Earlier this month, Twitter conducted its first NFL Thursday Night Football live stream—resulting in a 4 percent rise in stock prices the next day. Given the recent uncertainty about Twitter’s future, combined with the huge number of people that enjoy watching NFL games on TV, that climb is not insignificant.
The NFL live video marketing experiment is a bold but obvious move for Twitter: it combines several existing niches and puts them in one mainstream location, all while achieving Twitter’s goal of becoming a more credible news source and expanding its audience. What’s more, according to CNNMoney Sport, football fans are eating up this new opportunity:
But what does this move mean for marketing as a whole? And if live streaming has been so successful for Twitter and the NFL, what other avenues are there for brands to use live streaming? Today, we’ll explore the efficacy of live video, and its role in driving marketing transformation for brands.
Real-Time, Interactive Viewing
Twitter has used its live-streaming deal to beat ESPN at its own game. ESPN typically only offers streaming to viewers who subscribe to a cable service—though a live social stream is always a part of ESPN Gamecast, which show stats and social media commentary in real time during a given game. For viewers from across the country, Gamecasts are a great way to engage in sports talk and sports arguments with people who aren’t within shouting distance.
That ability to heckle and commiserate with fans and foes alike is an integral part of the sports viewing experience—and audiences are already used to leveraging the power of the internet to get involved. Take, for example, the original social live feeds, in which anywhere from dozens to thousands of sports viewers would watch an event simultaneously while chatting about it in real time. Now, Thursday Night Football has legitimized the act of live streaming by pairing it with Twitter—bringing an established social platform into the live-streaming, real-conversation world. And, symbiotically, Twitter can capitalize on the opportunity to sell video marketing for some needed ad revenue.
For those who think this marketing transformation is only available to brands or platforms that care about sports, think again. The conversation factor with various live-streamed events (most notably lately, the presidential debates) is off the charts—and currently, many people are starting their conversations via piecemeal approaches. For example: using a roommate’s laptop to stream the debate while two other roommates Tweet and share Facebook status updates from their smartphones. And Twitter’s not the only company to recognize this need for real-time chatter: Facebook Live has also begun tapping into it by allowing people to react to certain moments of a video, rather than just the video as a whole.
Although it’s just catching fire, one thing’s certain: interactive, conversational live streaming is here to stay—and like most tech trends, several will fail before someone gets it totally right. That’s not to say there isn’t room for a few players to fill different niches, but brands must be smart about which platforms to invest their marketing resources in.
Television ads have lost their effectiveness due to services that allow recording and fast-forwarding or premium internet streams that don’t feature ads at all, but the future of video marketing may well be reaching users exactly where they are—whether that means finding them on whatever device they’re using or being able to target demographics with unprecedented precision. Users reacted extremely positively to the first few Thursday Night Football streams on Twitter, and many openly acknowledged that they were watching via a mobile device instead of traditional television (myself included).
Another way that interactive live streams combat the feel of interrupt ads is by providing more momentary-yet-pertinent content. The difficulty of Twitter is that logging in after even an hour away can feel like playing a never-ending game of catch-up. This makes it hard for brands to reach their audiences and, by extension, for audiences to feel like Twitter is worth using at all. Interactive live streams acknowledge and embrace the fleeting nature of content without losing out on the opportunity for engagement. If anything, they enhance engagement, since those participating in the streams are deeply engaged with the content in front of them instead of passively scrolling through a wall of content that they can’t possibly hope to read all of.
The data is clear: audiences want to combine real-time content streaming with real-time conversation. Brands can capitalize on this desire by tailoring their content to be flexible and embracing the fleeting nature of live streams. Whatever they lose in staying power, they gain in engagement.
Staying power is a myth anyway; the internet moves so quickly that even the funniest, most viral piece of content has a half-life shorter than nuclear unobtainium. Rather than trying to create one campaign that exists across channels in the traditional paradigm of advertising, brands should observe the niche success of Twitter’s deal with Thursday Night Football and try to understand what it’s really all about. Whether the streams are enough to save Twitter is less important than whether audiences want to stream live content and engage socially simultaneously. And to that, the answer is a resounding yes.