Should my brand be live streaming?

Live streaming is all the rage right now. Every social platform, from Facebook Live to Twitter’s Periscope to YouTube, is promoting live streaming like they’ve invented sliced bread. Sure, it gets more engagement, more views and expands your reach beyond your initial followers. But with live streaming comes risk and each company should weigh whether the rewards are with these risks.

Why are brands live streaming?

Video content garners a much higher rate of engagement and conversion compared to static media and text. That’s why every company wants some form of video content for their site and social profiles. This is backed up by the continued increase of social media consumption on mobile devices (now two-thirds of all internet users access social media via a mobile device – 2.56 billion users). Of this, 200 million people view videos and on social platform – with 50% on their smartphones.

A recent survey by New York Magazine also found that live video is more appealing – 80% of people would rather watch a live video than read a blog and 82% would prefer live video compared to social posts.

Why aren’t brands simply creating videos rather than live-streaming?

The trouble with video is that, except for purchasing a stock video or having someone else to create it, creating video content is rather laborious, especially if you want high production values. Facebook Live and Periscope does away with the ‘high’ production values in exchange for ‘in-the-moment’ experience – also known as FOMO (fear of missing out). As everyone can’t attend every event, live streaming provides them with the ability to be a part of it.

But depending on your company, its brand position and overall goals, this can become a very popular method of communicating with your audience. Live streaming enables content creators to react immediately to the comments on the video and respond in real-time. Live streams on Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope and YouTube are also available as a regular video in the future – in case you or your audience needs them or they missed out during the original broadcast.

Live streaming isn’t an instant cash-earner either but is fantastic for brand awareness. Bottom line sales will unlikely to immediately directly affected by live streaming. It’s an investment in your brand identity and reputation that will increase revenues down the line once you’ve figured out what works best for your business.

Exceptions when brands shouldn’t live stream

Live stream videos usually look amateurish (what Mark Zuckerberg calls “raw”) compared to other carefully edited and curated video content. But the research shows that ‘polished’ content is skipped more often compared to a live stream, due to the FOMO element. If your brand requires all content to be high-quality and considering 90% of users think video quality is important, then live streaming isn’t for your business – unless you give lots of time, preparation, investment and confidence to it.

Also, companies shouldn’t live stream for the sake of live streaming. There must be a purpose to each stream (an event, product launch, announcement, research etc.). Otherwise, you will simply annoy your followers and damage your brand reputation.

However, live streaming could also bring other woes. Live stream means that the comments are live also. That means that moderating posts in real-time is impossible and risks overshadowing your message. Shia LaBeouf’s live stream of his art installation of various people chanting “He will not divide us” – referencing Donald Trump’s inauguration – was high-jacked by neo-Nazis and trolls. Unless you’re live streaming something politically edgy or possibly controversial, it’s unlikely you’ll receive large-scale abuse. But it’s something to be wary of when publically broadcasting to your followers. Sure, you can disable comments but this rather negates the point of live streaming.

And finally, live streaming also brings the risk of videoing embarrassing moments. One of the great pull factors about live streaming is showing your audience your authenticity. But this authenticity is vulnerable to momentary slip-ups (think falling over or accidentally swearing). There’s really no way to avoid this except being prepared, restrained and to watch out for any trip hazards.

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