Who will win the battle for online live streaming?
Last month’s Golden Globes pre-show live streaming win against Twitter further highlights Facebook’s not-so-secret move into original content production. It’s left Twitter without one of its prized live shows and one might wonder: is this the beginning of the end for Twitter as it struggles to compete with Facebook, or is this an opportunity to focus and innovate with its live broadcast offering?
With the 2018 Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup just around the corner, digital platforms are throwing everything into the game to prove live streaming has moved from an innovative format into a mature offering for brands and marketers.
Twitter, which considers itself to have the most ‘natural’ fit with in-the-moment content, has a history of securing big, prestigious live streaming rights (from American Football games to The Game Show and a concerts partnership with Live Nation). But Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram also have live offerings, Amazon is after a slice of the pie, so how will the live content battle play out, and what does this mean for brands?
You can’t put all your eggs in one basket
Or on just one social platform. What Facebook did to win its bid against Twitter was to bring all of its platforms into the mix for its Golden Globes live streaming. Different hosts and different types of content on Facebook and Instagram helped them turn their first Golden Globes into a success, keeping different audiences engaged throughout the red carpet, the pre-show and the awards.
However, while this recipe might work well for the entertainment industry – for major sports or gaming events – Twitter seems to be a more suitable choice as it shows the narrative chronologically while keeping the audience engaged with its of-the-moment content. Facebook might have grabbed the Golden Globes red carpet ceremony but many of the biggest conversations and reactions picked by mainstream media took place on Twitter both during and after the awards. So can we really say Twitter lost to Facebook? I don’t think so.
Brands need to explore different avenues to best support their live streaming efforts, sharing different types of live content on multiple platforms; a very good example is the latest FIFA World Cup 2018 partnership Fox Sports just announced with Twitter and Snapchat in the US. The content will include matches highlights and previews, using expert analysis and opinions in different formats: video, artwork and motion graphics.
Find the right format
While the platforms battle for live rights, brands and publishers are looking to capitalise on the growth and popularity of live streaming by making it part of their marketing strategy. To be successful, live streaming needs good content to keep the audience engaged, a host that spots opportunities for conversation and builds upon that, and high-quality streaming capabilities. A live feed that breaks or streams low-quality image/sound will frustrate the audience and opens up a stream of negative comments (which then require great community management).
If brands want to push live streaming as part of their strategy to engage and excite their audience, they need to think like a broadcaster. They should ask themselves: is it worth the investment? The audience should dictate the best format to build on, whether it’s behind the scenes, a product demo or AMA (ask me anything). Media companies (like LADBible and Buzzfeed) have successfully used live streaming, for breaking news, red carpet takeovers, food recipes and more. But for a brand, it might prove a bit more difficult to find the right format to make it worth exploring live streaming on their own.
Be where your audience is and give them what they want
All the current live streaming wins for Facebook, Twitter and Amazon are well-established TV formats, with tweaks made to fit the social environment. They’re still performing well as viewers are keen and actively looking for them, particularly if they can’t enjoy the content on TV/cable networks.
But for brands it’s the other way round: they actively go after their audience and have to work hard to find the right format and the narrative to engage with them. It’s not enough to invest in a new format just because it’s on trend and Facebook (or Twitter) has a sweet deal for your brand. Don’t use live streaming for the sake of it; consider what your audience needs, how you connect with them emotionally at a deeper level through your narrative and whether it is the right vehicle to do this.
Live streaming is becoming more accessible for brands. And social platforms are taking steps to make it easier to use. But, before we push for live streaming in our proposals, we need to ask ourselves: why we are doing it, why our audience would be engaged, why our audience would look for it and why our audience would find it useful, entertaining or helpful. If brands can answer these questions, they might be ready for action.