Live streaming is here to stay, as more and more brands across different industries are adopting it to better connect with their audiences virtually. By 2024, the audience for live video streaming is expected to reach 164.6 million viewers in the US.
Going live on a stream offers an exciting way to engage your customers, get in touch with your audience (especially the Gen Z demographic), and grow your business. Plus, it's also highly cost-efficient and doesn't require fancy equipment to get started.
If it's your first time considering live streaming, your mind might be full of questions, and knowing where to start can feel confusing.
What Is Live Streaming and How Does It Work?
Live streaming involves using software to record and broadcast live content simultaneously to a worldwide online audience. It can include video game streams, social media content, TV broadcasts, and virtual concerts.
Some of the most popular live-streaming apps you've likely heard about include YouTube, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, and TikTok. The critical components of streaming include:
Video capture is the first step to live streaming content. During this part of the process, the camera captures the visual information that gets interpreted as digital data during the stream before it is encoded.
Live-streaming technology compresses the visuals into a codec to store the video content and deliver it to an online audience. The encoding then converts the visual data into a new format so that it can become compatible with different devices. Some of the most common encoding formats include H.264, H.265, AV1, and VP9.
Live streaming isn't possible without segmentation. Segmentation divides the video data into smaller segments to avoid glitches and better align video/audio during the streaming. It's an essential part of broadcasting since video content contains much more data to process than other types of files, such as music content or PDFs.
The CDN distribution part of live streaming helps retain high-quality video with minimal latency. It achieves this by distributing the broadcast through a server network that caches the visual content. That way, viewers can view high-quality streaming content regardless of location.
Decoding and Video Playback
The user's device interprets the information of the visual content and displays it to the user. To do this, the device decodes and decompresses the segmented visual data after the live stream's delivery to get it to play for the user.
What are the types of live streaming?
There are several types of live streaming. Each type depends on the goal of the stream and the audience's needs.
- Live video streaming: Audio and video is captured and streamed live for users to comment and interact in real time. This type of live streaming is especially helpful to promote products or services or for educational purposes. For example, if you are showcasing a new product or service, using a live-streaming service will be more useful and actionable. This is because viewers will be able to see the product and ask questions.
- Video on demand:Audio and video are captured live and recorded for users to watch at a later time. This is especially helpful for content that can be evergreen and repurposed. For example, a live webinar that gets recorded and repurposed for content in blogs.
- Audio streaming: When audio is captured live and recorded. This is helpful if your goal is to build awareness and interest. For example, if you're conducting an interview, it'll be more helpful to have audio that records and captures the interview while being able to answer the listeners' questions.
6 Benefits of Live Streaming
Live broadcasting helps build a better connection with your audience and grow your business while minimizing company costs. Here are six reasons why:
1. Live Streaming Generates Real-time Engagement
Live streaming allows you to build a relationship with customers and increase engagement in real time. While streaming, your audience has the opportunity to ask any questions they have and participate in your product journey.
For example, let's say that one of your customers goes through one of your promotional videos. While it might get their attention, there isn't really the possibility of interacting with the content directly.
But during a webinar, a customer can ask their questions and express their opinions via live chat, which adds a human touch to their experience.
2. You Can Repurpose Live Streamed Content
Streaming allows you to record sessions and add them to a video library for your audience to watch later if they can't join your live event. That way, they can access the content at any later time that fits their schedule.
You can also repurpose live-streaming content for your FAQ page, blog, and social media pages to boost your brand awareness online. Or, use the repurposed live-streaming sessions as lead generation gated content.
3. Live Streaming Is Cost-Effective
It doesn't take much to get started broadcasting. While expensive video equipment can help, you only need a simple webcam or smartphone camera with a microphone to begin live streaming. It means that, for example, you can run seminars and keynote talks without the need for venue hire or travel costs.
That's extra money you can save to grow your company. You can use the money you save with streaming for other business and marketing initiatives.
4. Live Streaming Boosts Credibility
Live streaming is a tool to talk directly with your audience. This allows your subject matter experts to actively engage and talk with an audience, sharing their insights and opinions and promoting the value of your brand.
In the long run, the amount of content and direct communication builds authority on a given subject. Streaming has the power to be similar to an event or a live keynote speech, which has a greater impact on a crowd than watching a pre-recorded video. This is because hosts or experts can talk about matters that users want to learn about directly, giving them a platform to address concerns or queries.
As such, the content will also be a helpful channel to drive viewers to your website and product.
5. Increase Conversion With Live Streaming
Live commerce can produce conversion rates up to 10 times greater than conventional ecommerce. This is due to the engaging and urgent environment that live streaming nurtures.
Streaming empowers the audience to ask questions, learn about products, and then make confident purchase decisions. As a stream is watched in real time, hosts can give direct sales pitches, which give users a sense of urgency to buy products and not lose out on deals.
