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How Entrepreneurs Can Leverage The Power Of Live-Streaming Apps

Live-video apps like Periscope can help your business, but you should consider these guidelines before jumping in.

How Entrepreneurs Can Leverage The Power Of Live-Streaming Apps
[Photo: Flickr user DISNEY CHANNEL, Image Group LA]

Unless you have been living in a disconnected, iPhone-free cave, you are certainly aware of the recent rise of live-streaming mobile apps. The most popular app in this category is Twitter’s Periscope, which allows users to stream live video from their iPhones to friends and strangers around the world.

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Periscope is already being hailed as a possible game changer–it gained 1 million users in the first 10 days after Twitter released it on March 26. Periscope’s applications are broad, and so far the app has been used for political messaging, sports broadcasts, news reporting, and much more.

Live-streaming presents some interesting possibilities for entrepreneurs, as well. Like any new social network, early adopters will have a massive strategic advantage. If you are considering using Periscope (or its smaller competitor, Meerkat) for your business, you will want to follow certain best practices. Here are the key points to consider.

1. Live-Streaming Is About Capturing Attention In The Moment

The digital world has conditioned us to expect access to things when we want them. For example, thanks to Netflix, we can watch our favorite TV shows whenever we want.

But live streams are more ephemeral than other types of online content.

Although Periscope does make it possible to archive material to YouTube, its major draw is its blink-and-you-miss-it nature. When you are broadcasting live, many viewers will join your stream midway through, so the traditional story-centric approach to video will not be as effective. Instead, treat live streaming as a venue for spontaneous conversation. Be prepared to respond (verbally) to viewers’ comments in the moment.

Viewers like to see the face of whoever is broadcasting, but you don’t just want to be another talking head. Try switching between selfie views and shots of the environment around you.

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Live video offers an opportunity to create an instant buzz around whatever it is you are promoting. Of course, this requires that you . . .

2. Be Compelling

Your beautifully produced corporate video features slick animations and makes your executive team look extra-attractive, thanks to professional lighting. However, there is nothing quite like the intimacy of live-streaming. Audiences want to be shown rather than told, and they want to feel involved with your brand.

“From the viewer’s perspective, the appeal is taking you behind the scenes–someplace you couldn’t have gone before–in real time,” says Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of online graphic design tool Canva, and a tech guru who has already explored some of the possibilities presented by Periscope. “There’s an excitement and immediacy to real time. It’s also tied into the perspective of whoever is shooting the video. You get to see something through their eyes.”

This last point can’t be overestimated. “It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation,” say the creators of Periscope. Done right, Periscope can cultivate a voice for your brand or business that’s impossible to match in almost any other medium.

If you can combine that voice with a compelling scene–be it a product launch or a visit to the factory where your first products are coming off the conveyer belt–you’re onto a winner.

3. Interact With Your Audience

Throughout history, we’ve seen a speeding up of how quickly content makers can respond to their audiences. Filmmakers can do this within a matter of years, reporters in a matter of days or weeks, and bloggers within minutes or hours. With Periscope, feedback can be gathered while you’re broadcasting.

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Real time goes both ways, and the importance of interaction during a live stream cannot be overstated.

This means you’re giving up a bit of control–it’s no longer about one person lecturing to a passive room–but it also opens up fantastic possibilities for innovations like live Q&A sessions or instantaneous product feedback. Want to truly make your audience a part of your brand? Try engaging a real-time focus group to critique a new idea, or put on an interactive concert for viewers. There are so many creative ways to capitalize on live-streaming’s interactive nature.

Just don’t forget to actually communicate with your audience. They want to hear and see the broadcaster, not just the scene.

4. Ask Yourself Whether An Idea Really Needs To Be Live

This is easily the biggest question around using live-streaming as part of your business right now. With the technology still new, you’re likely to be among the first to explore any new area of business. Some guy uploading shaky cellphone footage of a concert to YouTube? Not news. A concert streamed on Periscope? That’s news.

But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should. “Let’s say you’re a personal trainer shooting videos about how to get six-pack abs,” Kawasaki says. “That doesn’t need to be real time. On YouTube, that video could be getting tens of thousands of views over the next three years. But if you’re doing something that depends on the fact that it’s live–for instance, a major news event–it can add a tremendous amount.”

Working out the right balance is going to be a matter of trial and error, depending on your business. Just make sure you have a plan.

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5. The Perils Of Being An Early Adopter

Of course, as exciting as Periscope is for those willing to jump in and explore, it is still in its early stages. The number of users is growing all the time, but you’re not yet going to see YouTube-size audiences.

Kawasaki also points out that there are a number of challenges that will need to be rectified in order for the tool to reach its potential. For instance, currently the app can’t shoot in landscape mode. There are also issues with bandwidth, its lack of availability on Android, possible security issues, and the fact that the app won’t allow users to shoot videos at two different resolutions: higher res for rebroadcast and archiving, and lower res for live-streaming.

“Right now you’re choosing between low-quality video and real-time, or shooting higher quality but missing out on the live factor,” Kawasaki says.

Long term, though, he thinks that improvements can be made. “I don’t think these are fundamental flaws with the concept [of live-streaming],” he says. “These are version-one problems that need to be fixed, and then the question will be whether or not the novelty is still there.”

The Periscope app, despite its flaws, does offer a tantalizing glimpse at what the future of live-streaming could be. And for some bold entrepreneurs, that promise may be enough to get them to dip their toes into the water to explore this new medium.

They just need to make sure they’re doing it the right way.

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But, hey, if being an early adopter were straightforward, everyone would be doing it, right?

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