- AListDaily interviewed executives from National Geographic and Time Inc. to discuss how both companies will leverage social video content on Facebook's new Watch platform.
Facebook brought brands yet another way to engage their followers with video on the platform by officially launching Watch in the US last month.
A quick survey for Watch already reveals a smorgasbord of original TV-like content native to the network, designed to satiate a voracious consumer appetite for video.
Watch, which feels like Facebook’s self-funded version positioned to compete with titans like YouTube and Netflix, is personalized to help its billion-user base discover new shows. It’s organized around what friends and communities are watching on mobile, desktop, TV and apps. Viewers can even comment in real time as they’re watching any given program.
By creating consumer affinity to watch video for longer periods of time—a reality show centered around Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, anyone?—Facebook is also helping marketers monetize mid-roll ads, and giving content creators a split-ad revenue incentive.
“Watching video on Facebook has the incredible power to connect people, spark conversation and foster community,” wrote Daniel Danker, Facebook’s director of product. “On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together. As more and more people enjoy this experience, we’ve learned that people like the serendipity of discovering videos in News Feed, but they also want a dedicated place they can go to watch videos . . . Watch is a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans and earn money for their work. We think a wide variety of Facebook shows can be successful.”
Whether the publisher-centric format has a long-term shelf life still remains to be seen. According to a report from social video analytics company Delmondo, Watch videos are being viewed for an average of 23 seconds, compared to 16.7 seconds that Facebook reported for video viewing on its News Feed.
Facebook’s ambitions of being a Hollywood-like tour de force is fully in effect, as evidenced by their potential $1 billion investment into original content through the end of next year. The likes of the NFL, NBA, Billboard, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Thrillist, A&E, Wired, Vox, Comedy Central, Funny or Die, Mashable, Tastmade, IGN and GameSpot are already flooding the Watch feeds with feature videos.
Since the seeding of the ecosystem has officially started, AListDaily interviewed executives from two of the companies that are bringing their budgets and marketing to social video.
National Geographic, for one, is exclusively debuting three social-first original series for their Facebook audience because the social media giant provided them a unique distribution outlet that also complemented their new premium content strategy.
“Watch is the first to transition long-form content into the social landscape,” JP Polo, director of social and digital video content for National Geographic, told AListDaily. “We’re excited to tell stories that fit the long form, and are still snackable and captivating. Watch brings followers of specific shows together. Once you have niche communities, the opportunity for marketers is limitless. Our social and digital teams understand that social media is a powerful tool for video—a powerful tool for conversation and ultimately a powerful tool for change.”
Polo said Watch also gives Nat Geo, one of the top social media companies in the world with over 350 million followers across their social and digital channels, a socially optimized platform meant for active and habit-forming content consumption.
“Watch is unique in that it gives us the world’s largest social platform and a unique way to reach not only our current audience but also Facebook’s audience,” Polo said. “It also gives individuality to each series we produce. The show page is unique in that it allows each show’s followers a place to call home. Show pages create communities and a place to engage with show content, and the advertisers who partner with that content. We’re creating content that encompasses our unique editorial voice so our advertisers can feel confident that they’re sponsoring content that is both brand safe and leaves the audience wondering. We want to produce inspiring stories that excite both our advertisers and our fans.”
Polo said that over the years, social and digital platforms got a reputation for being the place where low-quality video would live and possibly shine. He and the Nat Geo team saw it differently and took advantage of their vast library of quality footage and produced engaging and educational material, all while remaining true to their core content mission. The next natural step was to start producing digitally-and-socially native original series and content that tapped into their science, exploration and storytelling ethos.
“While there is no doubt that social platforms could drive traffic and help companies build their audiences, no real effort was put behind producing content specifically tailored for social platforms,” he said. “We’re not a celebrity-driven company—we’re a mission-driven company. When you analyze and understand that, you realize that the reason we have a massive social following is because people across the planet truly and passionately believe in what we do.”
Polo said once a brand has a loyal social following, the key is to continue to engage and evolve content at the rapid pace that social and digital platforms require—all while making sure not to veer away from what brought consumers to your brand in the first place.
We’re Wired That Way, for one, which tells various stories behind humans, won one of the three programming allocations for Watch because Nat Geo tapped into their user insights for Facebook to better understand demographics. Which Extreme Animal Am I? and Safari Live rounds out their current content lineup. Polo said their Facebook user insights lead them to realize that their diverse Facebook pages are not all built the same.
“If you become data-obsessed, then your videos will quickly deteriorate and lose their appeal,” he said, adding that they don’t use data to drive video production decisions, but rather, use it to inform decisions. “In social and digital platforms, data is important, but it’s also ephemeral, so basing everything on the data of last month can have devastating effects on the long run.”
Polo said Nat Geo will continue to explore and push further, because that is what’s made them who they are as a brand.
“While other companies were reactionary to social and digital platforms, Nat Geo embraced it from the get go,” Polo said. “Social-and-digital storytelling has become our primary way to tell stories. These platforms, combined with our first-class storytelling and access, allow people across the planet to not only experience the world from another perspective but to actively find ways to be part of the changes and projects we need in order to protect this planet. Humans need to adapt to a changing planet in order to survive. Legacy media entities need to do the same in order to survive the changing industry landscape.”
Another media powerhouse diving into Watch is Time Inc. with the new series Homemade vs. the Internet.
Regina Buckley, SVP of digital business development and business operations at Time Inc., told AListDaily their programming on Watch reinforces their commitment to providing premium and engaging video content to consumers on all platforms, and underscores the ways the company entertains consumers across the distributed web.
“Over the years, we’ve come to know our Facebook consumer pretty well—and we knew that our viewers love to watch food content from some of our brands’ success in this space. The video effort on Facebook goes beyond the Watch tab specifically and is also about the communities that are being created around shows consumers love,” said Buckley. “Watch will help create a community of dedicated viewers who will ultimately create a unique audience for advertisers to connect with, in a different environment and in a different way than existed before on Facebook.”
Watch complements Time Inc.’s overall video strategy—which has tripled in total video views over the same period last year—because Buckley said they’re reaching consumers on every platform they want to be reached.
Time Inc. was one of the first brands to begin delivering unique content as publishers for Snapchat Discover, hoping to continue to attract advertisers and marketers looking to magnetize millennials. Time Inc. also recently launched two social video brands—Well Done and The Pretty—which have driven nearly 500 million combined views since March.
“As a multiplatform content company, we continue to experiment with new platforms and deliver the best content to our consumers when they want it, and where they want it,” Buckley said. “Our iconic brands are known and trusted among our audiences, which allows us to create immersive and engaging content for new platforms like Facebook’s Watch as well as on our own existing platforms. Video is an important part of Time Inc.’s revenue today, and critical to its growth into tomorrow.”