Facebook has decided to get into the livestreaming game, which means sleepless nights for anyone currently operating in this space. The company introduced Facebook Live earlier this month as a feature exclusive to its Mentions app, which public figures use to interact with their fans. “Facebook has always acknowledged the power of celebrity-only features, like subscription rather than friending on approved pages, so it isn’t surprising that Facebook Live is on offer for them first,” says Rachelle Denton.
The livestreaming market has been dominated until now by rivals Periscope and Meerkat, although the London-based app MyEye made a small splash last month thanks to the involvement of David Beckham as both investor and ambassador. But while they may have been the first to forge a path in live mobile broadcasting, Periscope and Meerkat have a serious competitor in Facebook.
Not only does Facebook already have a global monthly mobile user base of 1.31 billion, it also has an established revenue model in targeted advertising, which makes it an attractive potential brand partner. “Naturally brands will want in on this reach and especially an accepted way of creating low-cost video content, so it will roll out more broadly,” says Denton.
A key differentiator for Facebook Live is that it eschews the ephemerality of Meerkat and Periscope, and saves all video footage as a permanent file. “That means Live not only drives real-time engagement, but also adds to Facebook’s exclusive content trove that it can show in the feed to make lucrative video ads seem more natural there,” says Josh Constine at TechCrunch.
If and when Live does make its way to the average user, the trick will lie in making it appealing to young people. Teenagers are notoriously outspoken in their disdain for Facebook, and the rapid uptake of livestreaming apps was due in part to the fact that they were provided exciting tools for self-expression, and brand new platforms to explore. Duplicating that kind of thrill under the familiar blue Facebook logo could be tough.
“It’s been theorised that ‘letting only celebrities use it first could teach users when they have a moment worth streaming’,” says Denton, “but honestly? Probably not.” It is more likely, she theorises, that Facebook Live will reflect the tone and content of your existing profile, whether that be footage of live gigs, or the usual never-ending carousel of weddings and christenings that has become synonymous with Facebook.
However, there is the possibility that a new breed of Facebooker could emerge from Live (Periscope user Amanda Oleander has been hailed as the ‘Kim Kardashian’ of the medium). Says Denton: “You only need to look at Vine to see that the creative will rise to the top.” That said, when was the last time you heard anybody being described as Facebook famous?