Why is Facebook Live not bigger in Ireland?

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It’s fair to say that Ireland is something of an untapped resource when it comes to Facebook Live. This morning at 9am, there were exactly zero Irish users streaming a Facebook Live video.

Now at this same point in time, there were hundreds of Live videos being streamed in the US where it was somewhere between 2am and 5am. So not exactly peak viewing hours!

The lack of usage of Live – particularly by brands – is surprising because Facebook Live videos have a simply astonishing viewership rate. According to the Global Web Index, 20 percent of Facebook’s 1.6 billion users regularly watch Facebook Live videos.

That’s an audience bigger than the entire population of the United States (or 69 times the population of Ireland).

The always-changing Facebook algorithm is a tricky beast but it basically boosts Live videos while they are being broadcast – meaning that it is much more likely to show up in a user’s feed than if it were any other type of post. And to be clear, a “view” is categorised as someone who has watched the video for at least three seconds.

Facebook said in a blog post that “we are making a small update to News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live. People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live. This is because Facebook Live videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact.”

Video killed the radio star

Facebook themselves admit that video might be the most effective tool it has and that’s something marketers should consider. Facebook said in a blog post, “Results show that from the moment a video was viewed (even before one second), lift happened across recall, brand awareness, and purchase consideration. That means even people who never watched the video, but did see the impression, were still impacted by [it].”

Video might well have killed the radio star but it also might revive newspapers. We’ve all heard the plaintive cries that the internet is killing newspapers but video could bridge the gap.

Thanks in part to its video-first approach, digital ad revenue now accounts for 35.5 percent of all revenue at the New York Times – that’s a rise of over 20 percent last year. The New York Times has recorded more than 100 million views of its Facebook Live videos.

Some brands, including clients of ours here at 256, are seeing phenomenal viewing figures for Facebook Live videos. In some cases, the viewing figures exceed the amount of followers a brand has.

Not only are Facebook Live videos being boosted by the internal algorithm but everyone who has liked your page gets a notification when you start a broadcast. Our clients, Lisney, have gone live with four house tours – and racked up views of over 25,000 in total.

On our own 256 Facebook page, we recently hosted a Facebook Live event with Ella De Guzman from Siopaella where she spoke about her adventures on social media. The video has been viewed almost 7,000 times – and that’s on a budget of a tenner.

Perhaps the reason that Facebook has been boosting the Live videos is that they recently announced plans to allow brands to advertise during them. Once you have a minimum of 2,000 followers “you can take ad breaks during any live broadcast that has more than 300 people watching at the same time, after you’ve been live for at least 4 minutes. You can take additional ad breaks every 5 minutes after your first break.”

It has been reported that Facebook will give creators 55 percent of the revenue generated by the ads. According to Adweek, “the updates could help Facebook better compete with Google, whose creators have been making money from YouTube for years.

While the ad breaks might work better for traditional broadcasters and news outlets than brands (who often view the Facebook Live video as an ad in the first place and don’t want to dilute that impact with ads for another brand), the fact that the inherent boosting is still in place means now is the time to strike when it comes to Facebook Live.

Facebook Live in Ireland

Here in Ireland, sports sites have been the fastest movers in relation to Facebook Live – Joe.ie (or joe.co.uk) regularly rack up over 60,000 views for its Friday Football Live videos while it has just been announced that Ronan O’Gara is to front a new show on Wednesday nights on Facebook Live.

The show will also run on Twitter via Periscope. The Show, named SportsJOE Live, has attracted a host of big Irish sports names including former soccer star Andy Reid, O’Gara’s former international teammate Stephen Ferris, Kerry GAA player and fashion designer Paul Galvin and Cork camogie’s Ashling Thomson – so will probably be a general sports show concentrating on the topic of the week.

Viewed in concert with Joe.ie’s hiring of big hitters like Mikey Stafford (previously of The Guardian and Irish Daily Mail), Dion Fanning (formerly of the Sunday Independent) and Colm Parkinson (ex-Newstalk and Laois talisman), this can be seen as a measure of how seriously they are taking the new medium.

