Though the idea of putting live video on the Web is as old as social media itself, advancements in technology and consumers’ voracious appetite for mobile media are making the channel into an essential branding tool.
In fact, if brands are still debating whether to use tools like Periscope and Meerkat, they’re well behind the curve, experts say.
"Today, the question isn’t ‘Should I live stream?’ but ‘How do we live stream?’" says Kevin Nabipour, SVP of content strategies at Allison+Partners.
Recent campaigns that have created a buzz using steaming video include the #DoritosRoulette contest, in which the snack brand teamed with Periscope to launch its product of the same name earlier this year. Another was Adidas using the technology to broadcast the signing of a deal between soccer powerhouse Real Madrid and star player James Rodriguez. And many viewers were smitten with the collaboration between Nestle’s Drumstick brand with Periscope and online influencers to celebrate the summer solstice.
What live-streaming pioneers have proved is that brands large and small can use the channel to reach a broader audience and create a more intimate relationship with potential customers all over the world.
Experts note the beauty of live-streamed video is its rawness, its ability to be posted quickly, and its massive reach – all with no big budget required for production. Yet like any social media channel, it needs to carefully planned, monitored, and managed so brands are posting the right content and messages.
The birth — rather continuation — of streaming video
"For more than a decade, digital marketers have been experimenting with live streaming to bring a singular and localized event to the Internet masses," says Nabipour. "It only seems modern because the advancements to broadband connection and smartphone computing technology have spawned the birth and increased use of consumer apps like Twitch, Periscope, and Meerkat."
Streaming video was traditionally a strategy mostly used by tech-savvy brands or those supportive of social influencers and bloggers. However, its use became more mainstream last year. Yet now, the audience for streaming video is made up of consumers who use social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook’s Live Q&A, and for whom the need for immediate, real-time content is natural.
It’s also become easier to create streaming video due to the surge in app developers focusing on democratizing toolkits for marketers of all sizes. Therefore, companies large and small can explore and produce streaming video to fit into their campaign cycles.
The case for streaming video
One reason brands should begin using streaming video, if they are not already, is that it positions them as early adopters.
"For some companies that continuously trade in the currency of cool, it’s a benefit that can’t be underestimated," says Nabipour.
But perhaps the biggest reason to give it a try is that streaming video creates an unmatched intimacy for consumers, he adds.
"It shortens the distance and heightens the value exchange between brand and buyer. It also encourages companies to push themselves creatively in the types of content they regularly publish," Nabipour explains.
Streaming video is also a perfect channel for a brand to share a corporate milestone, especially if it wants to make the message public quickly and without a lot of production behind the broadcast, says Mitzi Emrich, EVP and chief social strategist at MWW.
For example, a brand can introduce a CEO or celebrate an anniversary via video. But she warns that there needs to be a perspective behind the broadcast, or it could come off as pointless.
"If you don’t have a perspective that you’re trying to communicate and you share no real message, then it is just clutter," she says.
Emrich adds that the message needs to be unique and not recycled content from another media channel used by the brand. As an example, she cites General Electric’s use of behind-the-scenes footage that has not been previously shown on YouTube or another media outlet.
Like any channel, there are negative aspects to streaming video. For one, the channel removes some of the brand’s control over the content. If something happens live, there’s no time to approve or edit the content before it’s viewed by thousands of people. Therefore, the channel requires significant planning and preliminary checks prior to live streaming.
"If you spend time on the front-end planning, the execution can be easy," says Emrich.
A ‘purrfect’ entry into live-streaming
Purina One teamed up with Golin and Periscope this summer to host a live streaming video event in New York City. The goal of One Cat Camp, a two-day event, was to help viewers understand whole body health for cats. It featured summer camp activities such as a climbing wall, a kibble campfire, a yoga tent, and adoptable cats.
The event was meant to be accessible to everyone, and by Periscoping it, the initiative was viewed by nearly 10,000 people and received more than 60,000 likes.
"Using Periscope was a great way to bring the educational and highly visual experience of Purina One Cat Camp to cat owners who couldn’t join us in person," says Brian Williams, brand manager for Purina One Cat. "Over the course of two days, we had more than 1,350 people attend the event, but we had nearly 10,000 join us via Periscope. It’s a valuable tool that we will consider it for future efforts."
Viewer comments originated from Denmark, Brazil, and Mexico during 16 hours of streaming. The brand also added narrated segments from its veterinarian, Deb Greco, and behaviorist, Sandra Lyn. There was also an opportunity to ask experts questions and receive answers live.
The brand was very happy with the results, and felt it built a closer relationship with consumers.
"Allowing consumers to interact directly with brands seems to be here to stay, and platforms like Periscope and others make that possible," says Niky Roberts, PR supervisor at Purina ONE.
Its advice for new users: "preparing ahead of time, but then being nimble when the stream started was key to our success. We learned and improved with each hour, adjusting with each new stream," Roberts adds.
A look into the future
The live-streaming video space is growing for two reasons. For one, the growing expectation by consumers for immediateness and large amounts of content – and if a brand wants to be noticed, it has to keep up with the pace of content production.
Second, as technology advances and makes the viewing of this content on mobile more widespread, more consumers and brands will be able to use it.
"It’s not unfathomable to think that streaming video will be the default experience for how mainstream audiences consume content and how brands and influencers communicate with them," says Nabipour. "The growth in adoption is but one indicator for how in-tune the experience is with our culture today."