How Brands are Using Live Streaming to Expand Their Audiences

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The first live video streaming platform, Justin.TV, launched in 2007, and its sole channel was dedicated to founder Justin Kan broadcasting a 24/7 feed of his life via a webcam attached to his head. The novelty of someone live streaming a feed of their daily life, from the mundane (sleeping for 6-8 hours) to the unusual (being accosted by Scientology members on the street) gained him a loyal audience. Not long after, Justin.TV launched to the world as a platform where anyone could sign up and start streaming.  This was clearly a watershed moment in broadcast media. For the first time in history, anyone was free to create content using a simple camera and an internet connection and broadcast to a worldwide audience. The content may have been fairly low-tech, but it was also authentic, and viewers flocked to popular channels broadcasting everything from video gameplay to puppies to concerts.

The popularity of livestreaming led to a proliferation of new platforms, including Ustream and Livestream, and eventually YouTube Live and Facebook Live. Viewers tuned in to live streams in record-breaking numbers. Why? It was happening in real time. If you weren’t watching, you might miss something important happen. The immediacy of it was what made it compelling and different and addictive for viewers. And as well all know, where viewers go, brands will follow.

For brands, the appeal of live video was inevitable: it is better at attracting and holding audiences’ attention and allows people to see an unfiltered and unedited version of a brand. Live video forces a brand or company to open up and show what happens behind the scenes, and although that can be scary for marketing and branding teams, when executed well, the payoff can be worth the heartburn.

When it comes to live streaming, brands have embraced the idea that you can offer audiences something of entertainment value and connect it to the brand in a more oblique way. When JetBlue wanted to raise awareness for their JetBlue Getaways product, they created a live game show where viewers could call in and participate in real time via Skype to win trips, hotels, and transportation with JetBlue Getaways. Similarly, when Royal Caribbean wanted to connect with their customers, they organized an influencer takeover of their periscope channel so they could stream their trips live. They also repurposed the Periscope content and rebroadcast it as “simu-live” on billboards in Times Square.  In each case, successful execution of a live broadcast involved creating content that first and foremost meaningful and entertaining to audiences. They didn’t lead with a desperate plea to ‘buy something’ or ‘sign up for this service.’ Viewers in turn spent more time interacting with, discussing, and viewing the live streams.

Despite some notable activations that end up going viral, one of the main challenges with live is how to expand viewership. If a brand wants to go live on Facebook, they are limited in potential viewership by a number of factors, including how many Facebook followers they have, the Facebook algorithm, and how many of their followers are browsing Facebook at that particular time. The same challenge presents itself if they host a live stream on their website and use their email list to alert viewers. How many people will see the email in time? What if no one shows up?

Live video syndication, similar to VOD syndication, is the solution to this problem. Platforms like AmpLive can help expand the reach of a live broadcast by using first- and third-party data to target live streams to global audiences in real time. Now a brand can go live, pick a desired audience target, upload their video player and a small piece of creative, and push that out to as many people as they’d like. Viewership, engagement, and view time are measured, and audiences can be retargeted with follow up messaging.

As brands become increasingly savvy at utilizing live video, they are also beginning to ask themselves how to quantify results beyond the view. How can you turn a viewer into a customer? If X number of people saw or interacted with the broadcast, how many of those people ultimately become customers? Two of the methods brands have used to address this problem are registration gates and pixels. If the goal is to convert users into customers, the first step in that process is finding out who is watching the content. A registration gate can provide an email address, phone number, or other valuable information that can be utilized by the brand to continue the conversation with that viewer. Pixeling a landing page with the live video is another excellent way to add the live viewing audience into a retargetable pool for future marketing activations. Savvy marketers have found that these audiences can even be connected into MarTech platforms like Marketo and seamlessly integrated into their conversion funnels.

By assimilating MarTech with live video, marketers are beginning to think of live video as another acquisition channel similar to display or content syndication or VOD.

While not without its challenges, live video is becoming an increasingly popular tool for marketers and brands hoping to entertain, delight, and ultimately, convert viewers into customers.

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