Facebook has announced a new push to crack down on Facebook Live videos that aren't exactly live. Well, not in the 'real-time action' type sense, anyway.
What we're talking about here, is videos like this:
That doesn't seem like it's exactly what 'live' is supposed to be about, and Facebook agrees - as per TechCrunch, The Social Network is adding a section to its Facebook Live usage policy which reads:
"Don't use the API to publish only images (ex: don't publish static, animated, or looping images), or to live-stream polls associated with unmoving or ambient broadcasts."
The problem has existed for a while, though there have been questions as to whether Facebook should even bother outlawing them.
Back in December, we highlighted that half of Facebook's top 10 Live videos of 2016 were actually static images or counters like this:
As you can see, this video has garnered more than 55 million views, a massive hit in anyone's book, so you can't blame BuzzFeed for running with it. But it's not exactly 'live' - which either means we need to re-consider what the best use of live is (and what live even means in this context) or Facebook needs to stamp out such misuse.
On the former, while the content of the videos in these examples isn't really live, what's helped them reach such a wide audience is the accompanying conversation - people are commenting and engaging with each post in real time, which has then inspired others to come along and join in, knowing that it's where real time, active conversation is happening. In this sense, it is 'live', but the focus is on real-time engagement, as opposed to the content, and that engagement is something Facebook definitely wants. So maybe it's not in Facebook's interests to eradicate them.
But on the latter, such videos could also hurt the 'live' offering - the whole appeal of live content is that it's real and it's happening now, and you're seeing it unfold. Too many of these types of static posts and people might be less inclined to check out more live content, while they could also misconstrue what 'live' actually means, making it a less compelling option.
For their part, Facebook has made efforts to stamp out such use before - for example, back in November, The Social Network updated their guidelines on Facebook Live use to discourage using Reactions as a voting mechanism in live broadcasts.
They followed that up with a warning to Page admins about graphics-only polls - but then, as noted, five of the top 10 Live broadcasts of 2016, the ones that got the most views and generated the most engagement, were this type of post. Even with Facebook reducing their reach as a penalty, the numbers would indicate they're still a reasonable consideration.
This new crack down could take things to the next level.
TechCrunch says that:
"Videos that violate the policy will have reduced visibility on Facebook, and publishers that repeatedly break the rules may have their access to Facebook Live restricted."
As noted, thus far, restrictions don't seem to have had much impact, but losing your Live privileges could. If Facebook enforces it. If Facebook's willing to give up the amount of engagement some of these posts are generating.
Given that they're announcing the change, you'd expect they will be looking to push it, but it'll be interesting to see if big publishers who use such tactics see any penalties.
The next question then is whether it's worth your brand using such tactics as part of your own Live strategy, even with the potential reach restrictions. The numbers say yes, Facebook policy says no.
Could it work out in your favor? Sure. Would I personally do it? No. But I'm not much of a risk-taker - you can 'ride the snake' as you wish.
Essentially, it's against the rules and may come with penalties. Worth taking note in your live-streaming process.