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Facebook, Snapchat and the future of live video

Matt Kapko | March 18, 2016
Live mobile video isn't new, but many of today's most popular social media companies are investing heavily in the technology, and they're pushing more live broadcasts to their users' feeds. The development has significant potential implications for digital marketers and the enterprise.

Mobile live video is ready for the masses, and it's coming soon to a smartphone near you.

Social media market leaders Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter are battling for users who create and share live mobile broadcasts. The concept of live video on mobile devices isn't new, but today it tops many social companies' priorities. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems determined to capitalize on the opportunity, for example. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently used the word "live" four times in a single sentence when describing Twitter, and Snapchat wouldn't be as popular as it is today if not for its early bets on live streaming. 

Facebook, the newest player in the live video game, began testing Facebook Live in December, and it quickly expanded the feature's availability during the past few months. Snapchat added a live video feature to its app about 18 months ago, and Twitter's live-video service Periscope will celebrate its one-year anniversary later this month.

Social media companies are leading the charge for live video, because they have the large amounts of users and the infrastructure to ensure those users know when parties of interest broadcast live, according to Andy Levey, director of marketing and content for Cirque du Soleil. Levey says the live video market is quickly becoming an "arms race" between Facebook and Snapchat. "Social networks are all about connecting and bringing you closer," he says. "It started out as text, then static imagery, then video, and now live videos and 360 videos. The closer you can be to experiencing something firsthand, the better." 

Live video boosts social media engagement

To see Snapchat's "Live Stories," users still need to swipe at least two times from their message feeds, but Facebook and Twitter are bringing live video to the forefront. For example, Facebook now considers live video a new content type, and it presents live videos higher up in users' news feeds as they're broadcast. And Facebook says people spend triple the amount of time watching a live video on average than video that is not live. Twitter also started to embed Periscope broadcasts in tweets and users' timelines in January. 

Though Facebook's massive audience seems to have embraced live video, and Snapchat shines as a storytelling platform, no single service has run away with the market; there is still plenty of room for new entrants and shifts in competition, according to Levey. "[I]t's the wild, wild west out there, which is both awesome and frightening." 

Live video breathes new life into the creative efforts of brands that want to create more immersive experiences, according to Elizabeth Closmore, vice president of strategy and partnerships at Sprinklr, a social media management platform for enterprises. "Live video humanizes everything. It's more one-to-one than a recorded video, it's personal and it allows the consumers to feel like they are participating in a shared experience," she says. Platforms with strong social components will likely be the most successful, because "live video is only a commodity if it's shared." 

 

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