Back in 2014, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg effectively foretold the huge emphasis the platform would be placing on video content by noting, at a community Town Hall Q and A session, that:
"In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video."
At the time it was difficult to envision what exactly that meant - Facebook had video elements, of course, but most of the platform was still text-based - how it could become more video-centric wasn't immediately obvious. But Zuckerberg has a tendency to see things others don't, and in the time since that announcement, we've slowly started to see more and more of what, exactly, a more video-focused Facebook is, and indeed, where such a strategy could be headed.
Consider this - in 2014, just months after introducing autoplay videos on the platform, Facebook hit a new milestone of one billion video views served per day. As of November 2015, that number had grown to eight billion video views every 24 hours. Advances in smartphone technology and network capacity have increased consumer appetite for video content, and Facebook's worked to meet this demand, introducing new video options like Facebook Live and testing out improved video discovery options, like a new video tab within the Facebook app, which was discussed back in October then finally announced earlier this week.
That video tab is a crucial element in Facebook's wider plan to dominate video - just as YouTube has a recommendation engine to highlight other content you might be interested in, Facebook's video discovery tab will also show you related content, but it has the capacity to be significantly more targeted, more individually focused based on all the data Facebook has on your viewing history, Pages liked, friends, etc. The potential for that tab to become 'a YouTube killer' of sorts is big, though initially, at least according to the release notes, its focus will be on Facebook Live content, which is where Zuck and Co are paying the most attention.
And today, via a new post on the Facebook Newsroom blog, The Social Network's outlined some additional details about how that new video discovery tab will work, as well as how Facebook is looking to further promote Live content in search streams to boost audience awareness.
First up, Facebook's outlined some additional detail about the functionality of their new video search tab. As noted in their previous release, access to the new Facebook video page will be placed right in the middle of the app's function bar at the bottom of your mobile screen.
The discovery tab will highlight the Live video "that the world is talking about, live video from the friends and creators that matter most to you, and live video on topics you're interested in" - but while Facebook's very keen to connect people to more Live content, you'll also be able to search for non-live videos through this new option as well.
As shown in the image below, if you search for a topic - like, say, 'pasta recipe' - you'll be shown all related, publicly posted video content, both live and non-live, across Facebook related to your query.
This underlines the power of the new video search option, beyond just highlighting Live content alone - and while even in this screenshot Live still remains the key focus, Facebook's new video tab actually has expanded utility and will help users connect to various forms of video content from across the network.
From a publisher perspective, this also puts more emphasis on the need to ensure your video posts are properly tagged with relevant keywords - as noted by TechCrunch, Facebook's been prompting publishers to utilize video tags for the last few months.
Live Video in Trending Topics
In addition to this - and to even further underline Facebook's emphasis on Live video content - Facebook's also announced that when a relevant Live video is available for a trending topic in search, that content be flagged with a new 'Live' indicator alongside the topic.
This will also be indicated in the Trending Topics panel, with a similar 'Live' badge alongside the issue.
"Expect to find Live video in a small handful of Trending topics for now. As more people start creating and sharing Live video, we're excited to see these perspectives make Trending topics an even better experience."
The addition underlines that Facebook is going all-in on Live content, a move that will see them push Twitter for real-time coverage. If Facebook can get more people interested in Live, and more Live content flowing through, their sheer reach alone will make their Live offering hard to resist.
The Next Level
Already, various brands and publishers are considering how they can incorporate Live into their broadcast strategies - in fact, some are already suggesting that Live could be a way bigger deal than many realize. Take, for example, this tweet from former Facebook product manager, and the co-creator of Facebook Live, Vadim Lavrusik:
"Facebook Live could be just the first step toward a Zuckerberg-led Facebook television empire": https://t.co/BTDdsjY8Qy- Vadim Lavrusik (@Lavrusik) April 7, 2016
Now, he's quoting a Vanity Fair article, these are not necessarily his thoughts, but this is coming from someone who's been inside Facebook, someone with intimate knowledge of Zuck and Co's master plan for live video (Lavrusik finished at Facebook late last month).
And definitely, piecing together past information, there could be something to that - earlier this year, we reported that Facebook had filed a patent for a device that would effectively connect your Facebook experience direct into your TV.
From that base construction, it's not hard to imagine that Facebook might also be able to prompt you, direct on your TV screen, when a Live broadcast is happening and prompting you to switch - effectively making Facebook a broadcaster, in itself, as opposed to a second screen companion. Twitter's already looking to take this next step, winning the rights earlier this week to broadcast Thursday Night Football - and given the increased emphasis on Live and boosting video content, you can bet that Facebook is factoring in all these elements and possibilities. A patent doesn't necessarily mean they're close to developing such a device, but it does indicate their thinking. Facebook may be on the brink of evolving into a broadcaster of much bigger influence.
And this is where the real potential of Facebook Live comes in. By pushing live video and getting users more interested in the offering, the reach potential of Facebook Live is increasing, step-by-step. At some stage, of course, if too many people are looking to broadcast they'll need to restrict that reach to avoid overloading users, but right now may be the best time to get in and work to establish a live video audience and work with what Facebook clearly sees as a growing trend. The next level after this will be VR and 360 content - and Facebook's already hard at work building the systems to handle that next stage. But right now, Live is where it's at, and given the growth of Facebook video thus far, and the fact that Zuckerberg flagged this explosion two years ago, it might be best to listen to him and take heed of where he and his team see the trend heading.
It could be the first step in a much bigger media shift.
Main image via Shutterstock