Should We All Scream for Live Stream?

Thinkstock Photos
Thinkstock Photos
Thinkstock Photos

It wasn’t that long ago when social media changed the way we looked at PR and marketing.

No, seriously. The very first tweet was sent out in 2006, but for a good half-decade, most were simply tweeting to let everyone know what they were having for lunch. I never fell into that category. Over the past several years, companies have now gotten a firm grasp on how they can leverage social media to engage their different audiences.

Now comes the latest social content evolution: live streaming.

Live streaming apps like Meerkat, Periscope and Hang w/ are now all the rage for sharing content, and are perfect for real-time viewing. People and brands are using these apps to share thoughts, answer questions and connect more personally to their followers, in the moment. But since the concept of live streaming content is still in its infancy, some of us are still trying to decipher how this latest form of sharing can be leveraged.

There are many pros for content marketers using live streaming apps to promote their brand. For starters, it can be used as a live “ask me anything” segment with the company’s CEO or other key figures. Having a prominent brand advocate speak live to the company’s audience makes for great expert commentary and brand transparency (because sometimes blog posts and event tweets can sound robotic when all your content is so carefully edited). It can also be used to stream live company events, announce a promotion or offer a great limited-time deal. A celebrity takeover might also work wonders for the company – imagine if Steph Curry or LeBron James live-streamed a party at the Google campus. This could easily go more viral than your typical 30-second TV spot – and without any media buy required.

Now for the cons. Live streaming means you’re doing it all in one take, meaning if you screw up, you can’t get all Bill O’Reilly and ask for a do-over. Second, some live streaming apps have a built-in forum for followers to comment in real-time. You know what that means? Trolls! Even though trolling has been around longer than email, it can still be a nuisance when the comments are directly attached to your brand’s content. Periscope has tried to control the situation with its follow-only mode, which allows for only your Twitter followers to view your stream and content. But that doesn’t do much good for companies with tons of followers (some trolls, undoubtedly) or that are looking to engage non-followers. If you have an idea on how to keep all trolls off live streaming apps, then the rest of the Internet will be happy to pay you millions of dollars to have them removed from other platforms, too.

Most importantly, understand that there are great risks when live streaming on behalf of your brand. Trolls can be ignored during those “ask me anything” segments, but what about those who begin asking questions about topics you really don’t want to discuss? Just like any live in-studio interview, be prepared for any unforeseen questions that might come your way. It’s up to you if you choose to ignore it, or want to acknowledge it. Regardless of how you want to handle it, remember that everyone’s looking at you, and it’s important to stay composed throughout the recording.

My advice: Though live streaming at our fingertips isn’t necessarily a “thing” just yet, it could be very soon. And if you want to leverage this new technology to push your brand and messaging, be sure to have a fully scoped plan behind your campaign. It’s just like shooting a live, one-take commercial … and the feedback will be instantaneous. So know what you want to say, have the right person in front of the camera and please be safe when filming live.