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Shit Hot Social: The Best Use of Live Video So Far…

By Paddy Smith

If I was to ask you to name the most memorable live moments of our existence I would expect the list to contain the moon landing, the hand of God and… 45 minutes of strangers negotiating a puddle.

Periscope may have made live content mainstream, but in April 2016 in true Facebook style, Zuckerberg pinched the title. To get people making live content and therefore squash the competition, Facebook favoured Live Video in their algorithm, meaning more organic reach.

17 months later with adequate coverage both good and downright awful, it’s worth taking a look at which brands have actually managed to make waves. But first, some ground rules.

In a nutshell, great Live Video is reliant on two things.

  1. The content’s ability to keep the audience watching. Is it creating suspense by building to one crucial moment you simply can’t miss? Or is there a chance of bagging yourself a prize if you stick around? The longer you can keep your audience, the better the content will do.
  2. The content’s ability to climb the news feed. You can’t yet ‘boost’ Live Video so you’re reliant on viewer actions (comments, shares etc) to promote your content. If you can get your audience interacting they will propel the video into new news feeds, making it more successful.

Finally, I want to make a distinction between content and competitions. People tend to stick around & interact for free shit. While I have featured a giveaway, like all of the smartest social content, you should give your audience something more than just £15 at HMV for their time (e.g a laugh).

Ground rules set, let’s look at some content.

Buzzfeed Watermelon.

I just watched 45 minutes of video to see a watermelon explode. If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, then this is a night at the ballet.

Love it or hate it, it used suspense fantastically to retain viewers, clocking 807,000 live viewers at the crucial 45 minute mark, making it Facebook Live’s most successful piece of content back in April last year.

The key here is the increasing anticipation, building to one crucial moment. You simply can’t take your eyes off it. Even better, this content couldn’t be anything but live. If it was a prerecorded video you’d skip straight to the finale and move on.

A £2.50 Watermelon & 680 elastic bands achieved 315,000 unsolicited comments. It’s the comments that do this content justice. The views come with their organic reach, but with no call to action in the copy, people still actively shared and tagged friends, pushing the video into new feeds.

They’ve also gone on to stream Giraffe Births and #StormWatch! What a time to be alive.

What does it mean for me?

Keep it simple, stupid. Sometimes you don’t need a complicated competition mechanism or a panel of experts. Tune into people's inherent love of procrastination and intrigue and you’ll create a live video that keeps them hooked. Remember you can still be goofy, not everything is blatant product placement. Irreverent humour is absolutely alive in all forms of social content - people love the weirdly, wonderfully entertaining... and Buzzfeed nailed this with the watermelon Live Video.

Muscle Food - Q&A

There aren’t many hotter topics in the fitness industry than the use of performance enhancing substances, and Muscle Food took the topic head on with their live steroid Q&A.

Muscle Food used live commenting to both retain their audience with a possible answer, but also to reach new viewers as each comment pushes the content into new feeds. The interaction between content maker and audience is seamless and it makes for a solid live concept.

What does it mean for me?

There’s a strong chance you have insights that others want. Whether that’s your tops tips on starting a company or a 15 minute AMA live cook along, think about the value you can add to your audience's day. Q&As help reinforce that there’s a human behind the brand and make for a consistently engaging live concept.

Lad Bible - Live Polls

Lad Bible certainly weren’t the first to go out on a limb and say 2016 was shit (yawn), but they were the first to gamify the year. What was it that pushed it over the edge? Trump, Toblerone, Bowie or Harambe… you decide.

Reaction voting has been a popular mechanism for brands since their release, but the live total gives the content legs (the longer it goes on, the more we know) and incentives action subtly, helping to refer the content to new feeds. It’s pretty smart.

What does it mean for me?

You don’t have to give people prizes to get them to interact, you need to think about why they might want to be part of the content. Twitter polls have shown us that people want to have their say and you might even get some interesting insights. Got a burning question you want to ask, or need some help brainstorming your next product name, why not ask your audience… with live content.

Boohoo Man - Competitions

It would be hard to not feature Boohoo in this list as they have run some of the most successful Facebook Lives to date, mastering the live giveaway. Competitions have dominated Facebook Live since its launch because they incentivise prolonged engaged and sharing. They retain the audience with the prospect of picking up some free swag and refer a friend with simple C e.g comment to enter. When it comes to competitions, there seem to be two clear strategies.

  • Lots of small prizes that reload, so if you missed entry it comes back around.
  • One big prize that rewards loyal (or lucky) fans for sticking around.

Boohoo used a very simple mechanism; Comment gravy to ‘fill the pool’. If the turkey falls in on your comment you win big. You stick around to see the fall and to see if you bag the prize, and your comments pushed the video into friend’s news feeds. Not a bad way to generate nearly half a million comments on £200 worth of prizes.

What does it mean for me?

If you’re after reach at all costs, build a competition mechanism that creates suspense and incentives action. If you’re giving away free things then you can be more blatant with your call to action but beware, people may begin to see you as more of a digital raffle than a valuable brand.

Tough Mudder - Live Coverage

For those who couldn’t make it (or hack it) get a front row seat to the muddiest show in town. It’s like Takeshi's Castle, but you actually want people to do well.

As far as live event coverage goes, this is one of the best. You give your audience a real feel for the event and the brands sense of community means you find yourself unconsciously egging strangers up a 45 degree slip 'n' slide. You are retained. The raw nature of the coverage means you come away wanting to take part more than any glamorous highlight reel released 2 days after the event. This is why live is perfect, because it’s real.

What does it mean for me?

For certain events, raw live content is better than glamorous (and expensive) post production. Think about which elements of your event people want to see live and plan the coverage meticulously. Release ‘event coverage’ timetables before so people know when to tune in and get someone with some personality to film and respond to comments.

Benefit Cosmetics

From the word go, Benefit developed a valuable and consistent live strategy based around structured tips and tricks. Tuning it at 4pm (every Thursday) meant you got a front row seat to ‘desk to dancefloor’ makeup advice. Benefit know their audience well, retaining them with consistent applicable insights. They also know that when they tune in they’ll contribute to the content, referring it organically.

“Do these work with erase paste?”

They will Trudie, thanks for asking.

What does it mean for me?

Live doesn’t have to be a one off, it can become just as much a content strategy as product shots and #throwbackthursday. If you’ve got industry experts, an engaged audience or a niche product think how you can incorporate tutorials. Finally to make sure it works as live content, think about how you can interact with your audience during the stream, the more your audience can get involved, the more successful the content will be.

Honorable mentions

Spotify Live Concerts >

Remember when live music was a thing? Well apparently it still is. Spotify’s live concert is a great example of ‘the big reveal’ content, giving live viewers the first scoop. It’s our generation’s ‘I was at woodstock’ #FOMO.

Xbox Game Giveaways >

It’s not rocket science but 225,000 people did tune in to watch a bloke pick up an Xbox game in a park. I do like a ‘finders keepers’ competition for it’s simplicity and that it may require the audience to actually do some thinking.

Lad Bible Melting Lollies >

Never forget what social media is.

To Recap

When thinking about making live content, ask yourself:

‘How does this content create suspense and anticipation, incentivising my audience to stick around for the grand finale?’

‘How does this content get my current audience to organically promote it ? What calls to action can I use, and what’s the least blatant way of incorporating them?’

Whether it’s giveaways, event coverage, tutorials, Q&As or just a bit of fun, all the best Live Videos use both of the above effectively.

When all else fails, drop a bloke in a turkey costume into gravy.