Does Live Video Make Sense for Your Brand?

Opinion: Do we have something of value to bring to social conversations?

The nature of live holds a special sense of urgency that normal video just can’t compete with
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If you’re following 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, you’ve probably noticed the unprecedented amount of video coverage it’s delivering both on TV and in the digital space.

It is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event, and Fox and Fox Sports 1 have teamed up to showcase exclusive behind-the-scenes content, social augmented reality content and 360-degree views of each match from different angles, and they have even teamed up with Twitter to livestream directly via the platform.

Snapchat is also in on the “game,” with daily recaps and “drama of the tournament” produced exclusively for the platform.

This combination of consumption and conversation is unique to social media, but it’s not unique to publishers. In fact, 95 percent of marketers are banking on live video to help bring success to their brands this year.

But not all of us can be the Cracker Jacks of the World Series.

We all have our own niches, and that’s how we like to think about any new innovative format, including live video.

We at Bank of America are singularly focused on listening to our audience, learning and being useful to them. So, when we consider livestreaming and live video, we’re acutely aware of our place in the conversation. How will our livestream be useful to our audience?

Does it make sense for us to do a livestream during the World Cup? Probably not. Do we have something of value to bring to social conversations during the World Economic Forum? Yes, definitely.

Our foray into live video has taught us a few things (so far) that might be helpful for other marketers:

  • Highlight an event or time-bound subject: With live video, there must be a compelling reason why it’s being shot live. Either it’s watching to see whether Mexico beats one of the game’s favorites, or if the fans cheer so hard that it registers on the Richter scale. These moments are best live because they’re real reactions to unplanned outcomes. In fact, costs per view around event-based livestreams have become some of the most efficient we’ve seen. Our PBS Vietnam Live event around the launch of Ken Burns’ documentary and our livestreams from the World Economic Forum far supersede other planned live events and panels. The answer isn’t necessarily in the content, but rather in its immediacy and relevance. Even though that same panel was relevant to its audience, it could have been held on any day, in any location, so maybe live wasn’t the best use.
  • Pay attention to when users are actually engaging: For three years, we’ve sponsored an on-site space at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. And for three years, we’ve been bringing insights and influencer views back to the U.S. When Vine first launched, we used that platform to bring six-second influencer points of view to users. Last year, when Periscope Live 360 first debuted, we jumped in on the action. But one of the things we’ve learned is that viewership and engagement with your livestream (and any content really) only matters when users are awake to see it. This seems like an obvious observation, but our 2017 reports post-Davos taught us that most of our target audience was following the #WEF17 conversation between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST, while our livestreams were happening on Switzerland hours. Knowing this allowed us to change our plan for 2018, using live video only during the overlap with EST.
  • Live video vs. live video to spark conversation: The nature of live holds a special sense of urgency that normal video just can’t compete with. But there’s a difference between a live event held with the intention to captivate users to watch, versus a live event that’s meant to spark conversation. Given Facebook’s News Feed update earlier this year, meaningful interactions and forging conversation via comments will become a mainstay of our strategy this year. When conversation is the goal, we’ve discovered that the fewer people on camera, the better. Panels of people can overwhelm users who may want to ask questions, as they’re not sure who to direct them to in the comments. Our most successful question-and-answer sessions to date were intimate conversations with well-known people. In our live conversation with Henry Louis Gates Jr., he answered questions about his new PBS film, Africa’s Civilizations, and our Q&A between Anne Finucane and Maria Shriver received some of the highest comment rates we’ve seen to date. Although both of these were niche topics—Shriver discussing women’s impact on the community and economies and Gates talking about Africa’s untold history and the origin of man—the draw was the chance to personally engage with thought leaders.
  • Knowing the platform: Livestreaming is different on Facebook than it is on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. And because of these differences, users have varied expectations. For instance, Instagram Live is marked as live for 24 hours and, as such, stays in the top position among stories for longer. This means Instagram Live is a much better experience for a livestream that is time dependent, but not during peak usage hours. Twitter is a real-time platform, and it sees much higher levels of time spent with live events than other channels because users expect to see what’s happening now. Our Twitter livestreams (Periscopes) perform best for us when the content is something that couldn’t possibly be done any other time. The World Cup is a good example of this, as are other events like Fashion Week held in Paris. Facebook skews toward family/friends/life moments/opinions—this is where we’ve found the sweet spot for Q&As.

These are just a few of the things we’ve learned through best practices over the past couple of years. The big takeaway: As we use data to hone our video efforts, we need to keep in mind that quality content isn’t subjective, it’s informed.

Chris Smith is senior vice president, enterprise social media marketing executive at Bank of America, and Allie Wassum is vp and director of social strategy at GroupeConnect, a Publicis Groupe solution.