Facebook Brings Authenticity Back to Social With Live Video

In early 2016, the marketing world witnessed a telling stat that indicated that the network’s engagement rates weren’t as impenetrable as once believed. The Information noted that the Facebook was experiencing a 21% decline in original content sharing, attributed to increased user frustration after over-saturation of content from 4 million advertisers. In simple terms, brands were overcrowding the space and the network’s authentic user-generated content was disappearing.

Now, five years after its acquisition of Instagram, Facebook is moving full force to counteract this loss, revitalize authenticity and remain the leading networking by leveraging live video.

Losing Authenticity

Facebook’s permeation into the everyday lives of users is evident when looking at its growing suite of stand-alone apps. Messenger alone has hit 1 billion users and continues to expand its capabilities with bots, stickers and ephemeral messaging. And Instagram has become more competitive with its adversary, Snapchat, after the introduction of Instagram Stories last year. But while Facebook’s native app had a large user base, the gap in providing user-generated content meant that it was losing authenticity and therefore user engagement.

Facebook Live

After the famed Periscope vs Meerkat debacle of 2015, Facebook quickly of Twitter’s (Periscope) strides in capturing user experiences by releasing its own iteration in 2016 — Facebook Live. By August, adoption of this initial experiment had taken full force, causing the network to dedicate a whole tab of app real estate to Facebook Live and becoming accessible for users, influencers, publishers and brands.

Image via Facebook Newsroom

Facebook has made Live a strategic priority since its release. Users are alerted of their network’s, favorite influencers’ and publishers’ streams to stay abreast of news in their vicinity. Live is used for local, national and international purposes, drawing away from over-prepared content and instead delivering real-time context in genuine moments. User engagement on these videos helps them trend and brings back the organic discoverability while diluting ad content.

Instagram Live
Complaints of fabricated lifestyles, influencer promotions and falsely-targeted ad content have begun to surface on Instagram since it opened its advertising API in 2015. But because of its initial success in counterbalancing ad saturation on its native app, Facebook doubled up by integrating Live into its Instagram Stories feature. In addition to its new feed-ranking algorithm, Stories and ephemeral messaging capabilities, the network continuously assesses user trends to ensure that authentic user-generated content remains core to the app’s offering to its users.

ReCode’s Kurt Wagner noted that the issue of impersonal content actually drove Instagram execs to refocus its entire product strategy and offering. CEO Kevin Systrom reinforced the need for relevance and authenticity in an interview discussing Instagram’s latest updates.

“Your connections with your friends and your family are the thing that make Instagram work,” Systrom said.

What’s Next?
The push and pull of organic and paid content will continue to remain a challenge for Facebook, Now that it has established Live video as a norm, some brands and publishers who are involved seek to monetize using mid-stream advertising. This may disrupt the balance again, and both Facebook and Instagram will need to anticipate what will need to be done to maintain authenticity across these networks.