Historically, Twitter has been the go-to destination for trending, real-time and “live” moments — but there’s always been competition. Facebook, for instance, has long wanted this space for their own, firing the first shots in their War on Twitter in early 2014 with the introduction of the trending section. But the Menlo Park-based social networking giant hasn’t stopped there; instead, they’ve chosen to challenge their real-time rival head on with a new suite of potential Twitter-killing products.
In 2014, Facebook launched its Mentions app, an exclusive service only available for verified pages of celebrities, reporters and publishers. While originally intended to assist VIPs in managing and engaging with their fan base, it ultimately became the first chance for users to “go live” with their following, which is often larger on Facebook than Twitter. This is important to note, since Twitter had always been the preferred channel for keeping up with live events and “second screening” during live TV.
Next, in its ongoing effort to bring TV audiences and TV dollars to the platform, Facebook shifted its focus to the last bastion of truly live TV watching – sports. In late January 2016, Facebook launched Sports Stadium, a dedicated hub designed as the go-to destination for updates, scores and real-time conversations about and around live sporting events.
The only missing piece to Facebook’s plan for sports domination is, of course, streaming the actual games themselves — a piece that could soon fall into place should Facebook come out on top of a rumored bidding war between itself, Google and Amazon for the rights to stream the NFL’s Thursday Night Football and the Holy Grail of live sports, the Super Bowl, turn out to be true.
Additionally, Facebook has been testing and improving its live video capabilities throughout the first quarter of 2016. The platform rolled out Live Video first to celebrities and publishers, then to all Pages and users (iOS only) in January – and, by mid-March, Facebook plans to make Live Video available to all US Facebook users, including those using Android devices.
Live Now Influences The Algorithm
So what does this mean for how brands use Facebook? As with any new development on the platform, the final step to total live video supremacy is a change in how the algorithm treats the new type of content. With this most recent update, Facebook Live videos are appearing higher in users’ News Feeds when said videos are actually live, rather than notifying users of live videos after livestreams have ended.
This change is critical to the success of live video on the platform; in a recent study, Facebook found that users spend up to 3x longer watching a Facebook Live video compared to a video that’s being rebroadcast. And according to Live product manager Vadim Lavrusik, 53 percent of all video views happen on re-shares. Thus, combining a live broadcast function similar to Periscope and Meerkat while still allowing users to save and share the video after the fact would leverage video’s already robust distribution and scalability on the platform.
How It Works
Facebook Live works much like Twitter’s Periscope product, the current king of the livestream. To begin sharing, simply tap “What’s on your mind?” at the top of News Feed and select the live video icon, add a description and select your audience (Public, Friends, a specific group, etc.) During the broadcast, broadcasters can see the number of live viewers, as well as respond to comments from viewers in real time. After the broadcast ends, users can save to save to their Page’s Timeline like any other video, which can then be saved or deleted as desired.
What This Means For Brands
Given Facebook’s increasing commitment to real-time content, Digitas recommends including Facebook Live in a brand’s activation toolkit alongside Periscope and Snapchat. Now that all U.S. users have the ability to share live video, coupled with the recent algorithm changes to ensure that users will actually see live content, it has become a viable tool with considerable potential for engagement during tentpole or otherwise relevant events.
Note, however, that the option for either Sports Stadium sponsorships or promoted live video is not yet available on Facebook, which puts it, for the moment, at a disadvantage to a Periscope livestream, which can live in a promoted Tweet or Moment. However, paid support for Facebook Live and event sponsorships on Sports Stadium are the obvious next steps for Facebook’s ongoing march towards real-time relevance, so we’ll continue to monitor updates from the platform and leverage any and all future opportunities for our brands.
Readers: What do you think of Facebook Live?