As the NFL season gets underway, you may notice something different—at least if you’re on Twitter. The 2016 season is the first year the league will live stream some of its games via social media. For Twitter, that opportunity came at no small cost: for just 10 games, the brand paid $10 million.
This is no desperation move on Twitter’s part, surprising as it may be to some. Instead, the company is sinking a big investment into what it sees as the future: live video streamed via social media. With that comes incredible opportunities for video marketing through social networks, assuming efforts to expand live video production and consumption work as planned.
But that seems all but given nowadays. Facebook has already made live video an integral part of its platform, and Twitter is followed closely by Instagram and Snapchat in terms of building a live video experience into its platform. And as live video finds a home on social media, brands are eager to discover how their own video strategies can take advantage.
The question isn’t whether to invest in live video, it’s where to put your resources. Every platform has its own strengths, weaknesses and relative quirks, and only the biggest, deepest-pocketed brands can afford to target them all at the same time. For most other companies, choices must be made.
If you had to choose one platform to run your live video marketing on, which should it be? Let’s review the options.
Facebook’s live video platform does seem to have the inside lane on its competition. It reached the market earlier, and expanded faster, than any other live video experiences on competing social networks. And Facebook has had great success building these live video experiences into user news feeds, where the videos can enjoy an organic exposure that drives better engagement.
As Hubspot pointed out, Facebook also offers robust analytics tools that makes live video creation, delivery and optimization that much easier. Companies that want to create their own content in the form of Q&As, demonstrations, behind-the-scenes looks, and other types of video content can easily and quickly reach a large audience—and then learn from those experiences to get better, and smarter, over time.
With its landmark deal with the NFL, Twitter’s livestreaming platform is shaping up to bear close resemblance to traditional television formats. As the Wall Street Journal noted, Twitter also owns Periscope, which is a destination for original content creation that has been gaining momentum since before Facebook’s live video was deployed, but Periscope is also its own separate app that doesn’t embed experiences directly within the news feed, meaning users have to download the app to access those experiences.
Even so, Periscope has proven to be a great platform for live video content that paved the way for more formal arrangements. Twitter’s NFL deal, which resembles similar deals the company is forging with other publishers, is simple: Twitter pays for the rights to live-stream content, and then it sells video ad spaces to interested brands. The appeal to advertisers is very similar to TV advertising, except that it can be even more precise by layering behavior, demographics, and location information into a brand’s ad deployments.
The results of this new relationship will be evident over the next few months, but both Twitter and the NFL believe this arrangement may take the wind out of the sails of traditional TV broadcasting, where live events have endured as an attraction of cable television.
Already a proven destination for mobile video, Snapchat’s advantage lies at an intersection of two key strengths: storytelling and video. The company is positioned to continue driving video experiences thanks to its visual-centric platform. With eight billion daily video views, there are still some obstacles for the company to overcome: as CIO reported, access to its live video experiences isn’t as quick and easy as what Facebook offers. But that could be fixed with some relatively simple development changes.
Meanwhile, the company is starting to move into story-driven, live-video experiences, such as a deal with the NFL to produce behind-the-scenes content. It’s a perfect fit for Snapchat’s intimate story experiences, and it demonstrates the narrative potential of the app.
Instagram quietly released Stories, its live story feature—and while the transition was smooth, it seems to have suffered from a lack of making a splash.
Users can see advertisements for Stories at the top of their feeds, but they aren’t exposed to the feature organically. And participation from content creators remains relatively low. So far, Instagram’s biggest challenge may be a simple, yet imposing one: it has to drum up more excitement around its new live content.
Twitter managed to do that with its NFL deal. Facebook drove that engagement organically by bringing live video to the masses through its News Feed, and before other competitors had been doing so in full force. Instagram, on the other hand, hasn’t done anything significant to differentiate itself. It’s no surprise that Instagram’s live video experience seems to have borrowed a lot from Facebook, except that, with so many alternatives, the experience itself feels a bit redundant.
To really command the attentions of brands, Instagram will need to find a selling point that makes it stand out through the richness of the experience it offers.
For now, the decision of where to invest live video marketing dollars remains, for many brands, a personal choice. Brands that want to reach a large audience, and leverage the stability of strong analytics tools, will be best served by creating content with Facebook in mind—especially if they have large followings and want to create original content, rather than advertising.
Alternatively, a brand that wants to build video ads around live-streamed events, especially sports content, may prefer Twitter’s approach to serving as a live-streaming destination, especially as its offerings expand beyond the NFL to include other sports and other types of content. And companies targeting Millennials may want to sink their resources into Snapchat, where a younger audience is already built-in and well within reach.
No matter what path you choose, keep your eyes on these other live video platforms and watch how they adapt and evolve over time. The best options for today may give way to superior content delivery forms in the near future.