The Marketer's Guide to Live Streaming

Lisa Marinelli

Creative

Chris Lavigne

Creative


Live streaming has grown tremendously over the past year due to the pandemic. What once seemed like a playing field exclusive to gamers and entertainers has become an important way for brands and businesses to engage their audiences.

According to research conducted by Restream, a cloud multistreaming service, “Virtual communication became the only way for companies to get in touch with their customers — live-streamed conferences, events, and webinars replaced in-person events. Organizations started centering their marketing strategies on live streaming, with 73% of survey respondents saying they increased their investments in live streaming.”

But, what about the state of live streaming after COVID? In their survey, Restream found that “91% of businesses plan to keep streaming after COVID, and 81% say it will be a social media priority in 2021.” If live streaming is here to stay, don’t you want to get in on it and discover how your business could benefit?

“91% of businesses plan to keep streaming after COVID, and 81% say it will be a social media priority in 2021.”

For marketers who are just getting started with a live streaming strategy, we have the perfect guide for you! We also chatted with our Head of Production, Chris Lavigne, to give you some of our best tips for setting yourself up for live streaming success. Chris learned a whole lot about live streaming this past year shooting his weekly series, (Out of) Office Hours, which covered remote video production tips to help folks at home.

From defining your goals and picking a platform to getting your tech in order and promoting your content, dig into our ultimate live stream guide for marketers to learn how you can start supporting your brand with this growing video strategy.

The benefits of live streaming

When it comes to the benefits of investing in live streaming, there are a number of reasons why it doesn’t hurt to find a place for it in your video strategy.

In terms of expenses, it’s less expensive than the production and editing costs of a pre-recorded video for your business. The only expenses are the upfront costs of your gear, which will vary depending on how important achieving professional-quality streaming is for your brand (more on live stream setups later in this post).

Additionally, according to marketing guru Neil Patel, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, and Twitter have altered their algorithms to account for live streaming. These platforms are essentially encouraging their users to go live more often, and in turn, they’ll expand the audience reach of your videos to get more eyes on your content.

Live streaming has also become one of the best ways to engage with your audience in real-time. With chat functions that can spur a natural back-and-forth between you and audience members, you have the opportunity to build a strong community for your brand.

Define your goals

Before you jump into live streaming, it’s a good idea to map out your reasons for streaming and how it could help you achieve your goals. Are you trying to build engagement with your consumers? Do you have a new product launch on the horizon and want to make a big splash? Live streaming could definitely help you reach your audience in an exciting way.

If you decide to go live, one of the most important things to remember is to make sure you have something of value to offer your audience. For example, your unique offering could be knowledge, your product pitch, or an exclusive interview. If you’re not sure if you have something of value to offer your audience in a live stream, it’s not the worst thing in the world to stick to scripted, curated video communication.

“If you decide to go live, one of the most important things to remember is to make sure you have something of value to offer your audience.”

Types of live stream content

Now, let’s dig into the types of ways we’re seeing businesses use live streaming in their video marketing strategies.

Product launches

When it comes to announcing new products, Apple is one brand that does it best with its live-streamed events. Although they have an upper hand working with a seemingly infinite budget and a well-known name, Apple’s approach to live streaming is something to be emulated by your own business for product launches.

Here at Wistia, we’ve held our own live-streamed events in the past. For our podcasting product announcement, we invited some of our Advanced customers for an exclusive live-streamed and interactive event with our co-founders to hear the news before anyone else. We saw high engagement and enthusiasm from our audience who joined the event.

Conferences or events

If you’re holding an in-person event, live streaming the event to anyone who might not be able to attend in person can expand your reach and grow your audience. Before the pandemic, we held an event at Wistia called Change the Channel where we invited folks to join us at our Cambridge office, but we also let everyone be part of the event from home by live streaming it all.

During the pandemic, live-streamed events and conferences became the norm. For conferences like South by Southwest, folks from around the country were able to access pre-recorded and live-streamed sessions that may otherwise have been exclusive to in-person attendees.

Product demos or webinars

Another type of live stream worth considering for your strategy is going live for a product demo or webinar. Show everyone how to get the most out of your product or service with this educational type of content. You can also see the actual ROI of demos and webinars if you garner more qualified leads and if folks end up buying your products.

Get Inspired
Looking for webinar inspiration? Check out our podcast crash course for marketers hosted by our Lead Producer, Adam Day!