6. Improve Your Customer Understanding
Live streaming allows you to capture valuable data from your audience. So, it's not surprising that 78% of the businesses in one study use broadcasting to have a deeper interaction and understanding of their customers. This is because the data analytics from the live-streaming platform give insights such as the number of viewers, demographics, feedback and comments, engagement and reactions, and the number of times the link has been shared. These insights are helpful for product improvement, marketing campaigns, and customer services.
With data captured from streams, you're able to understand your audience's demographics and engagement. This is a valuable insight to understand what content your audience is interested in, helping you finetune future content and optimize your engagement results.
What Are the Use Cases of Live Streaming?
Live streaming offers companies different ways to improve engagement with their audiences. Here are the different types of content you can host with streaming to grow your business and connect with customers:
During a Q&A session, customers can ask you any questions about your product and business. By running these Q&A sessions, you allow customers to feel like they're being heard, and you can also collect insights on what they expect from your company.
Live streaming provides an easy way for your in-person events and sessions to also be accessed online by virtual attendees. Virtual event streaming solutions need to be reliable and scalable so participants can feel closer to the action without experiencing latency or interruptions.
Webinars are an excellent way to drive leads to your funnel and provide educational content for your audience. They're also a good way to position yourself as a trustworthy expert in your niche.
To develop good ideas for your webinar, ask yourself these questions: What problems are you trying to solve? What does your target audience need to be successful?
New Product Announcements
Broadcasting offers an excellent opportunity to announce any new products or features that you're releasing. Product announcements also make your audience feel like they're participating in your company's growth and its milestones.
During this live event, you can build excitement about upcoming updates, and your audience will get a sneak peek of what you've been working on behind the scenes. Another plus of using live streaming to broadcast product announcements is that you can repurpose the recording on the landing pages of your product.
Like with product announcements, you can also use streaming to showcase any exciting news that's happening within your company. That can include a merger, a brand refresh, or any changes in your company leadership.
Marketplaces and vendors can use streaming to create a dynamic and personalized shopping experience. Live streaming can improve a user's shopping experience by having a two-way communication channel that promptly answers any questions.
The host is able to ask interested buyers questions and give recommendations based on their answers. This allows buyers to lean into their preferences and have a human buying experience from the comfort of their homes.
Unlike the normal online shopping experience, live commerce empowers the customers to interact with and ask questions of a shopping host. This bridges a gap in the buying experience and creates a trustworthy and human online buying experience.
And, through broadcasting, hosts can accelerate the sales cycle by emphasizing urgency on limited offers or products.
Product managers can use live streaming to showcase how their products work in real time. During this live-streaming event, your audience can ask any questions they might have on how to get the most out of your product.
You can use streaming to create live interviews of key people in your industry and discuss various topics relevant to your audience. Also, if the person you're interviewing is a big influencer in your niche, it gives you a new reach of potential customers you can also engage with.
Live streaming is a resourceful tool for gamers to reach and expand their audience. With streaming, gamers can share their screen, reactions, moves, and journey with their audience.
Game publishers can host live playthroughs of new games with developers, which allows them to showcase new features and storylines. This gives the audience a more intimate and engaging product demonstration. This is the equivalent of walking into a store and the manufacturer of a product giving a demonstration.
Game streaming also opens up sponsorship opportunities, becoming a channel to reach Gen Z consumers who have shifted away from traditional social media channels. Through live streaming, gamers can produce catchy content, as well as promote new games and affiliations.
How To Build a Live Streaming App
There are six simple steps to creating a live streaming app. You must determine your audience, define a monetization strategy, solidify your tech stack, choose a video streaming protocol, design the UX, build a prototype, and promote your app after launch. If you're interested in building your first live video product, lean on technical tutorials as a resource to help you through any tricky development spots.
The History of Live Streaming
Live streaming has evolved a lot over the past decades. Here's a quick rundown of how live streaming has grown since its inception in 1995.
In 1995, RealNetworks released RealPlayer, the first media player capable of broadcasting. The company also delivered the first public stream that same year, broadcasting a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners.
RealNetworks then started commercializing live video in 1997, streaming through the release of RealVideo. It was one of the first programs of its kind.
In 1999, Excite@Home Network and the Democratic Leadership Council hosted the first presidential webcast featuring Bill Clinton at George Washington University in Washington, DC. During the live broadcast, participants had the opportunity to ask Clinton any questions they had about different political subjects. The broadcast was able to host over 50,000 active viewers.
However, it was only in the 2010s that live streaming started taking off. In 2011, Twitch released a live-streaming video game platform, drawing more than 3 million monthly users within just its first year of launch. Then, in 2013, YouTube started allowing registered users to host a stream.
