Why longer Facebook Live streams mean more engagement

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Facebook continues to push video content via its News Feed algorithm, and video, particularly live video, remains key to its vision for the future of the social network.

In 2014, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated, “In five years most of [Facebook] will be video” — and now the site is so invested in video that it’s planning one of its biggest promotional campaigns ever around the feature. The platform last month announced another tweak to its News Feed algorithm, one that gives a lot more weight based on the percentage of a video watched by a Facebook user.

In a statement, the site confirmed that it was on a continuous mission to improve the type of content served to users, returning only relevant videos based on a range of user behaviors, including whether sound is turned on, whether the video is opened in full-screen mode and how long the video is watched. The latest update focuses primarily on this last signal, with “percentage completion” now factoring heavily in determining which videos really engaged the viewer and kept them watching throughout.

Obviously, the longer the video is watched, the more it’s assumed the viewer liked the content and found it compelling. The new tweak takes into account the commitment the viewer takes to watch a longer video and weighs the percent completion slightly heavier when it comes to videos that run longer than a few seconds, particularly if the algorithm picks up on the fact that the viewer is engaging with it in other ways.

This is kind of a big deal, as the site is compensating for the fact that viewers may bail on longer videos rather than shorter ones — and that’s a good thing.

So, what does it mean for publishers, and brands? Well, for native video uploads, the length of a clip matters less than the power the content has to pull the viewer in and make them engage in some significant way. However, for Facebook Live video broadcasts, the longer you can stream, the better the chance you have to pick up those engagements. Let me explain why.

Top most-watched Live streams over 3 hours long

With viewers spending at least three times longer on average watching live video broadcasts than native video uploads, including Facebook Live video in your social video marketing strategy is becoming vital for generating engagement on the platform.

Facebook recommends that you broadcast live for at least 20 minutes, although the feature supports broadcasts of up to four hours for live streams that you’ll want to archive. Remember — the longer you broadcast live, the more people who are scrolling through their News Feeds on Facebook will see it!

According to Tubular Labs (my employer), in the last 90 days, four of the top five most-watched Facebook Live streams were over three hours long. The most viewed was this: “Countdown to the 2020 Presidential Election” from BuzzFeed which generated 50 million views within the first few days and still continues to generate around 14,000 new views per day, nearly three months after being live-streamed on November 9, 2016.

So why should you aim for a 20-minute minimum? Well, due to the nature of Facebook’s News Feed, and the way users interact with the platform, only a handful of viewers may be present when you first go live.

Even with a hefty promotional push beforehand, it can still sometimes take time for your audience to find your live stream. So, the longer you can keep the broadcast live, the higher the chances are for viewers to find you.

That’s why Facebook itself recommends a minimum of 20 minutes, and when it comes to best practices for Facebook Live video, any nod from the platform itself should be taken seriously by marketers and publishers.

But because the first few minutes can seem like you’re talking to yourself, have some content ready to go so you can maintain the momentum while you wait for viewers to find you. Aim to keep those first viewers engaged, so they feel inspired to like and share, thus alerting a wider audience to your content.

You should also reach out to the viewers you have and ask them to comment or interact in some way. You can do this by asking them a question you think they will respond to, or asking them to tag a friend who may want to watch, too. You could also ask viewers where they are watching from or to share more info that may help you with your broadcast.

Best practices for Facebook Live video

  • Remember that viewers may join throughout the live stream, so refer back to the topic of your broadcast or reintroduce any guests every five minutes or so to keep followers informed.
  • Don’t forget to ask viewers to share, comment or like your broadcast, or to follow your page if they have come in via a recommendation.
  • Ask followers to sign up for Facebook Live notifications so that they are aware of when you’re going to broadcast. If you commit to a specific day or time, you will encourage your audience to tune in on a more regular basis.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Carla Marshall is the Editor in Chief of TubularInsights.com and the Community Manager for the ReelSEO YouTube Channel. She is YouTube Certified and specializes in video optimization and organic marketing.


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