It was a simple, yet weird, concept for a live video: How many rubber bands can BuzzFeed fit around a watermelon before it explodes? But the seemingly pointless endeavor ended up netting 800,000 live views for the website and an additional 9.2 million views after the live run.
Going viral, as BuzzFeed’s live video did, won’t happen every time and shouldn’t be the aim of companies looking to try live video, says Fritz Brumder, CEO and co-founder of live interactive video platform Brandlive. However, he believes companies of all kinds can use live videos to creative effective content that will allow genuine communication with their audiences.
“That’s the strategy I think you have to have with live video,” he says. “Do it, do it effectively, create really good content, put it in the right place and it will be very effective for you.”
Effectiveness has become a big reason why video, live or otherwise, has become so popular over the last few years. A report from eMarketer in April 2015 found that U.S. adults spend 5.5 hours per day watching video content, up from 21 minutes per day in 2011. The potential for engagement is even larger for live video. As Matthew Corbin, Facebook’s head of global partner activation, told eMarketer, video has been the one of the biggest engagement tools the platform has seen.
What should marketers know about live video’s current trends and most effective uses? Here are six things:
1) 65% of companies have tested or will test live video in 2016.
Who’s using live video for marketing so far? Brandlive’s February 2016 report found more than half of the respondents, mostly from mid- and large-sized companies, have tried some form of live video streaming. A fifth of respondents say they are planning on testing the medium for the first time this year.
Only 35% have no plans for live video testing in the next 12 months. The main reason for lack of use? Nearly 60% cited a lack of resources and approximately 50% reported cost and budget.
Reasons for use of live video are shifting as quickly as adoption is happening, it seems. Currently, the two most popular reasons for using live video are simulcasting a live event and training customer service representatives.
However, approximately 90% of companies planning to use live video will do so for customer panels in the next year, with another 60% planning to use live video to conduct a physical space virtual tour and approximately 50% for media and influencer briefing.
BuzzFeed's viral watermelon video
2) Product companies may have “huge opportunities”.
Media and entertainment companies have been the “obvious choice” for live video thus far, Brumder says, but he sees a huge opportunity for product companies to authentically interact with audiences to generate sales, train employees and create product or brand evangelists.
“There are only two ways, really, that you can communicate your product to an audience,” Brumder says. “One is a retail strategy where you physically have the products in store, and the customers go in store, and they touch it, feel it, hold it and try it on. Or you have a purely digital experience on your website: You’ve got expandable images, 360[-degree] live video, prerecorded video and digital interactions with a physical product.”
Live video fits in between those two things,” he says. “It’s not just purely a digital experience. Because it’s real time and because it’s live, the video is more of a window into the physical environment, so it feels more 3-D. It feels more like walking into a retail store than it feels like clicking on images on an e-commerce website.”
3) Social companies are making big investments in live video.
Facebook's first live video from its headquarters
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently said “We’re entering the new golden age of videos online,” during a live video announcing the company’s expansion of the live video tool for users.
Already, the social media giant’s efforts have been receiving rave reviews. USA Today reports that Scott Kessler, head of technology research at S&P Global Market Intelligence, wrote in a note that when it comes to live video, S&P believes “Facebook is the best positioned among the publicly traded companies we cover.”
Twitter is also trying to get into the live game, recently announcing a $10 million deal with the NFL to broadcast 10 Thursday Night Football games. Meanwhile, Twitter-owned app Periscope had 200 million broadcasts in its first year of existence.
YouTube, a stalwart of online video, is also trying to grow in the world of live video. VentureBeat reported that the company has “quietly been building a new live-streaming app called YouTube Connect.” The company has already seen successes and failures in live video, experiencing some video quality issues during a live interview with President Barack Obama, but generating buzz when giving fans of The Simpsons a chance to speak with Homer live.
Homer's live video debut on The Simpsons
4) Selecting the right partner and right personality is important.
Linking up with a partner for live video can make or break a company’s efforts. Brumder says the speed with which the industry is moving demands organizations find the right partner.
“There are some players in live video that give you different components that you have to integrate with your website or your strategy,” he says, adding that some partners will bring in their IT and development teams. “For some [companies], that’s great; they want the customization. But there are other players that are more end-to-end. So making sure you understand what type of partner you need is really important.”
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says companies need to have a basic understanding of the marketing strategy and understand what kind of value this medium can deliver. Larger enterprises may be better off purchasing smaller media companies or hiring personalities who have already had success with live video. Conversely, companies can partner with an influencer who has an established audience, he says.
“Success in live video needs personalities,” says Pulizzi. “Large brands generally have issues with letting personalities take over communication with their customers, so basically all industries will continue to be challenged with live video. This is why celebrities and entrepreneurs are so good at live video. They can just be themselves, and they don't have to answer to anyone.”
A few companies currently do it well, he says, including Jyske Bank and EMC, because they have “invested heavily in the concept and received executive backing to move forward with the experiment.”
5) Live video can be less expensive than produced video.
Going beyond an amateur video shoot with company-owned equipment can be pricy. HingeMarketing says a semi-pro level video can cost between $1,500 and $3,000, with a professional-level video costing as much as $20,000. Brumder says one of live video’s benefits is its low bar to entry and production cost.
“Time is money,” he says. “The more time you have people working on it, the more expensive it is. ... With live video, you kind of have a director, but you basically have a little bit of pre-planning to set it up, promote it and let it happen. Once it’s actually happening, it’s so much more organic than [planned video]. The audience actually becomes the director. The audience gets to interject [by saying], ‘Here’s what I care about, here’s what’s interesting for me. Can you answer my question?’”
6) Trying and failing at live video is OK.
A live webcast gone awry.
Pulizzi says most bands that will try live video will initially fail.
“Why? Because they are focused on the technology and why they should do it in the first place,” he says. “Live video needs to be consistently delivered and differentiated, just like any other media endeavor. If you can get it right, it gives you the advantage of building an audience that becomes an asset that you can monetize by selling more products. The idea is that if we communicate regularly with our audience and deliver ongoing value outside the products and services we offer, we will see more profitable behavior from customers in the future.”
Brumder’s argument is that if a brand is “shady” or “doing bad stuff,” it might want to avoid live video. If a brand truly believes in what it is doing and can create something meaningful, any misstep can end up being a good thing.
“It just means that you’re human, and there are real people behind the company,” he says. “Consumers want to buy from companies where they can relate to the people who work there. It’s not just about the product experience.”
Both Brumder and Pulizzi say companies who have no video experience likely should not start with live video, at least not without an agency or partner to help them make the leap.