Can Your
Go Live?

8 article number 8

Determine the Best Path to Live Video Success

Sam Nicholson

Live video in social media will become part of successful brands’ media plans, but not all brands will be successful at live video.

Social media live video had a big year in 2016. We saw millions of viewers tune in to the NFL on Twitter, millions watch breaking news on Facebook Live, and tens of millions watch the 2016 presidential debates – “Chewbecca Mom” even received over 161 million views. In 2017, we can expect live video on social channels to become a staple in our news feed as more content becomes available – more sports, original programming, and exclusive social TV deals are in the not-too-distant future.

So what does this mean for brands? In 2016, we saw brands jump on the live video bandwagon. As Facebook served up more reach for live video than normal content in users’ feeds, brands took advantage with Q&As, behind-the-scenes footage, even a talking pancake made the cut. Social live video has become so prominent that in June 2016 over 80 percent of U.S. agencies and marketing decision-makers said they might or definitely will invest in live-stream video advertising.This is an example of live-stream video from BuzzFeed.

It’s difficult to tell if social live video is just a “trending” content type, but it certainly seems like it’s not going away anytime soon. Facebook made it a priority to put live video in your main navigation, replacing the Messenger icon in its mobile app. And now, social networks are primed for new advertising opportunities.

This is where I see a fork in the road, or perhaps just two different and promising approaches for exploring social live video in 2017 and beyond. The first path: A publisher approach can be taken with social live video. Brands can use live video as another content tool to express new ways of connecting with an audience. This path gives you a raw and authentic way to tell a brand story that could resonate well with the right target market.

Social live video is a big opportunity for brands to create authenticity and build credibility. What better way is there to allow viewers to join in and experience an interaction with your brand than through a live video? It gives brands the opportunity to not just talk and script a communication, but to actually produce a real, authentic moment with the brand directly. This treasured “authenticity of content” is critical as 80 percent of consumers say it is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand.

Brands who want to make a connection and engage with users in a social environment will need to look closely at social live video and be ready to take new and different approaches. Just as brands have learned to create rich photo and video content to connect with users in the news feed, live video is another opportunity to take advantage of what could become a new and powerful tool in a brand’s content toolbox. It will give brands that are ready the chance to tell the raw story and make a transparent moment with the viewer without the need for video editing.

The second path: Use live video as a broadcast media tool, more similar to traditional TV. Is it really out of the question that social live video begins to reflect television? Facebook has already found publishers to create regularly scheduled programming. The logical next step is advertisements.

Facebook has already begun testing mid-roll ad formats in its live video, and Twitter has plans in place for live video ad opportunities that it suggests will be similar to mid-roll as well. This is an exciting opportunity for advertisers with a new and intriguing format to reach a rapidly growing audience.

Expect the usual big players (Walmart, Target, McDonald’s, etc.) to be the first mid-roll advertisers in social live video. But as these mid-roll units become available to a wider set of advertisers, it will be an excellent opportunity for brands to garner impressions in a new environment. While it will be important for live mid-roll units to be part of a brand’s media plan, it must be understood – social live video is not TV.

As marketers, we need to be wary of treating live video like traditional broadcast television. The news feed is a drastically different place than cable networks. It is where content competes for users’ attention in a matter of seconds, where the skip and scroll can easily divert the viewer. Mid-roll units might be advertising traps for brands that are more focused on trying to connect in more meaningful and deeper ways. Mid-roll ads in social live video that are treated like TV commercials will still achieve impressions and reach, but they will not substitute for the engagement potential of live video on the most powerful communication platforms.

Viewers will be flocking to live video across social media in 2017, and brands must get prepared to reach them and communicate with them in the most effective ways. And now is the time to ask, “Can your brand go live?” It all depends on the story you’re trying to tell.

If your brand is focusing on reaching new audiences in a rapidly growing space, social live video looks promising for you. And the opportunities that mid-roll ad units will present will only grow in 2017. Combine this with already sophisticated targeting capabilities, and you have a powerful new tactic to reach and connect with your audiences.

  • Sam NicholsonSam Nicholson

    Digital Strategy
    As a digital strategist, Sam helps brands such as Snapple, Mott’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the American Diabetes Association navigate the complex world of digital and social media. He is a big sports fan, especially the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, and anything Texas A&M. Sam graduated from Texas A&M University in 2011 with a B.S. in Agricultural Communications and Journalism. His hobbies include writing, music, camping, hiking, and traveling.

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