Live online videos are fast emerging as a new marketing platform for a huge variety of brands. But why are live videos so popular across so many different industries?

This Blue Paper aims to answer this question and help you decide whether live videos could be relevant for your organisation.


The advantages of live videos

The nature of people’s relationships with mass media has altered fundamentally in recent years. With the emergence of catch-up TV, streaming services such as Netflix and hundreds of TV channels, as well as social media and web-enabled mobile devices, the audience for marketers has become much more fragmented. As a result, brands have moved towards reaching people on a far more targeted, segmented and individual level, rather than trying to engage with large numbers at a single time.

But recent developments suggest that the desire for linear, real-time viewing hasn’t completely gone away. You’ll have noticed social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram launching functions that allow users to broadcast videos live over their pages. People’s timelines are routinely filled with instant clips from gigs, football matches, social gatherings and much more besides, so others can see straight away what they are up to.

The growing popularity of live videos on social media suggests that while many people don’t necessarily consume content through traditional channels, they are still willing to follow short scheduled broadcasts on their smartphones or tablets. And this has opened up a new marketing opportunity to brands that want to reach their target audience in new and engaging ways. After all, a live video can offer a viral immediacy that a pre-recorded advert cannot, as well as instant user engagement and feedback. Furthermore, the sense of immediacy offered by live videos can make viewers feel “in the moment” – again, something that clips recorded earlier cannot do.

Another benefit of live videos is the fact that they are primarily a visual medium. Studies have proven that the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than words, which means a striking and imaginative video can stand out and grab a person’s attention better than a solely text-based update.[1]

The move towards live videos also makes sense as millions of people now routinely go online while they are out and about, benefiting from fast internet speeds to load up all types of content in an instant. This means live videos are now a viable and practical way to reach people who are consuming content on the move. Brands sense opportunities because Facebook Live videos autoplay as people scroll past them. How many people idly scroll down their timeline but will stop and pay attention to an eye-catching video? It all suggests there is a lot of potential interest that is waiting to be tapped into.

Of course, attracting people’s attention is one thing, but evidence is growing that this approach is driving conversions too. Indeed, a recent study by Brightcove found that of the 47% of British adults who watch branded content on social platforms, 43% go on to make a purchase – a statistic that Bill Fisher of eMarketer believes is ‘remarkable.’[2] While this figure applies to all videos, rather than exclusively live clips, it demonstrates a tangible return on investment for marketers and shows people are receptive to video content being distributed via their social channels.

There are also indications that live videos can have reputational benefits. Indeed, a recent study by Twitter revealed live streaming an event increases brand favourability by 63%.[3] There is still a place for more traditional video-based advertising, such as TV advertising or uploading pre-recorded ads to YouTube and social media. But it seems likely that live video will form a bigger part of the marketing mix for all sorts of brands as they look to connect with their target audience in new and exciting ways.


Case studies

Perhaps, the best way to demonstrate the effectiveness of live videos as a marketing tool is to examine some proven success stories. The following brands all stand out as great examples:

Land Rover

In April 2016, Land Rover began broadcasting test drives live on Facebook Live and Periscope to let its fans see their vehicles in action. The videos were broadcast on Friday afternoons and showed Land Rover models both on and off-road, along with live Q&A sessions. Peter Biven, Head of Global Digital Marketing at Land Rover, said this approach is a great way to demonstrate products to potential customers and connect with fans on social media in “smart and new ways.”[4]

“Live video provides many opportunities for Land Rover, from product demonstrations to live broadcasts. Despite being in its early stages of adoption, the ability to connect with audiences in real-time, giving customers the opportunity to be part of dynamic content, is compelling.” Mr Biven added that the videos offer the best way of seeing a vehicle in action short of actually taking it for a test drive personally. “And all this happens without any editing or polishing that we’re used to seeing on TV ads, or even other branded video content.”

Grazia UK

The women’s magazine scored considerable success when it visited Facebook’s offices in London to showcase how the publication is put together live as it happens. 14 videos showing how Grazia’s team works behind the scenes generated around 600,000 views in total.

A live roundtable debate regarding Brexit proved especially popular, with users submitting questions and getting involved in the discussion as it happened.[5]

Natasha Pearlman, Editor of Grazia, commented: “Facebook Live isn’t like normal TV where people tune in for the start. The Brexit debate had a surge in views, as that sharing effect of people telling their friends about it accumulated.” Ms Pearlman acknowledged that she was not initially sure whether or not readers would be interested in how Grazia operates behind the scenes. But the fact it was live, unscripted and opening up its inner workings did show its authentic and unedited side to its audience, with no media manipulation at work.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers has used Facebook Live to give its members a chance to interact directly with some of its most notable slimmers. Viewers were invited to leave questions so the stars of the video could respond straight away and share their useful and proven diet tips. The organisation has also turned to live videos on Facebook to launch brand new products. By unveiling items in this way, it was able to build up plenty of anticipation and excitement around the announcement.[6]


