By Michael Foster
Facebook announced sudden plans to let celebrities live stream through Facebook’s mobile platform. Mockingly (lovingly?) called Facescope by some, the program tells us a lot of things.
First, it tells us Facebook knows how important video is for this generation of Internet users. Video is the most easily monetizable at the highest price point, and video consumption seems to keep expanding into infinity. On top of that, video content is becoming easier and easier to produce and distribute, making it an easy and significant addition to the monstrous and growing Facebook ecosystem.
Secondly, it tells us Twitter’s value with Periscope, or Meerkat, or both, is limited. We all knew the app was powerful when it first came out, and Twitter was quick to buy Periscope after Meerkat took the Internet’s elite by storm at SXSW. But then something strange happened: Advertisers shrugged and the populace at large, beyond the power-users and YouTube stars and who-knows-what-else infests the hipster-laden streets of Austin in March, dismissed the platform as a cute gimmick with little real value.
Thirdly, it tells us that the Internet is becoming more than a place where people go to watch recorded and uploaded content; it’s becoming a way to have a more immediate experience with people far away. Videoconferencing, meetings and webinars have been with us for years (and who doesn’t love a good GoToMeeting catch-up with the regional offices in Tulsa, San Antonio and Spokane?), but now live streaming is cool. It’s hip. It’s vital. Or so Facebook and Twitter seem to think.
Whether this is a trend or a real development of value for marketers remains to be seen. For now, lead generation marketers have struggled with video as a general rule, and live streaming seems to be one step too far from today’s world of pre-roll marketing. How do you generate leads from a live stream? Infomercials? Live presentations? Interactive Q&A with Dwayne "The Rock” Johnson sponsored by your brand? Will any of these deliver a lift to campaigns at low cost?
I wouldn’t throw away my AdSense account in exchange for a big live streaming blitz quite yet.
Still, the live streaming revolution could cause some critical changes in user behavior and expectations. It is clear that today’s Internet user requires live, responsive and interactive media. Marketers who offer only texts and an image here and there are likely to underperform.
The live video trend also shows us that dynamic media is getting easier to access from users across the Internet. Slow loading times are still a concern for a few, but that concern is diminishing as compression technologies improve, processors get faster and bandwidth grows. Video is getting easier to transmit, so marketers need to get used to producing and distributing it.
Finally, the world is mobile-first. Facebook now earns almost three-quarters of its revenue from mobile devices, and the Periscope/Meerkat/whatever-Facebook-is-doing are all mobile first. This mobile trend is not going to stop, and the few marketers left who avoid mobile will keep losing money to the savvier ones who know mobile has become the most important vehicle in getting traffic to your site. Yes, mobile converts poorly and, yes, ad campaigns are tough to do on small screens. You need to adapt.
It will be some time before live streaming becomes a mainstay of a lead generation campaign, but until then it’s vital for lead generation marketers to be aware of how Internet user behavior and expectations are changing so that they can pre-empt those expectations in future campaigns. Those that can figure this out will outperform and see sales grow while those who can’t will eventually go the way of the dinosaur.
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