In the context of online video, what can content creators and brands do to get the most out of Facebook?
At vdonxt asia, our recently held convention on the business of online video, Janine Stein editorial director, ContentAsia, an Asia-based information resource, quizzed Saurabh Doshi, head of videos and media partnerships, Facebook, India and South Asia, about the role videos will play in getting Facebook to its goal of triggering meaningful social interactions.
Given the unlimited flow of content that comes to each user, Facebook has an algorithm that helps prioritise content such that the right kind gets "surfaced". Weightage is given to interactions and active participation - likes, reactions, shares, comments - on the platform. "That has been a key success formula for us," says Doshi.
On January 11, Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg posted a note about his goals for 2018. He wrote, "Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there's more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do -- help us connect with each other...The first changes you'll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media."
In the same piece, Zuckerberg admitted, "Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable."
If the time people spend on Facebook does go down in the days ahead, will marketers who routinely utilise the platform to reach their consumers suffer? "We don't necessarily optimise for time spent," says Doshi, highlighting quality over quantity, "We want to optimise 'good' time spent, rather than 'just' time spent..."
This is especially important given the amount of "passive viewing" of media content/videos, polarising memes and false news, that occurs today. "We don't want users consuming that kind of content all the time. We want them to come and have more positive interactions with friends and family," he says.
But will marketers have to spend more money on Facebook, hereon? Harking back to a statement he made at vdonxt asia last year and recalling that we made it our headline ("You don't always need to spend money; organic content has a lot of power"), Doshi fields, "Content is, and will remain, king. There's still a lot of power in organic. As long as creators continue to make good content, which creates meaningful interactions on the platform, we'll see organic travel a lot."
Does this mean Facebook will carry less news-based content, going forward? Answers Doshi, "Let me clarify - we are not differentiating between different types of content. We aren't pulling back on news. Both news and videos are critical to our success. News can drive a lot of interactions."
Answering a question about how content creators and brands should approach video on Facebook given the platform's new goals, Doshi says, "We want to have active - not passive - video consumption. The change most partners should make while creating Facebook videos is... they should make them more interactive, engaging and meaningful."
In fact, the engagement live videos get on Facebook is six times more than the engagement regular videos get. Zuckerberg says as much in his post: "We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones." Sports videos, Doshi reveals, tend to generate a lot of interactions on the platform.
Bringing up Facebook's ongoing stand against false news, ContentAsia's Stein asked Doshi to explain how a brand can work on creating content that Facebook is likely to tag as an "authentic source".
He responds, "... the algorithm would give weightage to content that people are interacting with, and to content that is from trusted sources. Say, a creator posts a video that's second in an existing series, then the algorithm knows it is a trusted source. We're taking huge steps to cut click-baiting. We're training our algorithm to weed out this kind of junk content."
One of Facebook's priorities this year is to provide a lot of analytics to its partners and content creators so that they can adjust to the team's changed focus areas. Facebook's recent acquisition of CrowdTangle, a social analytics tool for publishers, is an effort to this end.
On the hot subject of measurement, Doshi says, "Broadly, any sort of measurement is good. If it's third party measurement, it's even better. A lot of brands and content creators want measurement so that they get better ROI. So we are also for it."
Citing Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status as "newer forms to create more authentic videos," Doshi says, towards the end of the discussion, "We need to give more and more tools to create newer types of videos." Globally, of the 800 million people who use Instagram every month, over 300 million use Stories every day. The same trend is seen in India.
Last August, Facebook launched its 'Watch' tab in the United States, which helps build a community around videos on the platform itself. Zuckerberg describes it as "a place where you can discover shows your friends are watching and follow your favorite shows and creators so you don't miss any episodes," in his post at the time of the initial roll-out, in which he also says, "You'll be able to chat and connect with people during an episode, and join groups with people who like the same shows afterwards to build community. We hope Watch will be home to a wide range of shows -- from reality to comedy to live sports. Some will be made by professional creators, and others from regular people in our community."
While Watch will be taken to global markets in due time, there is no news about the launch of this feature in India as yet.