Video has long been touted as a must-do in content marketing, particularly in a business-to-consumer (B2C) environment. Many marketers have used video to capture special moments; showcase products, services, and personnel; and provide how-to instruction of various types. One need only look to the tremendous popularity of YouTube to discern that video communication is something consumers crave.
The need for video content has been ramped up by the advent of social sites such as Snapchat and Instagram and apps such as Periscope. Most recently, Facebook opened up its Live option to the masses. Now anyone—not just celebrities and VIPs—can use the service to stream live video to audiences hungry for information in a variety of forms. In August, Facebook boosted marketers’ opportunities to leverage live video by adding video metrics to its Page Insights and Video Library features.
Some big names using live streaming video include Nissan, Nestlé, and GE—even the political parties are taking advantage of video communication. ABC’s live streaming of the Republican National Convention via Facebook garnered 11.5 million views, according to Digiday. If a political convention can generate that much engagement, just think of the audience your product or service might be able to attract. You don’t need to be a big brand to generate big brand engagement through live video.
Live streaming video “is something that the market has been waiting for a long time,” says Effi Atad, CEO of Showbox, a cloud-based video creation platform, from Israel. The potential for live streaming video in digital channels is really something that should have been obvious, he says, pointing to the strong draw of live, televised events such as sports. Live events generate curiosity, he notes. “We expect live events to be something bigger,” says Atad.
Trinity University in San Antonio has discovered the power of live streaming video. Trinity launched its Tiger Network in fall 2015 to live stream soccer games to alumni. It was such a huge hit that the site has expanded its efforts to include live streamed lectures and commencement. “The Tiger Network has helped Trinity to grow our brand,” says Michelle Bartonico, director of marketing at Trinity. “When we had NCAA soccer playoffs on campus, we streamed games, meaning that teams from as far away as New England could see their favorite player half a country away in a playoff game.”
That’s the kind of real-time interaction that makes live streaming so compelling, says Atad. “Nobody wants to see a live event 2 days later.” In addition, he notes, “When it’s live, it’s considered to be more authentic.” The younger generation, in particular, is craving this level of authenticity, he says. “That’s what Snapchat is all about: What you see is what you get.”
Live streaming can be particularly effective with highly engaged audiences that may no longer be in physical proximity to where events are taking place. Trinity’s Tiger Network is a great example of this. Alumni, for instance, are particularly prone to check in for a game or an event such as bid day—an important part of the Greek life on campus.
There are some caveats, however, points out Katie Staab, head of video production for Talent, Inc., a resume-writing service. “Digital video doesn’t suit every situation because video doesn’t serve every audience,” she says. An important first step to take is to make sure you understand your target demographic’s internet access. “If internet users cannot receive and play back video at a fast rate, perhaps video isn’t the best means of communication,” she says. It’s also important, Staab says, to consider whether your audience is actively searching for video content.
“Step back from the product, and think like a viewer,” she recommends. “User experience is paramount. Be aware of video position and size on the website. Videos that rest on top of a landing page receive more views, but don’t overwhelm the page—or the viewer—with a massive video player. Offer users the option to watch or scroll on; it demonstrates respect. Test the player dimensions before publishing.”
Importantly, live streaming video—similar to other forms of content—needs to be considered within the context of overall marketing strategy. Audience preferences obviously matter, as Staab points out. In addition, marketers need to have a clear idea of the results they hope to generate and how live streaming video will work—alone or in conjunction—with other communication efforts. For instance, Atad says, much can be done leading up to an event to generate buzz and drive traffic to live streaming video offerings, but the effort needs to be strategically considered. “The only way for me to create an event that will result in millions of people really watching my content is by doing the right buildup and release to the market.”
Active social engagement is important to extend reach and aid in conversion and retention, agrees ?Staab. Importantly, marketers need to take advantage of online analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of their live streaming video efforts to generate desired results. “Google Analytics and Hootsuite are both powerful and easy-to-navigate tools,” she notes. “Every social channel offers proprietary analytical tools too.” Facebook, for example, “allows video creators to track peak viewing times and engagement drop-offs, which is a valuable measuring stick for viewing behaviors,” Staab says.
Video is a content marketing draw that’s not likely to decline anytime soon, and live streaming video is opening up even more options and opportunities. The future of live streaming video, says Atad, is likely to incorporate multiple shots—not the typical one long shot that we often to see now. “I think the ideal world is opening a new dimension of live streaming content that may come from different sources and allow people to react or participate within a main stream,” he says. Think of it as crowdsourcing on camera.