Facebook (Not So) Live

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Live streamed content performs well on the network, but Facebook seems to incentivise views after the fact.

It seems businesses and publishers on Facebook really couldn’t be happier with Facebook Live. Videos have much stronger organic performance than the next best thing on Facebook (photos) anyway, but Live in particular presents the opportunity to engage your Facebook audience in real time. The question is whether this concept is truly panning out past its novelty when most of a stream’s views and engagement come after streaming concludes.

Several weeks ago Facebook’s head of video, Fidji Simo, told TechCrunch that, “Around two-thirds of the watch time for Facebook Live happens when the video is no longer live.” This isn’t itself particularly noteworthy, given that Facebook Live videos do not disappear after a stream ends, effectively turning the stream into a normal video.

What is interesting is that Facebook recently implemented a feature that allows viewers to post reactions at key points throughout a stream (like an emoji or a comment) that then serves as a reference point for viewers after the stream concludes. Much like the comment overlays on Soundcloud, later viewers can jump to these reaction points to essentially skip to the “good” part of a stream.

This is obviously a positive for consumers, but presents potential problems for businesses. What happens when the most viewed portion of your stream is a soundbite taken out of context? More than that, why bother with live streaming if people are going to wait until later to watch an archived version with annotated highlights? It seems that Facebook Live videos now have little (if anything at all) to offer over an edited production, so why do them?

While a majority of views come after the fact, there is something in the live immediacy that brands crave – the hope that users will tune in because they’re getting something in real-time. But brand content on Facebook – like virtually every other live programming that does not involve suspense or sports — does not qualify as must-see-live content for most consumers.

Facebook Live does recall a similar situation brands faced with the advent of DVR. How do you leverage live content when “live” comes at the expense of convenience – that is the viewing of content whenever the user feels like it; convenience that the young power users of the web have grown deeply attached to. The short answer is to produce content that feels as valuable archived as it does live.

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