Facebook Goes ‘Live’, but what does that mean for advertisers?
A recent study by Cisco claims that by 2020, 75% of the content on the Web will be video. According to Cisco, “The adoption of mobile devices (…) (is) driving user growth two times faster than the global population over the next five years. This surge of mobile users, smart devices, mobile video and 4G networks will increase mobile data traffic eightfold over the next five years.”. We can already see how online video “consumption” is in constant growth, thanks to Vine, Periscope and Snapchat (and Meerkat, to an extent), to name a few. The quick rise of “Snap” video applications is probably only an introduction of what is to come. According to Lindsay Nelson (global head of brand strategy at Vox Media) “We are spending a lot of time trying to understand there is a certain type of person that watches video and there are lots of people that never watch video. The better understanding you have in terms of what to serve to whom, you’re going to get smarter about the way you distribute”.
Different social media networks have been trying for a long time to decipher what it is that makes social videos attractive, popular or viral, and how they could eventually monetize it. Let’s have a quick review of what are the stronger and weaker sides of each of the current video “big-guns:
YouTube is obviously the king in terms of video content and, to some extent, also live transmissions. But its social game, as it is with Google, is lacking. Something in the UX or UI just doesn’t “click”, and it is still mainly a source for fail videos, tutorials or a (questionably) legal music streaming service. It is obviously strong in content, commercial horizon and audience size, but its social aspect is… well… having difficulties.
With Periscope, the struggling Twitter is trying to get into the Live Transmission aspect of social media. As mentioned, Twitter seems to have problems pulling in new users to its service, and its Timeline, which is (though they are trying to change it) chronological, seems to deter users who look for a more “personalized” approach. Periscope opened a new market (albeit a moderate one) for Twitter, allowing them to attract people who were previously deterred by the supposedly chaotic network. Fantastic with content and social, but the audience size and commercial horizon are lacking.
The Twitter-owned Vine is probably better at the commercial aspect, allowing users to create 6-second videos, looped virtually endlessly, encouraging them to be shared and commented upon in a way more user friendly than YouTube for instance, but it is still quite a “niche” app, which plays well with its Mother-App ideology of “keep it short and simple”, but in terms of monetizing potential it still lacks in audience, struggling with “only” 40 million active users. Very strong with content, commercial horizon and social, but lacking in audience size.
Meerkat. A seemingly rising star in the live transmissions game, Meerkat have been struggling for quite some time with getting new Daily Active Users enjoying its app and transmitting live from virtually everywhere. The infrastructure was there, but it slowly started to remind a chinese ghost town, with a huge, modern shopping center and practically no buyers. The promising young talent that is Meerkat have recently decided to ditch the town square and start looking for people to live in its town. A great place for content, but struggling with audience size and social (at least at the moment).
Now- the new, cool kid on the block. Snapchat. An app that started as a way for teens to keep their messages away from peeky parents evolved into a social media monster. Most adults won’t even understand it. The idea is that a given message on a given device stays for 15-30 seconds until it self-deletes. And people love their privacy. (leave screenshots aside). In a matter of no-time, Snapchat have managed to bring together a huge audience of casual (and not so) friends, a supposedly direct connection between public figures and their fans via video, simplicity of use and create its own jargon and social dialect. Marketers are slowly understanding that the younger audience is leaving the Archi-Social-Network in favour of privacy, un-edited content and direct connection. It is doing a fantastic job in social, and audience size, but lacks in content and commercial horizon (both of which Snapchat is intensely improving recently).
Which leads us to the ultimate Archi-Social-Network – Facebook. No need to introduce here. Facebook has by far the biggest daily active audience among the above mentioned social networks. It is competing strongly with Twitter in the reading content area, and with Instant Articles it seems to be getting there. In terms of monetizing its power, it is doing a very good job competing with Google on advertisers and their money. Both of the companies are commercial giants at the moment. It is, obviously, doing pretty well on the social game as well, still. The younger audience is slowly leaving it though towards the new cool kid, Snapchat. Through its own Instagram, it is fighting with the likes of Vine – including short, looped videos, ideal for marketers, to be played on its Timeline (more about the forthcoming algorithm change in Instagram, and what it means for advertisers – next week). But facts are facts – Facebook does not delete your posts, videos, pictures, 15 seconds after you friend saw them, and thus, it does not guarantee privacy. But – it does allow you to reach, at least potentially, around 1.4 billion people worldwide. And this is its biggest power.
It is in essence a very interesting dilemma – what are we more of – privacy freaks or exhibistionists? A safe bet would be on both – we value our privacy, but if something hurts us, moves us, makes us laugh, we want to share it with as many people as possible. We want to be able to tell a story. We want to sit by the bonfire and listen to a fairytale, in some distant land, where people who we thought are different, are basically the same. And this is where Facebook is putting its money. If we love sharing, we should do it full-power, i.e live stream yourself to 1.4 billion people. It is nothing new. Meerkat and Periscope have been doing it for years. But they don’t have 1.4 billions active users.
Which leads us to the question we have all gathered here for – what the hell does it mean for marketers? A couple of things –
- Facebook will now do its best to promote (i.e locate higher in the news feed) live video streams that it knows you’d might be interested in, so as a marketer you’d might want to consider inviting your clients for a walk down the office, for instance.
- The Live function is now open to virtually everybody (assuming you have a camera that is), meaning that you can potentially connect in a very direct way, with no edits, with your audience.
- Live videos will probably take a bigger piece of the already expensive real-estate that is the News Feed, meaning that the better the story you tell within your video, the better are the chances more people will engage with it, and the better “real estate” it will get.
- Essentially? Not much more than that – Try to tell a good story. Listen to your audience. Talk to your audience. You’ll be fine if you stick to these.
One last thing – Online video advertising spending in the United States in 2014 was $4.4 billion, in 2015 it was $6.42 billion, and the current prognosis for 2016 is $9.14 billion. That’s a 150% annual growth rate. If the trend is stable, and who knows, it just might be, by 2020, the above mentioned “75% of content” time, the online video advertising market will spend a baffling $46.2 billion. A new bubble? Time will tell, but for now Facebook have proved it puts “the money where the mouth is” – it managed to monetize its News Feed impressively, changing the advertising game radically, it might just as well change the online video game. As Julia Greenberg from Wired says– “If it’s not articles, then it’s videos. If it’s not videos, then it’s live. If it’s not live, then it’s bots. Facebook will continue to iterate and experiment with the kinds of experiences it thinks people using Facebook want. It’s trying to be new, innovative, immersive. It wants to stay cool to keep you coming back. Publishers, meanwhile, will continue to clamor to keep up with the next best thing. They’ll reallocate resources, shift strategies, and change titles. They’ll tell the kinds of stories that work on Facebook for now, or, at the very least, tell some stories that work on Facebook for now. Because when Facebook says “jump,” you jump. Even if the company can’t promise the ground will be there when you fall.”