Q&As

If you’ve picked up on whispers of questions from your audience about your products or recent business decisions, a live Q&A can help clear up any inquiries. Q&As also offer a unique opportunity to engage with your audience directly and build a sense of community.

When our Co-Founders took on a round of debt funding, they held a Q&A for those curious about their decision. When we launched an original series called One, Ten, One Hundred, the docuseries’ creators and members of Wistia Studios went live for a Q&A to answer questions about how they came up with the idea.

You can host a Q&A for anything, as long as you identify that there’s genuine interest and curiosity from your audience.

Live interviews

In a similar vein as Q&As, live interviews of notable guests or thought leaders is another instance where you might want to host a live stream. This could be mutually beneficial for engaging your audience and your guests’ audience.

On (Out of) Office Hours, Chris invited multiple guests onto the show. From Saturday Night Live editors to YouTube’s DSLR Video Shooter, these guests offered expertise in their conversations with Chris you couldn’t find anywhere else.

Thought leadership live video content is also a great way to build subscribers and raving fans for your brand.

Big brand moments

One last type of content businesses could leverage live video for is big PR moments. Not every company might be like Red Bull sending someone to skydive from space, but if you’re making history in some way, it could be worth live streaming it!

Pick a platform

Moving onto where you’ll host your live stream, choosing the best platform boils down to understanding if you have a community on that platform. You should pick a platform because it makes sense for your audience and your intended content. However, it’s helpful to know what the most popular live streaming platforms for businesses and marketers are today. We’ll break down some pros and cons of each for you!

Facebook Live

Pros
Larger audience potential
Built-in analytics
Retargeting capabilities
Co-broadcasting options
Notifications to all of your followers
Available on your computer or phone
Cons
Little control over advertising

Instagram Live

Pros
Notifications to all of your followers
Ability to save to your highlights
Optimized for mobile devices
Co-broadcasting options
Cons
Only available for 24 hours
Unable to stream from your computer
Unable to stream from third-party tools

Periscope (Twitter)

Pros
Simple to use
Optimized for mobile devices
Notifications to followers
Cons
No retargeting capabilities
Little control over advertising
Note
Twitter officially shut down their live streaming feature in March 2021. We wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to re-enter this space at some point, but for now, you’ll have to stick to other platforms for your streams.

YouTube Live

Pros
SEO benefits
More customization
360 video
Streaming from your computer or phone
Cons
No notifications to your audience

LinkedIn

Pros
Larger audience potential
Built-in analytics
Notifications to all of your followers
Archived video stays on your page
Cons
Requires approval from LinkedIn
Requires third-party broadcasting tools to stream

Crowdcast

Pros
Broadcast to other platforms
Host free or paid events
Features for engagement like live chat, audience polls, and timestamped Q&A
Cons
Paid platform

These are just a few of the most popular free platforms. There are a whole host of other paid solutions built for marketers. Crowdcast happens to be our favorite, so we included them in our roundup. If you are looking for a tool with demand generation functionality, private streams, and gated live events, we can’t recommend them enough! Zoom is another great tool that is already super common and affordable. We currently use that solution for webinars at Wistia.

Basic live streaming setup

To fit your streaming needs, Chris helped us break down a basic live streaming setup for anyone who’s just starting out.

The camera

For the camera, you don’t need the most expensive option on the market. In fact, the production quality of many smartphones nowadays is powerful enough to pull off a good-looking live stream. To keep your shot steady, all you need to invest in is a cell phone tripod like the MeFOTO SideKick360 Smartphone holder ($33).

Alternatively, you could purchase a webcam like a Logitech, which runs at about $80. If you’re willing to make a larger investment in a high-quality camera, you could opt for a DSLR for less than $500. If you own a newer mirrorless or DSLR camera, there’s a good chance it can be used as a webcam via USB. Lots of camera manufacturers have added webcam utilities — Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Fuji, to name a few.

The lighting

You don’t need to get fancy with your lighting unless your budget permits. When you’re just starting out, all you need to do is make sure you’re facing a window to get good lighting.

If you don’t have access to natural light or a lighting setup, avoid shooting under overhead lighting. This type of lighting creates ‘raccoon eye’ shadowing, which isn’t very flattering. To avoid this type of effect, move over (even just one foot) to lessen the shadows cast from overhead.

Looking for a DIY lighting kit? We’ve got you covered! Learn how to put together an effective lighting kit for less than $100.

