As well as the impending “time well spent” algorithm changes, soon the world’s biggest social network will completely change the way it dishes out video content.


In Mark Zuckerberg’s words:

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

Just how different the News Feed will look in a few months’ time is unclear, but we can be certain of a few things:

  • less Ads
  • less content from Facebook Pages
  • reduced “passive” consumption of content – instead, content that promotes engagement between people will be favoured

All the while, Facebook has been trialling its new Watch feature which has clear aspirations of rivalling YouTube. A lofty ambition? Sure, but things look fairly promising so far, and it’s an exciting time for anyone who uses video marketing.

A handful of US-based pages have been given early access to some of Watch’s features, which gives us a clue as to how things might work when it’s officially rolled-out later this year.

Not all business owners and marketers will need to know the ins and outs of Watch, because it’ll likely be reserved for the most popular creators with the biggest audiences. But it’ll undoubtedly allow some fresh faces to bring some new video content into the mix, so long as they know how to use the damn thing.

Here’s what we know so far, so you can plan accordingly.

Long form video is favoured

“Video viewing in the news feed is a fleeting experience. Taking that out and into Watch means we are seeing longer-form viewership, even in these first few episodes.”

That’s from Oren Katzeff who’s part of Tastemade – one of the aforementioned channels who have been tinkering with pre-release Watch. Each episode is around 5 minutes long, which is fairly short by YouTube standards but long for Zuckerbergland.

Unsurprisingly, they run just like mini-shows, with clear structures, compelling stories to be told and lessons for viewers to learn. This is not video shared purely for the sake of it – this is video with a proper purpose (and quite frankly, in a time where scrolling down a typical News Feed uncovers endless low-quality memes and GIFs, it couldn’t come sooner).

Marketers will need to have plenty of ideas for long-form video content relating to their business, but more importantly they’ll need to provide valuable, useful and engaging films that more closely resemble TV shows than the typical spontaneously-shot stuff we’re used to seeing.

High/Pro quality is a minimum requirement

Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I wouldn’t expect low-quality video to be granted access to the Kingdom of Watch. From these early teasers, clearly this is a platform for “proper” shows. You might be able to post (and advertise) any ol’ video you like at the moment, but you’ll need to do a bit better than that if you want your own show.

After all, you wouldn’t expect to be aired on traditional TV if your most advanced filmmaking equipment was an iPhone.

6x higher engagement than News Feed

Another one of Tastemade’s shows – Struggle Meals – has apparently seen six times the amount of engagement and views than in the News Feed. This is very interesting, because it’s not like Watch is an entirely new social network or website – it’s simply a subtle deviation in the way Facebook users watch videos on the site. Yet clearly it’s enough of a different experience to warrant greater involvement. And the really exciting thing is that the combination of long-form content with genuine social interaction falls perfectly in line with Zuckerberg’s vision for Facebook’s future.

Mid-roll ads

At the moment, short video ads will override the Watch video part-way through. This will likely change over time, in the same way that YouTube now shows ads in a variety of ways and at different times during the users’ experience. But it’s yet another opportunity for advertisers and marketers; you might not have your own show on Watch, but you could make use of the (albeit short) ads that viewers are required to sit through to finish the episode at hand.

Landscape video content

It looks like the tried-and-tested, good ol’ widescreen format is back. HOORAY! For a minute there, I imagined the future would be full of square or vertical video (which as a videographer makes me nauseous). But Watch shows videos in all their originally-intended glory, even when viewing on mobile. What’s likely to be the case however, is vertical video optimised for mobile remaining in the News Feed whilst Watch sticks to landscape. Thus, marketers will need to utilise both formats to extract the most value from their video content – vertical to advertise the show, landscape for the show itself.

Engage without pausing

Replicating YouTube’s format, viewers can engage directly with episodes without needing to pause the watching experience, most notably with comments which are in-line with the video and can be browsed independently. Once again this plays right into the hands of our Mark and his grand vision, both promoting meaningful interaction and prioritising long-form content. The icing on the cake that marketers need to get right is ensuring their Watch shows are actively promoting this interaction from within – viewers often need a genuine reason or a push to engage with content, so to not urge or incentivise them to do so would be to miss a trick.

It won’t be long before Watch is rolled out properly, and only time will tell if it has the cajones to rival the online video giant of YouTube. But it is coming, and what’s been shown pre-release looks rather promising. To take advantage of any new technology, you need to be prepared for it before it even arrives – now, you’re a little more prepared than most.

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