How brands can 'go live' responsibly

Five pointers for brand managers before publishing live content on social media.

How brands can 'go live' responsibly

"Pull out your phone, open Facebook, tap the camera icon, and share."

According to a Times Square billboard, that’s the four-step process for "going live" on Facebook. It’s that easy.

I applaud Facebook’s commitment to live video. Actually, I give it a standing ovation. I’m glad live is finally taking over social as Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms figure out how to make the feature successful.

Why do I love live? The days of being passive and just looking at newsfeeds have evolved into being active and showing each other real, live moments in time. It’s turning social feeds into true communication platforms, and very engaging ones at that.

It’s a big shift—exciting for consumers, but brands should take a minute to pause.

When YouTube exploded onto the scene, everyone thought they could be a film director or make a living as a YouTube star. It’s evident that’s not the case. The site quickly became populated with unrehearsed, low-quality content from people and brands alike, although they have improved the user experience in recent years with YouTube Editor and other features to improve video quality without needing any additional video editing software.

Brands going live on social platforms can learn lessons from YouTube’s start to avoid low-quality live videos and the risks associated with them: low viewership and damaging reputations among the most significant.

If you’re a brand manager or working at an agency managing a brand, here are some pointers to consider before going live.

Don't miss out on video quality
It’s true there are great products on the market that make iPhone videos better quality — but smart brands are filming high-quality, professional-grade videos. They use scriptwriters, producers, and editors, and they invest in superior equipment—think lighting, microphones, camera equipment, and editing software.

Just because you open Facebook on your phone doesn’t mean you have to broadcast the Facebook Live from a phone. The API allows you to use professional cameras while streaming with Facebook Live. Use the best tools your budget can afford.

Why go live for just a few seconds when you have something to say?
Facebook recommends going live for a minimum of 20 minutes, but it pays off to build a show that allows engagement at various points. Going live is a tune-in, tune-out formula that relies on viewers’ ambient interest. Facebook data reveals the average discovery of a live broadcast in a newsfeed is found is at the seven-minute mark. Seven minutes!

The irony is that brands are used to selling and creating short content for social. You’ve heard it: "no one watches a video over two minutes long." Not true with Facebook Live. Long is okay.

For instance, it’s the reason why the BuzzFeed watermelon video worked so well. You could come in and out of the 45-minute broadcast easily based on your schedule. Over time, as an increasing number of people shared it, the Facebook algorithm helped the video skyrocket to more than 5 million views.

Even in these early days, some brands are getting it right, even if by accident. When Lady Gaga’s arrival was delayed during a Bud Light Dive Bar Tour stop, the video team, instead of going dark, streamed a steady wide shot of the venue’s sign for 25 consecutive minutes on her Facebook page. The 25-minute period allowed ample time for Facebook fans to be notified of a live broadcast and share with their friends that a show was imminent, fueling anticipation. When the performance started, it had already amassed a huge audience, working to Facebook’s algorithm. More than 1.6 million people have viewed the stream at the time of this article. (Note: Anheuser-Busch is a Weber Shandwick client).

How do you determine when to go live?
From a production standpoint, going live forces marketers to think about what will happen in real-time, in one take, and without edits. It also makes producers think about what the company’s can’t-miss moments are.

For instance, don’t go live because you think what an executive has to say is interesting. Go live because you believe your audience can’t miss what is being said or shown. Use this earned share litmus test: talk about your story with people before you go live and ask them, "Would you share this?" I’m oversimplifying, but there is only a certain amount of trusting your gut you can do in live broadcasting. Honest and top-line feedback can be helpful.

And don’t worry too much about the timing. When you show the world you are live, people will stick around because they assume you’re leading to an entertaining payoff. The added opportunity is that with live you can use audience interaction to your benefit and shape how your broadcast is produced.

What type of content works well live?
No matter the form of media, the key to success with content is that it has to add value. What does the content contribute to the viewer's life?

For instance, show us where our food comes from, how new car-safety features are tested, or what’s on your CEO’s mind for investors. Facebook says it best: test more and play more. I say test, play, and be authentic.

Let’s pull back the curtain and be unafraid of being the authority. Tell us something, or better yet, show us something your brand is the expert on.

Even though Kohl’s didn’t produce the Chewbacca Mom video that has more than 3 million shares on Facebook, it showed us how brands should start using live and seize some fun, original opportunities from individual users. Kohl’s quickly capitalized on the live video the next day by sending Candace Payne more masks, an assortment of Star Wars toys, and a $2,500 Kohl’s gift card. They captured Payne’s reaction on social media and on video when the box was delivered. It was a huge win for Kohl’s, earning it more than 200,000 views on its video, and digital content engagement was up by 101% between May 18-22, 2016, compared with the previous five days. A quick maneuver by Kohl’s resulted in one sold-out Chewbacca mask.

Get into the news cycle. If something is happening in the news and you can share a helpful point of view, sharing it live adds a news-like vibe and relevance. Brands have been doing this well for years on other platforms.

Measure Success
Live content is its own unique animal for distributing content, and it can be tricky to measure success.

Decide on what success looks like for your live moment ahead of time. Is it about informing your target audience by having a live conversation with 100 fans about your company’s new product? Or maybe business development and booking two new clients after a live conversation with your senior leaders would be a great result?

If it is eyeballs and views you’re after, then you will need a paid plan to amplify the stream to the number of people you’d like to see it. You can then measure sentiment and comments as engagement in the comments section. This will help you see if your content is changing the perception of your brand. To measure engagement, you can repackage the content for media distribution and track the coverage and mentions after the live broadcast.

Some brands are jumping into real-time conversations like they jumped into making mass amounts of content for YouTube — with poorly coordinated, poorly executed, and, frankly, vaguely entertaining content.

With live broadcasting exploding on social platforms, let’s not go back to the grim days of a shaky smartphone camera pointed at a company spokesperson. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Ian Cohen is global executive producer and president of content creation and innovation at Weber Shandwick.

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