Joes’s rival Balls.ie’s also had a phenomenally successful branded Live series with Coca-Cola during Euro 2016 was viewed more than 630,000 times over 19 videos.

When it comes to media outlets, The Irish Times’ Live output is pretty sporadic. Since the turn of the year, they’ve gone live five times – four of which were political broadcasts (Leader’s Questions and committees and that sort of thing).

By far their most successful Live broadcast was ‘Live from Apollo House’ – a 49-minute video from the home – which garnered 57,000 views.

We're live from Apollo House in Dublin City centre…

Posted by The Irish Times on Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The live political broadcasts average around 15,000 views each.

Considering the world’s very first live televised event was US president Harry Truman speaking at the Japanese peace process back in 1951, the Irish Times aren’t exactly breaking new ground when it comes to their Live output.

Indeed the Irish Times has 11 different Facebook Pages (sport, culture, business, health, food, politics, life and style, books, home and abroad) but the only account that has gone live is the main Irish Times page – and even then it’s pretty spotty.

The Independent seem to be a bit more in-tune with Facebook Live and are averaging 20,000 views for their Six Nations “Left Wing Live” videos with former Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald. The series is sponsored by Aer Lingus.

Evoke.ie – owned by the Irish Daily Mail group – has recently plunged into the mix too with their offerings focused on make-up and entertainment.

The ad-hoc approach to Facebook Live by Irish press outlets (and brands in a lot of cases) is in sharp contrast to the approach in the US. They might be the home of “fake news” according to a certain demented world leader, but the New York Times really leads the way when it comes to Facebook Live.

The New York Times has used Facebook Live in a host of ways to engage with their audience – from streaming live White House press conferences to having viewers ask questions to Jake Gyllenhal to communally solving its notoriously difficult crossword.

Help us crush today's The New York Times Crosswords crossword puzzle by David Kahn.

Posted by The New York Times on Thursday, 14 July 2016

On Valentine’s Day, over 195,000 watched a 35-minute video live from the Etsy headquarters on how to make your own Valentine’s Day card.

Personal, not professional

People have to keep in mind that Facebook Live is not TV so replicating what is happening on the golden screen won’t necessarily work. It’s not necessarily hard news that is winning the day on Facebook Live – instead it’s more personal, whimsical efforts.

The most successful approach isn’t necessarily as polished as “professional” videos that would appear on TV.

Just look at the most popular videos of all time on Facebook Live: Chewbacca Mom – a video of a woman getting over-excited by her new Chewbacca mask –  garnered over 166 million views (and bagged the ‘Mom’ a promise of full college scholarships for her kids as well as a book deal and a web series on TLC).

The second most popular Live video, with a remarkable 93 million views, is a guy playing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears on a hammered dulcimer.

That musical theme continued in Ireland as the most popular video on Facebook Live last year was of the Byrne brothers – three young kids performing Irish music and dance in Galway’s Eyre Square.

ABC, BuzzFeed, and the New York Times, all went on Facebook Live at some stage during the recent Oscar ceremony too and between them (and some other local outlets), the coverage generated 119 million views.

Which is pretty remarkable, really.

Basic tips for facebook live

We’re not saying that your Facebook Live post is going to get you that level of coverage – but if you follow a few quick tips you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

  1. Tell fans when you’re broadcasting ahead of time.
  2. Do a few practice runs. You can set your audience to ‘only me’ or even to a specific friend who can see if you make any horrendous errors.
  3. Go live only when you have a strong connection.
  4. Write a catchy description before going live.
  5. Ask viewers to subscribe to Live notifications.
  6. Say hello to commenters by name; respond to their comments live.
  7. Broadcast for longer periods of time to reach more people.
  8. Use a closing line to signal the end of the broadcast.

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About Paul Mc Nulty

A displaced Mayoman in Dublin. Turns full yobbo at Croke Park when following his countymen's travails (profile picture confirms this). An admirer of the lyrical majesty of the Saw Doctors and the existential musings of Stephen Ireland. Fully adheres to Mark Corrigan's opinion that Frosties are just Corn Flakes for people who can't handle reality.