We're all live broadcasters now. With the advent of Twitter's Periscope, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Live, everyone can stream what they're doing—inane or otherwise—and beam it across their social networks.
Live video is a game-changer for social users, and, as is often the case, it's becoming a game changer for brands. Companies haven't dived in completely because livestreaming is fraught with risks at a time when a little bit of bad publicity can go a very long way.
That said, brands would be wise to explore how to make full use of livestreaming to reach consumers in a nimble way—on the social channels those consumers prefer.
The Risks of Going Live
Brands today want—and increasingly need—to control every aspect of their public image. So even if a company makes meticulous preparations in advance of a Facebook Live video, there's still a chance that something will go wrong.
A teenager doesn't have to worry about a friendly photo bomb (or the live video version of that) or the accidental shaking of his phone while streaming the unboxing of a new pair of shoes, but the same hiccups could spur instant social backlash for a large brand.
Being unable to edit every frame of a video can seem risky, and rightfully so. That said, considering how customers are eager to consume live content, there's a need for brands to embrace the power of livestreaming.
The Opportunity of Livestreaming
Live video offers brands a way to communicate with consumers in new and immersive ways, and it's an opportunity to develop fresh ways of advertising to live viewers.
An airline, for example, could target people interested in airplanes and let them know about an upcoming live video tour of a 747. The carrier could run an ad just before (or even during) the livestream and reach an audience that's guaranteed to be in interested in the topic at hand.
Now, one small drawback is that social platforms don't yet offer the ability to run ads mid-video, but it's clear that providing brands the ability to do so would open a number of new doors.
Another potential approach would be an arrangement by which a brand works with a social platform to guarantee that a certain number of its followers is exposed to a live video, thus ensuring a sizable audience for every live offering.
Three Tactics for Live
Moving ads from TV to social won't be enough to ensure engagement. Brands will have to put their resources into three tactical approaches.
1. Create high-quality, timely content
Videos must be engaging enough to stop users who are scrolling through their social feeds. The first few seconds are critical: They need to capture the consumer's attention; otherwise, viewers will breeze right past the video.
But don't rely on sound when being creative. Even though autoplay features may mean the sound is on, many customers still mute videos immediately. To capture your audience's attention, consider using solely visuals or adding text captions to help tell a story without sound.
2. Create targeted audiences
Marketers can now create video ads and then target audiences on Facebook based on age, location, gender, and interests. They can also upload their own data about buyers to create Custom Audiences. Meanwhile, over on Twitter, marketers can target users who have likely seen their TV ads, making the transition from traditional TV to digital video that much smoother.
Sophisticated analysis and marketing practices are required to divide your total audience into relevant segments, craft strong messaging for each segment, and then determine how much to invest in each segment.
3. Gather platform knowledge
As more marketers venture into the video space—either by rolling out programmatic ads or publishing branded stories—it's important to gather as much knowledge as possible about the platforms and content formats available. By doing so, you can get the most out of your ad dollars and you'll be prepared to adapt to the inevitable changes in the social landscape.
For better or for worse, the social media industry is continuously evolving. New publishers and platforms appear all the time. To maintain relevance, established players must innovate and fight for every user—so they change ad placements, switch up algorithms, and develop new targeting options. As a brand using their platforms, you're lucky to get a few months' notice of even the most significant changes, and you certainly don't have any input on when, how, or where the updates occur. Not surprisingly, the constant change can be a major challenge.
A simple but often overlooked solution is paying attention to all communication from your publisher partners. Rely on them to convey changes before they happen. In addition, many of the main publishers assign a client partnership lead to provide personalized recommendations and notifications.
Next Steps for Live
It's clear that live video adoption is going to continue to grow—and it's going to happen fast. Facebook says 1 in 5 videos now shared on the site are Live videos, and Instagram Stories has a whopping 250 million users. Brands that want a piece of the action shouldn't be waiting for the next social channel to create a livestreaming feature. They should be drafting their strategies now and using the opportunity to be face-to-face with their consumers.
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