Social media moves quickly, and trends are in constant motion. Just as one trend becomes popular, another one gets tossed to the curb (see: Meerkat). Only when the initial hype dies out and the dust settles can you tell whether a hot new trend will stick—to the frustration of digital marketing teams everywhere.
Marketers have to act quickly to decide whether to hop on a trend early or wait to see how things plays out. For online beauty subscription retailer Birchbox, testing out new social media channels, such as live video, is part of the process—and the fun.
“If you’re on the marketing team, it’s your job to push for it, it’s your job to go to the leadership and say, ‘Social media moves fast, we have to try things,’” Rachel Jo Silver, the former director of social marketing and content strategy for Birchbox who now consults for the brand and runs her own startup, told Marketing Dive in an interview.
If marketers want to keep up, they have to take risks. As people spend more time using mobile devices and watching online video, marketers have the chance to leverage live video streams to connect with consumers when and where they spend their time.
While some marketers might still be wondering whether to consider live video as part of their strategies, Birchbox has been bullish from the start and was an early adopter of Facebook’s new Live video feature. If online video's growth trajectory—and Birchbox's early success—is any indication, live video could quickly become a ripe opportunity for marketers.
Why Birchbox is bullish on live streaming
For Birchbox, it was clear from the outset the brand needed to be doing video because it was the best way to visually engage with and educate their audience about new products. The question was how and where.
The decision to integrate live streaming into Birchbox's marketing strategy stemmed from a desire to build consumer relationships in real-time, Silver said. Knowing their audience well helped them take the leap.
“We knew we needed content to help sell beauty products because the Birchbox customer is not a beauty guru and she’s not obsessed with beauty,” Silver said. "Video was just an obvious way to show people how to use things.”
When Birchbox first came on the scene in 2010, there weren’t many others doing beauty tutorials. As more beauty video bloggers have come online, Birchbox had to find ways to create videos that were both unique to the brand and a savvy marketing investment.
Birchbox sees live video as a two-way street: It helps Birchbox engage with target audiences in real-time, but it also allows consumers to interact with the brand. The retailer approaches live streams as Q&A opportunities with audiences where Birchbox can market the products included in their monthly subscription boxes and educate audiences about the brand.
"The most important part about that tool is that people can ask you questions. It’s the feedback loop, it’s the live Q&A,” Silver said. “You can do a live Q&A to market anything. If you’re an expert, people want to talk to you.”
With Facebook Live, Silver said the brand has seen some of the highest levels of interaction and engagement ever. Interestingly, the longer the stream lasts, the better the engagement. That's because it gives people more time to pop in and out—offering them a longer window to send in comments or questions and participate in the conversation, Silver said.
Birchbox's best performing stream yet—in which Silver and Birchbox Social Media Manager Juliette Dallas-Feeney talk about their roles as social media marketers after being recognized at Facebook's Live Video event for their use of the medium—lasted 40 minutes and had an average view time of 10 minutes among the nearly 50,000 viewers who participated live. As people’s attention spans get shorter, anything longer than a couple minutes is impressive.
Facebook Live: Rachel & Juliette Talk Social Media
Facebook Live: Rachel & Juliette Talk Social MediaPosted by Facebook on April 6, 2016
One of the biggest perks to using Facebook’s Live video feature is that after a stream ends, it saves as a regular video to a brand’s page that can be promoted like any other content.
Live streaming, Silver said, is really valuable for more than just the top of the marketing funnel. Birchbox uses Facebook videos to acquire subscribers and sell products—and it has seen success with both.
“Being a subscriber just means you’re in the funnel; it doesn’t mean you’re our best customer. There’s so much more we want you to do,” she explained. "Something like Facebook Live allows us to do things like answer questions about the products you got in your box or talk to you, and ultimately bring you along further."
Live video helps build brand momentum, loyalty and reach, Silver said. “It’s bringing people into the world of your brand.”
The golden age of online video
“We are in the beginning of a golden age of online video,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in the company's latest earnings report.
Online video is booming. The IAB recently disclosed that spending on original digital video ads has skyrocketed 114% over the past two years, and Cisco predicts video will make up 75% of all mobile data traffic by 2020.
Facebook has made a massive push into video in the last year. After pushing its Live video feature in news feeds and on the mobile app, Facebook reported in its Q1 earnings that users are watching three times the amount of video on the platform than they did a year ago. Each day, Facebook's 1.65 billion users watch 100 million hours of video on the social platform.
Live video has garnered lots of buzz thanks to Facebook and brands seizing the opportunity to broadcast live on social media. While Facebook is not alone or the first in the live stream race—it joins Meerkat, Twitter’s Periscope and Snapchat—live streams on Facebook may bring a stronger return for advertisers given the scale and engagement of the audience there.
While online video has staked its place as a trend with staying power, the early infatuation is just kicking in with live streaming video. But given the surge in popularity that online video have seen in the past year, it’s no surprise that brands like Birchbox are already taking to the new medium of live online video.
In terms of staying power, Birchbox's Silver said live video has what it takes to last beyond the hype.
"Why would you have a still when you can have some movement?" she said, later adding: "Obviously I’m bullish on video everywhere."