While not a new concept — gamers have been doing it for years — live-streaming was introduced to the masses in March 2015 when the Meerkat app launched at South by Southwest. A few months later, Twitter made headlines when it purchased Periscope, another live-streaming platform. Facebook joined the trend this summer with the rollout of live-streaming capabilities for celebrities and recently expanded to select iPhone users.
As these platforms fight for market share, businesses find themselves weighing whether they should dive in. It’s an important conversation.
The ability to engage clients in real time is invaluable, and live-streaming provides the accessibility, transparency and trust equity that today’s consumers demand.
Here are some factors to consider before deciding whether to go live:
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Have a plan: The word “live” sends tremors through legal departments and instills fear in CEOs, often resulting in corporate paralysis. Companies that can move past their initial fears, identify strong company spokespeople, and outline clear goals and guidelines can reap rewards.
A plan and goal can be as simple as welcoming viewers into your business culture. For example, Schwartz Media Strategies’ debut Periscope session in early September broadcast the company’s fantasy football pool launch event, which ultimately drew a handful of career inquiries.
Create access points: Big companies with deep pockets may be the early adopters, but the beauty of live-streaming are its cost-effectiveness and its availability to anyone with a smartphone. A strong social media following doesn’t hurt. Pre-promotion on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn is key to driving views to your stream. Without these access points, there’s a good chance you’ll be talking to yourself.
Two promotional tweets helped Miami Downtown Development Authority’s first live-stream in early September reach more than 65 people in less than two minutes. The live broadcast of the Art Day kickoff party quickly gained traction among viewers who shared live commentary and posed questions about art events.
Mortality: One of the biggest downsides of live-streaming is its mortality. Unlike a website or blog, streamed content doesn’t usually last forever. For example, there is no option to replay Meerkat streams after they have aired. Periscope provides access to the videos for 24 hours. Interestingly, Facebook live-streams can be accessed at any time and become part of a user’s history.
A useful tool in crisis mode: Live-streaming can increase employees’ comfort levels with being on camera. As they learn how to deliver a clear and concise message on-air, they can quickly act during a crisis, enabling companies to share the spotlight with mainstream media and citizen reporters. This can be a useful method for setting the record straight and getting your message across.
Look beyond the lack of data: Live-streaming apps are still new and don’t yet provide analytics, so gauging success is tricky. But this lack of measurement hasn’t stopped large brands from testing the waters. DKNY provided viewers a tour of its fashion closet; Red Bull brought them into their Miami Music Week guest-house; and Doritos incentivized views by offering prizes during its #DoritosRoulette Periscope session.
For some South Florida businesses, live-streaming has become a way of life. Miami Beach Realtor William Pierce says the decision to show off homes in real time was easy: “Live-streaming gives me the ability to interact with a global audience; it’s making open houses a thing of the past.”
Al Roker has compared the current state of live-streaming to the early days of radio, when content creators found their voice and developed an understanding of the communication medium. The beloved weatherman is on the right track. Businesses should embrace live-stream technology while proceeding with caution, understanding the risks and rewards — and creating a clear game plan before going live.
▪ Spreading the Word features marketing and communications professionals sharing thoughts and advice on branding and social media. To be considered, submit topics to rclarke@MiamiHerald.com.