We Want to Live Stream…Okay Now What?

Do you remember the introduction of the TV Guide? The digital one? I’m not even asking you to reflect on the awesome paper version that came in the mail (yes, Gen Z, that was a thing). I mean the guide function through your cable provider that let you search through every channel to see what’s on.

It opened up a new world. I could navigate between shows and channels, watch music videos on MTV until there was a commercial and then switch over to VH1 or BET (yes, Gen Z, music videos on MTV were a thing too, too), I could even switch between Tremors on TBS and Tremors 2 on TNT. Life was good.

But then they added new channels, and new music options, and new ways to watch…And then YouTube came along. And Facebook. And Twitter. And Instagram, and Snapchat, and Twitch and Tik Tok.

Today, there are millions of pieces of video content available, and not only is this content at our fingertips, but we can access it live and in real-time or on demand. We view on our terms.

But in such a crowded landscape, it can be challenging to know what works. How can your live stream rise above the noise and connect you with your audience in a meaningful way?

Here are a few tips for creating a live stream program that connects with your audience, and brings them into your content.

If I’m tuning into a live stream, I’m generally doing so because it’s a unique piece of content that caught my attention while thumbing through my feed, or a unique piece of content I sought out because I couldn’t find it elsewhere.

The Portland Trailblazers have done a fantastic job of this for their pre-game live streams “The Rip City Report” during the NBA Playoffs this year.

By running a countdown clock on screen and asking questions of their viewers, they build excitement for the game. Rip City Report also takes the most successful play from talk radio’s book. By displaying good questions asked by the audience, they turn a passive viewing experience into active participation, and build a sense of community among fans.

We don’t all have big production studios full of fancy hardware. But luckily, we don’t need it. There are some fantastic cloud-based solutions out there to help you bring in graphics, stream from multiple sources, or even stream from multiple devices.

While I’m sure your viewers would be happy to stare at you talking for your entire live stream, how much better would it be if you shoot your set from multiple angles, pull in graphics, photos, and other video files, celebrity social posts that are relevant to your subject matter, or interviews with remote experts? Technology is rapidly improving and becoming more accessible; don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you need a million dollar live stream setup with a team of 20.

While the nature of live-streamed content is “Realtime” that doesn’t mean you have to go in unprepared. Schedule your live steam to give a push notification to your fans, and promote it wherever your target audience consumes content. You won’t drive viewers by simply hoping they show up.

If you’re running a recurring stream, you likely have good “snackable” clips. Package this content into promotional assets to keep the engagement alive after the show ends.

Buzzfeed’s AM2DM is one of the most popular live streams on Twitter, and their team breaks interviews down into 30-second to 1-minute chunks to get even more legs out of the content. If your live stream is longer than 10 minutes, there are a lot of folks who simply won’t have time to watch the whole thing, but still want to enjoy the best stuff.

ProTip: If you’re selling sponsorships against your live stream, these additional posts give you an additional item to include in your sponsor’s package.

Get Analytical

This is a hill I’m willing to die on. I’m a storyteller. I was a journalist before I was a marketer. And my marketing foundation is built on creating content people want to consume. But I spent seven years creating that content for an analytics company, so I’m intimately aware with the value a marketer or publisher can create by analyzing performance, gleaning insight, and iterating.

Ask hard questions of yourself and your production. What did people like? What did they hate? Why did this video perform better/worse than the last one? When did viewership drop off? What can I do to keep that from happening next time? What questions should I ask my audience about what they want to see?

Keep it Relevant

Live Streaming can open up massive audiences that you weren’t able to reach prior to launching the program, but that doesn’t mean you should just hit “Go Live” and start talking about nothing. Have a point of view, have a goal, have at least the outline of your content, and have a plan in place to make the most of the video you’re spending time creating.