Paul Hanrahan
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Facebook's latest development sees the company attempting to branch out into the video market - could Watch be worth taking a swatch?

Facebook’s attempts to compete with other social media platforms like Snapchat have been increasingly met with frustration. Though its main platform remains as ubiquitous as ever, it has an ever growing list of new ideas.

Their latest project is Facebook Watch, a new video distribution service.

Facebook Watch

Watch is a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work.

If you think that sounds like YouTube, you’re not far wrong; Facebook Watch is Facebook’s attempt to eat into YouTube’s market share.

Initially, Watch will be released as a pilot scheme with just 40 pre-commissioned ‘shows’ – short snippets of episodic material. One might think of them as ‘Facebook Originals’.

The opportunities

The selling point of Watch is that Facebook friends can share shows between themselves, like, comment and browse what everybody else is watching. The strength of Facebook’s social network gives it a clear advantage here.

For organisations looking to expand their brand, the challenge is to target specific demographics. The ready-made infrastructure of Facebook’s groups, communities and friends, may well make it easier to do this, allowing people with similar interests to share mutually enjoyable content.

For culture organisations, there is a great deal of potential here in terms of spreading the word – whether it’s organic growth through likes, shares and follows, or a paid-for approach, specifically targeting content at the groups you believe it will resonate with most powerfully.

Exactly what the content could be remains to be seen. Will it become an extension of what’s on display in venues and festivals, offering greater insight into the same theme? Or will it provide the potential for standalone exhibitions, specifically designed with digital audiences in mind?

The challenges

As with anything in the world of digital marketing, the dilemma inevitably comes down to volume. If Watch takes off, anyone trying to promote their video content is in competition for the attention of the user base and of course, Facebook’s algorithms. Content will have to be short, engaging, and enjoyable enough to justify the time spent watching it.

At this stage, it’s too early to say whether Watch will be the phenomenon that Facebook hopes; their track record of breaking into new markets warrants healthy scepticism. That said, it would be equally irresponsible to write it off completely. If the Facebook Watch bandwagon takes off – you’ll likely want to get on it.

Main image credit: Facebook TV by portal gda (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)