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In a recent 24-hour period, I went from seeing a Russian accordion player named MOZG888VADIM play everything from traditional Russian ballads to Lady Gaga to seeing a lizard sun itself to having Travis Scott bring 12.3 million people into a virtual fantasy landscape. And I never had to leave my couch.
If there is one thing that our collective quarantined existence has done for the media, marketing and experience worlds, it brought the rise of live-to-platform scale and awareness.
Though the ad industry has turned dramatically toward experience in recent years, Covid-19 restrictions forced us to pivot quickly to think how we can create deeper connections with people when we cannot engage them in person.
Live formats have been around for a while: Twitch video game streamers, influencers’ beauty regimens and webinars for businesses. Remember when YouTube democratized video in 2006? There are 4.7 million videos viewed every single minute on YouTube, which shows the seismic shift they created. Something similar is happening around going live. Twitch, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Discord, Vimeo and over 30 other platforms made launching into a live scene as simple as pressing a button to your friends and followers, and this was all here pre-pandemic.
Since Covid-19, Facebook has seen live viewings increase by 50%, Instagram by 70% and Twitch is seeing new channel creation up 33%, a high for the platform. And while we have seen some hiccups occur with the greater amounts of attention that livestreaming is getting, we are witnessing a paradigm shift akin to the rise of social media that we all need to be paying attention to.
The live shows and streams start to fall into a few distinct categories:
The micro class
Interesting and talented people are showing us how they work on specific tasks, how they create and how they flex in their craft. Whether it is making ravioli or upping your fitness game, this is the latest opportunity to connect with an open, enthusiastic audience. The opportunity for a cadenced and direct information drop is large and creates a real connection for a thirsty public that wants to learn more and try their hand at it. The positive response for giving this away feels ripe for creators, makers and brands to drive engagement and heightened likability.
The dance/listening party
The first time I tuned in to D-Nice’s Instagram Live Club Quarantine DJ set in mid-March, there were 352 people listening and dancing along with me. Fast forward two weeks and there were over 100,000 people partying. We felt equalized as our comments to D-Nice were being sent alongside those of Mariah Carey, Michelle Obama, Oprah and Mark Zuckerberg. It revealed to us that collective experience can be participatory, live and intimate.
Along with D-Nice, a whole host of others were DJing, teaching guitar lessons, doing couch performances, giving guided meditations and many other creative and calming activities to connect us to our artistic side. Fans, creators and aspiring talent can also get closer and more personal with the people they look up to.
The big event
With wider audience attention, rising media consumption and celebrity involvement, it was inevitable that the livestream would start to go big. People plus platforms plus star power bring eyeballs, brand interest and the cultural moments that get us talking. We have gone from zero to 60 in a very short period of time, yet not without some glitches along the way.
When Cardi B had Bernie Sanders on her Instagram Live, it became destination viewing. There were the DJ Premier vs. RZA and Jill Scott vs. Erykah Badu Verzuz song battles. Fortnite and Travis Scott lit up the screen in the largest concert ever to take place on a video gaming platform. Bigger and more frequent large events are coming; this is a space to watch.
The deep conversation
We have seen an extraordinary uptick in the quantity and variety of conversations happening on livestream platforms. The Just Chatting platform on Twitch has seen the number of new channels created in the last three months grow to 30.9% growth in April.
Almost all major social platforms have livestream capabilities. Miley Cyrus has been using her Instagram Live to create a talk show called Bright Minded. Both Steph Curry and Justin Bieber have had deeply religious conversations, utilizing faith as a method to get through the current crisis. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have actively been using their accounts to explain what is going on politically during the pandemic.
There is a great opportunity here for brands, personalities and anyone with a distinct perspective to jump in this deep pool. Also, going live on social platforms is a great way to game app notifications as followers often get pinged when parties go live, therefore creating a direct call to action.
In addition to the popular, educational and practical streams, there is also a lot of odd stuff out there. Singer Doja Cat did a live segment about doing makeup, smoking and dressing like an elf that was particularly compelling. Go to Reddit’s Public Access Network, and you’ll get a variety of livestreams.
Platforms allow us to share every moment of our lives from what excites or angers us to what we are cooking, knitting or drawing. And it is from within these ranks that we will find our next creative icons, guides and demons. The equalization of distribution will continue to create opportunities.
A lot of the examples above are built on the power of proven tactics, celebrity followings and raw talent. We have to find our own voice in it, which only comes with trying and potentially failing a few times until we get our footing. Understand where your brand appropriately fits in. Like any channel, there are ways to engage and areas to avoid. Know your lane and lean into it.
The ability to iterate, innovate and push what these live platforms can do for you is truly a wide-open opportunity. Core broadcast techniques and technologies, Lidar scans, multiplatform streaming and comment aggregation are just some of the ways to stand out for those willing to think beyond the front-facing camera.