Facebook’s recent announcement to “test the waters” with live streaming video isn’t all that surprising. Real-time content drives conversation on social media, and users made it clear that while they enjoy images, it’s live, authentic interaction they crave. As the king of social, Facebook’s move into live streaming has legitimized it—even as Periscope and Meerkat compete to occupy the space. But is there too much competition in live video? And why is Facebook interested in taking this on? As a marketer, what does this mean for you and your digital strategy?
Background on the Change
Several months ago, Facebook rolled out live streaming capability to celebrities and a few high-profile users. Today, it’s willing to expand the feature to a select group of iPhone users, with the intent of giving everyone the ability to share live video on Facebook sometime soon. Select “live video” from the status update screen and stream video to family, friends, and followers as comments appear in real time. Facebook Live sounds an awful lot like Twitter’s Periscope, and a lot of the features are the same. But unlike Periscope, videos are saved until manually deleted and Live is built directly within Facebook, which may keep more people from leaving the platform. In addition to live streaming, Facebook also introduced Moments, a photo feature for grouping pictures together.
Capturing the Next Generation of Social Users
What motivates Facebook to enter such a competitive space? It looks like a strategic move to appeal to the next generation of social users who are trending towards video. Until now, Periscope dominated live video, leaving Meerkat in the dust. In fact, Periscope has a pretty solid following with over 25 million mentions since March on social networks. Facebook’s move is bold—and an obvious attempt to reach young Millennials that grew up with Snapchat and Instagram. True, this demographic is already on Facebook, but they’re using it less than other networks. Offer live streaming and Facebook can keep the most sought-after generation engaged, rather than let them stray to other platforms.
Periscope and Meerkat have been in the live streaming space for a while and users are familiar with them. So what is Facebook’s angle? They’ll likely harness a great deal when they eventually open up streaming to business as most are still in the beginning phases of learning how to use Periscope. In general, corporations are invested heavier in Facebook than Twitter and it will be interesting to see how live streaming evolves.
Reinforcing a Strategic Push Towards Video
Facebook has tried in the past to appeal to the younger crowd. Sometimes they’ve been successful, sometimes not so much. The move to imitate Snapchat with Slingshot was less than effective, yet breaking out Messenger and launching Facebook M was well-received. With Instagram, Messenger and now live streaming, Facebook is creating an image while reinforcing its focus on video. Mark Zuckerberg solidified the push by suggesting video creators would receive a revenue share of video views. Users also have the option to upload a video as a profile picture. Videos are engaging, second to images, and having user-generated video can only support the ways in which Facebook will eventually compete with YouTube and others for user generated content.
What Facebook Live Means For Marketers
While Facebook hasn’t made live streaming available to business yet, as a marketer how do you cut through the noise and decide where to focus if live streaming is part of your digital strategy?
Start by analyzing your data to identify where you’re getting the most engagement. It’s a safe bet to assume that most businesses get the majority of it from Facebook. But as organic reach declines and pay to play becomes more common, it’s critical to pay strict attention to where your efficiencies are happening to help you decide where to spend your money. Remember, Twitter and Facebook have different audiences. Early adopters of Periscope were already social, with active profiles on Twitter. Facebook is more static, but adoption rates may be high simply because the audience is vast and they’re pushing it to the masses.
In one of the biggest technology trends of 2015, Facebook may have just legitimized live streaming, and it’s only going to get bigger. For the platform, the key will be in getting businesses to engage in live streaming beyond “safe” activities like recruiting tools or live events. For marketers, choosing the right platform means identifying where you’re getting the most engagement and making an informed decision. It’s no secret that consumers want to see raw footage over packaged video clips and that’s the hook. With more marketers on Facebook than anywhere else, the platform has a unique opportunity to dominate the space. And of course, they’ll always have the obvious advantage—the audience.