5 Tips for Going Live for Your Business

5 Tips for Going Live for Your Business #socialmediamarketing

5 Tips for Going Live for Your Business

Here in Austin, Texas, it’s nearly time for SXSW (South by Southwest) which means droves of creative types — coming from sectors ranging from Tech and Thought Leadership to Film and Music — are descending upon our ever-evolving city. In years past, I’ve had the pleasure of being a SXSW mentor and official meet-up host, but I won’t be participating in the conference in that capacity this year. Nonetheless, I will be there with bells on, soaking up knowledge from the myriad of speakers, enjoying a few shows, and most importantly, supporting friends whose bands are performing. (Note: if you’re in the neighborhood, check out Urban Heat and Parker Woodland.) The latter brings me to why I’m writing this article.

While brainstorming potential social media assets with Parker Woodland frontwoman, Erin Walter, we delved into opportunities to fully embrace and share the music festival experience with the band’s audience, particularly through live video. This conversation reminded me of a workshop I taught in 2022 at h+h americas, focusing on the basics of ‘going live’ as a cost-effective promotional tool for businesses. In all honesty, that conference was in a completely unrelated industry to the one we locals call, “South by”, but in reality, the principle of using live video to help create meaningful connections with customers rings just as true for filmmakers promoting their latest flick or musicians building a fanship. In that vein, I’ve summarized that talk here for all of you creative types (and perhaps, especially for those who don’t necessarily identify as that, but are willing to play along in the spirit of marketing experimentation). Here are my 5 Tips for Going Live for Your Business.

#1 Get Equipped: Lights, Camera, Angle?

There are four main, equipment components to successful live streaming (aka “going live”). It’s not complicated, nor does it require a huge investment, but being equipped with the right tools is paramount to your live videos being a successful branding initiative. After all, if your followers can see and hear you from the get-go, they’re likely to just keep on scrolling. Not only does this mean that you’ve wasted your own valuable time creating the live video, but you may also inadvertently hurt the chances of those same followers clicking on your videos in the first place. Let’s avoid that. Here are the must-have gadgets for going live for your brand.

  • Candid Camera: For most of us, using the camera that we all carry around in our pockets is the best option for going live, either remotely or from our home bases. Smartphone cameras have evolved to an extraordinary level over the past decade, now offering the ability to shoot up to 4k (or in some cases, 8k!) resolution. In other words, the 720p-1080p level that most streaming platforms support is more than within the realm of what your iPhone or Android phone can achieve. Pro-tip: spring for the larger “Pro” version of your chosen smartphone so that you have more screen to see those live comments scrolling by during your video!

  • Stand & Deliver: Later, we’ll talk about the varying types of live streams, which will inform the needed stand. Universally, though, a tabletop tripod (bonus points if it’s poseable!) with a smartphone mount that’s compact enough to throw in a bag on-the-go, will do the job. For specific approaches, however, also consider getting a reliable phone mount for your car (for use while parked), and if relevant, a telescoping stand that can handle overhead/first-person perspective shots.

  • Let There Be Light!: If live video is your medium, then the subject of it being visible is crucial. Enter, lighting. First and foremost, there’s nothing like natural light when it comes to videography. If you have the opportunity to shoot in indirect (shade is great), light from the actual sun then the good news is that you have all of the lighting equipment you need to stream from your favorite event! If that’s not the case, though, consider investing in a Ring Light (also doubles as a stand, huzzah!) for close, single (one-person) streams, and a set-up of 2-3 LED stand lights for wide or multi-person shots.

  • Mic Drop: If your viewers can’t hear you, then they probably won’t learn or buy from you. They definitely won’t be able to enjoy the hard-hitting interview you just gave, or listen to a live, acoustic version of that single you just dropped! Since here we’re focusing on mobile video, I recommend keeping portable microphones like phone-compatible, Bluetooth-capable lavaliers or plug-in directional mics in your live video arsenal.

#2 Know Your Type: How & when to choose the format of your live video.

There are all types of live videos, and each can have value. Here are just a few approaches to consider when going live for your brand.

