Attention, content marketers! Live streaming is not a fad. It should become an integral part of your marketing arsenal this year, or else your brand will be left in the proverbial dust.
Live streaming allows viewers to see compressed videos over the Internet in real-time. Mobile apps like Periscope and Blab give people the ability to easily watch and broadcast events to hundreds or thousands of viewers almost anywhere and any time. Live streaming gives fans real-time access to brands and companies, creating more transparency and authentic engagement.
In a recent e-book published by the Content Marketing Institute, industry leaders predict live-streaming content will boost conversion in 2016.
“The advent of new live-casting technology in 2015 9Periscope, Blab, Meerkat0 will lead to a huge upsurge in live broadcasting in 2016, which will surpass the growth of podcasting,” said Michael Stelzer, CEO and founder of Social Media Examiner. “The ease of adoption and consumption with live-casting will usher in a new era of personalities and programming that was previously impossible.”
That’s a bold statement, and Stelzer’s colleague Juante DeLane echos his sentiment:
“As professional sports broadcast ratings continue to increase, viewers will take this broadcast consumption behavior to viewing brand marketing content. As a result, brand marketers will leverage this behavior and activate audiences via live-streaming technologies. Live, branded broadcast will be the best tool in 2016.”
– Juante DeLane
So why does live streaming matter?
According to OOYALA’s Global Video index, time spent watching video on mobile devices increased 616% from Q3 2012 to Q3 2015. Video viewing on mobile devices is the norm, making up nearly half (45 percent) of all views worldwide.
Early adopters of live-streaming apps have already—and successfully—started to feed the viewers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for video content. They’ve also made headway in becoming thought leaders who can drive important conversations and increase brand recognition.
And you should be right there with them.
Live-Streaming App 101
Meerkat had already broken ground in early 2015 when Twitter’s Periscope app burst onto the scene in March. Periscope’s popularity quickly eclipsed that of Meerkat’s, the latter of which is no longer holding much relevance for live-streaming fans or broadcasters. And now Blab has started to gain traction, and its future appears bright. Here’s what you need to know about the top three live-streaming leaders:
Periscope broadcasts occur worldwide, every minute of the day. You can set up private or public feeds, which gives you the ability to share your broadcast with a select group of friends or anyone on the network. Since Twitter owns Periscope, once a user connects their accounts they’re provided with a list of Periscope users on the app that they already follow on Twitter.
Twitter recently announced an update to its iOS app that allows users to feature live Periscope broadcasts directly in the Twitter timeline. In a recent Wall Street Journal article about Twitter’s bold move, author Yoree Koh said, “The new feature will bring a sense of real-time awe to the social-media service, potentially introducing the Periscope app to millions of new users and keeping more of its content on Twitter.”
For Periscope users, it seems that the app’s appeal is grounded in the ability for broadcasters and viewers to communicate with one another during a live cast. Viewers can send messages that pop up on the screen (visible to the broadcaster and all viewers) and also interact with the broadcaster by tapping the screen to send them hearts. The broadcaster and viewers are active participants, making the experience a two-way street.
Blab is what happens when Periscope and Google Hangouts meet, get married and have a baby. Blab fosters more interaction between users and multiple broadcasters, but at the moment the app is available only for iOS users and desktop browsers. With the app, users can create their own talk shows and place two to four people “on air” at one time. Hosts have the option to record the whole session or just a portion and repost it for viewers to watch later.
Anyone can “call in” to fill an open seat as a broadcaster—the ultimate online audience participation. With the host’s permission, fans jump into conversations as on-air guest hosts and “sit” right next to the host and the other broadcasters, who can be anyone from your next-door neighbor to a friend from school to a CEO and well-known thought leader.
Blab viewers can make comments, ask questions, “favorite” comments and give “props” to their favorite guests by clicking on the Hallelujah Hands emoji in the bottom right corner where their faces appear. Also, Blab makes it easy for viewers to subscribe to reoccurring shows they like and search for “on-air” broadcasts, scheduled shows and replays.
Unlike Periscope videos (which disappear after 24 hours), Blab users can save all or part of their broadcast and embed it into their website. SCORE! Another bonus: Blab broadcasters have access to both audio and video formats of their recorded shows. Blabs can be repurposed as podcasts, audio clips or video content on iTunes, SoundCloud and YouTube, to name a few.
