live streaming for marketing & public relationsLive events are captivating, engaging, and attract large audiences. Sports, theater and music have demonstrated the power of “live” for centuries. TV broadcasters have capitalized on the excitement of live events for decades. With the development of live online video streaming, businesses can now easily and inexpensively create and broadcast live events.

Major brands have begun employing live steaming for PR and marketing. Through Twitter’s Periscope and the new Facebook Live, companies can stream live events to viewers, much like live television.

While Twitter introduced its app last year and has since supplanted Meerkat, a similar app, Facebook first offered live streaming to a limited number of users last year and only recently began providing it to all users.

“We’re entering this new golden age of videos online,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Buzzfeed News. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.”

Brands that Use Live Streaming

Southwest Airlines recently streamed its operation control center during a snowstorm to show it was working hard to keep its aircraft moving. Over 100,000 viewers watched the video, vastly surpassing the company’s expectations, according to the Financial Times.

BMW showed its new M2 coupe on Periscope and Target streamed a Lilly Plitzer fashion event in New York. Target also sponsored a live commercial featuring a performance by pop star Gwen Stefani, and used Periscope, Facebook Live and Snapchat to show real-time behind-the-scenes footage.

“The requirements of marketing have evolved in the last five to seven years, away from paying for slick packaging for messaging to force on the consumer,” Kristi Argyilan, Target’s senior vice-president of marketing, told the Financial Times. Customers “want to engage in dialogue with a brand and for a brand to be really authentic in how we’re presenting ourselves.”

Potential PR & Marketing Topics

Possible PR and marketing subjects for live streaming include:

Events. Streaming can show company-sponsored concerts and other events to people who cannot attend.

Q&A sessions. Q&A sessions humanize your brand, answer customers’ questions and address current problems.

Behind the scenes views. Tours of a company’s offices or factories often interest viewers.

Celebrity take-overs. Brands sometimes allow a celebrity or social media influencer to run its social accounts to boost interest.

Product launches. Brands can showcase products, do a “live unboxing” or provide a firsthand look at prototypes to build excitement as the release date approaches. “This’ll be an interesting trend to follow, as major brands will likely invest in this strategy to gauge interest and enhance buzz around new releases,” writes digital marketing strategist Samuel Edwards for Entrepreneur

As applications for live streaming technology evolve, early adopters face challenges and risks. Live events are susceptible to mistakes that cannot be edited out. Audience comments can be difficult to control, and marketing benefits are more difficult to measure. For many businesses and not-for-profits, including universities, the risks are worth taking to achieve the goal of attracting, engaging and exciting large audiences.

Bottom Line: As more companies use live streaming, the technology as well as marketing practices will probably continue to evolve. It’s not yet clear if marketers will prefer Facebook, Twitter or another platform. Although it’s uncertain how many consumers will embrace live streaming through social media networks, more organizations will probably try the apps.