Use Live Video to Connect with Customers

Apps like Periscope let you show a whole new side of your business.
Pictures are worth a thousand words but live video is worth even more. (Photo: Kirill Kniazev)

When it comes to digital marketing, immediacy is the new name of the game. Tools like email marketing, while still effective, are giving way to text message marketing, and now, prerecorded video is giving way to live video.

Imagine your chef revealing how your restaurant’s signature flaming dessert is made, then feeding it live to an actual customer, who swoons in delight — all while hungry viewers watch online.

Live video broadcasting online is nothing new. For several years, companies like Livestream and Ustream have been offering live video streaming of premium content, such as sporting events or press conferences. But recently, apps like Periscope, Meerkat and Facebook Live, helped along by better smartphone cameras, have brought live video streaming to the masses.

Research firm Tubular Labs estimated that as of June 2016, users posted 1.9 million videos to Facebook Live six months after its launch, with 6.8 billion cumulative views.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a live video is worth.

“Live video is an opportunity for businesses to provide extremely cost-effective content without editing or fancy crews, and is a chance to truly let an audience see what the business is really like,” said Elissa Jane Mastel, chief marketing officer of chillMedia NORTH, a New York-based digital agency.

Facebook, Periscope and Meerkat

Perhaps the easiest way to get your feet wet is via Facebook. From the Update Status in your Personal Profile or Post in your Company Page, tap Go Live, enter information about the video you’d like to start recording, and voila — you’re live. Once you end the live stream, the video is archived and is available to your Friends or Page Followers for viewing later on.

Periscope is owned by Twitter, and you can use your Twitter credentials to log in. Once you begin broadcasting, Periscope will pre-populate a tweet, which makes it convenient to promote your event to your Twitter audience. (Your Twitter followers do not automatically become your Periscope followers.)

Meerkat is similar to Periscope, but your videos disappear after you end the broadcast.

What about YouTube and Instagram?

You may be thinking: another video platform? Perhaps you’ve already been recording and editing videos that you post on your website, your YouTube channel or your Instagram account. You may even have invested in a good quality camera to shoot these.

There’s no reason to abandon prerecorded videos. Live videos can augment, not replace, them.

Live broadcasting is relevant because it’s, well, live. The fact that it’s unrehearsed lends a level of genuineness and immediacy that a prerecorded video might not match. “When it isn’t scripted, it’s more authentic,” said Mastel.

What to shoot

Think of a compelling reason your customers would want to stop what they are doing and watch your live video. Toy stores might show the hottest new toy being unboxed. Restaurants might show a customer sampling a new dish, drink or dessert. If you’re opening a new location, take people on a live tour.

You can also shoot a live Q&A during which customers or prospects can send you questions via Twitter or Facebook.

Keep in mind that while live videos may seem off-the-cuff, most businesses plan them in advance. You can do the same without sacrificing authenticity.

Promote your video

Since you want as large a live audience as possible, you’ll want to promote the event hours, days or even weeks in advance. Use your other social media channels, or even signage in your store or office, to call attention to your live stream.

The video’s description will be seen in social media news feeds and notifications, and it can help increase the video’s discoverability in search. So give the video a good one, including an intriguing or quirky title. Include any relevant hashtags, names or social media accounts to help make the video noticeable.

Encourage user-generated video

Get free video content by encouraging customers and even your employees to record video on the premises and share it via their own live video and social media accounts. You’ll need a strong Wi-Fi signal; Facebook Live won’t work if the app detects a weak one. Make sure they tag or reference your business in their video titles and descriptions.

A business could run a promotion offering a free drink, appetizer or other item to customers who record a short, live video. “It’s crazy what people are willing to do for a free T-shirt,” said Ed Brancheau, CEO of digital marketing firm Goozleology.

From there, you can target an ad — perhaps offering a coupon — to people who engaged with the video on Facebook.

Charting your return on investment

Periscope and Meerkat are still very young and do not currently have separate versions or dashboards for business owners in the same way Foursquare and Yelp do. So don’t expect sophisticated metrics.

Facebook’s Page Manager does allow you to check the stats of a live broadcast. And while you can’t break out separate activity for Periscope, you can track your Twitter performance on your Analytics page.

As the live video space evolves, performance tracking will likely advance.

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