Who Needs TV When You Have Facebook Live?

Note: I originally wrote this post on Tuesday following the holiday weekend. I planned on holding it a couple of days, and then Wednesday of this week the world witnessed horrible violence on Facebook Live. I opted to keep the post as written and added some additional thoughts below based on the happenings this week.

Are we sitting on the edge of a new model for how people use Facebook to communicate with each other? We are seeing a perfect storm of conditions for a rapid rollout of Facebook Live to our friends and family. One that is more popular than TV and moving faster than we are prepared for it.

facebook live tv promo

Still here? Bear with me for a minute while I explain.

Facebook Live Just Went Mainstream and You Didn’t Realize

I counted no fewer than 5 friends last weekend publishing stories using Facebook Live. The topics were ordinary fun things like playing with the kids and 4th of July parties. You know, the stuff that most people use Facebook to talk about anymore.  Now, these individuals were not “content creators” nor were they journalists.

Before this, I probably knew of one person that was not a journalist or a marketer that was using the platform to communicate with friends. The majority were people who made their living on Facebook, journalism organizations like the New York Times and Buzzfeed and brands broadcasting live events.

facebook live tv new york times

This is a signal that Facebook has found the right combination of usability, marketing and encouragement for users to try Facebook Live.

It is safe to say we may start seeing more user generated content, in the form of Facebook Live videos. This will come from people we know. This reminds me of that Thanksgiving a few years ago (2011-2012) where everyone’s grandmother (literally) was on the platform.

OK, But How Do We Know That People Want To Watch It?

This new research by Buzzsumo looked at 25m Facebook posts published by the top 10,000 publishers over the last year.  Their research shows Facebook video content clearly outperforming all other formats in terms of shares by audience.  It also shows a steady increase in video output from a powerhouse lineup of entertainment brands including: Jimmy Fallon, Buzzfeed’s Tasty, HBO’s Game of Thrones and a host of global football teams.facebook live tv total video shares

I suspect many of us would agree after reading this study that there are several reasons, beyond subject matter, that make video so engaging on Facebook.

For one, they’ve skewed the platform to show more videos.  In their quest to overtake Youtube as the home for video on the web, Facebook has made no secret of the fact that it has given higher ranking to posts containing paid and organic videos on its platform. 

Second, Facebook has also said that viewers spend 3x as much time watching Live videos than pre-recorded ones. It now ranks those in the news feed accordingly so that you have access to the freshest content.

Third, unlike Snapchat, Facebook already crosses generational boundaries, is easy to use and already is based around your friend list. The problem with many of the other video applications on the market is that you need to build an audience and then convince your friends to join. No longer the case with Facebook; audience already installed.

facebook live tv going to happen

Reality As Entertainment

For the better part of my adult life, our culture has become fascinated with broadcast reality.  The Real World. The Apprentice. American Idol. In fact we forget most of the winners; It’s the spectacle along the way that people remember.  I suppose my biggest fear is that we create an environment where the tools are not just used for socializing and communicating with friends, but for grandstanding or ridicule. 

Afterword: Everything Changed This Week

Facebook has done quite a bit for friends and families, giving them a way to share moments of love and grief when far apart. On Wednesday of this week, we were reminded that it can also quickly broadcast the news of tragedy faster than any other medium.  A young man in Minnesota lost his life at the hands of police over what seems to have been a traffic stop gone horribly wrong. The girlfriend of the young man, captured the aftermath of the event on Facebook Live and its now been seen millions of times around the world. 

This post started off as an essay on why I thought we were about to see a new way of communicating with friends and family with the introduction of live video formats like Facebook Live.  I stand by that, and I think we are indeed going to see this style of communication start to become more prevalent.  For that reason, I think it is important to remember that live video can also be a tool to educate masses and inflame tensions, as well as entertain.

Additional Reading

For those interested in exploring this topic further: