Live streaming is quickly taking over traditional video as the top content choice for reaching targeted audiences. The average watch time for a on-demand video is about 3 minutes, compared to a live event which averages about 30 minutes - you can’t argue with those numbers, viewers stick around when there’s something live to watch!
With its growing demand, more and more platforms are joining the live stream arena. Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo - all have options for bringing your event to a live audience. So the big question is, how do you choose which platform is the best to reach your audience?
To narrow down your choices, it’s better to ask these two, important questions: Who is your audience? and What social platforms do they already use?
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? or is it, “If a live stream happens on Periscope and your audience is on Facebook, did you even stream?
When narrowing down your options, you’ll want to be aware of each platform’s built-in strengths and weaknesses.
Twitch - Gamer's Paradise
Twitch viewers are passionate, they love their platform, and spend dozens of hours each week finding new content. As of May 2018, Twitch has reached about 15 million daily active users, and continues to grow today. That being said, it doesn't necessarily mean all content would be successful on the Twitch platform.
Twitch audiences tends to skew towards young men, so content that matches with this demographic will most likely perform better. This includes anything gaming related, but can also extend into music, entertainment, and lifestyle content.
If you plan on using Twitch, definitely think about a long-term strategy. It’s much better for regularly produced content, such as talk shows or lifestyle blogs, than it is for a one-off or semi-regular event.
One extra advantage to consider: Twitch has a number of third-party engagement features that are great for raising money. This includes support for subscriptions, micro-transactions, and gamification. So if you’re raising money for a nonprofit, Twitch may be a good solution for you!
YouTube - The Reliable One
Probably the most user friendly option, YouTube’s streaming options are pretty simple and come with a lot of extra perks. One of the biggest is its ability to create a nicely encoded streaming video to be embedded on any website. Another bonus: YouTube will automatically save a recording of your stream to be used for on-demand viewing in the future.
If you’re hoping to document the analytics of your stream, including number of viewers, time watched, and average view duration, YouTube provides these at no extra cost and can even be exported into a spreadsheet for easy documentation.
YouTube also allows you to make simple edits, like trimming off tops and tails of a video. This means you can start the stream on a hold graphic early and not worry about boring your video-on-demand viewers later.
There are just a few downsides to streaming on Youtube. First, unless your organization already has a bunch of YouTube subscribers, you’ll probably have to do a bit more promotion to get viewers over to Youtube. And second, YouTube’s strict copyright bots, also known as their Content ID algorithm, can be a bit of a pain if you’re using copywritten music or other media. This issue has gotten a lot more manageable, with options to turn monetization on for your channel, but it’s still a potential issue.
Facebook Live - The New Guy in Town
Facebook Live is a great option for many clients because it brings the stream right into the timelines of their audience. When you go live, users that have liked or followed your page will automatically be alerted via a notification.
Because Facebook prioritizes live videos over other types of content, live streams are more likely to appear in a user’s timeline. You should still do the same amount of work to promote your Facebook live streams, but it definitely makes it easier if you’re streaming to a platform where your audience is already active.
Facebook Live offers a robust commenting and reaction feature, so your audience’s reactions float on top of the live stream - super fun! And with its acquisition of Vidpresso, we expect many more interactive features to appear.
Setting up and managing a stream is pretty easy, and a “paired encoder” feature makes it simple to produce content for brands that may have locked down administrative privileges.
Some of the difficulties that Facebook presents are a not-quite-intuitive setup process for scheduled streams, which makes working in conjunction with a client’s social media teams very important.
Like YouTube, Facebook’s copyright infringement policies are very strict. There have been many reports of questionable copyright complaints causing streams to go down in the middle of a broadcast.
If your event may include copyrighted material - whether it’s a song playing in the background, or a video clip that’s owned by a publishing house - it’s best to steer clear of Facebook. Provided you have all your rights in order, there are plenty of other platforms available that may be better suited to your content. Alternatively, you can replace your copyrighted material with royalty-free content, then everyone’s happy!
Periscope/Twitter - A Little “Old School”
With their acquisition of Periscope in 2015, Twitter joined the live streaming world and is still a popular streaming platform for large events, such as concerts and political speeches.
Their analytics have most of the same data as Youtube, but in a slightly more difficult to read format, and their “time watched” data is displayed in seconds. If you have a really long stream on twitter, be sure to break out your calculator!
Because Periscope was initially designed for smartphones, their settings for multi-camera encoders are less intuitive than one would hope. You’ll have to be sure that your settings (especially things like keyframes) are set exactly as Periscope requires before you start streaming. However, on the Producer backend, Periscope will tell you exactly what the settings are and what they need to be, so you should be able to fix these things relatively quickly if there is an issue.
Mobile Only Streaming Platforms - Quick and Scrappy
Snapchat and Instagram are the two largest apps to feature mobile-only live streaming. Because they are only able to stream from mobile devices, they’re not great if you want a high-production multi-cam stream; however, they do still have their benefits.
These platforms are great for quick streams, such as Behind The Scenes of a live event or trade show floors. They can even be used to supplement a larger stream on a different platform! We are partial to our “Connor Cam” when producing our “State of the Art” Live show that gives our audience an up-close and personal view of our streaming engineer, Connor!
Unfortunately, these mobile platforms don’t offer much in the way of analytics, but they make up for it by targeting audiences. Younger viewers who are more likely to consume media via their phones are much more likely to be found here.
As a quick tip: use a phone gimbal or tripod to get a steady shot, and add a smartphone pre-amp so you can get audio directly from your venue. This will make the viewing experience much better, especially for your viewers who get motion sickness!
Live streaming is a great tool for connecting with an existing audience, and it’s always best to utilize the platform where you're seeing the greatest amount of audience engagement. If you follow this golden rule, you’ll be all setup for streaming success!