Video has become an important component of marketing success for businesses. It's cheaper and easier than ever to produce professional footage and distribute it far and wide. Social media, in particular, is changing the way video is delivered and consumed, and nowhere is that more evident than in the rise of live-stream coverage.
Live streaming might seem like it's more geared toward journalists or individuals, but it's actually a powerful tool in the small business advertiser's marketing toolbox. Here's how to best leverage live streaming and expand your brand's reach. [See Related Story: 3 Ways to Use Instagram Live for Business]
What is live streaming?
Video live streaming is, quite simply, the act of transmitting live footage over the internet to an active audience. In the past, live streaming was typically done on a dedicated platform, but today, social media has expanded the reach of live streaming to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
"For the first time, small businesses can really experiment with video as a means of communication," said Tom More, CEO of the creative multimedia company Slidely. "Live streaming is not a new app, there's nothing new they need to learn, because it's built into social media. I think what's happening now will help empower them in new ways."
While platforms like UStream have long been hosting live videos, social media's step into the live-streaming territory represents a real opportunity for startups and small businesses to quickly get their messages out at little cost. [See Related Story: How to Use Twitter Video to Tell Better Stories on Social Media]
How do I create live-stream ads?
Not all live videos are created equal. Developing an effective video ad campaign requires a strategy, and your live footage should be treated no differently. In fact, sloppy or unplanned video could actually damage your brand and have a negative effect, so it's important to get it right. It's worth it to put pen to paper and brainstorm a bit beforehand.
"The rules still apply," Beth Mock LeBlanc, chief creative officer and managing partner at MLB Creative, said. "You need to have a plan for your live videos; it can't just be ad lib. Find out what your audience is interested in and come up with a plan that targets that."
While planning is important, the beauty of live video is its casual, personable quality, More said. Striking the right balance between structure and comfort is key.
"Live streaming adds something in terms of honesty," More said. "From the user's point of view, it should even seem unrehearsed, but businesses need to rehearse and understand their message."
Based on the advice of our expert sources, here are a few things to keep in mind when developing a live-streaming strategy:
- Post a teaser: If people are going to tune in to your live streams, they need to know when you're going to be on. Sure, anyone in your network may happen upon your stream while online, but you'll see an improvement in views and engagement if you give a heads-up to your followers first.
- Create a rough script: Live streaming allows you to show a more authentic, spontaneous and human side to your brand. Still, a meandering or nonsensical video will leave users feeling confused, which doesn't lead to very many conversions. Draft some bullet points and perform a few dry runs before going live, but avoid becoming beholden to a specific script!
- Keep your content fresh: Not all live streams have to feel like advertisements. Users are more likely to engage with content that isn't a direct pitch. If a customer tells you that he or she liked the work you did, ask that person if they'll go live for 30 seconds and tell your followers about his or her experience. Offer tutorials and how-to videos to help your followers solve a problem that's associated with your industry. Live-stream events like trade shows or community outings. Any type of content that helps you develop a connection between your social media followers and your brand is a success.
- Remember your brand: As part of your marketing strategy, you should have a "brand-positioning statement," or a simple theme that embodies why your brand is the best choice for the consumer. Your live streams are representing your company's brand, so be sure to stay on message and remain consistent in the way you approach content creation.
- Sell a feeling: Dry or technical advertisements will never go as far as emotionally driven content, and video is an excellent medium for capturing feeling. Know your audience, their needs and their interests, and then be sure to create engaging content that connects with them. Building the association between your brand and audience is more important than pushing a product.
- Consider incentives: Entice your followers with deals and specials that are only obtainable through your live streams. Not only will this increase the potential for conversions through that channel, but it will also encourage the growth of your followers over time. Live streaming might capture one specific moment, but the strategy surrounding it is long-term in nature.
The better your strategy is tailored to your audience's needs, the better the response will be. A successful video marketing campaign, especially social media-based live streaming, has the potential to reach well beyond your network, Mock Leblanc said.
"In our experience, people are very engaged with video," Mock LeBlanc said. "People share video more and search for it more often. If you can come up with some good content, it can be a very effective tool."
"In social, we have something TV didn't, which is real-time sharing," More added. "People will give you feedback and share it with their friends, and then you have the ability to retarget those people with something a little more focused on the offering. That makes it real."