Facebook Live seems to be all the rage nowadays in marketing for small or big businesses alike. Concepts like “user engagement” and “draw attention towards the brand” ignited everyone’s imagination and desire to win the marketing game over night. But since the new Facebook Live opportunity expanded this year from verified pages to company pages and personal profiles, things got heated up in many unexpected ways.
Starting April this year, social media specialists raced against each other to tell the whole world how important it was for your business to focus on “the next big thing” and start streaming live content with limitless benefits.
Others took the trend with a grain of salt and explored the failures and the dangers of Facebook Live streaming. We will take a walk on the wild side today and see some examples of things gone good or wrong and try to understand if Facebook Live is truly meant to push your business on the highest peaks of success.
A Word from the Industry
Everybody knows by now that video content trumps written content. Humans’ attention span is shrinking by the minute. This is why video is considered today the new king of media. According to statistics, video accounts for around 96% of B2B marketing strategies – and reports a staggering 73% of positive ROI. Once Facebook Live became available to anyone with a Facebook account and a smartphone, the industry rushed to embrace the new trend and experiment with it.
The benefits of streaming live content for your fans, followers, and potential clients can be summarized as follows:
- Given the fact that there are around one hundred million Internet users who watch video content on a daily basis, you have the potential to reach and engage newer and newer audiences.
- People long for authenticity when it comes to brands, so they will be thrilled to see how your brand strips down and allows them to get a sneak peek behind the curtains.
- Live streaming on Facebook allows users to engage with the real people behind a brand, gaining confidence and applauding transparency, as everybody seems to be tired to engage only with a logo or a website.
- Brands now can spend less time on marketing as it takes only a few live streaming minutes to get to the people you want to keep close in comparison to hours and days of written content planning or ads creation.
- Social video generates 1,200% more engagement (Likes and Shares) than images and text combined.
Looking at all these factors, one can quickly assume they found the Holy Grail of marketing. Mixing the world’s largest and most successful social media platform with the world’s favorite type of content should be by all means a winning bet. And yet, some got burned right after trying to amaze the world with their broadcasts.
Facebook Live Streaming Gone Sideways
1. When Authenticity is Anything But
One of the first examples of a poorly managed Facebook Live stream campaign was that of The New York Times. Earlier this May, The New York Times live streamed a pitching session for a politics story. Two reporters pitching an article to their politics editor was everything the industry was preaching: letting viewers behind the curtain, witnessing a part of the business, engaging with real people in real time, and have a blast at authenticity and transparency.
The problems started when the authenticity and transparency became a bit too much. Some of the people in that room spontaneously said things a media outlet wouldn’t want people to hear or learn. And this was just the tip of the iceberg: when you go live, you might say things that can backlash, make you look bad, want to take back or reek of hypocrisy.
Getting stripped in front of a camera and saying things that shouldn’t have been said turned the Facebook Live stream of The New York Times into an example of how not to do things. The Times mistakes didn’t stop here: the live stream disclosed confidential sources, broadcasted off-the-record or incorrect information and felt it was anything but authentic.
The conclusion: The New York Times didn’t show journalists pitching a new story to the editor, it pitched the viewers the idea of seeing journalists pitch a story to the editor. Needless to say, the Internet backlashed like the Internet does. The worst conclusion is that the live streaming was so boring, people took the time and effort to write about how boring it was.
2. A New Era of Violence: When Live Streaming Is Used to Promote Terrorism
The next example doesn’t come from a brand, but from an individual who took Facebook Live streaming way too far. An Arab man killed two police officers then broadcasted a video to encourage his followers to do the same: eradicate lawmakers, police officials, prison staff, and journalists for a braver, newer world. Facebook took down the video as quickly as it could, but ISIS took advantage of it to push its agenda.
3. What People Want Isn’t What You Think They Want
A man used Facebook Live to broadcast the birth of his child, wanting to share the miracle of life with his friends and followers. It didn’t have the expected result. The man’s intention backfired and the whole deal led to a wave of criticism because apparently, no matter how miraculous the act of birth really is, the Internet doesn’t want to see a woman’s womb up close.
In the beginning, Facebook Live allowed only some pages and business to broadcast live streams. The now infamous Map let individuals have a glimpse of what was really happening in the world. One marketer took a walk around and what she saw made her skin crawl. In her own words,
Facebook Livemap is the virtual catwalk of those who probably don’t get too much attention otherwise. What you experience is some weird voyeurism of people who share rather boring moments of their life, hoping they’ll get some attention. Brands and people that advertise with Facebook Live should save us from the unwanted personal show-off. – Alexandra Damian, Content Marketing Specialist, Netlogiq LLC
It is true that in the marketing world, one would (hopefully) never broadcast offensive, violent, boring, disturbing, or confidential content. But since we all want to be original and truly gain that user engagement and shares, the question is: what should your company broadcast?
The Current Facebook Live Marketing Trends
The idea is simple: broadcast video content that is interesting, fun, shareable without violating written and unwritten community standards, engaging and seductive enough to make people want more and come back the next time you stream. Easier said than done, but the industry has narrowed down a few trends and marketing techniques:
1. Behind-the-Scenes Videos
Let people step behind the curtains and show them a side of your business they can’t witness otherwise. Have them get a glimpse of your manufacturing processes, decision making, daily operations, creative meetings, and so on.
What can go wrong?
- Your competitors can equally see how you do things and get a few ideas of their own
- Do you really want to watch ten minutes of people arguing in a meeting?
