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Facebook Live Is Now Live with New Features

It’s been a long time coming, but Facebook Live is finally, fully live.

After initially opening up only to verified public figures via the Facebook Mentions app last August, then slowly rolling out only to iOS users in the US, and then to iOS users in other countries, Facebook Live is now available worldwide to anyone with a phone.

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Facebook looking to get an edge on the competition

Facebook took their time with Live because they knew they had to get it right. Live is Facebook’s prize horse in the video streaming race, and they’re looking to knock out main competitor Periscope with an array of new interactive features. As Product Management Director Fidji Simo outlined in her introductory post, you can now:

  • Go live in Facebook Groups and Events — useful for streaming a birthday party to a private family group or conducting a scheduled Q&A event session
  • Send live reactions — think Periscope’s hearts but enhanced to include the full range of Facebook’s reactions. This lets broadcasters gauge the emotions of viewers in real-time, “like hearing the crowd applaud and cheer.”
  • Replay comments — Facebook Live videos don’t disappear, and now anyone who replays a stream after the fact will get to read comments as they occurred, too, making them feel a little less like they missed out.
  • Use live filters — it’s a far cry from Instagram but Facebook is giving users the ability to choose from a set of five image filters for different looks during the broadcast.
  • Write or draw onscreen (coming soon) — this one isn’t fully live yet, but broadcasters will also get a chance to channel their inner Snapchat and sketch out words or pictures right on top of the video stream.
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Facebook Live is getting creative with new filters and drawing capabilities for video
  • Track metrics — Product Manager Anaid Gomez-Ortigoza wrote about new metrics that allow broadcasters to track the total number of unique people who watched the live video and the number of viewers during each moment of the broadcast. These are accessible through Page Insights and your Video Library.
  • Invite friends to join the stream — users will receive a push notification whenever a friend has invited them to watch their live video.
  • Discover, search, and start videos all from one spot — Facebook’s mobile app now has a dedicated place, accessible via the video icon, to find live and non-live videos and to start streaming yourself.
  • Explore live broadcasts from your computer — desktop users don’t have to miss out on all the fun. With Facebook Live Map users can see what videos are currently streaming live from around the globe, and the bigger the dot, the more viewers are watching.

A sidebar — when I logged on to the Live Map I spotted a very popular stream coming from Phoenix, Arizona, which turned out to be two news men from Fox 10 Phoenix covering, of all things, a police chase occurring in Los Angeles. The video itself was simply a phone recording a monitor’s video feed of the chase as the two men narrated, but it worked: the stream attracted nearly 20,000 viewers from around the world before it appeared to abruptly stop due to technical problems. You had to wonder why no news team in LA was streaming this themselves!

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Is Live going to be everything Facebook imagined it to be?

Facebook has big plans for Live as a game-changing communication tool. Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post:

Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket. Anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world. When you interact live, you feel connected in a more personal way. This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it’s going to create new opportunities for people to come together.

And even so early on it has proven itself to be that type of game-changing communication tool, like in this heartwarming personal story shared in the comments on Zuckerberg’s post:

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But challenges lie ahead for Live. Like any relatively new platform, for video broadcasters there’s a initial production learning curve and the challenge of establishing an audience. For brand broadcasters, particularly, there’s the challenge of figuring out a monetization model that works for them. And, central to Live’s ultimate success, is the challenge of pulling away viewers from Periscope and YouTube and keeping them away.

Early adoption is key to success

Live has a few advantages in its corner, however. Firstly, Facebook is incentivizing broadcasters to join in right away by giving Live videos number one priority in News Feed. As more and more broadcasters jump into the Live pool, the viewer reach will eventually decrease. “That’s why we’re encouraging public figures and media companies to get in early and figure out what works,” Simo confided to Techcrunch.

Secondly, Live has the benefit of being a platform supported by a larger platform. Almost every individual and brand in the world already has a Facebook account, and consequently they already have a built-in audience of friends and followers. Unlike Periscope and YouTube, where in order to build a community you have to convince people to sign up, on Facebook you already have a community.

So far things look good for Live, but as with anything else, only time will tell if it becomes King of Video.

Do you plan to add Live to your marketing toolkit? Let me know in the comments!

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