After months of testing, Facebook has this week announced that its 'Watch Party' communal video viewing option for groups is now available in all regions.
Watch Party essentially gives pre-recorded videos the same interactive capacity as Facebook Live videos - as explained by Facebook:
"Once a Watch Party is started, participants can watch videos, live or recorded, and interact with one another around them in the same moment. We’ve been focused on building new ways to bring people together around video, create connections, and ignite conversations; Watch Party is the next step in bringing this vision to life."
The idea makes sense - Facebook Live videos generate significantly more engagement than regular video, and other post formats, with the immediate, real-time connection aspect helping to fuel more interaction. Watch Party extends this capacity to more enclosed communities within groups, further enhancing the value of that social element.
Indeed, Facebook says that the option has already enhanced communication in various groups.
"In our testing, we’ve seen Watch Parties, both big and small, with highly engaged members often generating hundreds or even thousands of comments while watching videos together. [...] Watch Party can be useful for smaller communities too - for example, recently a group with less than 10 people hosted a Watch Party which saw more than 500 comments."
Facebook says Watch Party can also be used to "bridge the distance" between close friends and family, using the example of a communal viewing of a graduation video with your extended family, "or even just hanging out with friends watching funny videos together".
Exploring ways to extend the engagement of live video has become an area of focus for both Facebook and YouTube.
Last year, Google launched a new group YouTube viewing app called 'Uptime' which is centered around watching and engaging with friends, while last month, YouTube also released a new feature called 'Premieres' which, just like Watch Party, aims to re-create the Live experience with pre-recorded content.
Facebook actually announced the exact same feature - under the exact same name - back in April, with both platforms looking to get an edge in the video engagement stakes.
Watch Party is along the same lines, and it's interesting to see how the two video giants are going head-to-head, and considering the areas where they're seeing the most video usage growth, based on such launches.
For brands, Watch Party could provide a new way to enhance group interaction, and thereby raise awareness of their groups.
Back in January, when Facebook announced its major overhaul of the News Feed algorithm, Facebook specifically highlighted both live video and groups as options to consider to offset any reach declines.
“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”
Definitely, since the News Feed change, more people have been seeing more updates from groups within their feeds, and that extra interaction could provide opportunity through Watch Party to help promote exclusives or behind the scenes content, etc.
There's a range of ways Watch Party could be used - if you're just starting with Facebook groups, maybe you could begin with a Watch Party, using new video content from your company, to boost interest.
Clearly, the trends around video engagement suggest that Watch Party could be a valuable option, and the initial test responses look positive. Worth considering in your approach.