Facebook bolsters its video streaming tool with new features
In the two months since Facebook made its video broadcasting tool available to all users, the social network has found people are 10 times more likely to write a comment under a live stream than an ordinary video.
That intense engagement is what makes Facebook and marketers salivate, as it could open a new front for a company whose advertising revenue grew nearly 50% last year to over $17 billion.
The Menlo Park, Calif., tech giant said it won’t include ads in its streaming video in the near future. For now, the company is mainly interested in learning how users interact with its new tool and whether a vibrant ecosystem of user-generated videos can drive its growth.
On Wednesday, the company introduced a host of new features to Facebook Live, including the ability to live-stream to select groups of friends, live reactions with floating emojis and photo filters.
The playful additions are reminiscent of Periscope’s floating hearts and Instagram’s photo filters. Facebook also plans to add a doodling tool similar to Snapchat’s.
Such features will encourage people to view live videos — and keep watching them, said Michael Pachter, an analyst for Wedbush Securities.
“Facebook is merely trying to make the site stickier any way that they can,” he said.
Facebook won’t say how many people are using its Facebook Live, explaining it’s too early to judge the product, which was first introduced to celebrities, athletes and journalists last August before rolling out to everyone.
The tool has been embraced by media companies — which may pressure Facebook to introduce ads — and ordinary people looking to find an audience among Facebook’s 1.6 billion monthly active users.
Liz Cook, a tattoo artist in Dallas, has watched the number of likes on her business’ Facebook page climb by 300,000 to more than 1 million since she started live streaming in August.
“I totally thought people would be bored out of their minds watching me, but they were fully into it,” said Cook, who broadcasts tattoo sessions with clients that can sometimes take days. “The dynamic allows customers to feel me out before they commit.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Users have complained about the deluge of unwanted smartphone notifications they receive whenever friends or people they follow are broadcasting live. Facebook said it’s working on an easier way to switch off the notifications.
Other features introduced Wednesday for Facebook Live include a search tool to find live videos, the ability to invite friends to watch your broadcast and a map available only on desktop that shows where live streams are occurring around the world.
The new features underscore the company’s deepening commitment to video, which is gaining a growing share of digital audiences, especially on mobile devices, while commanding higher ad rates. Since 2014, Facebook has seen daily video views grow eightfold to 8 billion.
With live streaming, the company hopes it has an even more compelling reason for users to interact with one another.
“Live is natural and it’s immersive in a way that puts people in the center of the action,” said Fidji Simo, director of product for Facebook.