Live In Lockdown
With around 2.5 billion people worldwide operating under some kind of lockdown, the demand for human connection has never been stronger.
In a virtual sense, the most effective means of achieving this is via live-streaming, hence enterprise video conferencing tool Zoom's entry into the vernacular.
With the accompanying terrors of Zoombombing etc.
Meanwhile, live-streaming cameras and tools have become the new toilet paper, with popular start-up Mevo seeing over-whelming surges in demand in recent weeks.
"COVID-19 related demand has increased more than 10x. Help us stay in stock by investing in Mevo Inc. on Wefunder"
While social networks have long offered live video capabilities, the features have never been particularly popular with users.
It literally took a global pandemic for people to know Instagram Live was even "a thing".
However, Fidji Simo, Head of the Facebook App, told Bloomberg over the weekend that the number of people in the U.S. watching livestreams via Facebook Live has increased by 50% since January, claiming that "Live is definitely exploding right now".
Fidji Simo, Head of the Facebook App
"This is a really unique moment. [Facebook has had to] adjust really quickly and really reshape our roadmap."
COVID-19 is fuelling substantial innovation for the Live video as Facebook looks to iterate on users' current go-to features.
Expanded Facebook Focus & Live Features
The reshaping of Facebook's product roadmap around Live impacts internal Facebook resourcing, News Feed and notifications.
According to Bloomberg, Facebook is shifting people working on products that encourage in-person gathering, like Facebook Events or Marketplace and asking them to temporarily volunteer for products in need of more help, like Live, News and Groups.
Meanwhile, Facebook has stopped showing as many Event reminders and notifications to users, as per above.
While live-streaming is getting its day in the sun now, that is unlikely to end in a post-pandemic world.
Fidji Simo, Head of the Facebook App
"It's a need that exists in times of physical distancing, but it's a need that exists in normal times as well".
Something recent Zoom shareholders are also hoping for.
With expanded team focus and engineering capability, updated functionality for Facebook Live is to roll out over the coming weeks, including:
- Audio only mode
- Watch Facebook Live videos without a Facebook account
- Automatic closed captioning
- Expansion of digital tipping capabilities to more streamers
- Stars function, which allows creators to make money over streams, is expanding to musicians and cultural institutions
- Mainly used by gamers until now
- Toll-free phone numbers for charity streams to take live callers
Facebook is also launching a new Live Producer tool (see image above) that lets page managers take greater control of their live broadcasts.
Especially benefiting more professional setups that require a connected camera and software encoder.
Take, for example, U.K. fitness guru Joe Wicks who is generating millions of views every morning for his 9 am live-streamed P.E. classes for children.
Admittedly he's killing it via YouTube, but you get the idea.
Live Producer also includes a range of other bells and whistles, making it easier to manage live streams and includes tools like comment moderation, overlays, and clipping.
Is It Time For Marketers To Dive In?
While in a pre-pandemic era, users and marketers were apathetic towards live video, the former has since embraced it enthusiastically.
So where does this leave the latter?
Like it or loath it, social algorithms love it.
In 2019 Q3 Facebook Live was the most engaging post type on the platform, generating the highest median post interactions (24), followed by images (17.5) and videos (14).
Live video dominated all other formats throughout 2019, much as it did in 2018.
Therefore, for communicators that are seeing ad budgets clipped, live video offers a decent route to organic exposure on the platform.
On top of this, late in 2019, Facebook introduced a series of new features for Facebook Live, which make marketing implementation less daunting, while improving look and feel.
Something which is often off-putting for marketing communications purposes.
Through the Live API, you can now use a "rehearsal" feature to broadcast live only to Page admins and editors to test new production setups, interactive features and show formats before going live to a full audience.
It is also possible to trim the beginning and end of a live video, removing that awkward, "is it on yet" moment which plagues the majority of online live video.
With the platform prioritising it and users doubling down on it, marketers won't be far behind with Facebook Live.