Back in the olden days of spring 2016, publishers could cobble together a Facebook live stream with one or two staffers manning a smartphone or a tablet and call it a day. But as Facebook Live increasingly becomes an essential part of most video publishers’ social strategies, some are building full-fledged teams for the emerging feature.
Refinery29, for instance, is currently in the process of building out a 10-person team dedicated to Facebook Live. Today, the publisher, which started experimenting with live video on the social network three months ago, has five people from its video and social teams manning its live video content. Soon, it wants to grow that number to as many as 10. The staff will feature four producers and one production assistant, as well as managers for tech, social and analytics, among other specialists.
Refinery29 publishes 15 live videos per week across its eight Facebook pages, including the main page as well as targeted sub-communities such as Short Cuts (for beauty tutorials) and Refinery29 Wellness. The team it’s building will be responsible for content and strategy across all of those pages.
The decision to create an entire team for Facebook Live comes as Refinery29 moves from experimenting with the format to creating more recurring content. Instead of simply using a smartphone or tablet, the company is also looking to do more polished live-streams shot with better-quality cameras. It’s also building a multi-purpose studio space with shooting more Facebook Live content in mind. All of this requires specialists, according to Refinery29 chief content officer Amy Emmerich.
“We want to do this at the highest level we can,” said Emmerich. “Can we do high-quality live videos in 24 hours? Can we continue to build connections to talent or large-scale events to do more live videos with them? And what does that turnaround look like? We’re willing to invest in a team that can handle those processes and deliver at a high quality.”
The specialized-team approach to different social platforms is not new to Refinery29, which already has 11 people handling its Snapchat Discover channel. And Refinery29 isn’t the first publisher to invest serious resources toward Facebook Live: the New York Times has seven people on its Facebook Live team, while Tastemade has three. (The Times and Tastemade were both paid by Facebook to do live videos; Refinery29 wouldn’t comment on if it was as well.)
And yet, Facebook Live can’t be monetized just yet. It’s different on Snapchat Discover, where Refinery29 sells advertising and is profitable. That doesn’t matter at this juncture, not only because Facebook Live is still relatively new but also because it’s a top priority for Facebook, which continues to test a monetization system for live video.
“You need to be strategic, but if [Facebook Live] isn’t in the top 15 percent of the things you’re looking to develop for your video strategy in the next year, you’d be making a mistake,” said Emmerich.
In terms of the actual content, Refinery29 focuses on three key areas: stunts, serviceable content and event coverage. With stunts, Refinery29 will often pair with a celebrity or influencer to “game up” viewership, said Fiona Hillery, director of video content strategy for Refinery29. This could come in the form of seeing how many hoops the world hula hoop record holder could twirl or simply a fan Q&A with Anna Kendrick. Serviceable content includes beauty and fitness tutorials, as well as repeatable programming like “Sexcess,” which features a weekly roundtable talk about sex between experts and comedians. And similar to other publishers, Refinery29 will also travel to cover notable events such as the Tony Awards or a rally in front of the Supreme Court to give viewers.
Most of Refinery29’s live videos generate 40,000 to 60,000 views on Facebook. It’s in line with Elite Daily, which posts similar numbers for its Facebook live videos, while ahead of Allure The Scene, which hover around 5,000 views per video. Top Refinery29 videos include a live drag queen makeup tutorial for its Short Cuts page, which generated 175,000 views within the first 48 hours — and a majority of them actually happening live, the company said. While those numbers might be below Refinery29’s average on its main Facebook page — 317,000 views per video according to Tubular Labs — overall engagement is eight times higher on live content versus on-demand clips.
“Since we started live streaming on our sub-pages, those pages have grown [in terms of followers],” said Hillery. “Facebook Live is determining the overall health of each category page.”