  • Check-in / Q&A: Connect with your audience by jumping on a live feed to check in on their progress during a collective project, create hype with some insider scoop leading up to a big event, or answer a few pre-submitted customer questions that showcase your brand’s commitment to community-building.

  • Reveal/Unboxing: Humans love a big (or frankly, even a small) reveal! If your company is launching a new product, or you have a new TV series in production, going live to unbox that product prototype or reveal the show poster will give your followers the benefit of experiencing your excitement with you.

  • How-To/Informational: Doing live tutorials or talks will feel less informal than a pre-recorded, e-course or YouTube video. Folks will feel like they’re with you while you’re explaining whatever topic fits within your brand’s mission, and with that comes less of an expectation for sleek production and perfectly smooth presentation. This approach might feel risky, but it’s authentic and that is invaluable when it comes to building (and keeping) an audience.

  • Interview/Conversation: Pre-planned live interviews and impromptu, informal conversations are both great ways to cross-promote with fellow artists, experts, and entrepreneurs. Whether you’re having a conversation with a social activist about a hot-button topic, or interviewing an author visiting your bookstore, there’s something about seeing these moments unfold in real time, that makes us feel included. Speaking of inclusion, looping in a few viewer comments into your convo stream goes a long way!

Knowing what type of live format to choose, and when to go live is largely a trial-and-error operation. A good place to start, though, is by focusing on your audience and their needs. Step back, and think about why your audience comes to you. For fun? For inspiration? For information? For insider tips? All of the above?

Once you’ve identified what draws your audience to your brand, consider what format you’re most comfortable with. If possible, experiment with different types of live videos at various times of the day and stick with what works best; discard what doesn’t.

#3 Have a Plan: But, be willing to go with the flow.

No matter what type of live video you choose to do — scripted Q&A, ad hoc unboxing, whatever — I highly recommend having at least an idea of what you’re going to do beforehand. That said, unless it’s necessary, memorizing a speech isn’t ideal for live-stream marketing. It detracts from the in-the-moment vibe of the medium. There’s no real winning methodology here. Our brains all work differently, so ask yourself if you’re better at improvising (off a baseline idea), or if things will go smoother with a bullet-point list. Choose your own, least anxiety-inducing adventure!

Lastly, prepare for the unexpected. Live video is unpredictable, and while having a plan is crucial, remain open to changes. Embrace the imperfections, as viewers often relate to the authenticity of unscripted moments. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect; live video is about being genuine and free-flowing!

#4 Be Yourself: You Do You, Boo.

The prospect of creating live video content may feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It may help to keep in mind that your audience is there for one reason: YOU (i.e. your brand, your project, your expertise, your product). This means there’s no need to put on airs. Trust in the story you tell by simply being yourself. If you’re introspective and intellectual, your audience will be interested in your quiet observations. If you’re a natural comedian, your people will love your goofy take. If you’re a big ol’ dork who majored in theater for one year in community college and feels the need to not let that experience go to waste, your followers will humor you (there may be a reason that example was oddly specific. If you’re a hot mess, but earnest, your viewers will feel at home with you.

Know this, transparency builds loyalty. You, as the spokesperson for your brand, your product, your shop, or yourself, are the most important component of your live video.

#5 Make it Work (and Keep Working) for You: Reuse Live Content!

Real talk: the amount of hustle involved in social marketing is a behemoth. Creating live content can be daunting and feel never-ending. Consider it, however, as a valuable part of a larger body of communication rather than a disappearing act of effort. Once the live stream is over, be sure to save it to your device so you can repurpose the video later. Here are a few ways to recycle your stream:

  • Create a “Live” Playlist on YouTube, so these assets become a series.

  • Include a link to the previously recorded live broadcast in a newsletter. ICYMI (in case you missed it) prompts are highly effective in an age when we’re all inundated with so much information that we invariably miss even the stuff we’re truly interested in.

  • Upload the recording of your live stream from one platform onto a completely different platform. Although there will be some audience cross-over, the additional community views will make it worth it!

Going live from SXSW, or anywhere else? Tag @vickiehowell on Instagram or Facebook, so I can cheer you on from the comments section!