Everyone is jumping on the live-streaming bandwagon these days, from worldwide brands that take their audiences on virtual shopping sprees to small businesses that leverage live-streaming best practices to stand out on social media and compete with mammoth companies to woo consumers.
And it’s no wonder why. Live streaming is among the most exciting and popular social media tools available, beloved by everyone from adolescent video gamers who find community on platforms like Twitch and Steam to 30-somethings who spend hours each week watching their friends and favorite influencers broadcast their lives on Instagram and YouTube.
As a marketing strategy, it’s an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to engage customers and drive conversions. Brands that create and post quality live content connect with larger segments of their target audience, open dialogues that provide them with valuable consumer feedback, and increase their engagements by as much as 10%.
What is live streaming?
Live streaming is the practice of transmitting a video over the internet in real-time as it occurs. It’s the most popular of the two major segments that together comprise the fast-growing video streaming industry, claiming approximately 62.06% of that market’s estimated $89.03 billion worldwide value as of 2022 over non-linear video streaming or “asynchronous video,” which refers to prerecorded streaming video that consumers can watch on demand.
The humble history of live streaming goes back nearly 30 years. It emerged in the early 1990s on the website JustinTV, the brainchild of a quartet of young innovators who would go on to become the earliest pioneers of the form. In the beginning, JustinTV was but a small network of a few streaming channels that allowed anyone to post live video and broadcast it to viewers all over the world.
However, the spectacular rise of live streaming didn’t officially begin until 2008, when YouTube broadcasted its first live stream. Titled “YouTube Live,” the programming included appearances from the likes of pop singer Katy Perry and rapper will.i.am, among a plethora of the era’s most popular YouTube celebrities.
Still, the first YouTube live streams were occasional events sponsored and hosted by the website itself. It wasn’t until 2011 that the platform opened live streaming to its growing network of users, at around the same time that JustinTV was reintroduced as Twitch, a website where video gamers could broadcast themselves to, and interact with, audiences while they played their favorite games.
Today, YouTube Live and Twitch dominate the market they helped launch. In 2022, Twitch, which has expanded to host a variety of live streams, including gaming, was watched by users around the world for over 22.4 billion hours. On Twitch, YouTube Live, and other live streaming services, consumers watched around 7.2 billion hours of live video streaming during the third quarter of 2022 alone.
Twitch is the leader when it comes to live stream gaming, but it is outpaced by YouTube in the market’s other largest draws, which are:
- Live sports
- 24-hour music and other entertainment programming
- News and political shows
Why should businesses incorporate live streaming into their marketing strategy?
Gaming, live entertainment, and news programming claim the lion’s share of live stream content, but business marketing content is currently in the midst of its own livestream renaissance. In 2022, 40% of all marketing events were broadcast live across various platforms, reflecting a 10% increase over in-person and hybrid events since 2020. According to most projections, that year-over-year increase is likely to continue.
The growing popularity of live streaming for business is likely reason enough for companies large and small to incorporate live streaming into their marketing efforts.
These businesses aren’t simply chasing trends. Rather, they’re drawn to the format for the practical benefits it has to offer. By harnessing the power of live streaming content, businesses are able to:
- Increase conversions — The impact that live streaming marketing content has on amplifying conversions and boosting sales cannot be overstated. When you take your consumer outreach efforts from the mainstream to the live stream, you can increase conversions by up to 97%.
- Save money — Another factor that’s attracting so many businesses to live streaming is the low-cost nature of producing live content, making it easier for companies to substantially improve their return on investment (ROI). In fact, 73% of business-to-business (B2B) companies — that is, businesses that provide goods and services to other businesses — consider live streaming a profitable marketing strategy.
- Reach larger audiences — Bringing your brand message to audiences wherever they are is a key aspect of successful marketing, and few verticals do so with as much efficiency as live streaming. People of every age watch live stream content, but the format is particularly popular among younger consumers between ages 18 and 34, 31% of whom watch live-streaming videos at least once per day. This is also true of around 18% of consumers between the ages of 35 and 54.
- Appeal to the preferences of their audience — When you incorporate live streaming for business marketing, you’re making the choice to communicate with consumers in the format that about 80% of them prefer to your company blog.
8 live video streaming best practices and tips for businesses
Whether you’re considering live streaming marketing content for the first time or you’ve already begun, the best way to ensure your efforts are successful is by familiarizing yourself with the top dos and don’ts of live streaming for businesses. While you’re devising your strategy, be sure to keep the following eight live-streaming tips and tricks in mind.
1. Choose a live-streaming platform that has the tools you need
Among the most important tips for live streaming is to choose the right live-streaming platform. A decade ago, there were only two options: Twitch and YouTube. But these days, you can choose several different outlets for creating and sharing live videos. The most popular platforms are:
- Facebook Live
- Instagram Live
- TikTok Live
- Twitter Live
- YouTube Live
When choosing between platforms, you should consider the features and tools offered by each, your specific marketing goals, and your, or your team’s, technical ability to master the format. Anyone can produce live video content — that’s another one of its appeals. But if you’re new to live streaming, a platform like Facebook Live, with its easy-to-manage functions and massive built-in audience, may be the best option for producing high-quality streams with minimal experience.
On the other hand, if you’re a bit more skilled and your target audience skews younger consumers, you may be more likely to find them on platforms that cater to Millennials and Gen Z, like Instagram and TikTok.
