It was only a matter of time.
Just like Amazon, YouTube, and Netflix before it, Facebook officially entered the video streaming game with Facebook Watch.
What is Facebook Watch, and what does it mean for you your marketing strategy?
What is Facebook Watch?
Launched in 2017 to select users in the U.S. via mobile, desktop, and TV apps, Facebook Watch is the company’s entrée into episodic streaming video.
Videos range from mini-documentaries to live sporting events, courtesy of partnerships with Major League Baseball. There was a set group of publishers at launch, but the company opened it up to other creators.
How Does Facebook Watch Make Money?
Facebook Watch is monetized through ad breaks. The producing partners earn 55% of ad break revenue while Facebook keeps 45%.
What Makes Facebook Watch Different From Other Streaming Services?
The streaming video space is undeniably crowded, so Facebook had to find a way to make Facebook Watch stand out. There are three main ways Facebook Watch is different, all of which bode well for its staying power.
- Original video content: Viewed through a new tab called “Watch,” the content is mostly exclusive to Facebook Watch and can’t be seen anywhere else (with the exception of the live content available through deals like the one with Major League Baseball).
- Free: Because it’s monetized through ad breaks, Facebook Watch is totally free for the viewing audience. All they have to do is be logged in to their Facebook account.
- Personalized: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Facebook Watch is hyper-personalized in a way no streaming platform has been before.
The New “Social Viewing” Trend: Facebook Watch Alternatives
Facebook Watch’s personalization takes advantage of everything users already love about the platform – it’s personal, and it’s social. People love getting recommendations for the things they love, and they love sharing those things with friends.
- Facebook Watch provides personalized recommendations in its Discover tab, using fun, Facebook-esque categories like “Most Talked About,” “What’s Making People Laugh,” and “Shows Your Friends Are Watching.”
- Subscribing to a show instantly connects Facebook users with fellow fans through show-linked Groups.
- During a show, Facebook users get access to a live comment section where they can chat with other viewers and friends in real-time.
All these features indicate a strong focus on social viewing. While the social viewing trend is new, we have seen it before.
For example, Tumblr launched its video chat service Cabana (which is now defunct). The app functioned like a Tumblr/FaceTime hybrid, where users could see friends’ reactions in real-time as they all watch a video together.
However, Tumblr didn’t have the massive audience that Facebook enjoys.
Social viewing veteran YouTube made some changes, too. YouTube added in-app chat to its Android and iOS apps.
Previously, users could only share videos out to other apps, such as Twitter or text message, but now conversations can also happen natively on YouTube.
The interface is similar to Google Hangouts and appears to be YouTube’s answer to the messaging functionality offered by Instagram and Snapchat.
When multiple social media platforms follow suit, it’s a sure sign a new trend is here to stay. Social viewing is not going away, so how can marketers take advantage of it?
What Facebook Watch Means for Marketers
Either number means Watch is a major initiative at Facebook that marketers should not ignore. Facebook plans to integrate Watch episodes into the News Feed, and the company has a track record of using the News Feed to drive new features to success.
Here are four ways Facebook Watch is changing the game for marketers.
1. Ads Will Likely Become More Important for Facebook Advertisers
In an increasingly internet-marketing-savvy world, people are getting better at tuning ads out. Google actually gave up on its right sidebar ads and removed them.
Fortunately for advertisers, Facebook Watch holds great promise.
There’s a lot of noise in a Facebook user’s News Feed, so it’s not always easy for your ad to grab attention. With video, you have a captive audience who is stuck watching your ad. They can’t simply scroll down their feed to get away from it.
Longer videos will increase the effectiveness of ad break and mid-roll ads. If Facebook adds social engagement functionality within the ads themselves, such as reactions and sharing, they’ll perform even better.
Traditional television has been on a downward trend for years. Facebook Watch is accelerating the shift of ad dollars from TV to digital and mobile.
2. Facebook Watch Gives Influencers and Social Creators a Powerful Channel
As promising as the ad breaks are, it’s notable that Facebook Watch publishers can opt-out of them entirely.
Instead, they can make money through product placement, as long as they tag the sponsor for transparency. This has huge implications for budding videographers, actors, singers, and documentarians who hope to fund their growth via influencer partnerships.
The rise of the influencer owes much of its success in large part to YouTube. But Facebook Watch could be even more fruitful for influencers.
For instance, Facebook Watch opens up viewing patterns that are less search-oriented than YouTube. Users who watch or subscribe to programs will see those appear in their News Feed along with the other daily updates from friends, rather than having to go to YouTube to check for the latest uploads.
This gives influencers the opportunity to increase engagement through video, as fan affinity with influencers will become even more important.
3. Facebook Live Is Important for Brands
Facebook Live, along with Instagram Live, quickly gained popularity with brands.
Facebook Live allows brands to humanize themselves and connect with fans in real-time. The live shows and events on Facebook Watch do the same.
What resonates with your fans? Do they prefer a structured video format, or something more casual? How often do they want to watch?
Daily shows in particular could be a goldmine for brands. The frequency keeps users coming back, ensuring a lucrative return for product placement or ad breaks. That consistent association with their favorite show could help consumers fall in love with your brand.
4. Facebook Watch Changes the Game for Video Content Marketers
Facebook emphasized the community aspect of Facebook Watch in their official announcement:
“Watching video on Facebook has the incredible power to connect people, spark conversation and foster community,” said Daniel Danker, Facebook’s product director. “On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together.”
Three of the four bullet points in the release mentioned connection and bringing people together. Even the few seed shows Facebook funded are touted as “community-oriented” video series.
It makes sense: The sense of community is what led people to fall in love with the platform in the first place.
Because of this, Facebook Watch videos tend to see higher sharing and social engagement rates than other platforms.
The current list of Facebook Watch programming focuses on reality shows, mini-documentaries, and sports coverage – aligning it more with YouTube than the heavy dramas and comedies of other streaming networks.
But while YouTube optimized for how-to and short-form content, Facebook Watch expands opportunities to longer-form videos as well as pure entertainment and passively consumed content.
Video content marketers should create content that fits into those categories and fosters real-time community discussion. Perhaps for the first time, content should be created with the platform in mind first and foremost. Successful videos on Facebook Watch will encourage and facilitate real-time conversations.
Facebook Watch is great for all marketers. The people on your paid social team will enjoy seeing more eyeballs on their ads, and the organic folks will get more “authentic” opportunities to align themselves with influencers.
More and more, brands want to be seen as friends, not corporations. Facebook Watch lets them do just that. If you are ready to give it a try (or improve your strategy), check out this advanced guide to Facebook Watch.
Have you tried Facebook Watch? What results have you seen?