Is it time to begin investing in 360 video content to engage the burgeoning virtual reality (VR) audience? Gauging by the panel of 360 and immersive video content creators came together at the 2017 Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”

The dynamic panel brought together experts from Time Inc., Major League Baseball and the New York Times to explore how companies are approaching new consumer behaviors for watching video in VR.

To kick off the discussion, the panel addressed the question of why their organizations decided to invest in 360 video and video for VR. Mia Tramz, managing editor of LIFE VR at Time Inc., noted that the adoption of 360 video gave their video teams “another tool in the toolbox” but was also a strategic brand decision.

“The way we approach 360 video content for People is very different from how we approach it for Time, and Travel & Leisure has its own strategy,” said Tramz. “So it’s been this process of going from brand to brand, and saying, ‘what is it that your audiences would really enjoy in 360?'”

Jamie Leece, VP Games/VR at Major League Baseball (MLB), described the role that 360 video has played in bringing fans closer to the game wherever they are, at all times. The MLB has focused on determining what type of stories they can tell in VR that they can’t tell with traditional 2D content, and found that their fans really engaged with this new type of content.

Ultimately, investing in new types of interactive content is a way for brands to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to content consumption. Christian Tom, VP Sales and Publisher at NowThis, explained: “We’re always looking for the next new way that people are going to consume, specifically on social. We’ve made a strategic bet that 360 video is going to be on social one of the largest consumption patterns coming up.”

Developing a 360 Strategy

With these points in mind, enterprises may want to consider following the lead of these influential media companies. Some ways that businesses across diverse industries can consider leveraging the immersive nature of 360 video to boost their social media marketing power include:

  • Showcasing products with a “behind the scenes” look into how something works.

  • Giving consumers a feeling of being part of an event even when they aren’t attending it.

  • Promoting destinations within the tourism, travel and hospitality industries.

Leece described the MLB’s “behind the scenes” strategy to create scalable content for VR. For example, at last year’s All-Star game, they created a product that allowed people to watch simple 360 video content, and were overwhelmed by the response.

“We found fans just blown away, like most people are who have seen 360 content for the first time,” said Leece. “After seeing that, we decided that for the post-season, we were going to follow the teams around and capture their clinches and celebrations and take fans to places they love to go, like being inside the clubhouse when their team wins.”

Pairing Tech with 360 Video

The panel also discussed how to strategically approach whether to focus content “out of the headset” with 360 video, or “in the headset” using VR video. Veda Shastri, producer of The Daily 360 for the New York Times, explained that most viewers are coming to The Daily 360 on their mobile phones via the New York Times app, Facebook or YouTube, presenting new opportunities for video content formats.

While optimizing for that with their storytelling and shot selection, Shastri notes that certain types of complexity lend themselves to the headset. “A lot of the longer New York Times VR films we’re thinking about as headset experiences,” she said. “And so it’s something that allows us to experiment in different kinds of spaces across the spectrum.”

As the adoption of 360 video and virtual reality experiences continue, brands will need to figure how to integrate it into their overall content strategy. “You need a reason to make 360 video that isn’t just novelty and ‘it’s in 360, you can spin around,'” Tom said. “The biggest challenge is finding the visual hooks and a compelling strategic rationale to do 360, so that it doesn’t just feel like making a 360 video for the sake of using 360.”

Get a look at some of the technology that is making 360 video possible and easy to capture.