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Facebook’s new emphasis on video shouldn’t really be a surprise – the company has been trumpeting the importance of original video content on Facebook for nearly two years now. And now it looks like the company is ready to go after the world’s best YouTube creators – you know, the people who routinely get hundreds of thousands of views for every new video they post – as part of this strategy.
Why is Facebook taking on YouTube now?
This strategic move is not about embracing creativity and innovation, or empowering the world’s creators. (Although, inevitably, Facebook will attempt to position it as exactly this). No, this is about cold, harsh cash. You see, video content creation is really all about advertising. Just as TV networks can’t sell advertising unless they have high-quality shows to attract advertisers, social networks like Facebook can’t sell advertising unless they have high-quality video content to attract advertisers.
And that’s where the social network’s new video app for content creators, Creators, comes into play. Facebook’s goal is to build relationships with the world’s top video creators, and convince them to play in the Facebook sandbox rather than the YouTube sandbox. To do that, Facebook is building out a centralized platform for these creators to post content, edit their work, follow their metrics, and build buzz for their work across Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook).
What Creators could mean for Facebook’s video ambitions
If all goes well, Facebook will have a deep bench of bankable video stars. Some of them might even be incentivized to start creating 30-minute videos instead of 3-minute videos. When that happens, that’s when the advertising magic really starts. Just as a major car or beer company might pay millions of dollars to advertise during a 30-minute primetime TV show, they’d presumably shell out the same amount of cash to advertise on “primetime Facebook.”
Ultimately, it might come down to how easy it is for the world’s best YouTube creators to monetize their work on Facebook. Why go to all the trouble of moving from YouTube to Facebook unless you’re going to get (a) a bigger audience and (b) more money? That’s where Facebook will likely emphasize the scale of its potential audience and the potential for lucrative advertising. Any new video from Facebook Creators could reach a worldwide audience of nearly 1 billion people. If major advertisers like Coca-Cola or Lexus start throwing money around, then Facebook could really sweeten the pot for its Creators.
What could possibly go wrong for Facebook?
However, it’s easy to envision a scenario where all this backfires. For example, some social media analysts have suggested that Facebook Creators will just encourage the Internet’s worst trolls to move over to Facebook. In the same way that trolls on Twitter can absolutely shut down or silence an important voice, they could use the same tactics on Facebook.
And, the focus on “audience size” could backfire as well. It could lead to very polarizing content online designed to get clicks – like hyper-partisan political content designed to go viral. Or it could lead to the worst kind of viral video dreck that you’ve ever seen (more cats!), all in the name of attracting more eyeballs.
Facebook’s wooing of “creators” will only intensify in 2018
At a time when Facebook seems to be on the verge of putting all of its potential competitors out of business (sorry, Snapchat), it looks like YouTube could be next. Facebook has even gone so far as to open up a new office near Los Angeles to be even closer to the entertainment industry. In 2018, if all goes according to plan, we could soon be talking about Facebook in the same way as we talk about cable TV networks or streaming video services like Netflix. Everyone wants a piece of video these days.