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Why Your Small Business Should Invest in Live Streaming

Hope Horner
Hope Horner

Here are some tips to help you use live streaming videos to connect with your customers.

Video marketing is undoubtedly one of the best ways for businesses both large and small to reach customers and prospects online. A report from Forrester Research found that incorporating the medium into an email campaign can boost click-through rates by up to 300 percent, and the marketing firm Aberdeen reports that companies using video enjoy 41 percent more web traffic than competitors.

Whether you're a consumer brand or a B2B vendor, today's customers love video – and even executives would rather watch than read. Given these powerful numbers, you're, hopefully, no longer thinking about whether you should be using the medium but, instead, wondering how to use it in a way that stands out.

Why stream video in real time?

Live streaming, in practice, is relatively easy to pull off. All you need is a video camera (like the one on your smartphone or computer) and an internet connection to stream your video to the platform your audience uses most.

Brands and influencers often run Facebook Live videos to engage with followers on their pages. However, Twitter and even LinkedIn offer additional options. Alternatively, you might stream to a video platform like YouTube, your own website or Twitch, which is primarily a streaming platform.

Millennials are especially fond of live streaming, but they're not the only ones. A survey conducted by Livestream and New York Magazine found that 80% would rather watch a live video than read blog content, and streaming gives brands the kind of versatility that other mediums can't provide.

The content of your stream could include Q&A sessions, product tutorials, influencer partnerships, event promotions, or anything else you might want to share with your audience. Live streaming humanizes your brand, taking viewers behind the scenes of your small business and allowing them to see the people responsible for their favorite products or services.

It's more than just a customer engagement tactic, however: You can also use live streams to expand your audience. Choose topics that matter to prospective customers and share your views on them. Use the right hashtags to promote your streams, and it'll be relatively easy for new viewers to find and engage with you. If you're at an industry event like a convention or skills seminar, take time to share the experience with people.

Engage with viewers who tune in and ask questions, and you'll likely gain some new followers. Similarly, anytime you can interview an expert – whether it's an influencer in your industry or a thought leader in a niche your audience cares about – stream it. You'll attract their followers to your channel, ultimately positioning your brand as a source of valuable insight and news.

Remember, you can repurpose live-streamed content, so don't let it disappear. Record it and repost the footage on your website or in a video archive. Additionally, most social platforms allow you to share a stream after it has concluded, so get as many eyes on your video as possible while the content is fresh.

Ensure your live stream goes right

Live streaming can be an effective way to generate authentic engagement with your audience, but if you don't plan ahead, viewers will notice. On a live stream, you only get one chance to execute. Any errors will be visible to everyone who tunes in. If your stream lags or is difficult to hear due to poor bandwidth or other technical issues, viewers aren't going to stick around. Proper execution will require coordinating several moving parts, and that can be nerve-wracking. Follow these five guidelines, and your first live stream will be more likely to go smoothly:

1. Don't stream just to stream. A live stream shouldn't be entirely scripted – after all, you're not auditioning for a movie role – but you should be familiar with some streaming best practices and have key talking points in mind. Keep it casual and focus on your goal for the stream: expanding your audience, nurturing leads or teasing a new product.

2. Control what you can. A live stream is less likely to turn into a PR disaster if you're in control of your environment. Streaming from a crowded convention room will be chaotic. On the other hand, streaming from a locked studio removes distractions, keeps out unwanted participants and ensures your audience can clearly see and hear you. If you're still new to streaming, consider waiting to go live until you're in an optimal environment.

3. Accurately title your stream to eliminate confusion. Viewers won't tune in if they don’t know what your stream is about, so make sure your headlines and descriptions are clear. Not everyone will join as soon as you go live, and viewers will be more likely to join and engage after your stream has started if they have a little context.

4. Market your streams. A spontaneous live stream may sound like a fun idea, but over the long term, you'll reach more people if you plan (and promote) streams in advance. Share a streaming calendar and provide advanced notice about upcoming topics so your audience can make time to watch. Doing this ensures viewers don't tune in to streams that aren’t relevant to them and allows them to spread the word about those that are.

5. Engage and communicate with your viewers. Generating engagement is the whole point of a live stream. Don't get too caught up in trying to make it perfect or you'll forget to interact with your viewers. Pay attention to the feedback they provide and offer incentives to watch (e.g., discount codes or merchandise giveaways). Answer viewers' questions if you can, and ask them questions, too. The more interactive your stream, the more your viewers will participate in the future.

Live streaming can be a great tool in your small business's marketing kit – if you know how to implement it correctly. If you're a new streamer, follow these tips and aim for small wins first. It won't take long to start feeling like a live-streaming pro, and that's when the fun really starts.

Image Credit: Image caption: TZIDO SUN/Shutterstock
Hope Horner
Hope Horner Member
Hope Horner is CEO and founder of Lemonlight, a video production company that produces and distributes branded video content at scale. Hope is a three-time entrepreneur who has been featured in Inc., KABC, Extra, and other publications highlighting her successes in the Silicon Beach community over the past decade.