Why Live Streaming Is the Water Cooler of the Future

Within just a matter of months, Meerkat and Periscope have already rejuvenated the social media landscape by creating fleeting, in-the-moment media.

From the Snapchat School of Streaming Dominance, apps that provide true 100-percent live streaming have graduated to the forefront of serious social media user awareness. Within just a matter of months, Meerkat and Periscope have already rejuvenated the social media landscape by creating fleeting, in-the-moment media.

Brands ranging from DKNY to Nissan have already applied live streaming apps to do everything from launch new products to provide a behind-the-scenes look at their cultures. Live streaming also gives businesses another huge opportunity: create brand ambassadors.

Because Meerkat and Periscope are inherently social apps, brands need to adopt a new mentality: live streaming is the new water cooler. Live-streaming apps are more than platforms to broadcast real-time content (although they are quite effective in that context).

Live streaming is also the space where you really get to gauge the personality and perception of your brand from your audience — and create an opportunity for customers to talk about you through steaming. Here are three ways to incorporate live streaming:

Turn micro experiences into macro events

A few months ago, I toured the newspaper production facility for the Chicago Tribune. The tour covered five floors at the Freedom Center, and showcased facilities not normally seen by civilians. While on the tour, the company’s social media manager was Periscoping the entire experience and sharing it online.

I opened the app to see who was interacting with and responding to the content. It was remarkable to see the positive response and interaction from people from around the world to an intimate look inside the newspaper industry.

Pieces of content that truly tell an interesting story and offer a look not available through any other medium certainly have the capacity to engage a large social media audience. Instead of bringing a large event to the masses, bring a small event to the masses, and let it spread. This may push people over the edge as far as how favorably they view your brand.

If the White House wanted to engage a certain demographic of historically disengaged voters, for example, it might offer behind-the-scenes, live-streamed cabinet meetings, moments with the President in the Oval Office, or even a look at the meals being cooked in the White House kitchen. These small moments can translate into huge engagement, and become something that younger generations look to as a means of connection to the political system — and potentially your brand.

Release your content

While your content is the water cooler — the touchstone of the language and tone with which you talk about your company — it’s easy to lose control of how your audience views your brand once the content is out there. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. By embracing the authentic stories your most devoted customers will tell as brand ambassadors, as opposed to just relying on traditional push advertising, you can significantly influence positive views of your company.

Doing so may mean amplifying your voice, likely by integrating a paid, owned, and earned media strategy, to let your audience know how your brand is using live streaming and to encourage them to share their experiences throughout their networks.

This effort of relying on genuine users of your product to drive the conversation is often more effective than more traditional advertising. Having content be strategic but still authentic lets you encourage a certain perception without being coercive, and turns your audience into ambassadors for your cause.

For example, when Taco Bell unveiled a new breakfast menu item, the biscuit taco, the restaurant chain combined a Periscope event with earned media and paid advertising as part of an integrated marketing launch. On Periscope, Taco Bell hosted a mock press conference and invited diners to visit Taco Bell for a free biscuit taco on Cinco De Mayo. The Periscope content captured 4,931 hearts (the equivalent of likes) and 453 replay views within three hours of the announcement.

Create excitement through content scarcity 

Giving content marketing a small window to exist seems counterintuitive to building your brand and reaching your audience. The longer it’s up, the better, because more people see it, right? However, creating short windows of exclusivity actually prevents you from diluting the perceived value of the content in the eyes of the consumer. You wouldn’t sell a Rolex or a MacBook in a convenience store; the value of social content to the millennial masses is being able to be in the moment, and permanence cheapens that.

Luckily, Periscope is built with a 24-hour expiration, but consider self imposing an even more ephemeral window of time, and then closing off access. Much can be done front end to promote the content before it goes live to ensure participation (e.g., via social marketing and influencer outreach), and you can do a lot on the back end to help people “see what they missed,” which breeds excitement for the next event.

Movie production studios and musicians can get more marketing value for their movies by offering watch-it-or-you’ll-miss-it content such as trailers, behind-the-scenes video and exclusive interviews only to its live-stream audience. The Rolling Stones recently used Periscope to share watch-it-or-you’ll-miss-it, behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage as the band prepared for a surprise concert to promote the reissue of Sticky Fingers. The band streamed the concert, as well.

Personal Customer Care

Live-streaming apps will serve another purpose: creating brand ambassadors through customer care. We have all heard about airline passengers tweeting about their frustrations as they experience flight delays. Successful brands like Virgin America long ago discovered that those moments create opportunities to win over customers by using social media to be responsive. With live streaming, brands can respond in a more human way, through real-time conversations in which customer service representatives apply intangibles such as tone of voice and smiling. Smart brands will create ambassadors by extending relationships.

Jay Hawkinson is a digital marketing professional with 20 years of sales, marketing and merchandising experience including organic search optimization, paid search advertising, local search, mobile and social media. Jay joined SIM Partners in 2006 as an equity partner and currently oversees mobile, social media and emerging technology at SIM Partners as the senior vice president of social and emerging products.