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Brands are now broadcasting Live – but is anyone actually watching?

20 March 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the ‘Next Big Thing’ for brand marketing.

Oh, forget about the hype about those other Next Big Things, this one’s the real deal.

It’s called Livestreaming, and it definitely hasn’t been around for years. Honest.

 

It’s been a little while since the initial gold rush of ‘live social media’ and its associated hype, but that hasn’t stopped the big platforms from improving and investing in what they see as the future of social content, catching up to early trendsetters like Periscope.

We thought we’d revisit this topic, since things have moved on a bit since we last discussed livestreaming for brands, back when Periscope’s #save feature and Youtube’s 360-degree streaming was big news last year.

Youtube launched live mobile recording for users last month (as long as you’ve already got a ready-made audience of at least 10K subscribers), and Facebook have just signed a licensing agreement with Major League Soccer to stream selected matches of the 2017 season, just to name a couple of recent events.

 

Naturally, as a Next Big Thing for marketers, it wouldn’t be complete without some so-called ‘success stories’ of livestreaming to keep this hype train chugging along.

A couple of examples for Facebook Live include McDonalds’ artsy number parodying a Bob Ross show (a resurgent phenomenon, thanks to Twitch.tv and Netflix), or Dunkin Donuts’ fascinating look at people milling about in their kitchen.

Like a director backstage at a theatre production of Dumbo, it’s time to address a few elephants in the room.

First of all, how many people actually saw these specific examples live?

McDonalds managed 24k views, 6 months after first airing; for a wider context, they boast 69 million Facebook followers and can anyone tell us where the other 68,976,000 were during this fantastical event?

Dunkin Donuts scored 33k views, half a year on, from a total of 14.4 million Facebook followers.

Dismal numbers, and both these examples include people who watched the videos after the initial broadcast. There would’ve been even fewer people live.

And yes, we’re aware of Buzzfeed somehow convincing 800,000 people that watching a watermelon burst live was a good idea, but seeing as they’re in the business of ‘entertainment’ (apparently), they start with a clear advantage over other product-centric brands where content is concerned.

Most live content from product and business accounts appears to reach an underwhelming number of viewers.

Which brings us to our next elephant - speaking to new audiences.

Let’s say you want to reach new audiences, not just existing subscribers or followers.

You can’t boost a Facebook Live event as it happens. You can only boost the saved video after it’s finished broadcasting, kind of defeating the object for a live video in the first place.

It’s like getting an invite to a party the day after it’s happened. Most people are hungover or have already buggered off, the place stinks of stale booze, and you have no idea why there is a cow in the living room.

So that leaves you with using other posts and further creative in the form of teasers, much like how you’d promote a live football match. Problem is, it’s not a live football match, it’s an advert. And at this point, you’re essentially creating an advert for an advert.

And if Netflix, Amazon, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4 Catch Up, Hulu plus, HBO Go, and countless others have taught us anything, it’s that not everyone’s willing or able to drop all their plans to watch something on your time schedule.

“I’ll watch what I want, when I want, in whatever novelty onesie I want, damn it!”

That’s elephant no.3, if you’re still counting. We’re going to need a bigger room.

There’s something else that almost all live-streamed brand content has in common: most of it looks like it’s been cobbled together exclusively for the sake of using Facebook Live.

Which means most brands end up streaming awkwardly placed hosts on questionably made sets, like the new office intern’s just been promoted to prime-time news reader with two minutes until going live.

Utterly ridiculous.

 

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of broadcasting things live. We’ve been doing it for the better part of a hundred years (wireless radio anybody?), and it’s gone quite well.

But all these live coverage events, from cup finals to awards shows to press conferences, are broadcasted on merit, because there’s a high demand for them.

And you can be damn sure that, if tomorrow our planet is hit by a mysterious cosmic anomaly that blocks each and every live transmission permanently, these events won’t just vanish from existence.

That’s because these events actually have a reason to exist.

This is what many brands still need to get to grips with about live streaming.

Live is a brilliant means of distribution.

Live is NOT an excuse to make content solely based on the concept of doing something ‘live’.

Unless brands and marketing departments have a good reason for filming and broadcasting content live, this ‘Next Big Thing’ is going to be another golden goose that’s forgotten how to lay eggs.

 

Strawman Says

You’re live in five – but will anyone be watching? Only if it’s relevant content worth watching, and not just live video for the sake of live video.