- Your viewers may actually dislike what they see as you broadcast what you think is interesting, not what they think is interesting
2. Daily Tips
There are some successful Facebook Live streamers that have everything going for them. The best example is Guy Kawasaki, who streams daily tech tips and bits of his personal life. There are other experts, influencers, business people, and gurus in one field or another who have a fair share of followers as well. So the trend is to live stream tips and secrets of a trade or a service so that your users learn something useful.
What can go wrong?
- Your brand is not a famous influencer, so your followers won’t blindly believe the things you say
- You’re not active in a business in which sharing tips is useful to anybody – or at least worth watching
3. Company Events
You may organize an event, but of course, not all of your followers can attend. So you may broadcast a conference, a book launch, or a workshop and have your users glued to the screen. Next time you organize a different event, they will all be swarming to see what you are up to again.
What can go wrong?
- Your broadcast has a limited time frame. Let’s be honest: there is little excitement in a 15 minutes video of a conference where everything can go wrong from a technical and logistical point of view. If you are thinking about short, exciting, and powerful TED Talks videos, remember they are post-edited to look and sound good.
- Targeting: you assume all your followers and potential clients are interested in your live event broadcast. You might find that they aren’t. You might also find that usually people watch videos with the sound turned off.
- Timing: people are busy and usually working during the day, so you should better pick the right hour for a broadcast.
Get Outside the Box!
It would be unfair to say that Facebook Live didn’t register some success since it became available for everybody. McDonalds surely proved that a good idea can be successful if you invest some time and creativity. The giant hosted a live Facebook stream celebrating the National Hamburger Day. They had an improvisation comedian playing the role of Bevin Burger being showed as he would live paint three burger-inspired works. The comedian had the opportunity to answer questions addressed by the real-time viewers. He was wearing an ear piece and the team behind the operation sent him some interesting and relevant users’ questions he would answer during the improvisation.
What Went Right?
- The staging: this campaign was by no means a spontaneous burst of creativity. McDonalds and Leo Burnett joined hands to offer the viewers a well-thought video which allowed real-time engagement. Also, the three hamburger paintings were pre-made by an artist.
- The filtering: not all users’ questions were incorporated and answered in the video, which was probably for the best, as one answer gone sideways can compromise an entire operation. And we all know how quickly things fire up and backlash on social media.
- They didn’t sell anything: they used the National Hamburger Day to create a fun broadcast bringing together people’s love for hamburgers, well-performed comedy, and a goodwill message.
Is Facebook Live Really Meant for Businesses?
Truth be told, small and big business are still testing the waters. True, Guy Kawasaki and McDonalds are two examples that show you can do things the right way.
There are, however, some unbeaten paths that might interest you as a company and as a marketer. There are also some techniques you might want to test, tweak, and fine tune and experiment with to see if the Facebook Live feature is suitable for your business or audience.
1. Show, Don’t Tell
Since they are live, Facebook streams don’t come together with subtitles and many people watch videos with the sound off. This means that if you have something interesting to share with your audience use as few spoken words as you can.
Try showing them written messages on cardboard or papers to allow an introduction into the topic (and convince them to turn the sound on after the first ten seconds of the video) and then continue showing them interesting and useful stuff. You can also broadcast an interview by showing the answers not waiting for people to listen to the answers.
2. Find out What People Want to See
One of the biggest mistakes in social media marketing is that people assume and imagine what other people want to engage in. If you want to use the live opportunity, engage your audience beforehand and ask what they would like to witness.
The baking of a cake? The making of a shoe? The design of a logo? The Monday morning operative meeting? Use Facebook polls, Google polls, your custom newsletter or any means that can get you closer to your public’s real interest. You won’t get answers from all of your 12,000 Facebook page fans, but you will get some idea to begin with. You won’t like many answers either, but that’s a risk all marketers take.
3. Timing is of the Essence
McDonalds found out that their fans would sit through a 3-4 minutes video with no problems. Others pushed the limit to ten minutes videos. This is one of the trickiest things to tackle: how much patience has a person to watch a full stream? We are not talking about e-sports on Twitch! The issue of tailoring your live stream to a short, powerful, engaging and memorable video is not new.
There are 1-minute video ads that made history, so a 5-minute live stream can get you results. But live streaming comes with perils: someone stutters in front of the camera, there is background noise, the microphone stops working or the Internet connection blinks. Your fun stream can turn into a fiasco in seconds, and this is something not to take lightly. Test and retest and have some beta viewers give you feedback before you end up streaming a 30-minutes long silent reading session.
Anything can happen in live streaming, and many things can explode in your face. The idea of rehearsing your live stream until everything is just right should be a no brainer. You see live theater plays and those people rehearse no matter how well they know their parts. But rehearsal makes that feeling of authenticity disappear, so you need to find the balance between spontaneity and an edited YouTube video.
5. Facebook Live May Not Be Live at All
Think about it this way: you want well curated and interesting live videos to share, but avoid the dangers of actual live streaming. One of your best options is to pick a reliable cloud storing website and keep your live videos there. Nobody really encourages companies to broadcast pre-recorded videos as live streams, but this may be a working trick. People in the industry already wonder if a brand should actually stream their entire live content or handpick the most viral ones and give them a run.
Some people got the unfriend and block reaction after live streaming on Facebook. A few got arrested. Some companies registered a wave of harsh criticism, while others found out that people would actually watch them live. So far, there are more examples of failures or poor results than breathtaking successful outcomes. Before plunging head down into the most desirable marketing strategy of the year, make a thorough SWAT analysis of your project. Do you really have something to show or are you just following a controversial trend for the sake of being original?
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.