How can you use live streaming to boost your marketing efforts?

Live streaming in action
Live streaming offers new opportunities for content marketing. Photo: Tzido, Bigstock.

There are arguments on how content marketing in 2018 is an oxymoron, where the rise of ‘influencers’ and ‘internet personalities’ has given way to a world where the personalities involved start to eclipse the content offered – particularly when it comes to live streaming. If you do it right, however, this new platform offers huge opportunities.

Don’t believe me? This recent news about Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins earning $500,000 a month by streaming videos of him playing the popular online computer game ‘Fortnite’ on Twitch should convince you otherwise, or at least give you a pause.

It might seem like a cosmic joke to describe Tyler and other personalities like him as content creators given that they’re not really creating anything, at least not in the traditional sense. If, however, we’re willing to accept that professional gamers could be generously described as athletes, and that’s also a big if, then surely what he’s doing here is comparable to what rally driver Ken Block does in his popular Gymkhana series of videos. That of a skilled artisan showcasing their particular set of skills, with the difference that what Tyler does is completely live and unscripted.

Now, putting aside that debate for a moment, it is inarguable that the popularity of Twitch and other live streaming platforms such as Periscope has given companies and brands another way of engaging their audiences. If you still doubt the merits of Twitch as a social platform, take a look at some of the numbers they boast at the end of 2017.

Given its popularity as a platform for video game live streaming, Twitch’s audience skews mostly male, with a demographic between 18-34 but in 2016 they added an option for IRL (short for in real life) content, offering channels for cooking shows, art and the absurd world of social eating, where streamers live stream videos of themselves eating while audiences can see and chat with them in real-time, borrowing ideas from the popular South Korean practice of mukbang.

Live streaming marketing campaigns

If as a conventional brand or business you’re thinking that content marketing by taking advantage of that popularity is going to be difficult, then you’re correct but we’ve seen several brands doing some clever marketing campaigns using live streaming as a platform, not limited to Twitch and here are some examples you should take note of

  • Twitch plays Old Spice. This is an absurd extension of the Twitch plays Pokemon tradition. In Twitch plays Pokemon, versions of the Nintendo franchise is played entirely based on inputs made from Twitch chat rooms by users viewing the stream. In Twitch plays Old Spice, the American deodorant maker tossed a man into the wilderness with a camera on his back for the internet to do as they please.
  • Experian’s credit chats. If the above is way too out there for you, look into what Experian is doing. The credit reporting company uses Periscope to talk about various credit-related topics such as debts, credit scores and open-ended Q&A sessions.
  • Bolt EV’s CES launch. Leaping into the future several steps at a time, GM took the wraps off of its Tesla-fighting EV (electric vehicle), the Chevrolet Bolt by live streaming the event via Facebook directly from CES, the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas instead of a traditional auto show like Geneva.
  • General Electric’s #DroneWeek. The corporate giant flew drones with Periscope in the purpose of giving viewers a look at some of its facilities around the world.

Things to keep in mind with live streaming

There are some conventional marketing tactics you could use with live streaming, partnering with an influencer like you would with Instagram or live streaming a corporate event you’re hosting for example so even if you don’t have the resources to pull any of the campaigns listed above, you could still leverage live streaming as a means of content marketing. As the live streaming phenomenon is relatively new, there are no surefire guidelines you could follow to maximise your results, as most companies are still figuring out how to best translate this potential into numbers but there are some pointers you could use if you’re willing to jump in.

  • Proper moderation. The internet is a very fickle and naughty mistress and when you open yourself up to the collective minds of the internet, do take care not to end up as a punchline like what happened with Boaty McBoatface and James Franco. Impose some ground rules for your session and never, ever allow a free-for-all.
  • Know your audience. While Twitch serves as the starting point of this piece, it’s not the only platform available. Periscope, which started out as a platform for journalists to share news via videos in lieu of texts, is another and both serve different audiences.
  • Learn to let go. As live streaming is unscripted, some things will definitely go awry and when that happens, be prepared to acknowledge and adapt and know when and how to make fun of yourself.
  • Be personable. If you’re putting a person on-screen, make sure they’re the right person for the job. As I’ve said in the beginning, personalities have more or at least just as much weight as the content offered. There are literally dozens of people streaming videos of Fortnite at any given moment and a lot of them are definitely good, but what separates the cream of the crop is that they’re also highly entertaining.

Other than as a simple content marketing tool, unscripted live streaming could be used as a way to establish branding and foster a relationship with your audience. The world of live streaming itself might be alien to the majority of people but so were Instagram and YouTube back before they were bought by Facebook and Google, respectively. Get on with the program, you might not be fully prepared for it, but your audiences surely are.