This is article 1 of a 2 part series.

As we move into 2017, industry experts have been predicting what the year ahead might have in store for inbound marketing. Live stream video, for example, has seen a huge spike throughout 2016, and this is a trend that’s set to continue growing, so much so, that it is even being touted as the future of social media.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that live stream video is becoming a core part of content marketing for brands of all styles and sizes.

Live stream platforms

As live video finds a nest in social media, the question isn’t whether to get involved with live video, but where to invest resources. Each platform brings its own strengths, weaknesses, and unique characteristics to the table.

Facebook Live Stream

Since the launch of Facebook Live in April, brands of all flavours have been incorporating the feature into their content marketing strategies. Of course, this isn’t the first wave of live video being used as a tool for content marketing – up until now, a handful of brands have experimented with the likes of Periscope and Meerkat, including early adopters, Red Bull and Mastercard.

What currently gives Facebook Live the upper hand over its competition, though, is the fact it offers brands the opportunity to reach a much larger demographic, particularly for those that already have a well-established following on the platform.

Facebook Live offers its users a seamless user experience topped with extensive analytics data and engagement metrics. Live videos are submerged straight into followers’ newsfeeds where they can bask in heaps of organic exposure and engagement.

Don’t just take my word for it, though, stats show that people spend three times longer watching live videos compared to videos that have been pre-recorded. Hardly surprising then, that Facebook is prioritising this type of content, giving it a higher position in news feeds. Product manager, Vibhi Kant, said in a company statement:

“We’re making a small update to News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live.”

Facebook Live therefore makes it quick and easy for brands to reach a wide audience through creating original content, as well as gain detailed insight from these experiences to improve over time. As we head into 2017, things are set to get bigger and better when Facebook expands its broadcast feature to enable 360 degree video.

Twitter Live Stream

Inviting its users to #GoLive, Twitter launched a campaign to join the live stream party last week. Powered by our old friend Periscope, the platform makes direct sharing of live videos through the app a complete doddle. Like Tweets, streams can be easily re-shared, and the feature will no doubt increase overall video traffic across the platform.

In an attempt to win over more users, the company has already put a tonne of effort into live stream broadcasting through a series of high profile deals, spanning the NFL, Wimbledon tennis, and the US Presidential debates. Now accepting user-submitted contributions, Twitter live stream has the potential to unlock new waves of public debate, journalism, and PR.

While Twitter’s Periscope had the first-mover advantage for live video, Facebook’s currently marching ahead thanks to its massive user base and push for this type of content. The impact for brand and consumer engagement remains to be seen, but competition is certainly intense, so watch this space.

Snapchat and Instagram

Other major players in the social media live stream game are Snapchat and Instagram. Snapchat added the feature to its app around 18 months ago, but the navigation is pretty clunky when compared to Facebook and Twitter.

Instagram quietly rolled out its live Stories feature in the summer, and personally, I feel that there’s still a lack of noise being made around the product. Users do see Stories at the top of their feeds, but the content is not (yet?) displayed organically.

For both of these apps, live content disappears after 24 hours, but this hasn’t exactly put marketers off thus far.

The pros and cons of live stream content marketing

I’m sure it goes without saying that anything and everything can go wrong during a true live broadcast; technical difficulties, wardrobe malfunctions, slips of the tongue, laughing and coughing fits… the list goes on.

BuzzFeed fell victim to this during its live Facebook interview with President Barack Obama – a buggy stream prevented users from actually seeing anything, and so, they were forced to watch the event via YouTube instead, generating a total of less than 18,000 viewers which is probably the smallest crowd the POTUS has ever addressed.

Pro: Cost effective – Brands can enjoy making videos without spending much coin, as there’s no need to invest in production or editing. Even better, once the live stream has ended, it still exists on the page like a regular video, so it can be downloaded, edited, and shared again and again.

Con: Low quality – Given that most marketers will not be professional videographers, live stream content will typically be a bit rough around the edges – shaky and full of audio bloopers, for example.

Top tip: A well executed live stream requires half decent equipment and a strong internet connection. Practice makes perfect, so check your connection, set up, and have a play around with lighting and angles before you hit the button.

Pro: Compelling content – Live stream allows brands to demonstrate transparency and a human-focused approach in real time while still reaching a large audience. The nature of live streamed content lends itself well to Q&As, behind-the-scene previews, product launches and demonstrations.

Con: Easily misunderstood – It’s vital that the platform is utilised for creating and sharing content, and not merely to push out scripted sales pitches. Quality content offers value and builds trust with consumers, whatever the medium.

Top tip: Broadcasting without a game plan is just asking for trouble, draft a rough outline for each video, allowing enough flexibility for audience interaction and improv.

Next week, I’ll be taking a look at how some brands are using live video as part of their content marketing strategies – keep your eyes peeled!


Also published on Medium.