If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’ve somehow managed to pull yourself away from a video playing on social media.
Facebook and Twitter junkies already know that in 2015 video reached new heights on social platforms.
There were millions of “Did you see this?” moments, from tragedies like the Paris attacks to lighter events like the Golden State Warriors’ improbable championship run. People watched on a variety of services: the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and, of course, YouTube. Facebook alone was tallying over 8 billion views daily as the year drew to a close, more than twice as many as it reported back in April.
It’s still just early days for social video, experts say. The next step includes not only the sort of after-the-fact clips we’re used to from YouTube, but also videos streamed live in real time. Several pioneering applications began heading in that direction this year, including Meerkat, Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook’s Live Video feature, which the world’s largest social network began testing with some of its 1.5 billion users.
“Video is busting down every barrier in terms of connecting with others, whether it is seeing and hearing someone in raw, real-time form or through a recent post,” said social-media strategist and blogger Amy Porterfield. “It looks and feels more personal.”
Tech investors have been watching too. Venture capitalists put a record-setting $741 million toward video-streaming companies and startups in 2015, more than double the amount last year, according to research firm Pitchbook.
All the way live
America’s been obsessed with live video for years. In the ’90s, cable news channels ran nonstop reports from the first Gulf War, and viewers tuned in when former football star and murder suspect O.J. Simpson led police on a surreal car chase through Los Angeles.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and social media starts taking over. In 2010, millions glued themselves to live streams of unfolding events like the Arab Spring movements that toppled governments in four Middle Eastern countries. More recently, the still emerging Black Lives Matter campaign, which began in 2013, has kept people watching.
Live-streaming flourished this year when the app Meerkat nabbed 100,000 users less than a month after its February launch. The app, which can be used with GoPro cameras and is known for its broadcasts that disappear when the live-stream ends, generated big buzz at this year’s South by Southwest festival.
Originally a kind of third-party Twitter add-on, Meerkat relied on the social network for its early following. Then boom: Twitter cut off its user information from Meerkat and announced that it had acquired rival live-streaming app Periscope.
Periscope nabbed 1 million users within its first 10 days of availability, Twitter said, and by mid-August the app had 10 million people watching 40 years worth of videos per day, according to Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour. In December, Apple named it app of the year. Companies including Target and BMW used Periscope for product launches and behind-the-scenes moments, and even Twitter partakes — it used the app to broadcast its most recent earnings report.
As live-streaming wins renown for its immediacy, intimacy and simplicity, the field is getting more crowded. Facebook is testing its Live Video feature, which currently lets a small percentage of iPhone users in the US share real-time videos on the social network. It’s an extension of the Facebook Live feature that the company let celebrities experiment with this summer.
It’s not hard to imagine a time when firing up Facebook or some other service will be reminiscent of turning on the TV. A study in May by networking giant Cisco said video will account for 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2019. And Forrester video analyst Jim Nail thinks video will become the most dominant content on social media by 2018.
“We just can’t get enough of it,” he said.
And speaking of that, you can go back to watching that video now.