Facebook wants to own all the conversation, all the engagement - it wants to be the platform you turn to when looking to discuss anything and everything with family, friends and strangers.
A big part of the global social media discussion revolves around TV and sporting events, major entertainment programs which draw in huge crowds, and spur people to engage and discuss. Twitter currently leads the way on this - research shows that up to 60% of regular TV viewers share their opinions about the shows they watch via tweet. That's what spurred Twitter to add more TV-like video programming into its live-stream mix - if you can combine the trend of more people discussing TV content on social, with the actual content itself, that's a marketing goldmine. If you can get it right.
And Facebook wants in on the same. Facebook's already pushing Facebook Watch, and working to find the right type of content for its dedicated video platform which will inspire repeat viewership, and boost related engagement. And now, Facebook's adding another direct TV link into the mix, with a new variation of its Watch Party communal video viewing option which will extend the process to programming beyond that hosted on Facebook itself.
The above is an example of Facebook's new TV Watch Party - how it works is, when a major TV show or sporting event is on, Facebook users will be able to host Watch Parties for their friends and connections which will enable them to discuss the event specifically in a dedicated chat room, like they would on a Facebook Live video. During live sports events, for example, and as shown here, users will see the score of the game at the top, with their discussion flowing through below that.
Facebook plans to expand the option to include a range of real-time interactive options, including the ability for hosts to add trivia questions or fun facts, and run live polls during the broadcast. To host a Facebook TV Watch Party, users will now see a new option called “on TV” when they go to start a Watch Party event.
Facebook rolled out its Watch Party option to all Facebook groups last July, and since then, Facebook says it's facilitated more than 12 million Watch Parties within Groups alone. Watch Parties also garner 8x more comments than regular videos in Groups, according to Facebook.
The new option is being tested in selected Facebook Groups during live sports events, "like UEFA Champions League soccer matches, giving sports fans the chance to cheer, debate and commiserate on Facebook while watching their favorite match-ups".
It's another option to consider in seeking to boost group engagement, and generate discussion on Facebook around a dedicated event - kind of like hashtags, but more enclosed (and more functional, in Facebook terms, given the low usage of hashtags on the platform).
In addition to this, Facebook has also announced an extension of its option to share music on your profile, which it rolled out last October. Now, when you share a song on your profile, users will be able to tap through to Spotify on the track, enabling them to listen to the full song, and discover more from the chosen artist.
So, if you're keen to return to the MySpace days of songs on profiles, and users like the track you've chosen to represent you, they'll be able to get a copy for their own listening pleasure, which may or may not remind them or you. Facebook says it will be adding other partners to this program, in addition to Spotify, in the near future.
Both additions are relatively minor in the broader scheme, and it'll be interesting to see whether TV Watch Parties take off. Part of the appeal of commenting on TV shows on Twitter is that you can engage with lots of people - you can tune into the relevant hashtags and get a heap of related memes, jokes and thoughts, from a range of other fans of the show who you may not otherwise have been connected with. That could prove a limitation for Watch parties, as you'd be enclosing your audience. The logic of creating a dedicated chat in a related group around an event makes sense, but whether users warm to the idea is another thing entirely.
But there does appear to be potential - with more Facebook users engaging in groups, adding another way for them to interact around a mutual interest, in real-time, could be a brilliant move.