Chris Thilk

What’s Driving the “Broadcast With Friends” Social Trend?

For as much press as face filters and 3D augmented reality 360-degree videos posts get in the tech press there’s one trend that seems largely undercovered but which is no less real in the social media world.

Broadcasting with friends.

This past May, Facebook added the ability to add friends to a live broadcast, essentially enabling two-person video. In August Instagram followed suit by adding a feature where you can bring a viewer of your broadcast into your video. Then just last week Anchor enabled a feature where up to seven additional people can be added to a broadcast.

What’s behind this rush to make social media a group activity? There are two major points that seem prominent in the rollout of these co-hosting features.

It’s About Market Saturation

Between 2005 and 2010, the period of social media’s infancy and ascendency, adoption rose from just 5% to 47%. But since then it’s grown to just 69% of U.S. internet users, and much of that growth is coming from older demographics. Younger social users are more interested in messaging apps which have group activity (such as the much-copied “Stories” feature that’s now pervasive) baked in.

So there’s a push to get the existing user base to do more within the apps since growth can’t necessarily be depended on. Facebook counts 80% of the U.S. population as members, so it’s hard to see where any growth is going to come from unless it starts signing up infants. 76% of U.S. teens are on Instagram, though that’s growing while Facebook’s teen hip quotient is flattening in recent years.

It’s About Influencers

Everyone who’s not already considered an influencer wants to be an influencer. They want the prestige, the stardom, the paycheck from marketing agencies, the potential book or TV deals. So they are polishing their broadcasting chops, and interacting with a cohost in a way that’s not constrained by geography is a great way to do that.

Adding the ability to bring in a cohost offers more opportunities for conversations and the product mentions those conversations often include. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that adding in additional hosts was a top-requested feature by the influencers social networks often court and turn to for guidance regarding their product roadmaps.

There are surely plenty of other reasons social media companies are adding similar features to their apps and sites. Whatever the rationale, there’s a desire to make these apps and sites stickier, even if it means blatantly copying functionality from competitors.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.