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Originally published on ClickZ

With in-person social and entertainment outlets shut down during the pandemic, livestreamed content has really hit its stride. From live yoga classes and living room lectures to Sunday Mass and funeral services, livestreaming has become an essential tool for staying connected and engaged remotely. 

Livestreaming is essentially just broadcasting in real-time over the internet, but the creative ways the medium is being used and the cult status of top streamers is staggering. Remember AOC’s get-out-the-vote appearance playing Among Us with top gamers? From AMA (ask-me-anything) sessions on Reddit to live shopping, rap battles, or celebs getting COVID-19 vaccines, livestreaming has enormous power to engage and influence. 

Livestreaming is everywhere

Most major social and networking platforms now offer a way to livestream content. On YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Snapchat, livestreaming is mainstream. You can promote and stream live events on Facebook Live. Gamers livestream to massive audiences on Twitch. Organizations livestream webinars and meetings via Zoom. Every day, new forms of interactive entertainment are emerging. Interactive livestream lore such as what millions of viewers experience on Minecraft Dream SMP is breaking new ground by combining the appeal of gaming personalities, improvisational storytelling, and TV-like live blockbuster finales and plot events. 

Each platform has its own niche and audience, but they all share the energy and community that only a live interaction can generate.

The opportunity for brands

Audience uptake of the livestream format has exploded and is unlikely to diminish post-pandemic; its capacity for innovative content and live experiences is simply too huge. So is the opportunity for monetization. 

Anywhere there is an engaged audience, there is a place for brand sponsorship. As with influencer partnerships, it is the authentic relationship the streamer has with their audience that creates brand value, and the ways brands are leveraging those relationships are expanding all the time. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Promo code/unique URL callouts: During Twitch sessions, gamers not only wear branded apparel and down branded energy drinks, they also call out promo codes for use on partner sites.
  • Product endorsement: A beauty influencer on Facebook Live may walk through her skincare routine and name a brand partner’s face wash as her favorite.
  • Content sponsorship: This creator started her own Instagram Live Dating Show, and then quickly partnered with Bumble to sponsor her episodes and drive traffic to the app.
  • Product/brand placement: Glossier, Doritos, and Ciroc all got visible product placements and shout-outs during this Ashanti verzuz Keyshia Cole webcast on Instagram Live.
  • Customer experience: A virtual stylist might assemble outfits from a new clothing line for audience members, or a fitness instructor could take questions from her audience about what weights they should purchase and how long they should expect to wait for shipping, etc.

The pros and cons

Is it a safer investment for marketers to stick with established creator media like recorded video content or stories? Is the live aspect worth it? Here are some considerations. 

Livestream advantages

Livestream content is appealing because it’s dynamic — it is designed to capture data like audience interest and engagement in real-time. Because there’s no room for post-production or polish, the content that emerges from streams is often perceived as more authentic and relatable, which lends credibility to the brand.

The anticipation and excitement of a livestream event can be an advantage, too. Many platforms send push notifications when livestreamed content is launched. What’s more, knowing that anything can happen during a livestream keeps people riveted to their screens and engaged with live commentary.

Livestream risks

As with live TV, there are some risks to going live online. Brands may have less control over safety and compliance, and you don’t always know how the audience will respond in real-time. A single critical comment can skew group sentiment and take things off the rails.

Managing exposure

Brand protection starts at the discovery phase of a partnership. Review sample content, gather demographic and psychographic information, and conduct surveys to understand the creator as completely as possible. Consider using influencers you already trust and have worked with in the past for your first live activations. 

In any partnership with a content creator, there’s a tension between preserving their unique voice and style and keeping promotional content brand-compliant and on-message. For pre-recorded activations, brands can simply stipulate that they will review and approve content before it’s posted. But with livestreaming, you’ll have to be much more intentional and specific. 

Spell out in the contract precisely what you expect and want from the partnership and exactly what you do not want. Getting granular up front and stating it clearly in the contracting language is a good way to set up livestream content partnerships for success. 

The social commerce opportunity

With reasonable safeguards in place, livestream activations and partnerships can bring your brand to new audiences in a totally new context. Perhaps no other medium offers the same combination of in-the-moment engagement and charismatic ambassadorship. 

The imagination of content creators is limitless. Platforms, too, have been experimenting with new revenue models to nurture livestream ecosystem. Already viewers can use virtual tip jars like the Twitch donation button and Youtube Super Chat to support streamers. Both of these factors will ensure livestreaming medium flourishes into the future, creating new marketing opportunities for bold brands. 

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