The Next Big Thing
Everybody knows that advertising — getting messages in front of customers — is an integral part of marketing.
But as younger demographics have grown increasingly distrustful of advertising and outbound marketing, companies have had to shift their focus to developing strong brand identities and building trust.
From Facebook to Snapchat, marketers have been chasing young consumers from platform to platform searching for the best way to tell their story. Live streaming may be the answer.
The Road to Live Streaming
To understand live streaming and the trends that gave rise to it, we must look back to Twitter’s 2006 arrival. Twitter’s platform was the first in a wave of real-time content outlets that is reaching its peak with live-streaming platforms today.
The success of Twitter and, subsequently, Snapchat was attributable in part to their functionality as real-time content generators. Twitter, a huge success with Millennials, provided users with a platform to share their thoughts, reactions and feelings about current events through text in real time.
About five years later, Snapchat entered the scene with a more private content-creation platform.
The shift in privacy from Twitter’s open profile to Snapchat’s disappearing messages sent to a select group of friends was significant, but the biggest shift was in the fundamental utility of the platform.
Unlike Twitter, Snapchat is a platform where users communicate through images.
Snapchat’s Story feature allows users to post content in the form of images and videos that remain available for a 24-hour period.
One pattern that has developed in Snap Stories is that users tend to post many times during an exciting event, followed by extended periods of silence until the next big event.
The next development in this progression of rapid visual-media creation is live streaming: a continuous video produced in real time to be consumed immediately by followers.
Strong Start for Live Streaming
The live-streaming race has already gotten off to a fast start. Two streaming apps entered the market and made significant headway, only to be joined by the big fish of the social media world, Facebook and Twitter.
It began with Meerkat and Periscope making a splash at the onset of 2015. Meerkat seemed to take an early lead, impressing users because it integrated well with Twitter.
But then Twitter bought out Periscope, a move that has since resulted in Periscope’s explosion in popularity.
After Periscope’s boom, Facebook introduced its own live-streaming function, Facebook Live, and has done well incorporating it into its News Feed to drive traffic to the live streams.
Even musical.ly, the China-based video-sharing app, has created its own live-streaming service through live.ly.
Live Streaming with Gen Z
Live streaming has been extremely successful with Gen Z because it satisfies their needs from both the content creation and consumption side.
A 2015 survey indicated that 75% of Periscope users were between the ages of 16 and 34, and the demographic is anticipated to remain young.
Gen Z demands the ability to create original content. But unlike Millennials, who love to communicate through text, Gen Z communicates through images.
This trend has grown from pictures posted on Instagram to media sent through Snapchat to short video clips posted on Vine and, finally, live streams on Periscope.
As consumers, Gen Zers actively seek content that they view as real, exploratory and one of a kind.
Content from live streams is viewed as “real” because you can’t fake it. It shouldn’t be scripted or choreographed; it’s an opportunity for an authentic interaction.
Gen Z is tired of advertisements that have been touched up and pushed through the bureaucratic marketing process before distribution.
Live streams can also be exploratory. Gen Z wants to see the world, and live streams can take them anywhere, in real time, and allow them to stay engaged during the experience.
National Geographic is one company that has capitalized on this, and live streams from beautiful locations all over the world are featured on their Periscope.
These live streams allow Gen Z to piggyback on the adventures of others in an authentic way, fulfilling their need for exploration.
The “one of a kind” aspect of live streams is one of the most relevant to Gen Z. They are curious, and they want content that is unique to them.
Gen Z has grown tired of getting blanket advertisements and generic interaction from brands. The live streams produce content that, although consumed by many followers at a time, only appears once and therefore has the same allure that helped Snapchat blow up over the past couple years.
How to Win
For businesses to win at the live-streaming game, it takes some coordination. I’ve listed some best practices below:
Leverage Big Events
Big events are an easy source of publicity when engaging with a specific audience.
You can use live streams to give your followers behind-the-scenes access or interviews with big influencers. This not only drives brand recognition; it also increases event publicity, especially if you incorporate the event hashtags in your stream.
Ride the News
Similar to riding the publicity from big events, important news stories in an industry or a community provide a good jumping-off point for a live stream.
These streams could provide value to your followers as a summary of key points, but might also include some personal commentary for additional insight.
As with live streams tied to events, using the relevant hashtags in your stream can make a big difference in execution.
One of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your live stream is to make an appointment. Even a post an hour beforehand can remind your followers to stay
engaged and tune in for the live stream. Timing is everything, so try to schedule your streams for times when your followers will be free and available to tune in.
More than anything, being a practitioner is the best way to crush it on social media.
If you want to engage Gen Z with live streaming, the answer is to keep putting out content and be real with your audience. Do it soon, because live streams are taking center stage and everybody’s looking.