What 3500 People Watching Paint Dry Taught Me about Facebook Live

For a brief but glorious moment, 18 people, across this vast and varied planet were watching something at the exact same time as one another: a small dollop of Behr Premium matte white paint, drying on the back of an envelope.

The technology that made this beautiful revolution possible? Facebook Live – the new streaming video service from everyone’s favorite social networking behemoth. Ultimately, 3,451 people (and counting) watched this riveting 60 minute feed. And let me tell you, it taught me some truly profound things about social media advertising.

Show Me the Paint

Take a look at the riveting video below.


As you can see, it’s inspiring stuff. Challenged by Buzzfeed’s breakout hit, “Watch us explode this watermelon one rubber band at a time!” my colleagues and I at ContentIntent knew we had to take Facebook’s revolutionary new streaming product one step even further, and into the realm of investigatory journalism it’s truly meant for: 3600 seconds of Home Depot’s most “ultra premium” house paint slowly hardening on the backside of some junk mail.

By the time the stream had finished, just shy of 100 people had at some point tuned in to watch. This was truly remarkable, given that the page I pushed the video from had only about 20 fans (our brand is more Twitter-focused.) Given that Facebook’s primitive Live dashboard said nobody had shared the video, where did those ethereal extra eyeballs come from? We may never know.


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Real Learnings – Paid Video Ads

Philosophical ponderings aside, this Facebook Live experiment did have some true takeaways that any marketer can learn from.

While running our Facebook Live video, I tried to launch a Facebook Video Ad to promote it. While their ad tools are clearly still being updated to properly deal with this (there were a lot of glitches), it appears that no matter what route you pursue, or “goal” you set for your ad, you can’t get Facebook to promote a video that is still live at the time.

So, to see if I could juice the video while it was still streaming, I went to Twitter, where I plopped a whopping $20 into this experiment.

As you can see, I tried to make the tweet as exciting as the video itself, so viewers would really know what sort of treat they were in for.

Despite that, my $20 still managed to get me a whopping 76,019 impressions, as well as 36 “results,” which is Twitter’s awkward way of sorta-measuring clicks. Ultimately, it garnered 3 retweets and six favorites, including one from a user with a handle as hot as our video: @Stove.

Once the Facebook Live video was no longer “live” (Facebook Past?), I could throw $20 into another ad experiment there. That got me 8,097 real live human beings, of which 3,451 watched the video (but hopefully not the whole hour of it – Facebook is surprisingly stingy with those sorts of details).

I can tell they really enjoyed the production because the comments included gems such as “someone paid for this?” and “rookie mistake, didn’t mix the paint and used the wrong type of envelopes. Tsk Tsk. Other than that though. Very riveting stuff. I approve.” Clearly, we had connected with some real paint drying experts!


So, what have we learned?

As a brand, you should have some fun experimenting with Facebook Live, before the novelty wears off and society has run out of different types of fruit to blow up.

Secondly, people (or bots) will click just about any ad you put in front of them, given enough curious fingers-on-keyboards.

And most importantly, there are myriad amazing ways to throw away your marketing budget. So, maybe double check just how effective some of your “clever” campaigns have been.

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