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Live Video Streaming is Here. Where are You?

Be Here Now, Ram Dass wrote in 1971.

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about live video streaming then.

The funny thing is, today he very well could. Now it’s finally possible for anyone to be here or anywhere else, at any time — maybe not physically but virtually, via a real-time feed.

And it’s all thanks to a tool most of us already keep in our pockets: our mobile phones.

Mobile is leading the video revolution

Live streaming itself isn’t new, and there’s a good chance you’ve already participated in some form of it, whether it was beaming into a meeting remotely via webcam or watching an exclusive feed of a concert on Ustream or a similar online broadcasting service.

What is relatively new, however, is the ability to live stream without being tethered to a desktop computer.

It’s crazy to think that only a few short years ago, it was hard for most of us to watch a video on our phones. What’s changed since then? Only everything. Mobile broadband and network coverage finally got good enough to support video data without a lot of buffering, while phones themselves got faster and smarter. At the same time, global mobile subscriber numbers spiked, creating an audience where there wasn’t one before.


Developers seized the opportunity by churning out apps that supported live streaming. The first few were modestly successful but it wasn’t until 2015’s SxSW Festival in Austin, Texas — which coincidentally helped launch an infant Twitter back in 2007 — that a frontrunner broke away from the pack. That frontrunner, Meerkat, soon stalled out when Twitter closed its social graph to all but hot new startup Periscope, which has since absolutely exploded in popularity.

How popular is Periscope? Think “two million active daily users in the first four months” popular. Think “comedians Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Foxx, and Jim Gaffigan are among the top ten users” popular. Not one to miss out, Facebook got into the mix with its own streaming service named Live, which only just opened to all iOS users in January. Shortly afterward, Facebook added another arrow to their video quiver with the announcement of their acquisition of Masquerade, a selfie animation app.

Clearly, they know live streaming is the next marketing frontier, and all the major players are jockeying to claim the primest real estate.

But why live streaming?

Hey, I know the “next big thing” doesn’t always pan out (Google+, anyone?). So I get the temptation to dismiss a trend as just that — a trend. Live streaming is another fad that will pass with a little time, right? Well, not exactly.

I could break out a dozen boggling stats on this, but here’s one of the most boggling: at the end of 2015 Facebook had 8 billion average daily video views from 500 million users, incredibly double that of the 4 billion average views they had just six months earlier. Even accounting for the fact that Facebook counts just three seconds of video play as one view, the sheer volume is staggering — and that’s just one platform! People are simply consuming video across every channel at a voracious rate, and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon.

Time out for a marketing truth: if video is where the people are, then your brand should be there, too.

And hands down, one of the best ways to “be there” today is via live streaming. Here are some of the advantages that going live has over traditional social video like YouTube:

#1 Forging connections.

Watching someone face-to-face and seeing their corner of the world through their eyes is deeply personal and makes viewers feel part of the fabric of a larger community.

#2 Establishing exclusivity.

While services like function as an archive to access broadcasts later, most broadcasts disappear from their native apps by the time 24 hours is up. This is because the appeal of live streaming lies in “being there” to watch it all go down as it happens.

A screen capture from Periscope of the app in action. Comments flow up the left side of the live stream while hearts flow up the right side.
A screen capture from Periscope of the app in action. Comments flow up the left side of the live stream while hearts flow up the right side.

#3 True interactivity.

Live commenting gives broadcasters a chance to interact with viewers in real-time — in fact, it’s considered a best practice for broadcasters to greet commenters and respond to their questions as best they can during the live stream.

#4 Real-time realness.

Unlike traditional video that can be edited after the fact, a live stream is raw and unfiltered, which makes viewers see it as more genuine. And authenticity helps viewers feel more receptive to brand messaging!

Sounds good, but how do I use live streaming for my content marketing?

Great question, and one that is so rich with opportunities that I’ll have to save it for another post, so check back soon. In the meantime, if you want to get a feel for what live streaming looks like without having to download an app just yet, check out the archive for daily trending broadcasts by influencers.

And remember: whenever meditation and mindfulness just aren’t working, live streaming will always help you “be here now.”

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