Opinion: Stream me up, Scotty

With some touting live streaming as ‘the new Selfie’ and others predicting its demise, it’s hard to know what to believe. Raakhi Chotai explains why it’s here to stay.

Meerkat’s debut at SXSW, followed by Twitter’s $100m acquisition of Periscope, and now Facebook’s move into live streaming has firmly established the medium as part of the communications landscape. Initially designed for citizen reporting and broadcasting newsworthy experiences, live streaming is now being used for product demonstrations, broadcasting behind-the-scenes content and even as part of the US presidential race — Hilary Clinton live-streamed her first presidential rally on Periscope.

When Meerkat and Periscope first rose to prominence earlier this year, critics were quick to condemn live streaming as a fad, with some blaming the US tech media for hugely over-exaggerating the potential of Meerkat, claiming that its $14m round of funding was based largely on hype.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. According to a recent Periscope blog post, a whopping 10 million users on Twitter-owned platform are watching 40 years’ worth of video per day through the app. And Facebook has just announced Facebook Live, a live video element for Facebook Mentions, the celebrity-only app that enables public figures to interact with their fans.

More than 4 billion videos are now viewed on Facebook every day, and for celebrities and influencers who have already built up a fanbase on the platform, live streaming directly via Mentions is a logical next step to help extend their reach.

Far from being relegated to the technology boneyard, it seems as though live streaming is catching on with consumers. Thanks to better bandwidth, faster phone networks and improved processing power, anyone with a smartphone can stream. And it’s that shift from desktop to mobile which is most exciting. Live streaming isn’t anything new — most of us regularly tune into a real-time webcasts on our laptops or smart TVs. But the ability to shoot and share video on our phones presents exciting opportunities for communication.

And now marketers are getting in on the act too. For brands, live streaming is a fast, inexpensive way to merge the excitement of live events with the personal engagement of mobile. In the next issue of Contagious magazine, I interview Chris Michaels, head of digital and publishing at The British Museum, who used Periscope to live stream a guided tour of one of its exhibitions. He said, ‘The challenge for brands is how to have a story that matters at the moment of being live. For some brands that is probably impossible.’

So far, we’ve seen Red Bull streaming secret gigs, Versace broadcasting breakfast in bed with Donatella herself, and Adidas Periscoping Real Madrid’s James Rodríguez signing his new contract with the brand. The creative possibilities for brands to experiment are plentiful — and there is a real opportunity for them to use interactive live streaming to build a stronger relationship with their audience.

(This article was originally published on contagious.com, 24/9/15).