Five ways to screw up live video

Some branded live video is downright awful, says George F. Snell III, GM and executive producer at Matter.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Live video is exploding. All the major social media networks have invested heavily in live video: Facebook Live, Periscope by Twitter, YouTube Live, LinkedIn Live, Vimeo, etc. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Forbes are also moving quickly to incorporate live video into how they cover the news.

Demand is igniting this explosion. Video makes up two-thirds of all internet traffic and nearly 20% of that is live. Live video is expected to grow 15 times by 2022, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index. Facebook is already reporting that 78% of its users watch live video and, according to a recent survey by New York Magazine and Livestream, 80% of consumers would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog.

This is why companies and organizations as diverse as Honeywell, Harvard University, Ocean Spray and John Hancock have all used live video to communicate directly to their employees, customers and stakeholders about product launches, news announcements and thought leadership initiatives. Many more are jumping on board to experiment with live video as they realize its potential.

Not all companies, however, are doing it right. In fact, some branded live video is downright awful. Don’t let that be you.

As a marketer (and former journalist) who has produced more than 120 live video broadcasts for brands across the globe, here are the five most common live video screw-ups I see brands make and some tips on how to avoid them.

First, low-quality production
Would you write a press release riddled with spelling errors? Would you release a TV commercial shot without proper lighting? There’s a misconception that live video seems inauthentic if shot with high production quality. That’s ridiculous.

You’re competing for attention and nothing says you care less than low-quality content. If fact, 67% of viewers told New York Magazine and Livestream that quality is the most important factor when watching a live video. Invest in creativity and a good run of show, use quality equipment, and partner with a team that understands live production and how to distribute it.

Ingoring sound quality
Imagine watching a movie with the audio off. Or listening to a panel discussion at a conference where they don’t use microphones. Both experiences would be bad. Live video is a powerful communications tool, so don’t skimp on sound. Take it from the Los Angeles Film School when it says: "Poor sound can ruin an otherwise spectacular production." Use high-quality audio equipment, mic up your speakers and avoid filming in places with loud ambient noise.

Winging it
There’s a myth that using live video means giving up control. Nothing could be further from the truth. You control the content, the setting, the timing and the messaging of your live broadcast. You are in control. Producing a live video doesn’t mean improv.

You’d never have your CEO speak at a conference without prepared remarks or send an unprepared team to a new business pitch. So don’t wing a live video. Proper planning and rehearsal will improve your live broadcast exponentially. It will also protect your company or organization from appearing amateurish and unprepared.

Treating live video as an ad
There is a place and time for advertising, but live video isn’t it. Think of live video as branded editorial content, a way to tell your story in an authentic and compelling way. You’re engaged in a value exchange with your viewers: they will give you their attention, but only if you entertain and/or inform them.

Thinking about live video this way will help you produce content that resembles a TV show rather than a TV commercial. The best live broadcasts are cooking shows, talk shows, news shows, game shows, etc. Every company and organization has stories that can motivate, inspire and enlighten their audiences. Use live video to tell those stories.

Having no distribution plan
The biggest mistake is not having a distribution plan. When you expend time and resources to create content, you make sure your audience knows about it and can find it. The same goes for live video.
This means setting aside part of the budget to distribute the content on multiple channels — owned, earned and paid. Live video is an integrated media play. Don’t trap it on a single platform.

Know your audience, know where they are online and work with a team that knows how to put live video in front of them at the right time. Your goal shouldn’t be hundreds of viewers, but tens or even hundreds of thousands of viewers.

George F. Snell III is general manager and executive producer at Matter and leads mLive, a creative live video offering from Matter.

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