending out monthly video dispatches to my entire team of nearly 200 employees. It’s a clickable way to get the message out and offers a chance to show a human side while sharing complex ideas. Deeper still, the right analytics tools mean I can see exactly how many people are watching and engaging—something very difficult to do via email or even in an in-person presentation.

One important caveat: Though Video Natives may be the most avid video users now, the medium’s appeal transcends any one age group. One-third of all online activity is currently spent watching video, a figure that’s rising fast. Just as social media started with a young, digitally savvy generation and spread outward, we’re all slowly but surely becoming honorary Video Natives. For businesses, shifting focus to video means future-proofing for a world where text is fast becoming an afterthought—for all of us.