Facebook and the Future of Video

As of June 2019, Facebook has 2.41 billion monthly active users. That’s more than seven times the population of the United States, and nearly twice the population of India. Every month, this borderline unimaginable sea of people logs on to the world’s most popular social media platform via desktop or mobile in order to update their status, scroll through their timeline, message their friends, and–increasingly–watch video content. 

Every single day users watch over 100 million hours of video content on Facebook. This is less than ten million short of YouTube’s daily viewing numbers, and that platform is exclusively built around video viewing. What started off as essentially an afterthought for Facebook continues to expand exponentially. Looking back at statistics from 2016, views of sponsored video content on Facebook jumped by over 250% in just a single year. 

This colossal growth was no accident: Facebook has firmly and publicly dedicated itself to developing the limitless potential of video content. Even as you continue to explore content across all social media channels, Facebook’s emphasis on video makes them unique. But how and why are they undertaking this large-scale pivot – and more importantly, how can your brand or company benefit from whatever comes next?

Source: Facebook Newsroom

Let’s begin by looking back at the start of this pivot, to try and grasp the thinking that motivated it. While Facebook has dabbled in video for half a decade, it is only in the past three years that video has become not only a priority, but arguably the priority of this digital giant. Things really kicked off when, In 2016, Facebook dramatically expanded its live streaming feature (dubbed Facebook Live, appropriately enough) for users around the world. That same year, they began paying publishers and other influential creatives to generate original content as part of a major push towards besting rivals YouTube and Netflix.

In 2017, Facebook debuted their on-demand streaming service Facebook Watch. During their fourth quarter earnings call that year, the company’s infamous CEO Mark Zuckerberg described video as a megatrend and stated their intention to “keep putting video first across [Facebook’s] family of apps.” Since then, the platform has kept its word by pouring over a billion dollars into original content from an array of sources and repeatedly tweaking its algorithm to emphasize video…as long as it embraces certain factors, which we will delve into later. 

And what exactly have all these ambitions added up to over the past three years? Try eight billions video views a day – a number that no video content marketer can afford to ignore. 

What Comes Next

By now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Okay, so that’s where Facebook was. But where is it going to head next?” As a brand, it is obviously important to understand how Facebook’s recent dedication to video (across a variety) of platforms will affect your content.

Fortunately, Facebook realizes this and has recently released an infographic breaking down some of the ways that its users view advertising content. Take a look at their findings below: 

Source: Facebook Newsroom

What can we discern from this chart? That live streaming Facebook video content is by far the most successful at retaining viewers over time, which means that it also has a much higher chance at generating engagement for marketers. 

In response to live video’s overwhelming popularity, Facebook has further adjusted its algorithm to emphasize videos that “generate conversation” between users…which tend to be from Facebook Live. The arrangement is cyclical. Think of it as the tail wagging the dog, with the greater whole (Facebook) reshaping itself to favor a small, but formidable element (Facebook Live) which in turn is made even more popular. 

As a result, 81% of businesses prefer Facebook for their video marketing. This is good news for Facebook too, and a big reason for them to continue encouraging the spread of video content. By 2020, Facebook’s video ad revenue is expected to surpass 10 billion dollars. The more videos viewed, the more money made. 

Because of video’s popularity, Facebook has begun investing even more money in bigger budget productions, rather than just the short-form “spotlight” videos that it favored until 2018. Their hope is to develop two branching creatives paths: Long-form “hero” shows that it will acquire and own completely, and shorter “ecosystem” shows independently uploaded by publishers to Facebook Watch. In addition to these paths rivalling both Netflix and YouTube respectively, Facebook’s doubling-down reflects their confidence in the continued power of video content. 

As a matter of fact–and as we mentioned above–the most recent algorithmic adjustments to Facebook have been crafted specifically with video content in mind. Based on their own self-stated standards and principles, here are the three core elements that Facebook’s latest algorithm will take into account:

Loyalty and Intent: Intent and repeat viewership are two important factors that Facebook will now consider when surfacing videos in users’ News Feeds. Going forward, videos that people seek out and re-watch multiple times will be ranked more highly than those they don’t. 

Video and viewing duration: Facebook has previously been criticized for including casual video views of only a few seconds (or less) in their metrics. This appears to be changing, as the new algorithm prioritizes videos that capture viewers’ attention for at least one minute, especially with videos that are at least three minutes long.

Originality: In order to penalize so-called “sharing schemes” and other shady content activity, Facebook will be ranking original video content more heavily than shared content. Publishers are encouraged to create and release their original videos more steadily, in long-term content packages

Though naturally none of these suggestions come with any guarantees, following the latest guidelines specifically set down by Facebook is still an important way for your brand to stay on top of the platform’s video trends going forward. Their approach to video may be constantly evolving but their (relative) openness about this process is a terrific resource for video content marketers to take advantage of. Check Facebook’s blogs and press releases consistently for updates that might have an affect on your creative and strategic approach. 

Some may take a look at the big picture and worry that pursuing audiences on this platform is no longer worth it. But while Facebook’s overall growth has admittedly begun to slack due to a number of factors, from data breach scandals to political meddling to a shifting marketplace, its dedication to video has not. Whether you’re utilizing promoted content or hoping for organic growth, Facebook remains a pivotal platform to master. As they continue to plot their next move in dominating the world of video content, there remains plenty of room for quick-witted video marketers to stake a claim and grow in new directions. 

Leland F.

Leland F.