Surprising almost no one, 2017 is poised to be the year of live-streaming.
A 2016 report from Brandive indicated that 44% of brands are now using live-streaming, and further 20% plan to do so over the next year. More recently, nearly 7 million people watched the Presidential Inauguration via Twitter, while Facebook, on its February 1st earnings call, named video the "next megatrend", pointing specifically to growth of its Live product.
The bottom line is that live-streaming represents where social media is headed - and with the potential for AR/VR integration, there's a lot of opportunity for brands to flex their creative muscles and connect with their audiences in real-time.
Given this, I asked some of my industry friends for their tips to make your next live-stream a success. Here's what they had to say:
Kevin Olivieri, Juniper Networks (@kevinolivieri)
"I can't stress enough how important it is to plan your video with participation in mind.
Try to incorporate different ways audience engagement can influence and impact the broadcast - if your audience sees that a simple action by them, like asking a question in the comments, can lead to actual action onscreen, it can help increase retention, reach and lead to more engagement from the viewers.
With Juniper Networks' highly technical social audience, it's critical that we leverage subject matter experts capable of providing answers and insights to audience questions, thus creating engaging and valuable content for our community, company and industry.
NPR, for one, does a fantastic job of this - their ability to deploy live-streams featuring SMEs around pertinent topics to create captivating content that incorporates audience participation is commendable."
See what Juniper has done ...
Keith Boswell, Meijer (@keithboswell)
"Be prepared to engage with the audience during the stream - we've found that when we acknowledge questions that come in live, the response, shares and engagement rates go up dramatically.
People like to participate, and by encouraging them to get involved, the live-stream performance is better. It also makes future playback feel more engaging because people who watch after it's been recorded see that you're interacting and engaging with those who were watching it live."
See what Meijer has done ...
Jim Presley & Sherri Chien-Niclas, Symantec (@marketph)
"The most successful live events are not live press releases or commercials. The topic should be an "answer" to a broad, obvious audience "want."
The audience wants an engagement that they feel has a take-away, that they completely understand, and which provides personal advantage/benefit to them right then and there. Show clear validity of the present need, question or opportunity and then drive the discussion to fill the need, answer the question or give thought as how they can engage the opportunity.
Also, be willing to go off script and take the conversation where customers want (as appropriate) - this shows your effort is invested in building relationships.
One of the best, early live-streaming experiences we can recall was done by GE in July 2015. Using drones equipped with Periscope, they gave guided tours of their remote facilities as part of #DRONEWEEK, and they've since taken this medium to other places, including the Rio Olympics.
Moreover, enable your subject matter experts (SMEs) to use live-streaming. Some of our most successful streams come not from our brand, but from our SMEs. For instance, our #HackTheVote demo from our Symantec booth at Black Hat last August was streamed by one of our cybersecurity services SMEs and proved to be a great success."
See what Symantec SMEs have done ...
Lewis Bertolucci, Humana (@Lewis502)
"For those looking to do their first or their 50th live stream, one fundamental aspect should always take precedence: "Understand your goals and audience".
As simplistic as that sounds, many overlook it - as an example, our target audience are older Boomers and seniors (65+). What we've learned is that sometimes technology isn't as intuitive to our primary audience, so we're very intentional and clear with regards to any actions we want the viewers to take before, during and after our stream.
In addition to the foundations, a few tips we've found helpful include:
- Prepare and practice - Be intentional. It's hard to be in front of the camera; make sure you rehearse and know what you're talking about (no memorizing). What activity are you filming? If it's just an interview, do the voices come through clear and how's the lighting? If it's an activity that requires a closer frame, have you practiced to find the best angles? Ensure your signal is consistently strong.
- Promote and cross-promote your event in advance - Cross-promote on Twitter or other social channels with the link to your broadcast. Build anticipation. Don't forget, you can promote your live-stream after it has ended as well.
- Engage with your audience - We've found the easiest and first engagement point is to welcome everyone, followed by asking where they're tuning in from. It makes it simple for people to engage early, increase reach and they're more likely to engage later in the broadcast. In addition, refer to those engaging by name and ask your audience to share the broadcast if they're enjoying it.
- Test and learn - Do a post-mortem. What could we have done better or how could we have been more creative and engaging? It takes time to get good at anything, including live-streaming. Lastly, celebrate everyone who took part in the live broadcast. It takes a team, and it can be stressful. Even if it fell flat, it's okay to celebrate that you tried and learned along the way for your next broadcast.
Not everyone will find your live-stream relevant, and that's okay, provided it resonates with your target audience. In the example below, we learned a lot - like our broadcast was probably too long - but we also saw opportunity in the ability to atomize the content and use it across various channels.
Remember, it's an evolution to a revolution - we all have a lot to learn."
See what Humana has done ...
And finally, from my perspective:
It's essential brands be opportunistic in their live-stream plans - don't over-plan or you'll miss timely opportunities.
What often makes live-streaming particularly compelling is its lack of production, its "behind-the-scenes" point of view. Therefore, brands should seize opportunities as they come up - all you really need is a smartphone.
Case in point: Our most successful live-stream to-date came together in a matter of a couple of hours. In the midst of a large DDoS attack a few months ago - in which our brand was erroneously brought into the conversation - we pivoted a bit from our documented crisis communications plan in order to get ahead of the story, correct misinformation, educate, and position ourselves as cybersecurity/DDoS experts. And it worked. The feedback we got from going live was overwhelmingly positive and it served as an educational tool, while also helping curb the tsunami of incorrect social chatter and garnering the brand a slew of positive press - which culminated in our CSO testifying before Congress.
See what Level 3 did ...