While Facebook Watch is not a major competitor for YouTube as yet, it is growing, with 1.25 billion people - almost half of Facebook's monthly active user base - now consuming at least some content on Watch every month.
How, exactly, Facebook calculates that stat is somewhat questionable (it's previously counted an active Watch viewer as anyone who spends at least one minute viewing content), but either way, that 1.25 billion is almost double the 720 million Watch viewers that Facebook reported in June last year.
So it may not be growing at a rapid rate, and viewership might not be as much as the topline stat could suggest. But Facebook Watch is expanding. And Facebook's now seeking the next steps to advance its dedicated video platform.
On this front, Facebook is adding two new discovery features to better highlight personally relevant Watch content.
The first is topics in Watch, which will give users the capacity to follow specific subjects, based on hashtags, within your Watch stream.
As explained by Facebook:
"Topics let you personalize the videos that show up in your feed so it’s tailored to what you care about. You can find and follow topics in Watch, and there are hundreds to choose from like Crafts, Comedy, Dance and Beauty."
The new Topics option was actually spotted in testing last month, with TechCrunch providing a detailed overview of the categories and subtopics available.
"For example, within Animals, you could follow #EndangeredSpecies or #GoldenRetrievers. Within Travel & Leisure, you could follow #TravelOceania or #WinterActivities."
That extra level of topic depth could make your Watch feed far more customized and aligned with your interests - though whether people are looking for specific topics in a video stream or are more aligned to shows and creators is another question. To which Facebook will no doubt learn the answer soon.
The option is being made available to all users in US, with more regions to follow soon.
In addition to this, Facebook's also added new highlight sections to showcase the most popular videos and moments on the platform.
"In the US and select markets, you’ll find What’s Happening and Featured sections in Watch. Videos in these sections are chosen by Facebook so you can catch up on timely and relevant moments, like the Television Academy’s annual Emmy Awards, MLB World Series highlights, Vote-A-Thon 2020, LatinX and Hispanic Heritage Month and the latest music videos from your favorite artists."
That could be a good way to keep users glued to Watch by presenting them with an evolving feed of key moments and clips to capture their interest.
In addition to these, Facebook's also adding highlights of popular clips on the platform:
"...like 'Most Haha’d This Week' and 'Most Loved This Week' so you can see the videos that other people are engaging with in Watch."
That could also uncover even more compelling video clips that'll keep Watch viewers around, while Facebook also showcases videos within your Watch feed based on what your friends are reacting to and what’s popular in Groups that you're a member of.
The additions are not major shifts in engagement strategy, but they make a lot of sense, and they'll no doubt keep users engaged with Watch content, and help Facebook boost viewership on its video platform. From there, Facebook can make Watch viewing more of a habit - if it can get people coming back to Watch more often, it can then start to further showcase Watch exclusives, highlighting music video clips and other content that publishers have licensed to Facebook.
And over time, Facebook can make Watch a more important video consideration - for creators, advertisers, publishers, etc.
Worth noting too that Watch content is now viewable on home TV screens via Facebook's Portal device, the sales of which have also been increasing during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
It still has a way to go to match it with the big video players, but Watch has a lot working in its favor. And its momentum is growing steadily.