The audio

If you’re using your cell phone to live stream, your audio could be hit or miss (the microphones on most cell phones aren’t that great for getting clear, crisp audio). With that in mind, the easiest way to make sure your stream sounds good is to use an external microphone designed for cell phones, like the Rode VideoMic Me. On the flip side, if you’re going to be live streaming from your computer, we recommend external USB mics like the Blue Yeti or the Blue Snowball to get the best audio.

The software

If you want to add more custom flair to your live streams like an opening graphic or a countdown, Open Broadcast Software, or OBS, is Chris’s favorite software for leveling up a live stream. With OBS, you can stream to a bunch of different live streaming platforms at once.

At Wistia, Crowdcast is our live streaming platform of choice. Chris simply logs into Crowdcast, copies the server URL and stream key, and pastes it into OBS. Then he hits “start streaming” to go live — it’s pretty easy!

If you’re interested in a more advanced setup, check out Chris’s breakdown of his multi-stream setup for Out of Office Hours!

Promote your live stream

To make sure folks tune in when you’re set to go live, make sure you get the word out! Here are a few tips to make sure you generate as many viewers as possible.

Create a persuasive invite

First things first, you’ll want compelling copy ready to go for all of your marketing materials. This might include an event invite on social media or a dedicated landing page. Be sure to include important information like the date and time of the live event, where you’ll be streaming, how folks can join, and what information you’ll be sharing.

Tip
For an even more engaging invite, have the live stream host create a short video personally inviting folks to attend! This can be used across social media platforms and anywhere else you’re promoting your event.

Schedule your event in advance

Although you can go live with a moment’s notice, it’s best to plan your event in advance and add in dedicated time for promotion. We recommend a schedule that matches the scale of your launch. You might only want to promote a webinar a week or two in advance while giving a full month for a big product release.

Promote the event to your subscribers

You likely have several email lists for marketing initiatives; why not invite these warm contacts to your live event? Make sure you only select relevant lists, and don’t go overboard with promotion. You could also include the event as part of a larger email, like a marketing newsletter, versus sending a stand-alone invite.

Again, we recommend matching these efforts to the scale of your event. A webinar invite in a blog newsletter is a great addition while a big company announcement might warrant a stand-alone send to your customer base.

Share your event on social

We can’t talk live streaming without talking social media. Leverage your brand’s following across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and anywhere else your audience lives to drive viewers. For platforms that allow, set up an event and invite your followers to RSVP. You can also share a video invite to drive engagement and get folks hyped for your event!

Check out our video invite and trailer for Change the Channel:

Explore paid advertising

If you have a little money to play with, consider paid promotions across social media to drive even more awareness for your event. Most platforms offer robust targeting options to help you home in on exactly the right audience. Facebook even has an ad format specific to driving RSVPs for events!

Capture demand on your website

Finally, your website is a great place to promote your upcoming live event. Be sure to add the event to your blog or events page, and consider adding popups or a chatbot across relevant pages to reach warm visitors.

Repurpose your video content

After you’ve gone live (you did it!), let out a sweet sigh of relief. If your platform allows for it, download your video to repurpose for content like blog posts or even upload them to your website. Just because you went live doesn’t mean it has to be a fleeting moment. Depending on the nature of your content and if it makes sense to repurpose it, these videos can help drive traffic long after the live stream is over.

“Depending on the nature of your content and if it makes sense to repurpose it, these videos can help drive traffic long after the live stream is over.”

Retargeting is another great way to get more mileage out of your video content. With a video marketing provider, you’ll be able to feed your video data to third parties (Like Facebook, Google, and more) and create custom audiences for retargeting.

And, who says your repurposed content has to stay in video form? If your video content translates well to audio and you’ve gone live more than a few times, you likely have a bunch of audio files on hand you can use to create a podcast!

Once you’ve repurposed your live stream content, don’t let it get lost in the shuffle. Let your audience know that it’ll be available later, and then let them know where they can find it.

Tip
Interested in hearing about more ways you can maximize your video ROI? Dig into this post all about repurpose webinar content!

Don’t be afraid to do it live

From marketing webinars to big product announcements, live streaming is a great way for brands to get closer to their audience. We hope these live streaming tips inspire you to go live and connect with your fans in new and exciting ways!

Lisa Marinelli

Creative

Chris Lavigne

Creative

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