Buzzfeed isn’t in the business of selling products or services, but as an online content provider, it’s in a competitive sector and needs to draw attention to the content it publishes in distinctive ways. That’s why in April 2016, it went for a knowingly offbeat and slightly ridiculous marketing idea – showing a live video on Facebook of two Buzzfeed employees trying to make a watermelon explode with rubber bands. At one point, some 807,000 viewers were watching simultaneously and 315,000 commented on the Facebook live video. Furthermore, it started trending on Twitter and inspired a whole host of amusing memes. The premise behind the video was absurd, but it sparked curiosity and fun debate among social media users. It also portrayed a side of the Buzzfeed brand that it’s keen to convey, with its quirkiness and good humour. And of course, the video wasn’t scripted, as Buzzfeed couldn’t be sure exactly how long it would take the watermelon to burst.[7]


How you can use live videos

So we’ve discussed the benefits of live videos and looked at a few examples of how this approach has worked successfully for brands. The next step, therefore, is to look at what you could do if you’re feeling inspired to try similar tactics in the future and want to get the best results.

Give videos a strong title and description

An eye-catching name can be key to the success of everything from new products to specific marketing campaigns. You should therefore come up with something memorable and striking that hooks people in before they start watching your videos.[8]

Come up a strong concept

Any live video must have a great theme if it is to make an impact on viewers; ideally something that can be summed up in just a few words. That could be anything from an interview to a behind the scenes peek at life in your office, or perhaps a product demo or unveiling. Alternatively, you could produce an unusual video based around a strong and distinctive concept that’s not specifically linked to your business, but shows an aspect of your brand personality.

Encourage dialogue

A live video is designed to promote engagement with your brand, so introduce yourself and actively encourage viewers to interact throughout the broadcast. This can continue even after the live video has finished, as comments and feedback can still be left alongside the clip.

Let people know about upcoming live streams

Make sure people know if a live stream is happening at a set time, so they make a point of tuning in and seeing what’s going to happen. While you can rely to an extent on people who just happen to be browsing social media at the time of transmission, you ideally want to reach people who are already interested in your brand, as these are the most likely to go on to make a purchase after the event.

Have enough employees on hand to take part in the discussion

If you expect lots of viewers to tune in for a live stream and pass comment throughout, you need to have enough people at your end to take part in the discussion and generate some instant two-way dialogue. By responding to as many questions and comments as you can straight away, the sense of immediacy for the viewers is strengthened considerably. It also helps them feel valued and that they have a closer connection with your brand.

Experiment with different ideas

A live video on social media can be about anything, so don’t be frightened of trying out different concepts. By experimenting with a range of ideas, you’ll get a clearer view of what approaches work best for your audience and generate the most engagement.

Use the #FacebookLive hashtag

Many Facebook users might be actively searching for live videos to watch and will do so by entering this hashtag. So use it to increase your chances of getting spotted.

Broadcast for at least ten minutes

The chances of people discovering your video and getting their friends to watch it are maximised if you are broadcasting for longer. Facebook recommends that ten minutes is the ideal minimum length for a live video, while you have the option of streaming for up to 90 minutes. According to research by Facebook, people spend more than three times longer watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live. That would be a remarkable increase in engagement for a brand that only uses pre-recorded video content, so you don’t want to harm your chances of driving conversions by cutting off your broadcast too quickly.[9]

Know your audience

Younger people are the most likely group to watch live streaming videos online. In fact, a study carried out in the US by UBS Evidence Lab found that nearly two-thirds of internet users aged between 18 and 34 enjoy this type of content.[10] Making sure you understand your existing customer base and the type of audience you are aiming to reach could therefore be crucial in determining whether or not live videos will work for you.

Find out what events your target audience are interested in

Businesses of all sizes send representatives to events such as trade fairs and industry conferences. Alternatively, they might sponsor occasions such as concerts and sporting events. All of these could be perfect for live videos, as you could conduct live interviews with people who are there and give viewers a small taste of what is happening at the event you’re attending.

Promote live videos later on

Just because live videos were transmitted as they were made, there’s no reason to stop promoting them afterwards. If your live video was successful, attention-grabbing and distinctive, it can still be an effective marketing tool later on and a place where people can leave further comments and feedback about your brand.

Analyse the results

Live videos will throw up many interesting metrics and comments from social media users, so mine this valuable source of data for interesting and actionable insights. These could be crucial in determining what form your next live stream takes and how you should go about engaging with your target audience more generally.


And finally …

Live videos are set to become an increasingly valuable part of the marketing mix with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat all going to great lengths to push live videos in the last few months. The success of a live video on social media will depend on having a strong and clear concept behind it. If you are willing to show your authentic, unedited and spontaneous side to the world, your efforts need to be underpinned by a good and compelling idea, and an understanding of what it is you want your clip to achieve.


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