Is Facebook Live dead on arrival, or will it live to sell your tale?
One would think that after conquering our lives, Mark Zuckerberg would be lounging around in the Bahamas, smiling at his bank statement. But no – streaming video, live broadcast, virtual reality... Facebook has a foot in each one and after a while, that foot is discovered crushing any competitors under it.
Facebook Live is a live video streaming service, which by its very nature, makes the ‘content’, so to speak, original and unique. You never know what might happen. It is just like YouTube and Periscope, but much more personalised and actively pushed to users. Slowly but surely, Facebook Live is becoming part of our daily conversations. Junaid Jamshed’s brand J. launched their recent fragrance there, with Wasim Akram as the brand ambassador. A few days ago they went live on Facebook with an interview with the big W himself. The campaign had a good build-up and received more than 100,000 views at last count.
As a nascent platform in Pakistan, the marketing community holds different views as to its efficacy. Murtaza Vaid, Director, Client Services, Digitz, sees Facebook Live as a new and exciting opportunity for brands served by his company, such as Coca-Cola, GSK and National Foods.
“For brands, Facebook Live is very helpful in showcasing their image, CSR activities, launches and a variety of other on-ground activities.”
Vaid quotes the Lux Style Awards and the recent broadcast of their red carpet activities as an effective use of the medium. “It is also very helpful for internet celebrities,[…] especially some who don’t do live shows and still have large followings.”
However, he feels that there should be a proper build-up to a live event to make sure that the brand receives the desired traffic and attention. Does he feel that the inherent unpredictability of Facebook Live hampers its use?
“There is a degree of reluctance [regarding Facebook Live] as brands are still figuring out how to use it. What content to air, what is fit to be a live broadcast, remain big question marks,” is his answer.
Vaid does have certain ideas regarding its usage; for example, a food brand using a big name chef to broadcast a live cooking demonstration. When asked if Facebook Live could be considered an essentially free channel for small and medium enterprises and other concerns lacking marketing budgets, he cautions that gaining traction on Facebook Live requires a structured approach, as well as a somewhat substantial budget. His argument is simple: It is difficult to convince people to watch ads in their newsfeeds, unless the content is compelling and pushed to them actively, which costs money.
Jahanzaib Haque, Editor, Dawn.com, feels differently about Facebook Live. According to him, The Dawn Media Group has used the platform for Dawn.com, Dawnnews.tv and Images.
“I don’t think anybody is doing Facebook Live right, us included. Even international news publications have aired some poorly done pieces.”
Although Dawn.com earned a good response with cricket-based broadcasts, Haque thinks it didn’t match something that was professionally shot and edited; after all, there is a reason media houses buy expensive recording equipment. Understandably, for a journalistic endeavour, anything lacking structure and polish can be a jarring proposition.
“You have to plan and direct the whole thing before you start. The good Live videos are not as live as you think,” he adds. He believes that refinement and content make videos viral and he is training his staff to do a formal dry run of an entire broadcast, before going live.
Haque is fairly sceptical about Facebook Live as a medium, and believes that as a tool, it is not intended as a professional branding or marketing tool, but something of a Snapchat equivalent for individuals. Even so, it does have the scale to completely annihilate any competing live streaming services.
Asim Naqvi, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather, is very enthusiastic about Facebook Live as a medium and its possibilities for marketing and public discourse in general. “Facebook has given you a platform; now it is up to smart people to figure out how to use it,” he says. According to him, there is a degree of reluctance around every new platform due to its very nature (such as it was with YouTube).
“It is the best opportunity for marketers to go live in no time, and to know the likes and shares in real time,” says Naqvi.
Naqvi is referring to a feature that allows a Facebook Live broadcaster to see likes, shares and comments on a video in real time, enabling tweaking of the content on the go and responses to individual comments even while the broadcast continues. This feature has the potential to lend an unparalleled degree of interactivity to a feed.
In Naqvi’s opinion, although more robust platforms exist, Facebook has a definite advantage in being ‘cooler’, more far-reaching and more entrenched in public consciousness. “The platform allows you to promote your live events with an audience you already have – and especially so with a good preamble campaign. Sharing mechanisms on Facebook are great unlike those on YouTube.”
Naqvi’s personal favourite Facebook Live feed is of President Obama’s live broadcast from the White House focusing on the economy. While this was not necessarily a marketing move, it did benefit Hillary Clinton’s campaign a great deal. “Facebook Live can become a great ‘PR stunt’ platform where you can explain your policies to people, for the entire spectrum of society from madrassahs to an advertising agency.”
However, he doesn’t believe that right now good local content is being aired via this platform and in his opinion, to fast-track the evolution process, Facebook needs to make an effort to create awareness about Facebook Live and its usage. He also agrees that the uptake has been less than enthusiastic worldwide – but only because Facebook is seeking to create an entire ecosystem around its services, such as specialised devices to record and broadcast footage for Facebook Live, 3D cameras to create panoramas, and such. “Eventually it will catch on; however, this is the right time to take advantage of this service when there are few players and it is easier to stand out.”
What advice would Naqvi give his clients regarding the best way to use Facebook Live? “The more authentic you are going to be, the more successful you will be. The more ‘made-up’ you look, the less reaction you will get. It is not about the beauty of the content; it is about its authenticity.”
It turns out that Facebook Live presents us with a conundrum for the internet age: perceived authenticity versus deliberation and refinement. There are advocates on both sides of the divide, their views coloured by the nature of their professional endeavours. However, there seems to be a consensus as to the tepid adoption of the platform, as well as the need for proper build-up to make a broadcast successful. It is very telling that BuzzFeed, a purveyor of nonsense, has so far been among the most successful exponents of Facebook Live. That said, there are examples of well-respected individuals and institutions using it to connect with the public and making their products and content more interactive.
Ultimately, regardless of the approach taken, a live stream is not a license to be shallow, sloppy or careless. A platform is only as good as the content it is used for.
Talha bin Hamid is an accountant by day and an opinionated observer of pop culture, an avid reader, a gamer and an all-around nerd by night.