2016 was not just the year of video, it marked the explosion of live video on every major social media platform. Facebook launched first with live video one year ago back in March 2016, where the format quickly became popular among users. Google announced support for 4K live streaming on YouTube. And, as 2016 came to a close, Instagram rolled out its version of live video Stories while Twitter, which owns Periscope, decided to finally bring live-streaming functionality into its main app.
The spread of live video should surprise no one given the engagement stats: People comment 10x more on Facebook Live videos than regular videos.
So far it seems live video isn't just another trendy phase that will eventually fade out, but that it's actually here to stay. I certainly hope this is the case. And this is coming from an overly cautious social media user.
First, a Bit of Context...
Here at RebelMouse, our software is built around social media, so naturally we all talk about and communicate via social channels all day. While others are forced to sneak-surf social media at work, it simply comes with the job for us.
That said, personally, I'm a cautious social media user. I tend to browse more and post almost never. While social media is chock full of the hilarious (shout out to Anthony "Spice" Adams) and inspiring (thank you, NatGeo Travel), most of the content is mind-numbing fluff; if I spend more than 15 consecutive minutes on social, I typically regret it. And, while I enjoy updates from friends and fam, we all tend to overshare on social, which will probably come back to seriously bite us in years to come. While I'm not naive enough to think hackers, government trackers, and interested parties in between don't have multiple ways to find my personal information, why should I make it easy by laying it all out on a profile page?
But again, being on the cautious side of the social spectrum, I think a live video takeover is just what we needed.
It's More Personal
I wrote about using Facebook Live when it launched earlier last year, and my first tip was to be strategic but, more importantly, embrace spontaneity. While high-quality videos are fantastic, the intimacy of a live video resonates with viewers and can help you come across as more authentic to viewers.
You have an awesome, important moment that you want to share? Go live! Chances are, if you're feeling inspired, a portion of your audience will tune in and judge the content's genuineness vs. its video quality. With the proliferation of technology and various options to "connect" online, it's still easy to feel socially detached and miss real-time, face-to-face human interaction. Live video is one way to maintain the personal touch in our increasingly digital, mobile world.
It Balances the Fake
On the topic of authenticity, what's up with the fake news phenomenon? As someone who believes in the power of staying informed and who started her career at journalism's gold standard, The New York Times, I'm slightly horrified that blatantly false or misleading editorial can permeate so thoroughly and potentially influence crucial events like, you know, the U.S. election.
Yet, personal agendas have always been pushed through traditional media outlets under the guise of news. By its nature, news that you watch on TV or read online automatically becomes subjective once it's curated to fit a time slot or a home page. The key distinction between news that comes from CNN vs. news conjured up from a teenager's room in Macedonia is control. The internet and social media give anyone the tools to publish and amplify content, fake or otherwise, hence the source of the current hysteria. Perhaps one person's fake news is just another's colorful fiction, and should be consumed as such? It is, at least, a harsh reminder for mainstream media to do better.
Either way, if you're looking to sidestep the fake fodder, live video from trusted friends, news sources, and brands could become a key solution to connect to more honest moments. As the top destination for news discovery, Facebook took heat for being a key perpetuator of fake news. This year, as the social platform tweaks its News Feed algorithm in an attempt to bury fake news, don't be surprised if live video views spike in direct correlation as Facebook encourages and rewards more original and more authentic content.
We Need More Citizen Journalism
While Twitter currently struggles to find its way, I will always have a deep appreciation for its origin as a platform for citizen journalism, where tweets and crowdsourced hashtags literally launched social movements. So I support any technology or device that helps amplify the real stories of everyday people that would not otherwise garner attention.
There was no more real moment than when Philando Castile's final moments were live streamed after being fatally shot by Officer Yanez during a traffic stop. With 3.2 million Facebook views in the first 24 hours, people were compelled to watch a moment that was, at least, incredibly disturbing and, at most, criminal. The video forced many to turn a hard side-eye, passionately question, and compare notes about other potential abuses of power that may have been systematically carried out right under our noses. And while social live streaming has certainly been used for more sinister purposes, it all helps shed light on what's happening locally and in different corners of the world.
I, for one, want exposure to it all — the good, the horrific, the inspiring, and the opposing views — in order to self-reflect and so that we can collectively understand our reality. Brands and media companies will certainly find a way to wield live video to promote specific content or products. And, given the attractive engagement stats, it behooves them to test away. But I hope live video continues to be a tool widely leveraged by the masses, so that I can further learn more about the world I live in.
So, Yes to More Live Video on Social in 2017
Absolutely, yes. You may not find me in front of the camera live streaming at a party (not yet, anyway), but I'll most likely be watching. :)