By drawing stars like Kim Kardashian, Facebook Watch could be a real rival for YouTube

Facebook Watch is set to release new content featuring stars like Kim Kardashian in a bold play to compete with YouTube. Here's what that means for brands.

In March of 2018, Facebook officially got into the TV game by launching Facebook Watch, which hosts both live and recorded TV-like content.

For those who haven’t tried it, Facebook Watch is an offshoot of the Video tab that premiered on Facebook in 2017. By clicking Watch, users are taken to a YouTube-like screen full of video suggestions based on their behavioral data. The platform allows for videos from 2-240 minutes. Early partners included Buzzfeed and Vox Media.

The platform is drawing big stars

These days, Facebook Watch is going a bit more Hollywood. In the past week, trailers were released for two new series starring Kim Kardashian and BAFTA Award nominee Elizabeth Olsen. The first is a celebrity prank show with a Punk’d vibe called You Kiddin’ Me?! featuring Kardashian, and the second is a scripted drama called Sorry for Your Loss with a This is Us feel that’s already earning positive reviews before its premiere date.

And while the company originally spent 1 billion to launch the platform, drawing stars could be the next part of the plan to drive viewer loyalty. While a January 2018 survey reported 40% of Facebook users click at least one Watch video a week, it could be that they’re clicking without truly understanding the platform, since new studies reveal that half of Facebook users don’t know what Watch is. However, among those in the know, the platform has grown a dedicated fan base. According to a new study by The Diffusion Group, 6% of Facebook users click on at least one Watch video per day.  

For brands, the time to get started is now

But even if Watch has been a bit slow to get off the ground, 6% of 1.8 billion users isn’t nothing, as The Motley Fool rightly points out. And brands that have taken a wait-and-see approach to creating content for Facebook Watch could be missing out.  

According to Will Federman, executive editor at online debate site, The Tylt, more adventurous brands could reap the rewards of being early adopters.

“Everyone was waiting to see how Facebook Watch would shake out,” Federman says. “Would Facebook stay with it? Would other brands see dividends? I think the answer to both of those questions is yes, which is why you’re starting to see more and more media brands leverage Watch in unique and interesting ways. Once the viability of the platform proves itself out, I think it’s a matter of time before consumer brands start to adopt it too.”

However, most brands have limited bandwidth and budget, which makes choosing Facebook Watch over more established channels, like YouTube, Twitter, and even Facebook-owned Instagram, a bit riskier. But Federman says that there are a few keys ways that Facebook Watch beats the competition, namely, discoverability and interactivity.

“Facebook has discoverability baked in a way that you can’t find on Twitter or Instagram,” Federman says. “Beyond that, the episode structure of Watch and the interactive show tools that are slowly rolling out will lead to all types of user experiences unique to the platform.”

Interactivity is key

From the get-go, one of the main priorities for Facebook Watch has been interactivity. As Mark Zuckerberg changes the structure of the platform to focus on “meaningful social interactions,” it’s pretty clear content that drives engagement is preferable to static content.

Watch isn’t the only place the company has focused on interacting. In June, Facebook rolled out polls, quizzes and challenges to encourage users to engage with the platform and with each other, and recently the company has acquired Vidpresso, a start-up that focuses on interactive video, indicating that the company is hoping to explore ways to get audiences engaging with new series.

Millennials will take the (click)bait, if content resonates

For The Tylt, which creates interactive video polls, engagement lies in the intersection between interactivity and relevance. Especially when courting a millennial audience, since younger people are often wary of anything that could be branded “click-bait.”

“I think millennials are quite adept at weeding out poor content,” Federman says. “Building content that is innately interesting, impactful, and encourages the audience to engage is what really draws millennials in. Watch is the perfect venue for that strategy, as it’s designed to promote engagement and actively encourages users to comment and share. Our content leans into that, especially since we build stories around the day’s most trending topics. Watch allows us to elevate our audience’s opinions in new and interesting ways.”

For brands willing to try, Facebook Watch could offer potential really compelling, interactive relationship-building with audiences.

“That human connection and elevated level of engagement is happening on Facebook Watch,” Federman says. “And I think we’ve just scratched the surface of what brands can create on the platform, especially from an audience engagement perspective.”


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