Live-streaming -- the process of broadcasting in real time, via the internet, video of some product or event involving your business -- isn't for everyone.
A lot of people make the costly error of going live prematurely or without a plan just to try out the "shiny new toy" in the room. I've even known entrepreneurs who have tried out this new-ish channel just to see how many viewers they could attract in a short period.
In essence, they were looking for an ego boost.
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Don’t do this! It can hurt your brand more than help. If your live-stream focus isn’t on the consumer -- your audience -- you’re already losing their hearts and minds. And both are needed to convert a sale. So, to convert for sales, do you or don't you stream? That's the question. And, is live-streaming a risk you want to take?
Follow these rules to make sure this channel works for, instead of against, your business.
1. Don’t live-stream to boost or feed your ego.
As mentioned, live-streaming to boost your ego hurts your brand more than helps. “Video is an unforgiving medium,” Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing Inc., told me. “Lights and sound are only a part of the problem. People naturally aren’t good on camera, for the most part. [So, if you intend to] take all those issues, and then throw in the fact that it’s live? -- oy!”
2. Don’t livestream to talk about what you do or what you’re selling.
If your focus isn’t on your consumer audience, you'll lose them. Use live-stream video to showcase your brand or products in a way that connects to consumers. Don't focus just on selling; focus on forming and deepening relationships with your audience and adding value to their lives -- value that will exist with or without you.
“Live-streaming gives entrepreneurs the ability to share the personality and passion behind the brand and to showcase why you created your product or service,” Stephanie Lichtenstein, president of Micro Media Marketing, told me.
3. Don’t livestream without a plan or goals.
If you’re going to live-stream for your business, one of the best frameworks I’ve found for strategically thinking about your stream is “The Five C’s: Composition, Content, Characters, Continuity, and Closure,” by Derek Hubbard, social business specialist at Southwest Airlines, who sees live-streaming as a way to go "behind the curtain," to reveal, and to recruit.
Be sure, as well, to set goals for your stream. How will you measure its success?
4. Don’t live-stream without understanding the composition of the shot.
Composition consists of the makeup of the shot itself. What's the location? The backdrop? The view? Will it be stagnant or mobile? Personally, I’ve made the mistake of going into a live-stream without giving the stream composition enough thought, and the quality suffered.
Picking a location or background because it looks cool may not be a move in your favor. Always consider lighting and acoustics. If people can’t hear you and can’t see you, the value of the stream erodes fast.
5. Don’t live-stream without a purpose.
Your content should be top of mind. In other words, what is the purpose of your stream? What key pieces of information do you want to convey? What content will you feature? Is it information that can readily be shown on video without causing confusion?
Remember, content shouldn’t be about you, but about making a connection with your audience. Just presenting information on a new service, for example, isn’t a good idea. However, sharing stories and interactions on how a service can help others adds value to your audience and relates to who your consumers really are.
“Authenticity is the killer app, and entrepreneurs can create passionate fan bases by giving customers live, behind-the-scenes peeks into what happens behind the entrepreneurial curtain,” Jay Baer, president of Convince and author of Hug Your Haters, told me.
6. Don’t livestream unless you know all, and have communicated with, the players.
Think of the characters and players in your live-stream. Who is involved in your stream? This doesn’t just include the people in the video itself, but also those interacting online. During my first live-stream, I learned the hard way the importance of putting in a description of the stream, in order to take questions from the audience.
In some settings, this isn’t possible. In others, it is. Either way is acceptable, but you must communicate to your audience what you're doing. I do this in the description and at multiple points during the stream.
7. Don’t use a live-stream unless it fits into the bigger picture.
You want to make sure your stream has continuity. Does it continue with your brand story? A consumer’s journey? An organizational culture? Or does it break a cycle and confuse your viewers? Doing a livestream for the sake of doing a livestream isn’t wise.
Make sure it fits into your current outreach strategy and portrays the image you want for your business.
8. Don’t live-stream without a follow-up or post-production plan.
Finally, think about closure. What is your plan for after the stream? How are you going to compile and use the stream data? How are you going to leverage the content? Did you achieve the goal(s) for your stream? How will you measure success?
Then, perhaps most importantly, think about and convey what is the next step for the viewer.