The social giant’s aim: to make the case to digital creators and influencers that Facebook is a fabulous home for their content to attract a massive following.
At VidCon, which runs June 21-24 at the Anaheim Convention Center, Facebook is sending a team of execs to the event to proselytize the platform. Facebook has grown its presence at the confab over the past several years, and this year it’s also hosting an expanded Facebook Creators Lounge at the Hyatt Regency Orange County near the convention center, which will include a Facebook Live space, Oculus virtual-reality demos, refreshments, Wi-Fi and charging stations.
In a rollout timed for the convention, Facebook will launch VidCon-themed masks and frames in the Facebook Camera and in Facebook Live to let users layer stickers and images on top of photos and video.
On a separate video track, Facebook is ramping up deals for original entertainment series, including reality show “Last State Standing” (from the producers of from “American Ninja Warrior”) and the revival of Nicole Byer’s comedy series that originally ran on MTV. But at the same time, it’s eager to lure individual creators into the Facebook fold — some of whom drive millions of views per video.
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“Creators like the ones attending VidCon are experts at building deep connections with their fans in unique and innovative ways,” said Daniel Danker, director of product overseeing video and Facebook Live. “We’ll be at VidCon to listen to creators so that we can build the best experience for them on Facebook — through products that help build a creative economy and focus on storytelling, expression, and community.”
At VidCon, Danker will join Bree Nguyen, head of talent in media partnerships, for a panel on “The Future of Facebook Video” on Friday, June 23, followed by a fireside chat with Fidji Simo, Facebook’s VP of product who oversees video, news and advertising products. Also Friday, Jason White, manager of U.S. news partnerships for Facebook, will participate in “The Future of News” panel. On Thursday, Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom will take the stage for an interview.
Finally, Facebook top creators Laura Clery (pictured above), Ross Smith and Tonio Skits will appear in a Friday afternoon panel, “Optimizing for Facebook,” moderated by Lauren Schnipper, who leads the company’s emerging talent relations.
However, for all of Facebook’s efforts to tell its story amid the cacophony of VidCon — where caterwauling fans of digital stars can raise decibel levels to earache-inducing heights — YouTube will still hold the much bigger megaphone.
YouTube returns as the title sponsor of the 8th Annual VidCon, founded in 2010 by Hank and John Green. This year the Google-owned video giant will stage its first live entertainment showcase at the confab for 4,000 attendees headlined by singer Jason Derulo on Wednesday, June 21. In addition, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and top YouTubers will be featured in a June 22 keynote. It’s also screening YouTube originals, including including episodes from “Escape the Night 2” on June 23, among its other activities at VidCon.
Other media and tech companies, too, are trekking to VidCon to promote themselves to creators, industryites and fans. Sponsors include Twitter, Awesomeness, Verizon’s Go90, NBC and NBC News, UTA, Disney Digital Network, Univision, Studio71 and Musical.ly, which are hosting various activations and events.
In addition, Fullscreen Media is returning to present screenings of Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me 3” and Disney’s “Cars 3.” Execs from BuzzFeed, Awesomeness, Verizon, AT&T and Musical.ly also will make a showing, along with YouTube, BuzzFeed and Snapchat creators. Producers from CBS’s “The Late Late Show with James Corden” will talk about the show’s internet video strategy in a June 22 panel moderated by Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein.
For Facebook, VidCon is increasingly a place where its top-tier creator talent to shine. Actress-comedian Clery, 30, has 3 million fans on Facebook for her sketches, which she says is far more than she’s been able to attract on YouTube with the same content.
“Nothing against YouTube,” she said. “I just had such better engagement and view counts on Facebook and Instagram. I just went where the love is.” A video that got 15 million views on Facebook had just 20,000 on YouTube, Clery said.
Clery acknowledged that Facebook has only just started its advertising revenue-sharing programs, something YouTube has offered for years. But she said she preferred Facebook “because of the insane engagement,” and has been earning money through brand deals and merchandise sales.
One of Clery’s most popular characters is Helen, a fat-faced, foul-mouthed and sexually aggressive woman who continuously harasses the object of her desire, Steven (played by Clery’s real-life husband). The latest installment in her “Me Trying to Flirt” series, featuring a profane riff on pop hit “Despacito,” has more than 5.2 million views on Facebook in less than a week:
Another Facebook star is Nuseir “Nas” Yassin, who quit his job in New York City as a software engineer last year and now travels the world, posting a one-minute video each day on his Nas Daily page (1.4 million likes). In the first 365 days, he says he made $45,000 – entirely from deals with marketers (he says he is paid $5,000 just for mentioning a company’s name in a video) and from businesses that want help creating Facebook videos.
Nas Daily has racked up around 200 million video views total, and Yassin recently struck a deal to produce a TV pilot version of his Facebook page for a cable network (which he wouldn’t identify). Compared with YouTube, he said Facebook makes it far easier for users to share his videos and he prefers Facebook Live’s broadcasting features. But the biggest advantage, to Yassin, is that Facebook provides a way to communicate with fans in ways that pale in comparison to YouTube’s comments section (which he complains is rife with bullies hiding behind anonymous screen names).
“As a content creator, I cannot connect with a community on YouTube,” said the 25-year-old, who grew up in Israel. “The social validation on Facebook was so big, I said, ‘I have to be on this platform.’ And I haven’t missed day yet.”