The next big thing: Live broadcasts on social media

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram now have the feature to live broadcast videos from their mobile apps. Could this be the next big thing for advertisers and marketers?

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Updated: Dec 29, 2016 8:54 AM
The next big thing: Live broadcasts on social media

In April 1952 when the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, suggested a live broadcast of the coronation ceremony for the world to watch on their tiny home television sets, it was a preposterous suggestion to make. The Queen herself was averse to the idea; it was her husband, the chairperson of the Coronation Committee, who convinced her. Since that revolutionary live television broadcast more than sixty years ago, technology and changing mindsets have redefined live broadcasts. The digital age had taken live broadcasts online and now anyone with a smartphone can easily broadcast live videos to the world. 

When Facebook Live was launched in April this year the concept of live broadcast was rediscovered. Joining Facebook are other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, who have also added a ‘live’ feature to their respective mobile apps.

In the words of the Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, “Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket. When you interact live, you feel connected in a more personal way. This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it's going to create new opportunities for people to come together.” Like any new development, broadcasting live on social media platforms gives power to not only individual users but also marketers and advertisers. In an email conversation with exchange4media a Twitter spokesperson said, “Live video is the most immersive way to experience what’s happening around the world. Live video presents a great opportunity for brands that seek to engage with their target audience not just in the moment, but in an authentic and relevant way.”

Real time is the real deal

Marketers see live and real-time content sharing as the ultimate trick to reach out to their audiences. “Television gave advertisers the opportunity to share live video content, but that is an outdated platform now. The option to broadcast live on social media platforms immediately takes away the advantage that television had over the digital platforms,” said Sanjay Mehta, Jt CEO, Mirum India.

According to Gautam Mehra, Chief Data Officer at Dentsu Aegis, “Real time is where the world is moving and social media live broadcasting is just another step in that direction. It will be an interesting phenomenon to observe, because plugging in ads will be very different on this medium, unlike on traditional video advertising like insert ads mid-rolls etc.”

The advantages of hosting live broadcasts on social media are numerous. The prime among them being that social media has the ability to deliver targeted content to users. “Live broadcasts can be used to sharply target niche audiences on social media platforms. Brands that have been wasting money on advertising to a broad spectrum of audiences can now cut down advertising costs to tailor content just for their potential customers,” said Mehta. As Zuckerberg said in his Facebook Live launch, anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world. That will essentially democratise the power to broadcast. “The biggest benefit I see is democratisation of such a technology. Influencer marketing, consumer engagement and brand communications, all of the above can benefit from live broadcasts on social media platforms,” Mehra said.

Not just events, even the run up to the events can now be shared via live broadcasts. “ From a brand's point of view this can be a way of showing people what actually happens behind the scenes rather than pushing out branded content all the time,” said  Abhishek Joshi, Head - Marketing & Analytics, Sony Pictures Networks India.

Live broadcasts are not really new to the digital medium. Youtube live streaming has given content creators, marketers, and advertisers opportunities to engage with their communities and audiences. Unlike Youtube, broadcasting live on social media will automatically send out notifications to followers. “Users do not have to make an extra effort to go to the page of the brand to watch the video. They can join in from their profiles whenever it goes live,” said Piyush Chapperwal, National Sales Head for Vdopia.

New opportunities for marketers

Marketers and advertisers could leverage live broadcasts for a range of promotions and events like fashion shows, and concerts. “Live broadcast will do wonders for events. However, I do see a whole lot more uses. A live unboxing of a new tech product is definitely going to garner more traction, or a brand endorsement via a live video of a celebrity will go viral faster than a traditional video,” shared Mehra.

The scope and the opportunities that live broadcast present are diverse. Live broadcasts on social media give brands the benefits of live television and real-time social media engagement. Brands can create a programme calendar and schedule shows on the social media platforms, Mehta said. It also helps that once a live event ends, the content is still available to viewers unlike in a live television broadcast, he added.

Sony has been using live broadcast features for the press conferences of various brand films, originals shows. This helps the brand and consumer relationship to evolve, said Joshi. He added, “Social media live broadcasts have helped leverage even dormant audiences and broadcast that which might have otherwise been inaccessible to them. For example, the ColdPlay concert in India which was a hot topic and while only a few thousands could attend it, millions could view it on LIVE broadcast. Additionally, when a brand goes LIVE, it goes out as an assurance to audiences that there is no gimmick involved and everything that is being showcased is true adding credibility. With live the brand and consumer relation stands to evolve.”

Even with all the features live broadcasts offer, for the best results brands will have to meticulously plan their broadcasts to ensure organic and authentic engagement. “Product launches could go live, but it would have to be carefully planned and only certain segments would need to be made live in my opinion. I think brands will have to think harder, since for live to work it needs to be authentic and spontaneous, much like a live talk show is. So it can be planned but can’t be too much in your face or too lengthy for waiting for things to happen,” said Mehra.

Considering that these features have been launched very recently, brands are treading with care and only experimenting for now. “Because of restricted budgets at the year’s end there has been minimal use of Facebook Live,” said Charulata Ravikumar, CEO (India) at Razorfish. Experts also feel that ad spends may not immediately go into organising live events. “It’s an exciting time, but it needs to be tested. Facebook themselves are working on the product almost on a daily basis. No one can say that they have understood the user experience entirely and can plug brands straight out at scale,” said Mehra.

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