5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
We live in a time when a brand’s ability to reach its customers online has never been more important. The same is true of individual entrepreneurs, influencers and others. This is where live streaming video comes in. While the popularity of YouTube has long proven video’s importance in the online world, live video’s surge is relatively recent, and is still often overlooked by marketers.A report from IAB found that by the end of 2018, 67 percent of internet users had streamed live videos, with 47 percent saying they had increased their live streaming over the year before. In fact, Go Globe estimates that as much as 82 percent of online traffic will be dedicated to live video by the end of 2020.Needless to say, live video streaming should become a key focus in your digital strategy.Just what is live video streaming, anyway?Live video streaming is exactly what it sounds like: a video that is streamed live on the internet, rather than pre-recorded and uploaded to a Facebook or YouTube profile. Technically, live video streaming is an all-encompassing term that can even include TV broadcasts that are also made available in real-time over the internet.For marketing purposes, however, live streaming typically refers to the content that you yourself are producing and broadcasting online. While you still need quality cameras and microphones to present everything in the best light possible, the resulting video isn’t going to look as polished as content that is professionally edited after filming.Businesses and other organizations will often use live streaming for press conferences, product announcements or webinars. Live streaming is how many influencers have grown their personal brands, particularly in niches such as gaming. The unfiltered, “in the moment” nature of these streams gets people to tune in.Related: 5 Content Ideas for Making Money With Facebook LiveWhy live streaming matters to your customersRegardless of your niche, your customers are craving engaging video content — and this can have a big impact on their behaviors. According to survey data from Livestream, 80 percent of internet users prefer live video to blogs, while 82 percent prefer live streaming video to other social media content. Sixty-seven percent of those who watch a live stream bought tickets to similar events.In a recent email conversation, Vlad Rigenco, founder and CEO of Dood Livestream, explained, “For the consumer, live streaming feels more like a conversation than a prepackaged ad. This helps them develop a stronger connection with the brand, especially if you use your live content to answer questions or respond to comments. Forming a natural, authentic connection with your customers will go a long way in driving conversions and addressing concerns that might otherwise keep them from buying.”For many viewers, the appeal of live streaming is that it offers a taste of accessibility — a “behind the scenes” approach that feels more unscripted and transparent. This helps establish trust in ways that other marketing tools simply can’t.Using live streaming to grow your brandWhile live streaming can be a powerful part of your marketing arsenal, not all live streaming video is created equal. As marketing consultant Lisa Illman once advised in an Entrepreneur interview, “Stick to content that delivers the 3 Es: educates, engages and entertains.”The truth of the matter is that while live streaming often appears to be off the cuff, brands should plan what they are going to do and say before going live. It may help to think of live streaming similarly to other marketing tools you may have already used in the past. For example, when filming a video webinar, you would prepare key talking points and use engaging graphics or product demonstrations to keep your audience’s attention. The same principles apply in a live video.Naturally, the type of content that will work best will vary based on your niche and target audience. However, content such as interviews, Q&As, tutorials and behind-the-scenes access have proven to generally be effective for brands. You could even partner with an influencer to live stream content that ties in with your products or services.Despite your planning efforts, however, part of making live streaming content feel truly authentic requires a bit of spontaneity and a willingness to adapt as needed. In an interview with Convince and Convert, digital futurist and public speaker Brian Franzo explained, “In one example, I was giving a tour behind the scenes with the goal to make the streaming a ‘backstage pass’ event, when several viewers started asking questions about my new Samsung phone…. So I switched gears, and we started talking about technology because that is where participants wanted to go.”By putting the customer’s interests first, you will form stronger connections and drive more meaningful engagement.Related: New To Instagram Live? Here’s How To Show Up Like A ProDespite live video streaming’s popularity, many brands and influencers have yet to fully embrace this trend. But by using this format in creative ways that fit your brand and its audience, you can make a big impact in your niche and experience unparalleled online growth.