Livestreaming has become an extremely popular way for brands all over the world to reach and interact directly with their followers like never before. It’s become so widespread that almost every major social media platform, including YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, has implemented its own version of livestreaming. The most common platform for our clients has been Facebook Live.
Brands like BuzzFeed, Food Network, Southwest Airlines and HBO have taken advantage of livestreaming as a way to communicate directly with their followers, appear more relatable, accessible and personable, tease upcoming products, services and promotions, receive questions and feedback from customers, educate people on certain topics and share information about their brands. They’ve also shown how products are made, given behind-the-scenes access, conducted training and hosted Q&A sessions.
Several of our clients have used Facebook Live to promote new products/services, disclose their thoughts on industry trends and news, and share personal messages and footage from events with their followers while attending national sales meetings and company anniversary parties.
Since I’ve witnessed and helped coordinate many livestreams, I’ve learned a thing or two about the dos and don’ts of this tool. Before we get into how to use it correctly, let’s take a look at some of the benefits brands are seeing by leveraging live video:
- Harness the video appeal: These days, people gravitate toward online visual content over written content. Therefore, live video allows brands to communicate messages to their followers in the way audiences prefer to consume content.
- Cheaper to produce: If you don’t have a studio or fancy equipment, no big deal. Livestreaming software is not only affordable, but in many cases, it’s free and it’s easy to use if you already have an account on that social platform. Not to mention, you have the ability stream right from your smartphone, computer or tablet, letting you go live whenever, wherever and however you want.
- On the spot engagement with audience: Going live allows your audience members to ask you questions or give you instant feedback in real-time. These conversations will come through the comments during the live session, so it’s important that you reply to your users as you stream to promote additional engagements.
- Allows you to be topical (immediate and easy): Some of the questions or comments that come from viewers will allow you to change and adapt the conversation and touch on what’s most important to them. You can take that opportunity to shift the conversation immediately and easily, if you want to. Also, each replay of the video can start new conversations and inspire engagement among new viewers in comments.
- Fun and more authentic than traditional video: This piggybacks on the notion that livestreaming drives engagement. You can have conversations with your customers in real time, something you can’t do with traditional video, and livestreaming helps your brand appear more “human” to your users. To learn more about being more human, check out my previous blog, Branding 101: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say.
- Look like an expert: Since you’re the one that’s on camera, you automatically look like the expert and people will look to you to answer any question they throw your way. This is great for brands because they always look for ways to look like the leaders and experts in their industries.
- Reach people you’ve never seen: Even if you have a small audience, you still reach your target, especially if the video gets shared. New people will discover you over and over again.
- Go as long as you want, within reason: Livestreaming allows you to be “live” for as long as you want. We recommend keeping it pretty short, since people like to consume snackable content.
Brands can harness the power of and use the perks of livestreaming to their advantage, but only if they know how to use the tool correctly. A lot of times, people mistakenly don’t encourage their audience to ask questions or they don’t answer the questions their audience is asking. There are also instances when the speaker flubs on what they were going to say or loses their train of thought, derailing the entire livestream.
So here are some tips and tricks to prepare for your livestream debut:
- Practice beforehand: This is one of the most important actions you can take before your livestream. Practice, practice, practice! Just like if you were going to give a speech or prepare for a big presentation, rehearse what you’re going to say and even anticipate your answers to certain questions your viewers may ask.
- Prep your “live” area:
- Know your internet connection. It’s best to stream when you are connected to Wi-Fi, but you can stream over 4G as well. If there is not a strong enough connection, the “Start Live Video” button will be grayed out.
- Check the audio and lighting ahead of time, and whatever you do, try to minimize background and ambient noise. While users will expect the production quality to be a bit raw and unrehearsed, be sure that they can see and hear you without undue distractions. With Facebook, you can do a test run of Facebook Live on your personal Facebook page by setting your privacy as “Only Me.”
- Get a tripod or find a sturdy surface to hold your device so it doesn’t get shaky or fall over.
- Engage with viewers but don’t engage with trolls: It’s imperative that you engage with your audience members by asking and answering questions. However, if someone is being crude in the comments, it’s best not to acknowledge them and keep going.
- Ask coworkers or friends to help: As The Beatles put it, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” If you’re prepping to do a livestream, ask a coworker or friend to help you by reading or showing you the comments that come in, holding the camera in place and setting up the area.
- Promote before and after: When you go live, it will alert your followers to start watching. However, it’s also nice to share posts ahead of time to let your audience know when you’re going live so they can tune in. Facebook Live also allows you to a use a countdown (or lobby) that lets your followers know you’re going live in a certain amount of minutes. Once the live stream is over, you can share the video and even put advertising dollars behind it to boost its reach.
- Start talking immediately: Don’t wait for viewers to join the livestream because they can catch up whenever they want. And, since the video is more likely to be viewed after the livestream ends, it is best to start the conversation right away.
With livestreaming on the rise, more and more brands are capitalizing on its capabilities by developing new, exciting ways to use the tool. Some brands have hosted interactive live video sessions where followers can vote using the Facebook comment emotions, like BuzzFeed did when it polled its audience to see whether they preferred mashed potatoes or stuffing. Game of Thrones also inventively interacted with its followers when it asked users to comment “dracarys” (a popular term in the show) to melt a live ice block and speed up the release of the season 7 trailer. Many food bloggers are using 360° live video to leave clues and “Easter Eggs” in their kitchens for audience members to find. According to FastCompany, some brands even conduct real-time focus groups to critique a new idea or put on interactive concerts for their viewers.
Livestreaming is not going anywhere, so it’s important that you consider how to incorporate this tactic into your marketing communications plan and learn how to use it to its full potential. There are so many applications and tools you can use to livestream, so find the one that works best for you and give it a whirl!