Whatever your ambitions, be sure to devote time to researching the various live-streaming platforms. The duration of your live events, the quality of the video you hope to produce, and the equipment you have available are all further factors to consider.
2. Test your equipment and internet connection beforehand
Nothing may be worse than launching virtual events only to discover that a technical malfunction has occurred seconds or even minutes into the broadcast. Checking (and double-checking!) your internet connection before you start live streaming is an important hedge against snafus that compromise your brand’s credibility in front of a potentially global audience.
It’s also important to test your video equipment before beginning. Your specific equipment will depend on the platform you’ve chosen — for example, streaming on YouTube Live can only be done with a computer. Likewise, if you’re interested in using the advanced features offered by the Instagram Live Producer function, like external microphones and cameras, you’ll need third-party streaming software.
No matter what platform you choose or the equipment you use, be sure to test the functionality of the following basic but necessary elements:
- Image transmission
- Video quality
- Sound quality
3. Plan out your live stream (and have a backup plan)
Although producing content through a live video streaming service is fairly easy compared to other types of digital marketing, you shouldn’t expect to host a virtual event without planning out the details in advance.
Preparation is key to pulling off a live stream that accomplishes your intended goals and endears your target audience to your product or service. And it’s always a good idea to also have a backup plan just in case somethin goes awry.
4. Promote and build excitement around your live stream
Because live streaming videos are so popular among social media users, most apps and platforms award streamers with prime real estate on their interface, which can help draw attention to your virtual event once you’ve begun. Additionally, many platforms send notifications to users who are following your account when you go live.
That said, it’s good live-streaming advice to promote your event and build excitement for it before you launch. The platform you’ve chosen for your live stream is likely the best place to do this. Ideas for promoting your upcoming live-streaming videos include:
- Post the date, time, and focus of your event on your profiles page or in the platform’s “Stories” functions, if applicable
- Set a countdown timer so users are reminded that your event is coming up
5. Encourage your viewers to share the event
Another way to promote your live stream is to enlist your followers as your virtual street team. Always keep in mind that social media is about networking, so don’t be afraid to ask your viewers to share the details of your event in the days and weeks leading up to it. Once it’s started, most platforms allow your viewers to share it with their own followers directly from the viewing screen.
6. Include a clear call to action
A clear call to action is integral to any marketing strategy and live streaming best practices and should be in line with the specific goal of your live stream. That’s another reason that adequate planning is so important.
If your goal is to promote a specific product or service, be sure that your live stream sheds light on that product or service. If your goal is to build your brand image or draw the attention of new consumers, you can focus on showing your audience what makes your brand unique, then incorporate easy ways for them to find out more information about your company.
When you’ve figured that out, you can then determine the best way to implement the call to action within your live stream. Depending on the platform, you may have options such as:
- Clickable video overlays
- Calls to action that appear in the video player
- Calls to action that appear in the comments field
7. Have a Q&A session to boost audience engagement
A question-and-answer session at the end of your live stream is an effective way to keep your audience engaged in your message even after your virtual event is over. The best way to live stream and wrap up with a Q&A is to inform your viewers about the session in your pre-stream promotions, remind them about the session at various points during the stream, and prepare for audience questions when planning your live stream.
8. Record and save your live-stream content
It’s always a good idea to make a recording of your business live streams and save your content. Then, you can post it across your social media accounts so that it’s accessible to anyone who couldn’t make it to the live event but is still interested in learning more about your brand. It also allows you to optimize the content for SEO searchability, thus ensuring that your live stream remains valuable long after you end the stream.
Live streaming ideas to try for your next event
There are several tried-and-true live streaming formats that businesses can use to engage audiences, and enterprising brands are coming up with new ones all the time. Here are a few live-streaming ideas that you and your audiences will love.
Behind the scenes
If your goal is to increase brand awareness or build your image, consider giving your viewers a glimpse behind the scenes of your company’s daily operations. Invite them into your workplace, introduce them to your staff, and show them a little bit about how you do business.
Product launches are the perfect occasion for a live-stream virtual event. With a live virtual product launch, you can:
- Introduce your new product and provide your customers with important specs they should note
- Show your audience how the product works and why they need it
- Boost excitement and source orders
Product tutorials and demonstrations can be tremendously valuable to you and your customers. They offer the opportunity to highlight new and old products, provide consumers with solutions to common problems they could be facing, and show them how to get the most out of their purchase — all of which helps position you as a brand that strives to go above and beyond for your customers.
Depending on your business, live interviews can make for an interesting live-streaming event that keeps your target audience interested in your brand, even if you aren’t launching a new product or giving them a virtual tour of your office.
There are many ways to approach live interviews. For example, if you’re an apparel brand, you can treat your most fashionable fans to an interview with your top designers. Likewise, if you run an independent bookstore, consider inviting one of the top-selling authors for a virtual chat. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box.
Finally, live streaming panel discussions is an excellent way to provide your customers with expert insight into brand-adjacent issues they care about.
Market your live-stream event with the right set of tools
With everything that you now know about live streaming for business marketing, you’re ready to start putting together your next virtual event. Remember that planning and preparation are highly important, so before you hit the “Go Live” button, be sure to thoroughly research your platform options and clarify your goals and intentions and how you’ll achieve them. And don’t forget to promote your live stream to your followers to get them excited about what you have in store.