This article was originally posted to the Association of National Advertisers' website and is written by Sharon M. Goldman. Click here to view.
The Power of Real-Time Marketing
by Sharon M. Goldman
When Sharifah Niles-Lane joined Boston-based Eastern Bank in 2017 as VP of digital marketing and social media, she knew live video streaming would play a key role in her marketing arsenal. She had discovered the power of the tactic one year earlier, as director of social media at top educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
"Facebook Live had just debuted and I thought about the most meaningful way to use it at conferences we attended," Niles-Lane recalls. She set up a mini-studio within the publisher's trade show booth and hosted Facebook Live sessions with famous authors and influential educators. "We were surprised by how successful it was, with thousands watching," she says.
Niles-Lane is hoping for similar results as she builds out a content strategy at Eastern Bank. The company has already used live video streaming successfully to leverage a charity-focused partnership with Boston Red Sox baseball icon David Ortiz, including last September when Ortiz surprised Eastern Bank customers by pretending to be a bank teller.
Marketing through video content has been a fixture online for more than a decade thanks to YouTube and other video platforms. But in the past few years the market has blasted into the mainstream, spurred by the launches of Facebook Live in April 2016 and Instagram Live in November 2016. Enterprise platforms such as Brandlive and IBM Cloud Video's Ustream have also expanded their reach in the past 18 months.
Streaming video now accounts for more than two-thirds of all web traffic and is expected to jump to 82 percent by 2020, according to Go-Globe. In addition, 80 percent of brand audiences prefer to watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82 percent prefer to watch live video than read social posts, the study found.
Excited by the prospect of something truly new and innovative, brands and agencies have jumped on the live video bandwagon: Ninety-five percent of brand and agency executives plan for live video to be an important part of their marketing strategies in 2018, according to a study by IBM Cloud Video and Brandlive.
Some of the top brands are leading the charge. Dunkin Donuts, for example, was one of the first brands to embrace Facebook Live in 2016, when it gave fans a peek into the brand's test kitchen during Valentine's Day. KFC used the platform to share its January 2018 Bitcoin Bucket stunt in which the bitcoin value of a bucket of chicken was tracked for several hours. Beauty brand Sephora used Facebook Live to take advantage of the popular "ask me anything" format with special guests who talked about tips, trends, and beauty products.
"It's really like two rising tides that have collided," says Brent Turner, SVP of marketing strategy and technology at Cramer, a Norwood, Mass.-based brand experience agency. "On one side consumers have more social bandwidth, phone speed has gotten faster, phone cameras are better, and content is easier to create. On the flip side, all of those eyeballs happened at a time when social media strategies continued to mature and capitalize on trends faster."
Stacy Nawrocki, head of demand generation and product marketing at IBM Cloud Video, recalls how just a few short years ago most consumers weren't familiar with live video. "Now, that is absolutely flipped upside down," she says. "Everyone is familiar with it and it's so prevalent, which just makes it easier to talk about with businesses."
Michelle Klein, marketing director for North America and global audiences at Facebook, adds that consumer behavior has shifted squarely to live video. "It offers fertile territory for brands to explore how they can connect," she says.
Here are a few ways brands can take advantage of live video streaming:
- Events. Events are ideal platforms for many brands to start and expand their use of live video streaming, whether via broadcast-quality streams from main stages, custom programming from a live-streaming booth, or conversations with attendees. "It doesn't have to be produced at all," Turner says. "If your employee is live streaming a walk-through through a factory, that's an interesting view into a brand." One client, he recalled, made waves at the Consumer Electronics Show with a live podcast at the brand's booth, while simultaneously streaming live videos with a man-on-the-street perspective. "It's a powerful transparent perspective," he says.
- Highlight partnerships. Using live video to highlight the David Ortiz partnership was a unique way for Eastern Bank to engage with a consumer audience, Niles-Lane says. "Adding a human element helps us differentiate," she adds. "It also helps us focus on our social justice mission; we wanted to make it a little more personal and less about a hard sell on our products and services." Instagram Stories, which includes a live video function, offered a particularly intimate way to share the Ortiz partnership with his social media followers.
- Product launches. Live video broadcasts have become essential in helping to spread the word about new products, IBM Cloud Video's Nawrocki says. For example, Mazda recently used live video to draw 390,000 viewers to a product launch, compared to just 3,000 the previous year. The main difference was that the company streamed footage of the event in ad units on sites popular with prospective buyers. The prospects, who didn't have to leave the sites they were visiting to see the event, could click and view the video in an enlarged box. "Part of the way live video has matured is combining it with a paid media strategy," Nawrocki says.
- Share expert information. One of the most popular uses of live video is to bring subject matter experts closer to the people who need the information. "eBay's a good example because it takes people that are really familiar with how to do things and easily share that out with others struggling with that area," Nawrocki says. "Through live video, they can communicate the how-to directly to the eBay sellers."
The future of live video seems bright, but opinions differ on where the market is headed. Has the streaming trend already peaked, with overloaded consumers ready to move on, or will it continue to soar in popularity and offer marketers the opportunity to develop additional revenue streams?
"I feel like we're close to it leveling out in terms of excitement," Turner says. "It was the hot thing for a while and now it's ever-present for both the user and for many marketers. It's big enough that brands know where it fits in their general marketing playbook."
But Nawrocki remains bullish on streaming live video. "One thing I'm starting to see change is how consumers multi-task while watching live video," she says. "Now we're seeing a lot of captioning on videos because people are just watching and reading so they can also do other things."
Facebook's Klein insists that the shift to all-video marketing is still in its early days. "We continue to see growth because people genuinely want to have real and meaningful experiences, whether it's with companies and brands or their entertainment," she says. "They want to be part of the story and action, and I think that insight into people doesn't change."
3 Ways for Marketers to Bolster Live Video
- Know the objective. Brands that use live video most effectively are clear about their goals,says Facebook's Michelle Klein. One great example, she says, is Tourism Australia, which aired live video connected to its Super Bowl "Crocodile Dundee" reboot. "What they did really well was the media mix overall, bookending the commercials with ways for the audience to truly engage, not just lean back and watch," she says. "There are so many tools now, you do need to have the total plan mapped out to feed off it all. If your goal is a quick 15-second message, then Facebook Live isn't necessarily the best idea, but for a longer-form dialogue, it's a great platform."
- Assess the risk. Traditional brands,particularly those in highly regulated industries,may from a reputation standpoint find investing in live video risky. But experts agree that live video can offer significant opportunities to stay relevant and meet customers' needs. "For us, there is always an inherent risk because we are a bank," says Eastern Bank's Sharifah Niles-Lane, referring to her live video efforts with Boston Red Sox baseball icon David Ortiz as part of its Partners for Good program. "But what we engaged David Ortiz to embark upon with us during the activation was less risky, because we were not promoting a bank product or service." Stacy Nawrocki of IBM Cloud Video, adds: "By its very nature, live-streamed video lends itself to spontaneity and change. At the same time, those qualities that provide a valuable opportunity for brands to authentically engage with their audiences can carry risk. An effective way to balance that risk with the reward of a highly engaging video is to likewise balance prep and agility."
- Be consistent. Brands are implementing live video streaming in different ways,but the key to success is consistent usage, Niles-Lane says. "Going live once is fine to learn from, but you really have to think about the cadence of your strategy and how live video plays a role in your messaging mix," she says. "You can't just do one live broadcast and let six months go by. You have to get your audience used to this form of communication and get them talking about it."