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And We’re Live: How to Live Stream a Branded Experience That Doesn’t Fall Flat

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There’s no secret as to why Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social networks have been so aggressive in creating live video solutions and experiences for their content creators. When done correctly, live video benefits all sides: Brands get access to another dynamic form of content, and consumers love it. According to research from Livestream, 82 percent of consumers prefer live video to reading a brand’s social content.

Platforms love live video because user engagement tends to be so high for this type of content. But for content creators who don’t know how to live stream video, breaking into this format and finding success isn’t necessarily a simple process. The opportunity is there—consumers increased their live video consumption by 81 percent between 2015 and 2016, per Livestream—but live video requires an adherence to certain best practices that have proven capable of attracting and maintaining an audience.

Even though live video can be a gold mine for some brands, it’s just like any other type of digital content, which means there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. And like any successful content strategy, a good part of every video’s success is dependent on the prep work taking place around the live broadcast.

Create a Detailed Plan with Room to Improvise

One of the biggest missteps content creators make is assuming that live video can be figured out on the fly. Successful live video creators seem to stream with such ease and comfort that everything appears to take place organically.

But this effortless experience is often the result of a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Live video experiences that feel improvised are usually thoughtfully planned in advance, even if certain moments seem to happen spontaneously. Even when conversations appear to be free-flowing, there is often a tight structure intended to keep the video’s content focused and moving along at the appropriate pace.

Video creators will want to work hard to flesh out a detailed script, even if each participant’s lines aren’t pre-written. Embrace an improvisational style that defines the content of what actors should be discussing on camera but allows them the freedom to express those ideas with the language that is most comfortable for them.

Focus on creating content that fits what consumers seek in live content. The Livestream study found that 87 percent of consumers prefer online video when it provides behind-the-scenes content that offers a unique glimpse into a brand’s experience. This needs to be planned in the scripting stage for your video: Identify the aspects of your content that will engage your audience by providing intimate insights, behind-the-scenes looks, expert tips, and exclusive reveals related to new products, services, experiences, and so forth.

When you sit down to create your live video, there should be a clear understanding of what the content will look like, including how long the video experience will run. Even though your live broadcast space is unlimited, consumers want a tight, economical brand experience. This should always be in mind when planning your video.

Camera lens

Image attribution: MattysFlicks

Promote Ahead of Publishing

Live video turns conventional social strategy on its head when it comes to executing a distribution strategy. With most types of content, you create first and then distribute that content to your audience, using a range of digital channels. But to create a dynamic live video experience, you have to drum up an audience before the video broadcast begins.

As Social Media Examiner points out, different platforms have their own options for helping promote to your audience and build up active users. Facebook Live, for example, lets you alert your personal network and/or fans of your business page when live video is about to begin. You can also choose to do paid promotion if you’re serious about building up a large audience for your video.

This promotion can take place hours or even a day ahead of the video’s publishing date, giving you time to get the word out. Because the brand experience is often improved by a large built-in audience to engage with creators during a broadcast, this pre-broadcast distribution strategy is often critical to the video’s success and ROI. Use built-in social advertising options, and also use other digital channels where you can promote to your own audience: Consider newsletter blasts, a blog post announcing the video, and posting to other social networks about a live stream taking place on a specific platform.

Take Advantage of Real-Time Engagement

Most content is created in isolation, and it is static upon release: Consumers read or view the content and then move on. But live video offers an audience the chance to interact with content as it’s being created. A live broadcast that doesn’t take advantage of two-way engagement is missing out on one of live content’s greatest benefits, especially when it comes to driving user engagement.

When you’re learning how to live stream, this real-time engagement needs to be a focal point. Brands often turn to Q&As or directly soliciting feedback to keep users engaged and encourage interaction. You can like and comment in real-time on Facebook Live broadcasts. Similarly, it’s easy to tweet questions or comments to live-streaming users on Twitter.

Raised hands

Image attribution: SimpleSkye

Real-time engagement helps your live video accomplish a few goals. For one, it lets you directly communicate with a valued audience, and you are able to build brand relationships through this experience. This engagement is also feedback you can use to improve your content over time, identifying strategies to increase engagement, and optimize your live video to attract and keep a dedicated audience.

For creators who are comfortable improvising on the fly, this engagement can even be used to optimize content as it is being created: If engagement and viewer numbers dip, for example, a seasoned video creator could choose to change course quickly and attempt to improve the experience before the broadcast session ends. This might be difficult to execute for new creators, but as you get more comfortable creating live experiences, real-time adjustments will become much easier to implement.

Live video rarely hits a home run the first time you give it a try. But with its unrivaled ability to engage with audiences in real time, every brand should be testing the waters and trying to hone their skills. The rules for live content may be different, but that’s because the experience is unlike anything you’ve been able to create before.

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Featured image attribution: Gustavo Devito

Jonathan has worked as a journalist for the past 8 years. His journalism credits include employment at the Omaha World-Herald, Willamette Week, and NFL.com, with projects appearing in New York Newsday, WRITERS' Journal, and others. Other writing has regularly appeared on LiveSTRONG.com, Reputation.com and FindLaw.com, among others. He is the recipient of a First Place award in Sports Feature from the Society of Professional Journalists Northwest Region. He lives in Portland, Oregon and works as a marketing writer and a freelance editor.

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