Facebook wants to turn mindless, passive video consumption into "time well spent," and now it's giving social media stars a powerful tool to foster communities around their content. Today Facebook launches Facebook Creator, offering influencers Live Creative Kit for adding intros and outros to broadcasts, a unified inbox of Facebook and Instagram comments plus Messenger chats, cross-posting to Twitter and expansive analytics.
Facebook promised the Creator app back in June at VidCon and today it launches globally on iOS with Android planned for the coming months. It's actually a rebrand and update of the 2014 Facebook Mentions app that was only available to verified public figures and Pages, but now is open to everyone. Weirdly, it still appears as "Mentions" in the App Store for now.
Any individual profile or Page can download Creator for access to the enhanced fan engagement tools. Facebook is also launching a Facebook for Creators website with best practices for growing fan bases, examples of what other stars are doing and access to answers of frequently asked questions.
"It's a big priority for us to bring people closer together around meaningful content and the people who are meaningful to them," Facebook's VP of video product Fidji Simo tells me. "Creators are right at the intersection of everything we think is pretty unique about Facebook."
And after CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared on this month's earnings call that "time well spent" via video is Facebook's new objective, the Creator app could help it make Facebook video a lot less isolating than watching TV.
Inside Facebook's Creator app
"The idea was there to give them a one-stop-shop for all the functionality to manage their presence on the go," Simo explains about the Creator app, which breaks down into four parts.
Live Creative Kit
This bundle of tools lets users add intros, outros and custom emoji reactions to their live broadcasts. Creators go on Facebook's site, upload an intro like a theme song or welcome, and an outro like a call to follow them across social media. Those can then be enabled in the Creator app so they play at the start and end of the broadcast. Simo notes that "[Creators] were saying Live is cool because it's raw and authentic, but they'd like to be able to introduce every time what their show is about or what the theme is about."
Graph frames let makers add a pretty border to their videos for a more immersive feel. And custom reactions let creators replace one of the six default "haha," "'angry" or "wow" alternatives to the standard "Like" with a graphic of their choice. That could tie in with the theme of their broadcast or personality. For example, Simo says feel-good video star Markian could add an especially toothy smile reaction to entertain his fan club group on Facebook, the #SmileSquad.
These features push Facebook Live well beyond the capabilities of Twitter's Periscope, and could make it more viable than YouTube Live.
Rather than having to constantly jump between Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, Facebook is putting all of a creator's comments and messages in a single inbox with Creator. That could make it much more streamlined to actually hold a conversation with fans or respond to comments instead of just being an old-school one-way broadcaster.
For Creators trying to moderate their comments reels, combining Instagram and Facebook could reduce the time it takes to scrub abusive trolls. And the more ravenous the community and clean the comments, the more interested brands will be to advertise on Facebook video and sponsor the stars.
Stories and Camera
To keep the focus on Facebook's augmented reality and daily sharing features, access to Facebook Camera and Stories sharing is available from Creator. Facebook will even let people cross-post to Instagram and even Twitter to reduce the friction of putting their content everywhere. That simplicity could encourage people to build higher-quality content and keep Facebook in the sharing loop.
Creators need to know what's working so they can make more of it. Rather than burying that inside their Facebook Pages, Facebook is surfacing inside the Creator app. Details on fan demographics could help influencers not only zero in on what types of videos they should post, but also what brands might want to sponsor them.
You might disagree with Facebook's definition of "time well spent." But even if it's just modest social interaction around video, that might be a marked improvement from vegging out on the couch binging Netflix or endlessly lurking through the News Feed.
What's missing: monetization
The Creator app could lure social media stars away from competitors like their long-standing home YouTube with its Studio app for creators, their subscription revenue hub Patreon or Snapchat, which this month announced it's ready to embrace influencers. By using the personalities of individual creators to forge deeper bonds with viewers, Facebook could rack up extra lucrative video ad impressions.
But one thing sorely missing from Facebook Creator is new ways for influencers to monetize. There's no subscriptions or tipping, and they can't even inject revenue-sharing ad breaks into their videos. The only option is to post sponsored, branded content and label it with Facebook's partnership tagging feature. At least Simo says "it's not a one size fits all when it comes to monetization. [Creators] all need a lot of different things. We're open to exploring a lot of different business models but on that front nothing to announce at this time."
One other thing Facebook could do better here is an integration with Groups. More and more stars are launching Facebook Groups around their content so fans can not only interact with them, but so they can interact with each other. Facebook should make it easier to start, grow and nurture fan clubs from the Creator app.
Facebook has an enormous opportunity in this space. Unlike YouTube, where people go when they want to be entertained, people just constantly visit Facebook to see their friends. By both serendipitously helping these users discover creators and providing the dedicated Watch video tab for following them, Facebook dangles its 2 billion users in front of influencers, recruiting those eager to grow their followings.
And for the user, facilitating two-way connections with creators helps Facebook achieve its mission of making video the focal point of community rather than an escape from it.
- This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.