If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Likewise, if one streams live content to no audience, did they stream anything at all?
By now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise—online video is a powerful tool that is loved by consumers around the world, and its popularity and usefulness are only going to continue to grow. But the ‘live’ aspect of live video is an element that taps into the fear of missing out that people tend to have. It is a form of video marketing that is time-sensitive and entices consumers with the illusion of exclusivity. In this way, it makes them want to engage with live video content here and now (or whenever your stream begins).
The statistics can confirm this. Live video generates ten times as many comments as on-demand video. There’s more of an incentive to tune in, and that generates the kind of positive buzz that is needed to build a brand. A good way to think of live streaming is FaceTime between you or your event and your specific audience. Jim Toben, the president of Ignite Social Media, describes live streaming as “trust content”, because it allows brands to have face-to-face time with their audience. This allows viewers to connect to your content in a personal way, which makes it an extremely effective way of communicating to consumers.
So the question to ask is, how does one get an audience to tune in and stay tuned in?
Getting people talking is the best way to ensure that your stream picks up momentum and maximizes its potential viewership before it even begins. Create event pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like. This is free to do and grants exposure on social media, which draws in new viewers. If you are streaming a live event, announce it well in advance. In general, large scale events should be announced six to eight weeks prior, and can be followed up with reminders on social media. Hashtag blessed, anyone? Generate a relevant, catchy, and memorable hashtag, add it to all of your event content, and encourage your viewers to to share on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. It’s a simple way to create brand recognition and spread the message.
Perhaps the most important thing is to provide an experience that makes viewers feel that their time spent on a stream is time well spent. Familiarize yourself with your audience enough to know what they want, and make sure that they know that they are on the receiving end of valuable video content. For example, a live stream for a business may give viewers a first look at exclusive new products. Apple does this all the time, and one might say that they’re pretty successful. Similarly, a musician may give his or her viewers a sneak peek at a new song or a church may drop a hot new sermon for their respective audiences. Essentially, ask yourself why the viewer should tune in and be able to answer accordingly.
Engaging with your audience is not just suggested, but critical. One cannot participate in FaceTime if there is nobody on the other end. Keeping viewers interested in a live stream calls for interaction. This can be done by using platforms that enable commenting and live chat. Facebook Live is a good example of live stream chats done right, as it allows the streamer to view comments as they are made and respond accordingly, which facilitates two-way conversation. Of course, any successful streaming platform has a recording feature that saves your live content as on-demand video for later viewing. It is important to continue the conversation beyond the stream and respond to questions and comments.
According to Adobe, attendees of leadership webinars watched for an average of 54 minutes. Audiences in gaming live stream communities such as Twitch have been known to watch as many as six hours of gaming streams. User engagement is dependent on the users themselves in tandem with the content being presented, which is why a streaming platform that comes with user analytics is so important. This way, it is easy to track who watches what and for how long. On a larger scale, however, webinars held on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday are recorded to have the best attendance in a survey of over 7000 events conducted by ON24. It is best to have work or business related events mid-week, but of course, this should be taken with a pinch of salt—again, it depends on your specific audience. As a general rule of thumb, keep it concise and engage viewers early. A study by Wistia exhibits that the more viewers you can hook for, say, the first two minutes of a sixty minute stream, the longer they are likely to stay.
The fun shouldn’t end when the stream ends. Data from the same study suggests that the best way to keep users engaged is with interactive activity and feedback. Afterwards, ask viewers about their experience. What did they like? Dislike? Feel ‘meh’ about? What was the best part? What did they gain from the stream, and what can you do to improve the next one? This is only one way to extend engagement past the live stream, although it can also be done live—that’s encouraged! Polls are a useful tool for both receiving feedback and getting people involved. In fact, the highest participation among interactive activities during live video streams (when offered) is with polls. Always keep in mind that the audience, who in this case happens to be the person your video content is FaceTiming, is an integral aspect of the live stream.