Other platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram started hopping on the rise of live streaming soon after. In 2015, Twitter acquired live-streaming platform Periscope. And in 2016, Facebook and Instagram launched their own live-streaming features as well.
In June 2019, Apple made waves with its announcement of its spec for Low-Latency HLS. This update from the tech company was the start of low latency at scale for live-streaming audiences.
Top 5 Live-Streaming Platforms
Twitch is a popular live-streaming platform that allows users to watch content on a PC or console. Twitch is especially popular for live-streamed gaming, with over 2.7 million concurrent viewers in 2021, and is the most-viewed platform for gamers.
- Live streams can be directly connected to Facebook
- Free and premium accounts available
- Comprehensive chat features — users are able to manage their audience with bots and receive gifts from their subscribers
- Creators can monetize content
2. YouTube Live
YouTube Live is especially helpful for content creators, who can stream from their YouTube channels to their subscribers. For businesses, this is a great opportunity to connect with their subscriber audiences. It allows companies to create events or broadcasts that don't require users to create an account with another platform that they might not be familiar with and instead watch their companies from YouTube.
YouTube analytics also helps creators understand their engagement and comes with powerful chat tools for subscribers to interact with one another.
YouTube Live features:
- Provides comprehensive live analytics
- Enables ads on live streams to monetize videos
- Integrates with other social media platforms to build awareness
- Allows live-streaming snippets to be turned into reels
- Allows viewers to pause streams and rewind
3. Instagram Live
Instagram Live is part of the Instagram app, which helps influencers with an already large following create content organically. The app notifies users when a stream has started and allows creators to save the content to their profile.
Instagram Live is especially helpful for content creators and brands to work together to build brand awareness. By using influencers, brands can promote their product or services to an engaged and interested audience.
Instagram Live features:
- Instagram alerts followers of a new stream starting
- Hosts can join and invite followers from the live stream
- Ability to include filters and game overlays on videos — this is helpful if your company has its own filters or games and can showcase them to viewers
- Audiences can react and comment with one another on a live chat
Uscreen is a live-streaming platform that offers monetization features and on-demand videos. The platform comes with live chat and downloadable video files for all the users that joined a live-stream event.
- Live stream includes live chat to interact with the audience
- Automatic recording for playback for users that joined an event
- Countdowns to build crowd anticipation
- Unlimited bandwidth and number of members who can join a stream
- Monetization available
Brightcove is a live-streaming platform with a special emphasis on enterprises. The platform is a great solution for broadcasters, markets, and internal communication for global audiences. It also has the feature to share broadcasts with other social media platforms.
Brightcove is especially helpful for companies that look to build internal communications material that is streamed and stored safely. The content recorded in live streams can be used later on for marketing material or HR purposes, helping the company build a valuable library of resources.
- Offers an API to connect with your business
- Ability to bypass ad blockers and geo-restrict content
- Strong security on streams to combat piracy
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of content should I host via live streaming?
The kind of content you should host via live streaming depends on your current needs as a business. For example, a webinar might be the best choice if your goal is to generate new leads in your funnel. A live interview will be a good option if it’s to build authority in your niche.
Do I need to hire a professional video production company for my live streams?
One of the biggest benefits of broadcasting is that it doesn’t cost much money, and a webcam is all you need to get started. However, hiring a reputable video production company can help deliver a more professional presentation to the audience of your live streams.
What tools can I use to improve my live-streaming events?
To improve the quality of your live-streaming events, you can invest in tools like acoustic foam panels to block background noise from ruining your live stream and a high-quality mic, such as the Shure SM7B, to improve your sound quality. You can use the Logitech Brio 500 webcam if you want high-quality resolution during your live streams.
Which platform should I use for my live-streaming sessions?
It all depends on which platform your audience is most active on. For example, if you’re a B2B company, then platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn might be your best choice. TikTok will be a better option if you’re an ecommerce company with a Gen Z audience.
What metrics should I monitor during my live-streaming events?
The metrics you should monitor during live-streaming events include your numbers of live interactions, comments, and live views.
What are the best ways to get customers to interact during live streaming?
There are various things you can do to get engagement from your audience. You can ask your audience to ask their questions directly, provide acknowledgment to those that comment, and make sure to have live chat enabled during the live stream to encourage interaction.
Live Streaming Gets You Closer to Your Customers
Live streaming’s cost-effective and engaging nature makes it a powerful form of communication to connect with your audience. Now it’s up to you to get started and give streaming a try! A good idea to get started with streaming for your SaaS or mobile app company is a small webinar. Think about the pain points and challenges your audience is going through and develop an idea for webinar content that answers their questions.
You can use different channels to promote your webinar and maximize attendance. A good practice is to send an email to your list to let them know about the upcoming event. Social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok will also help get the word out about your webinar.