People are now consuming 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day. That’s more video content than one person can watch in 11,000 years, Karla Geci, head of strategic media partner programmes at Facebook, told delegates at this year’s recent FIPP World Congress in London. This, she says, clearly shows that a video-first strategy is all important if publishers want to optimise their opportunities for engagement on Facebook.
In terms of what is informative and entertaining “en masse right now”, said Geci, “is that we think we are in the midst of a major transformation. We believe that the shift to video is as big, if not bigger, than the shift from desktop to mobile. Today video accounts for more than 50 per cent of all data traffic and in five years that’s going to look like 65 per cent. Watching video on Facebook has the power to connect people to start conversations and foster communities.”
She said videos are discovered through friends with social media communities being brought together this way. Geci warned that if there is one statistic that publishers should take seriously, its the fact that more than 40 per cent of all videos being watched on Facebook are discovered through social shares. “This is fundamentally how video is different on a hard platform from other (content)… Quality content drives engagement and hopefully ultimately drives revenue. If the content you put on Facebook is not shareable, you are starting on the back foot.”
To understand how and why content is being shared, publishers need to fully understand how the news feed on Facebook functions, said Geci. “The amount of content that gets published to Facebook has increased significantly over the years but our time to consume it remains static. So, to tackle this, news feed ranks every story with a score of how likely you are to find it interesting or meaningful. That is why the same story will rank differently for each of the two billion people on Facebook.”
This happens in an environment where over 500 million links to content gets shared from Facebook’s news feed each week (excluding photos and videos). Despite how important news feed, engagement and shares have become, it remains one of the most mysterious parts of Facebook for publishers, she said.
To de-mystify the way Facebook’s algorithm ranks the content appearing on each Facebook user’s news feed, Geci compared it to ordering food on behalf of a friend that’s running late for a restaurant date. To be able to order for someone else, you need to understand that you can only order off the menu, and secondly that you need to consider all the information relevant. This could include the time of day, the season of the year and everything you know about this person. Lastly, you will need to make a set of predictions. These could be guessing if the guest would prefer salad, pasta or fish? The better you know the person, the easier it will be to make an informed decision, and order.
Ranking a story on news feed follows the same process, she said. It starts with “inventory” to see which stories are on the menu, then “signals” to help with the considerations the algorithm needs to make, like who posted the stories, links or videos and when they were posted, and ends with producing a “relevancy score” to decide where in the news feed a story will be ranked for each person.
“The most important input in what you will see (on your Facebook news feed) is who you decide to befriend and the pages you decide to follow. Those reflect the stories that are eligible to show up in the first place… It all starts with the connections you make with people and pages.”
Geci explained that while the algorithm is evolving and changing, Facebook developed a set of core values that always remain constant and is “essential to keep the experience central” and relevant. These core values dictate that stories from friends and family come first. Only after this stories that are informative and entertaining are listed.
As far as entertainment value goes,video is outranking anything else, she said. Even though Facebook’s news feed, by its very nature, is a platform for spontaneous discovery of content, advances in technology and better connectivity have resulted in mobile video consumption becoming a planned viewing experience, similar to what television used to be years ago. Despite not knowing exactly what they will find, more and more people are going to news feed to discover video.
Geci suggested that there are several ways publishers could benefit and monetise from video on news feed. One of the best ways, she said, is through branded, or sponsored content. To facilitate this Facebook has started to roll out tools to support branded content. These tools have seen steady growth in adoption, like publishers making use of branded content tags, watermarks and logos.
Facebook is also testing Ad Breaks, a new way to earn revenue from Facebook video broadcasts. Ad Breaks, short advert inserts of 15 seconds or less, can only be played within videos that are 90 seconds or longer and can earn publishers a share of revenue across all Facebook surfaces.
One of the early lessons learnt, she said, was that the best performing videos were programmed to accommodate Ad Breaks, incorporating a ‘cliffhanger moment’ encouraging engagement after an ad break.
You can see Karla’s presentation here.
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