Live streaming is an exciting space, but perhaps more so than any other medium, best practices are crucial to your success.
There is more than one right way to live stream your content. In fact, that is the beauty of this exciting medium. Live streaming content is not a new practice by any means; it dates back even before the explosive rise of social media. But the evolution of technology and its accessibility have made it much more prevalent and readily accessible.
Unlike many other media, however, there is a very high degree of unpredictability, which means that a general of understanding of some live streaming best practices will help ensure that you and your brand stay in the good graces of consumers, long after your live stream has ended.
Keep It Casual
People are not tuning into your live stream so that they can hear the news, or listen to a scripted broadcast. If they want that, they’ll turn to something where there is less of a predictable element, like a video blog or podcast. What they are looking for when it comes to your live stream is interactive, authentic content. They want to experience a situation as you experience it. So, in order to engage your audience and keep them around for as long as possible, make your live stream as genuine as possible. (Just look at the engagement Chewbacca Mom got.)
This is not to say that every one of your broadcasts has to be a carpe diem-like event. There are, of course, instances where you will want a little bit more structure and a plan (more on that below). But even in those cases, keep the environment somewhat more laid back than your more structured media. Your retention and engagement rates will thank you.
Have a Plan (or Don’t)
This might be what makes live streaming such an exciting space; a plan can be hugely beneficial as it will provide structure, but the ability to share content and welcome your audience into a live environment and to share in a personal experience is equally exciting.
As a brand, you should have a general idea of what kinds of live events constitute ideal streaming scenarios. This might take a little bit of testing at the outset as the audience that engages with your live streaming might be very different than audiences you’ve engaged with in the past. Once that testing is done, however, you will have a better idea of the kinds of spur-of-the-moment broadcasts you’ll want to host, and it will also give you an idea of the kinds of pre-planned content you’ll want to create and live stream in the future.
A great example of this live streaming best practice in action comes from BuzzFeed. They took advantage of a MythBusters-like theme and tried to see how many rubber bands it would take to blow up a watermelon. Apparently, hundreds of thousands of people wanted to know the same thing, and BuzzFeed discovered a niche of live streaming (‘Let’s See If This Really Works’) which has helped craft part of their live streaming content strategy.
Trial and Error
Just as with the practice above, you’ll want to try all sorts of little things at first. (However, note the next point before doing so.) If everything is kept above board (again, see below) then the worst case scenario is that very few or no people engage or view your content, and it is lost to the annals of time and space. Best case scenario? You receive loads of engagement and discover a niche of content that can be leveraged for ongoing success.
As noted above, live streaming (in this format) is still a very new space for marketers and brands, so every new entrant will need to find that groove into which they fit and have an audience. It might take a little time and, what’s also important to note, you might discover that live streaming doesn’t suit your brand or audience. That’s alright. Now you know and won’t need to reallocate marketing resources to the medium.
Ask Yourself, “Is this OK to share?”
It’s somewhat hard to believe that this is a best practice that needs to be included, but there have been too many instances where this question goes overlooked (by both individuals and brands). DO NOT live stream anything that is offensive, off-putting, in poor taste or, of course, illegal. (On that last point, maybe try and avoid doing anything that is illegal while you’re at it.) It’s somewhat baffling, but yes, this really does need to be said, as there have already been cases where this advice was apparently ignored.
News media outlets have found a lot of success in live streaming by inviting industry leaders (of all kinds) to answer audience questions live. Influencer outreach and marketing has been an excellent tentpole when it comes to high engagement as you have the ability to leverage an influencer’s large network. The same holds true when it comes to live streaming. When you are talking to an industry leader, people who might not have known you were involved in live streaming (or better yet, not known your brand was involved) might tune in to engage or simply watch. There’s a lot of potential to build your brand in that, and if you can get your hands on an influencer, it is well worth it.
Live streaming is still a new space in the context of social media, so there are sure to be more changes and new live streaming best practices creeping up. That said, there is no shortage of potential in this market, and it is a space that marketers should certainly explore. It might not be right for your brand, but an evaluation of the technology and opportunities (if they exist) is a worthwhile undertaking.