The internet is changing on the daily, and Facebook may just be the leader in how quickly they shuffle around their features and algorithms. It can be a bit overwhelming for some users, but the good news is Facebook is continually looking to make our lives easier, more connected, and do it all with the ultimate user experience in mind.
At last month’s F8 Conference in San Francisco, Facebook’s leaders unveiled what is in store for users in the coming months; much of it revolves around live video, easier ways to access and share live video, and new services within Messenger.
Even though it feels at times like YouTube, Twitter, or even Skype has the market cornered on their niche service, it is of utmost importance for marketers and businesses to be up to speed on Facebook’s new tools and services. The reason behind this is simple: people from all demographics are already on Facebook (well over a billion users per month), and it’s just easier to stay in one app that does it all.
Also called Messenger Bots, they live on the server rather than the device, and exist within Facebook’s Messenger. Their job is to answer questions, place orders or do the tasks we don’t want to do. Mark Zuckerberg explained that Messenger Bots perform tasks, purchases, and more. He quipped that with Messenger Bots, ironically, you may never have to call 1-800-Flowers again. Just ask your bot to do it.
There is talk in the tech world about social media transitioning away from the public sphere and into private messenger apps. Indeed, this is not just possible, but happening, with the monthly use of messenger apps recently overtaking that of traditional social media. Facebook’s Messenger app alone brings in 900 million monthly users and counting.
Many are already familiar with the Live Video feature in Facebook, which allows users to broadcast video footage live to their community of Facebook friends. The big change is that live video can now be broadcast from just about anywhere on any computer or device. Previously Live Video was only available for personal phones.
This wider access opens up a wealth of opportunities for businesses, marketers, and even friends and family. It’s now possible within Facebook Groups to use Live Video to hold a Q&A session where the presenter can answer typed questions verbally and see reactions live during their talk. It’s essentially like having your viewers right there in the room with you.
Similarly, with Live Video’s expanded functionality, it can change the way people interact with Facebook Events. Now, if you can’t make it to a party, no sweat! You can attend through Live Video. Those in the entertainment industry are expected to use this feature to provide backstage sneak-peeks and other behind-the-scenes footage to get fans excited about their performances.
To create a following for your live broadcasts, plan ahead and be creative. Here are 7 great tips on just how to do it. Your audience can follow your live videos by tapping the “follow” button and opting-in for notifications, so they won’t miss it when it’s live. With a maximum broadcasting time of 90 minutes, the sky’s the limit for Live Video.
Live Video should be particularly noteworthy for marketers, as many in the field are confident that Live Videos will get an automatic bump, aka preferential treatment in the Facebook news feed.
If you’re ready to broadcast your talents, or anything for that matter, to the world, Hubspot Marketing has written a thorough tutorial on how to effectively create Live Video on Facebook.
Building on the heavy emphasis of Live Video, Facebook is also planning to roll-out a new Video Discovery tab. In the vein of Youtube, you’ll be able to look up videos by topic, or broadcaster, and it will contain a map of live worldwide broadcasts to browse. The Discovery button is even slated to take the center position in the mobile navigation bar.
Facebook is setting itself apart from other live video broadcasters, such as Periscope, by allowing users to save their broadcasts indefinitely, rather than disappearing after 24 hours.
In addition, Live Video is introducing a new metrics section just for live video broadcasters. Publishers and creators need to know their viewership stats to analyze and improve their following.
Facebook claims that with the advent of Live Video able to broadcast from anywhere, the Video Discovery tab and Interactive Map, that Facebook’s Live Videos will not only be easier to create and share than that of their competitor’s, Periscope, but more fun and interesting, too. In their initial trials Facebook boldly touts Live Video as also able to produce ten times the comments than that of Periscope.
Facebook has been testing Instant Articles with over 1,000 publishers over the past year or so, and recently at the F8 Conference, they opened up the feature to everyone. Instant articles are designed to load immediately, because of a Facebook-native publishing platform.
Slow load times are a significant barrier to news and articles reaching their audiences. With the unveiling of Instant Articles, Facebook is poised to be the go-to news and information source. In fact, Facebook has already surpassed Google in its referral traffic to news sites.
The stats, according to Facebook, are proof that Instant Articles will be the primary driver of news and article sharing in the coming years. So far, Instant articles have received 20% more clicks than standard mobile articles, are shared 30% more often, and have a 70% less bounce-rate.
Instant Articles load instantly, yes, but they have additional features that create a more interactive, user-friendly reading experience. Among these are auto-play video and tap-to-zoom image galleries.
Save to Facebook button
In case Facebook wasn’t already everywhere, now we can be certain it will be. The current Save Button in Facebook has been useful – for saving articles or videos to come back to at a more convenient time. But it only functioned within Facebook. The new Save to Facebook button discussed at F8 can exist anywhere on the web, and currently, publishers can add it to their article templates.
The saved material will be accessible on any of your devices or desktop, via the Facebook site or app. For businesses and marketers the ability to widely track posts that are being ‘saved to Facebook,’ will undoubtedly inform content strategy.
Facebook 360 (Virtual Reality)
As impressive as it might be, don’t expect the Surround 360 Virtual Reality Camera featured at F8 to become commonplace anytime soon. Facebook hopes that more businesses and publishers will invest the $30k (the estimated price tag for a VR camera) to create their own 360-degree camera based on their model, and upload the video to Facebook.
The VR camera, which looks a little like a spaceship, has several cameras positioned around its diameter. All of the cameras must be globally synchronized, meaning they need to capture all of the imagery at virtually the same time, in order to be stitched together.
The technology is built on the same concept as human eyes, so part of the footage is based on what the right eye would see, while other footage is what the left eye would see. Facebook explains that “It means you have to shoot in stereoscopic 360, with 10 to 20 cameras collectively pointing in every direction. Furthermore, all the cameras must capture 30 or 60 frames per second, exactly and simultaneously.”
The technology involved in building a VR Camera may seem futuristic and unattainable, but Facebook will be handing all of their camera’s design elements over to the public this summer. The plans include the camera hardware design and the stitching code. Both will be available on GitHub. They’ve chosen to open-source the camera design in an effort to build participation in the program. High profile companies such as NASA, National Geographic, and even Red Bull have already jumped on the Virtual Reality train. You can see their 360 degree virtual reality videos on the Facebook 360 page.
The Bottom Line: Personalization and Presentation
From a bot that calls you by name and does your bidding, to attending a concert with your closest friends without actually being there, the latest innovations from Facebook focus around a privatization and personalization that will bring you closer to the people and the content you care about most (but while also increasing the quality of your interactions).
It’s an ironic twist: that social media, designed to broadcast to the world (and it still will if you want it to), is veering toward advanced Messenger features and other small group sharing as the next big thing. But, as we see group sharing and private sharing increase on Facebook, clearly they haven’t let the presentation side slip. With exciting new developments like Facebook 360, Instant Articles, and up to 90 minutes of Live Video, Facebook remains as relevant as ever.