A large part of Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) success on mobile ought to be credited to Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). Twitter was the first social network to figure out in-stream native advertising on mobile. Facebook quickly copied the strategy, and it hasn't looked back since.
Facebook has copied several other features over the past few years from Twitter and vice versa. Facebook's latest copycat feature apes Twitter's Periscope app, which allows users to live stream video from their phones. Facebook's twist is that it's exclusive to celebrities with large followings on the social network.
Why celebrities only?
Some Facebook users may feel miffed that they won't be able to stream their own content, but Facebook has a couple of good reasons to confine streaming to a select set of high-profile users.
First, Facebook is currently being attacked for its piracy problem with its current video inventory. Many Facebook Pages have stolen content from YouTube users and uploaded it as their own to increase exposure to their businesses. Facebook currently lacks any Content ID system to automatically remove copyrighted material uploaded without consent, leading to significant backlash from the online video creator community.
Live video apps are equally susceptible to piracy. Periscope notably saw an increase in downloads after some users started streaming broadcasts of Game of Thrones, and others streamed the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in May.
The last thing Facebook needs right now is more piracy accusations. Celebrities can likely be counted on to produce original content, and the smaller group will allow Facebook to keep an eye on their videos.
The second reason Facebook is catering to celebrities only is that it simply needs to. Facebook wants to make celebrities feel special on its app, which is part of the reasoning behind the exclusivity of its Mentions app it released last year. Facebook has lots of celebrity presence, but it wants more engagement from those celebrities. Twitter has done an excellent job courting celebrities and Facebook has arguably fallen behind.
The live streaming option could get celebrities more engaged, which could cause users to become more engaged. If The Rock is streaming a video live right now (and you follow The Rock or recently engaged with his Page), you'll get a notification that something is happening that you probably won't be able to see anywhere else.
Additionally, all live streams are archived on Facebook, which allows Facebook to push them into users' News Feeds and increase the amount of original quality video on the platform. More video content in News Feeds means Facebook can throw in more video ads.
Should Periscope worry?
Facebook could force Periscope into the same corner as Twitter if it succeeds in attracting the big names to its live streaming app.
While Periscope is integrated with Twitter, where celebrities often have strong followings, Facebook's new feature is practically part of Facebook. In other words, celebrities don't have to ask users to follow them again on another app, they just start streaming and videos show up in users' News Feeds.
But Periscope and Twitter both excel at real-time breaking news. And with a lot of news and videos generated by the average users these days (think videos of police officers or big events), Periscope could find a strong niche to cater to.
Facebook has the budget to attract more celebrities to its live streaming feature if the early pilot test with The Rock, Serena Williams, and more achieves the desired results of increasing engagement across the board. So Periscope and Twitter should be concerned at the potential for Facebook to come in and crush the market, but until it starts to show a real impact on Periscope, there's no need to panic.