Armed with analytics, publishers are already changing their Facebook Live strategies

In the day since Facebook announced it was offering in-depth analytics on videos uploaded to its platform, publishers are already finding ways to tweak what they’re been posting.

On Wednesday, LittleThings shared a video of a dog playing in a sprinkler. The five-minute video piled up more than a quarter-million views, not bad for a live video from the social video giant. However, LittleThings editor-in-chief Maia McCann said that she saw viewer engagement with the video fall off after the first two minutes, and she thinks that, for similar videos in the future, she might need to add a twist or shake things up a couple minutes in, to keep engagement and sharing numbers ticking up.

McCann is one voice in a chorus of publishers that responded happily to the Facebook news, which will make it easier for publishers to figure out not just what’s working but what kinds of audiences they can offer to marketers on what has become a major hub of video consumption. She also thinks the way publishers approach Facebook video will start changing quickly.

“We’re really excited,” McCann said, noting that the amount of data publishers once had to work with made things difficult. “The lack of data we were offered, particularly on live, made it feel like the wild west,” she said.

In February, Facebook gave publishers their first sense of who was watching their videos, giving view counts after three seconds, then 10 seconds, as well as video completion and retention rates.

Wednesday’s announcement offered far more, addressing all three kinds of videos publishers currently share on its platform: live posts, regular video post and 360-degree videos. For live, a content type that pushed a lot of publishers out of their comfort zone, Facebook now offers a second-by-second look at how viewers engaged with the video. If something happened during the video that compelled lots of viewers to like or share that video, they can now identify it, quickly. “There used to be a lot of guesswork,” McCann said.

For pre-recorded videos posted to Facebook, publishers will be able to look at demographic data on who watches their videos, and for how long, compared to their videos’ typical viewers, clearing the runway for publishers to offer marketers a more detailed picture of their audiences. Billboard, for example, has already figured out that a large majority of the people watching their nostalgia-based videos are women, something that could help them sell an advertiser a custom series. “We rely heavily on data to make programming decisions,” said Michael Palmer, general manager of video for Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter. “This sheds a ton of light for us.”

On the 360-degree front, Facebook now offers publishers the chance to walk viewers through the video in real time, using a tool called Guide. It also shows off a heat map, which gives publishers a sense of which part of the filmed environment viewers looked at most, over time.

It will take publishers a while to glean all of the available insights about their users and to fully optimize the kinds of video they make. But the most important thing for them is that, now, they finally have that chance. “It’s in their interest for us to get really good at this,” said Jamie Mottram, the senior director of social content for USA Today. “It’s gonna make us better at telling stories in this format.”

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