Is Streaming the Next Step for Brands?

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Live streaming has officially taken off. YouTube has joined the foray along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, all fighting to be the go-to platform for live content. The technology has already been adopted by millions of social media users eager to share their daily lives with the world, but live streaming is yet to connect with advertisers.

Video has been key in driving ad revenue and growth across social in the last 12 months. Back in mid-2016, when Facebook reported its profits had almost tripled over the first two quarters of the year, owner Mark Zuckerberg was keen to stress the importance of video: “We see a world where video is first.” Last month Instagram announced plans to launch Live Stories globally, while Pinterest has added video to its primarily static ad formats.

The move to live streaming follows a behavioural shift. Social media users aren’t content with receiving information before anyone else, they want it as it happens. This is especially important to Twitter. Often the source of breaking news, journalists engage deeply with the social network due to the inherently ‘live’ nature of the chronological timeline. Twitter has also pioneered live streaming of publisher content in an attempt to drive up a slowing user base and attract advertising revenue.

A recent example of Twitter using live streaming was for Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, which received the highest number of live streams for any news event to date. A reported 6.8 million users watched the stream via Twitter alone, highlighting the demand for live content. Twitter has had further success with its NFL partnership, including live streaming Thursday Night Football, which attracted 3.1 million viewers at its peak.

The Super Bowl live stream on February 5 makes for an interesting case study. It is traditionally one of the most important days of the year for American TV advertisers and generates huge traffic for Twitter. And this year it didn’t disappoint. According to CBS, the game generated a Super Bowl-high of 3.96 million unique viewers across digital platforms including desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and connected televisions.

Live stream-type content has been adopted by the general public for much longer than many would assume. Twitch, for example, is a platform where viewers can watch other users playing their favourite video games – utilising a PoV type recording to look like you’re playing along yourself. The success of Twitch, the reason why Amazon came in to acquire the business, is how it successfully amassed an audience of 100 million-plus unique users through UGC only, or rather its pool of 1 million-plus broadcasters. The genius behind the site lies in how it tapped into the behaviour of a younger audience. It offered a shared and social gaming environment, somewhere for players to hang out and engage, but not be disconnected from their console.

It is really this social aspect which holds the key. For advertisers considering live streaming, the real value is not just in the number of viewers, but in the interaction between brand and consumer. The opportunity to own a moment while aggregating the conversation can provide invaluable consumer insights as well as drive marketing KPIs. Live streaming gives brands the opportunity to target a young, mobile-centric demographic that is so difficult to reach through linear TV.

You may remember #DrummondPuddleWatch, the live stream that had almost 20,000 people unable to look away this time last year. This saw people using their devices to patiently watch unfortunate members of the public navigate around a small puddle dissecting a park pavement. Nothing more than that, and it was brilliantly captivating through engagement with fellow viewers, half hoping someone would get wet.

If the puddle has taught us anything, it’s that the interaction of live streaming can matter more than the quality of the content. Now is the time for advertisers to make a splash, increasing brand engagement by going live.

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