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Eyeballs in the stream? Should B2Bs be jumping into live video?

Video livestreaming services have been around for a while. But with new apps such as Periscope and Meerkat now bringing the technology centre stage, many B2B businesses will be considering whether to start using this as another way of connecting with target audiences.

 

But is livestreaming suitable, or indeed worthwhile? Writing for Business.com recently, content manager Shayna Marks suggests that brands should be wary of getting carried away by all the hype.

 

As the article notes, on paper livestreaming sounds like a marketer's dream, providing the opportunity to talk face-to-face (near enough), and in real time, about your business, product or service to an enthusiastic target audience.

For B2B businesses, there are a number of obvious ways that this technology can be applied, especially for streaming conferences and major company events. Some have even suggested the new technology could ultimately replace the entire concept of webinars.

Before the likes of Periscope and Meerkat, companies wishing to leverage livestreaming had to deploy some pretty sophisticated technology as well as needing access to high technical skill levels and a chunky budget. This was enough to put it out of reach for most businesses.

So if the two apps have now lowered the barriers to entry, surely that can only be a good thing? Perhaps.  But only if the ultimate viewership numbers are worth all the effort...which, as things stand, they may not be.

According to Nuvi figures reported by AdWeek, for example, Periscope users shared livestream content just over 1.5 million times on Twitter from March to May this year. Meerkat's numbers on Twitter seem to have been pretty similar during that period.

While these figures may sound quite reasonable for what are, after all, only recently-launched platforms, marketers should be far more interested in viewing figures than streaming volumes. Even if the average stream had an average of 100 simultaneous viewers (which Marks says is very generous, seeing as most she's seen struggle to muster more than about 25), that only amounts to some 151 million views over a three-month period. So less than 2 million a day.

Compare this to the activity seen on other networks and you'd be forgiven for thinking it's not even worth getting out of bed for. Facebook, for example, has around 750 million daily active users on mobile alone, while there are more than 70 million images posted to Instagram every day.

Of course, it usually takes a while for any new technology or platform to catch on, so it would be a mistake to rush to any firm conclusions. I, for one, certainly wouldn't rule out live streaming technology being right at the forefront of social media marketing a few years from now.

But what approach should B2Bs be taking on video streaming in the here and now? My advice to clients is that there's no need to rush into it. They should take plenty of time to explore and experiment with the channel - seeing where the ROI possibilities lie - before leaping into any major investment.

The fact is that, with livestreaming still in its infancy, there's every chance that another killer platform could emerge in the next year or two. Facebook would be the most obvious candidate - in fact they launched a 'celebrity-only video streaming service earlier this month and it would be surprising if a mass market product wasn't already on their radar, which could blow the likes of Persicope and Meerkat out of the water.

In a nutshell, I feel confident in saying that livestreaming has a huge role in the future of social media marketing...but zero confidence in predicting which will be the dominant platform 10, 5, even 3 years from now.

So DO keep your options open and be prepared for livestreaming to become an integral part of your long term social media strategy. But DON'T bet the farm by committing to a single platform - at least until there's more maturity in the technology and some of the big players like Facebook have showed their hand.

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