When Mark Zuckerberg says something will be important in the future, a lot of people (myself included) tend to agree. So you could understand why I took notice when Zuck says he’s obsessed with livestreaming and made Facebook Live a major push for the company. But is livestreaming really the next big thing? Will brands use it as yet another touchpoint to reach consumers — or is it a passing fad. Let’s investigate.

Live from Facebook HQ for the Live video launch!

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Allure of Live

Why do people pay for concerts when they can listen to music on their phones? Why do people watch live sports on TV when they can just check out the highlights later? Because they love the experience. When you’re watching a ball game live — even just on TV — you feel the tension along with millions of other fans. You don’t know what’s going to happen and who’s going to win. Sure, you can catch the highlights later, but you’ll never recapture the magic of experiencing it live.

Maybe that’s why, on average, users spend three times longer watching Facebook Live videos vs. videos that aren’t live.

Does live video work for brands?

eMarketer released a survey hinting that live video is catching on. Among 18-to-34-year-olds, 63% have watched a live video. That number is 53% for 13-to-17-year-olds. Meanwhile, 32% of those aged 35 to 54 have watched it.

Data like that is prompting marketers to experiment with live video. Here are some examples:

In March 2016, Target sponsored Gwen Stefani’s live music video, filmed during the Grammy Awards. 25 million viewers tuned in, and the video has pulled in over 3 billion media impressions.

In a live video, Dunkin’ Donuts got tens of thousands of people to watch their chefs making cake. Melanie Cohn, the company’s social media manager, told Marketing Land: “We see Live as a huge driver of time spent with our content. Since you don’t know what will happen next, it keeps you watching longer.”

Our first-ever LIVE tour of the DD test kitchen + a big announcement for engaged Valentines!

Posted by Dunkin' Donuts on Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cosmetics brand Benefit (owned by LVMH) streams a show every week called “Tipsy Tricks.” It’s packed with advice and makeup demos. Oh, and the hosts drink cocktails too (why not). It’s a hit: “The first two streams had 42,000 and 59,000 live viewers respectively,” according to Digiday.

We're talking highlighters on Tipsy Tricks—tune in for swatching and tips & ask us all your questions about highlighting! ✨

Posted by Benefit Cosmetics on Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Naysayers Have Their Doubts

Not everyone believes the live video hype. Many people aren’t bullish on Facebook Live, and others think social live video will be seen as a fad in hindsight.

Facebook seems to want everyday users to pick up livestreaming and broadcast to friends regularly. But this hasn’t caught on in the same way as, say, Instagram Stories has. Instagram Stories was instantly popular and hit 100 million daily active users after just two months. Instagram Live, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have gained that kind of popularity that quickly.

Perhaps it’s more likely that live video from Facebook and Instagram will mature into what Twitter has been for a while: the power users broadcast the most, while many active users just come to see what the influencers are saying. Twitter demonstrated that the influencer model has merit. People do tune in to hear what their favorite celebrities have to say, and they are highly engaged with celebrities on social media. Users may not care to watch their friends livestream mundane activities, but they’re intensely curious to see what famous people are up to. In the same vein, when a random person broadcasts a gym session, you might hear crickets. When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson does it, 1.6 million people tune in.

Clangin' & Bangin' in the Iron Paradise

Posted by Dwayne The Rock Johnson on Wednesday, August 5, 2015

That influencer model could work well for brands — especially brands that are already household names. Or those brands could partner with celebrities or popular livestreamers to help promote the discovery of their products.

How can your brand leverage live video right now? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What events do you have on your calendar that can you livestream?
  • How can you use live interaction to boost engagement with customers and let them develop a closer relationship with you?
  • Can you work with an influencer to create a unique livestream experience?
  • Do you have webinars, public speeches or any other traditional marketing tactics that you can supplement with a livestream?

Live’s main draw right now may be mere novelty, but in a few years live video could be a dominant marketing force. So experiment with it now. Because later on, you could be a master of the medium at the perfect time — the exact moment when everybody realizes Mark Zuckerberg was right all along.

Livestream or not, influencer marketing is a great way to get a new, niche audience to discover your brand. Check out our free guide How to Win Fans and Influencer Purchases to learn everything you need to know about influencer marketing.

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