Facebook Live is available to brands and verified Page owners. Just like Periscope and Blab, Facebook Live shows the viewers’ avatars (faces) while enabling real-time comments. After the broadcast, Page owners can save the videos to their Page Timeline. Before going live, Page owners have the option to select the audience they want to see the video by choosing a specific Friends List, or the public.
Facebook Page owners can also take advantage of Facebook ads to promote their broadcast. And just like Blab, which makes the videos available to view long after the show is over, Facebook Live videos can be embedded onto websites and repurposed across their social channels. For example, you could include the video in a blog post about the highlights of the discussion, then share that link on your other social media platforms.
Why Brands Should Make Live Streaming a Priority in 2016
Here are some factors that could push live streaming to the top of your content marketing plan:
Live streaming is finally accessible to everyone
With today’s live-streaming apps, becoming a live-streaming content producer is as easy as owning a mobile device or laptop. Heavy, expensive equipment? Don’t need it. All you need is a phone or a computer with a good web cam, decent microphone and a strong Internet connection. Having a clear focus and outline for your broadcasts will help, too.
If you’re doing it well, you could potentially reach a very large audience with your live-streaming broadcasts. Remember all those people who are gobbling up video on their phones, right here, right now? They’re always looking for new and exciting content to engage with. And your content could be just what they seek.
Live streaming is versatile
Live-streaming technology can give your fans a front-row seat to just about anything related to your brand. Consider broadcasting product launches, sharing behind-the-scenes footage of events and hosting Q&As with experts, celebrities or influencers. You can also stream live video of podcasts and radio shows, and present fans with exclusive after-show content.
And just like with Vine, Instagram and other popular social networks, users who create high-quality content can rise to fame overnight. Your next-door neighbor can become an influencer, your co-worker can become a thought leader, and a no-name brand can skyrocket to popularity. Hey, even Justin Bieber started out on YouTube.
Live streaming engenders trust between brands and consumers
In a webinar on 2016 social media and marketing trends, social media leader Jim Toben said he sees live streaming as “trust content” in which the brands simply spend more time with their audience. Live streaming is a more engaging, longer form of content that allows brands and fans to create special, shared experiences. Audiences get to see faces behind the brands, put faces to names they may already know and interact with brands and their ambassadors in real time. And they get to engage with content much longer than the 30 seconds it takes to read your brand’s tweet or Facebook post.
“You could be spending 20, 30 or 60 minutes in one sitting with an audience member,” Toben said. “That builds trust. That’s huge awareness generation. There’s a huge need from that for huge businesses right now. We’re kind of getting tired of being really good at these smaller interactions, and we want to have bigger interactions. I think live streaming is a great opportunity for that.”
The audience expects live streams to be less polished than other video content. That takes pressure off brands to spend tons of time and money on a production crew, studio space and heavy scripting. The raw footage also makes the brand seem more human.
“We really do find over and over again with clients that more authentic content that looks like it was created by a human being versus an artist always performs better,” said Jason Keath, CEO of Social Fresh, in that webinar with Toben.
Live streaming extends brands’ reach beyond the four walls of a building
Tickets for special awards ceremonies, product launches and industry conferences are limited. Everyone can’t attend. Well, not in person. That’s when live-streaming apps come into play.
Toben said his company has been live streaming conferences for years. About 500 people can attend the physical event, but thousands more can follow it online.
“It allows us to tap into that FOMO (fear of missing out) that people have about attending our conferences,” he said. “If people are watching a live event (online), it actually makes them want to attend more because people love the value of a physical event.”
Are you on board with live streaming yet? Good! Your next steps are to study other broadcasts (including those from your competition and other brands in your industry) to see what they’re doing that’s fun, unique and engaging to help you prepare for your own.
Keep in mind that while viewers have gotten used to raw video footage, they still want organization. You can have a high-quality production and improve your reach by promoting your broadcasts in advance, creating compelling titles, showcasing influencers or popular talent in the broadcast and sticking to an outline for the live cast whenever possible.
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Do you think 2016 will be a banner year for live streaming? How will your brand leverage this trend? Tell us in the comments below.