Facebook Live. Long Live Facebook.
My early love affair with Periscope came to an end the day the Facebook Live icon appeared my Android phone. After a year of using Periscope, I never got more than 9 concurrent viewers. I tried creating a schedule for doing “shows,” consistently tried to write eye-catching descriptions, turned on geolocation, and last December I even sang holiday tunes on my morning commute. (The singing show had my biggest viewership with people from Russia requesting Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”)
Whereas on Facebook Live, from my living room on a Sunday afternoon with no advanced notice, no format for “what works”, and terrible lighting, I got 49 people to stay with me for 15 minutes while I showed them my new dog and gave them a tour of my home. And then my signal crapped out and my live stream terminated. I guess my WiFi Router was telling me, “Leave them wanting more, George!” And then I uninstalled Periscope and started writing this post.
Why was Facebook Live so much better than Periscope? Because I got 5.5x more viewers on my first Facebook Live than I ever did on Periscope and it hooked me instantly. After investing years in building up my “audience” (see: Facebook Friends), all I had to do was turn on my camera and they were there to watch me. And I was rewarded with a massive (for me) turn out on my first try. How many times have you been on Periscope and had 0 viewers for the whole time? Yeah, it sucks. Once you’re established, Facebook makes it so you never have to build another audience to re-follow you every time there is a new feature.
The reality for apps outside of the Facebook ecosystem that depends on the network effect is that they will never be as impactful as existing as part of the Facebook eco-system. Other apps merely exist until Facebook either acquires or replaces them with a perfected product because Facebook’s real power is it’s user base.
While Facebook can bring the users, their real challenge will be the content.
This is true on Facebook as well as on other platforms. There’s too much choice, no schedule, and no curated list of “what’s good” to watch. Leaving viewers to soldier through on their own is a recipe for disaster as they will eventually churn out from frustration or give up due to too much choice. From the perspective of quality of content, new creative formats must and will evolve just like they did on YouTube with the Vlogger.
Facebook has built the most valuable and powerful platform in the world. What started out as a way to connect students, has turned into the world’s database of people, each uniquely tagged and organized. The origins of the Internet may have been founded in anonymity, but what people really want is to be connected in a real way to other people. Facebook Live is the realest of the real: no filter, unedited, and delivering an authentic experience.
However, viewers are ready for a new experience that transcends what currently exists. For content creators big and small, what has worked on TV or YouTube needs to be re-thought for Fb Live. Go beyond the traditional studio shoot with a desk and coffee mugs or the static webcam shot from your bedroom. For Facebook, I believe that they should focus on product enhancements to assist with scheduling, they need to embrace the creative community using Live to help them succeed, and they should bring curation to the platform that involves humans not just algorithms to help cut through the noise and get viewers what they want to watch faster. With these elements, Facebook Live may just be the hottest things since, well, Facebook.