Marketers need to embrace the risk of live content, or face getting left behind


It’s on everyone’s list for the top media trends of 2018 and the buzzword in the abundant blogs of digital entrepreneurs right now.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube all now have their own platforms, and there’s no doubt we’ll see more cropping up before the end of the year. Live content is the hot topic in consumer-facing media at the moment. Trevor Evans, CEO of Stream Time questions why are so many marketers shying away from it?

More and more live content is being streamed every day, with numbers reaching tens of millions for events such as New Year’s Eve. According to one survey from last year, 80% of web users would prefer to watch a live video than read a blog, and 82% would rather watch a live video than see a social media post from a brand. It’s an innovative and convenient way to access consumers directly, and receive live feedback; live streaming could be a goldmine for marketers. In theory, we should be seeing live marketing content everywhere, so why isn’t this the case?

It seems the source of the general reluctance to cash in on live streaming is risk.

Immediacy, spontaneity and reactivity are what make live streaming popular, but they are also a source of risk for a brand using live streaming as a marketing venture. For bigger brands and companies, with rigorous processes and established reputations to protect, it’s understandable that the lack of control that comes with live streaming could be intimidating or appear not to be worth the potential risk. However, by dismissing live content, these brands take an even greater risk: getting left behind by the competition.

The brands that have already embraced live streaming in their marketing are seeing pretty amazing results. Tough Mudder saw success with a live-streamed training event, which seamlessly tied in promotional material with a dynamic live event.

The ASPCA drew viewers in with a live stream of volunteers walking cute, adoptable puppies around New York City. Buzzfeed even managed to hook over 800,000 viewers for a 45-minute video of two people putting rubber bands on a watermelon.

Others, such as Adidas, are sponsoring live sporting events to ensure their brand is seen by new swathes of potential customers. The concepts aren’t particularly complicated, and, as with any live video, there was some small element of risk, but these brands used resources that were readily available to great effect.

If they want to get ahead, marketers need to follow these examples, and develop an appetite for risk. What’s more, this perceived risk – the unpredictability of live streaming – could be a masterstroke in social media marketing.

An unexpected or surprising event during a live stream could very well be the reason a brand goes viral. This kind of organic mass coverage is hard to come by and immensely valuable.

The brands avoiding live content now, because it’s new, feels risky, or doesn’t fit neatly into the carefully edited spreadsheet of Facebook posts, could well be left behind by more flexible and fearless marketers.

By the time the risk-averse brands come around to live streaming, they’ll have to catch up with the brands that have already embraced live content and are familiar with what works well and doesn’t.

By this point consumers may have already been saturated by live marketing content, and the call of rubber bands on watermelons won’t be enough to draw them in.

An appetite for risk is essential for any business, and marketing is no exception. The first brands to create social media accounts likely felt they were taking a big risk making themselves so readily accessible to consumers; now brands without social media seem, at best, quaint and old-fashioned and, at worst, as though they have something to hide.

With this in mind, marketers need to embrace the ‘risk’ and unpredictability that comes with live content, or face getting left behind by braver competitors.

As the old saying goes, ‘fortune favours the bold’.