It’s time to start paying attention to live streaming (aka mobile video broadcasting). As I discussed in a previous post, Emerging Technology Trends and their Impact on Marketing, my intention is to take an individual technology trend and provide a brief synopsis on its emergence and potential implications in the marketing landscape. This month I’d like to talk about live streaming as it seems to be on the cusp of moving from primarily a social broadcasting application for consumers to a powerful medium for companies and brands to connect with their audiences.

After Meerkat and Periscope debuted in early 2015, the major social networks have been either buying this technology, as in the case of Twitter’s purchase of Periscope, or launching their own live streaming offerings like Facebook Live and YouTube Live. The power of live streaming lies in its ability to enable a user to easily broadcast original video content. It also appears to be the next stage in the evolution of content as we’ve moved from copy to photos to recorded video and now live video.

social media streaming

So what are the main benefits for brands that want to dip their toe into the water? Well for one, live streaming provides a unique opportunity to turn paid media into owned media – by creating your own “air time” without having to pay for it through traditional broadcast channels. Then there’s the opportunity to leverage a new and interesting connection point with your audience, one that includes a real-time feedback mechanism so you can answer customers’ questions and respond to their comments during the broadcast. Perhaps the greatest benefit though, is that brands get to show their true authentic self through an unedited live presentation of their message or topic.

Okay so how would it apply within a business context? For businesses engaged in marketing directly to consumers (B2C), live streaming can be used to humanize the brand and show its personality, show consumers what happens at the company “behind the scenes”, share sponsored events and major announcements, demonstrate the functionality of new products, etc. For example, Nestle used Periscope last summer to engage with fans of its famous Drumstick ice cream cone as part of its #FirstDayOfSummer campaign where the brand took consumers on a virtual tour of summertime activities like waterskiing, biking, tubing, skating, paddle boarding, and more.

For businesses engaged in marketing to other businesses (B2B), live streaming can be used to give a presentation to your dealers/distributors, provide training to your remote staff, give customers and/or partners virtual tours of your facilities or operations, etc. A good example is General Electric’s experimentation with live streaming from its industrial facilities on Periscope last year as part of its Drone Week campaign and now following up this year on Facebook Live to show how the company is powering the summer Olympics in Rio.

Yes, it does seem that live streaming is becoming a thing. As companies grapple with uncertainty in a constantly changing business environment, live streaming could be a good first step for brands to embrace uncertainty by using this emerging medium to connect with their audiences in an organic and unscripted way.