Live-streaming video is compelling for marketers because it can capture a moment, with the on-the-fly element creating an extra level of excitement for viewers. But as distribution options quickly proliferate, brands are having a hard time deciding where to place their bets.
Video has become the go-to content type in a mobile-first world. Multiple video formats are popular, and audiences are more than willing to engage with all of them. Along with traditional video that uses planned shoots and controlled messaging and editing, the more free and spontaneous live streaming video is becoming a must-have in marketers' content mix. Live streaming video is also making inroads into what has been the domain of linear TV with streams for this year’s presidential debates, the summer Olympic Games in Rio and even NFL football games.
For marketers looking to choose the right platform, the key is finding one that aligns to where a brand has built its largest audience. Below, Marketing Dive compares some of the major players in the field while in an upcoming second part, the best tactics are reviewed.
The goal for marketers with live streams should be to produce a single great live broadcast and attain as wide an audience as possible while also encouraging engagement. Then the stream can be archived to continue to draw viewers long after it has ended
"[Marketers should simulcast live streams] on their web site, in their app, on their Facebook page and on YouTube Live," said Fritz Brumder, CEO and co-founder Brandlive. "That way they can reach all audiences, wherever they tend to hang out. But getting customers to discover a live video on a social platform, then click over to an owned-property where the interaction and merchandising is likely much deeper is a real win.”
The live streaming landscape is evolving quickly and has even claimed its first victim, with one of the first apps dedicated to live streaming video, Meerkat, officially shuttering its doors recently.
New entrants are also expected, such as Snapchat, which doesn’t have an official live streaming option at the moment, but given the ephemeral nature of the Snapchat user experience in general, live streaming video is a natural fit for the app. The marketing challenge will be the same for any marketing activity on Snapchat — a quirky interface — but the reward will be reaching Snapchat’s millennial- and Gen Z-heavy audience. Instagram is also reportedly testing a live streaming option while Amazon's Twitch continues to expand beyond gaming-related live streams into areas such as cooking.
Given that its entire reason for existing is to serve videos to its audience, YouTube is a natural fit for live streaming video. Marketers are most likely already used to the platform for organic video as well as for video advertising, and YouTube has a channel – YouTube Live – dedicated to current live streams as well as archived streams.
For marketers taking advantage of YouTube to live stream video via the “stream now” option, metrics are available. "Watching now” lets marketers know how many viewers the stream is receiving at any given time, including a peak concurrent showing where the stream performed best, and “messages/min” which tracks live chat messages per minute during the stream. The stream metrics show up in YouTube Analytics after the live stream ends.
YouTube is becoming a popular destination for live streams with live video postings up 130% over the last year, and live video views up 80% over the same time frame, according to a Financial Times report.
Facebook has made video a point of emphasis this year, both boosting its value in users’ news feeds via its algorithm, as well as highly promoting its Facebook Live feature. In August, Facebook changed the user interface for the mobile app version of its platform to give a live video button prominent real estate, replacing the status button on the home screen. And back in March, Facebook announced enhancements to Facebook Live that allowed for broadcast quality streams that include multiple cameras.
Facebook has even been testing running advertising in live streams to see if there’s a way to monetize the format without turning off viewers. Recently, the social media platform announced a new tool that allows publishers to schedule Facebook Live streaming video broadcasts in advance, giving them time to build an audience.
Twitter’s main live streaming video option is Periscope, an app it acquired in January 2015, that took on Meerkat and eventually contributed to that app’s demise. As one of the more venerable live streaming options out there, Periscope is well established. At the same time, it might not have as much marketing draw as YouTube or Facebook on sheer user base alone. Both of the other platforms have user bases that dwarf Twitter’s. However, Periscope has been active in expanding its features, recently adding a method for brands to connect with live video creators for sponsored streams, and it’s been testing pre-recorded video in live streams.
Twitter also has Twitter Premium Live content, which is where it distributes content like its deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this season and the presidential debates this year.
One new development that might make Twitter’s live video options more intriguing for marketers is its app for Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Xbox One, which casts Twitter content to TV via the apps, and viewers can access the micro-blogging platform without having to sign up.
Ustream is different from the rest of the list. Instead of being a social media platform where marketers can reach an established audience of followers — and take advantage of influencers connected to those audiences — Ustream is a paid video service that serves more as a marketing tool that happens to broadcast live streams, with built-in capabilities such as lead generation.
Options like Ustream would likely come into play for marketers with a video strategy based on hard marketing goals such as lead gen, which require strong metrics to prove ROI. Live streaming strategies across social media platforms are probably better suited for brand awareness campaigns. Even though some metrics are available, such as via YouTube Analytics or through Facebook, those measurements won’t be nearly as robust as what a platform like Ustream can offer.
One thing is clear – live streaming video is a format marketers should at least be testing out. It’s fun, and — when done well — very engaging, with all the major platforms reporting strong viewership numbers.