Facebook and Instagram are looking to become destination video sites — or, at least, it’s looking that way.
Last month, both social networks announced new video initiatives and features that cater towards content creators and offer new ways for users to interact with the sites.
Earlier in June, Facebook announced it would launch funded news shows within Facebook Watch, which is the site’s video service that features original programming, both pre-recorded and live.
Then, last Tuesday, it unveiled a slew of new services for video creators and their audiences. Live videos will now be even more interactive, with new native features like real-time polling and game-show-style Q&A filters. The next day, Instagram — which is owned by Facebook — revealed IGTV: “a new app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favorite Instagram creators.”
While IGTV does have its own, separate app, it’s also available in the core Instagram app on iOS and Android operating systems. You’ll have to download the latest version of Instagram — I had to restart the app twice before the in-app version appeared — where you’ll see a small TV icon in the top-right corner, next to the direct message icon.
Video is, unquestionably, one of the most popular forms of content consumption online today. In January, when Facebook announced a major algorithm change to shift focus to content from friends and family, it stated that live video, specifically, receives 6X the engagement as pre-recorded video — which could explain this new emphasis on real-time interaction with creators. More engagement tends to lead toward more time spent on the site, which is good news for Facebook.
But many questions arise from these latest features — for Facebook and Instagram alike — in regards to their respective endgames, the benefits to creators, and the possibility of new problems as a result.
Facebook and Instagram Are the New TV
The Question of YouTube
The emphasis on video makes sense for both Facebook and Instagram, given the aforementioned statistics about live video, for instance. But it’s also a reflection of evolving user behavior.
In 2019, Zenith predicts, internet use will outpace time spent watching TV worldwide — by about 0.27%. And while that might seem like a trivial difference, it happened fairly quickly.
Which brings up the idea of filling that time spent online with original video content. While TV, for many, is still a destination — for the first time, there are multiple options for viewing it through means other than cable, and after it originally aired, usually through online platforms (examples: Hulu, YouTube Live, and clips on the YouTube pages of networks or TV shows).
That repositions these digital platforms as destinations where TV used to be in their respective places. That’s certainly what happened to YouTube, which remains a — if not the — top platform for video consumption.
Consider this: YouTube boasts 1.8 billion users signed in each month — and while nothing to scoff at, Netflix’s 125 million streaming subscribers pales in comparison.
Among its boasting points, YouTube ranks as a major search engine in its own right. It’s owned by Google, and many users discover content by way of YouTube search — so much so, that search is a key element in the lesson on discovery within the platform’s Creator Academy.
Which leads to another one of YouTube’s boasting points: its relationship with creators. The video platform consistently emphasizes its value as a resource to content creators, including the aforementioned Academy, as well as its “invest[ment] in creators” that it uses as a key statistic in press materials.
Now, let’s go back to those user statistics. Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users — which was revealed alongside the IGTV announcement — and Facebook has 2.2 billion. With a new investment in creators, both networks have something to gain, and it could have an edge on YouTube.
Both already have their own search features, which Instagram has used as a discoverability feature, too — something that it’s emphasizing with IGTV, which automatically plays videos the app thinks you’ll like as soon as you open it.
Among those videos, users can choose to follow different “channels,” or accounts from whom they’d like to see more content. But many of these channels and the creators behind them will be creating long-form video, including regular series, which online personality Lele Pons says she’ll be developing for IGTV.
The Benefits to Creators
Pons — the aforementioned creator who says she’ll be developing a cooking show for IGTV — also says she won’t be receiving any payment for it. It raises the question: What’s in it for creators?
Of course, there is the element of discoverability, for which most content can be optimized in one way or another — and optimizing for IGTV could soon become a new strategy for creators. But what is the source of monetization?
With discoverability comes following — and with a vast following come brand interest, which is what built the influencer phenomenon (which is now becoming increasingly frowned upon by certain companies). But even so, the interest from brands hasn’t and likely won’t disappear entirely.
But becoming an influencer is not a quick outcome for those who seek it, which circles back to the question of benefits to creators hoping to best leverage these newer video platforms.
These platforms are ever growing and ever evolving. This makes prediction of any direction very difficult. But I am certain we are firmly becoming a new generation of consumers with greater control over what we watch.