Live streaming in China is growing extensively that it is being used for all kinds of activities. It has really come into its own due to COVID, bridging the gap between the people behind the camera and placing it within the grasp of anyone with a smartphone. In fact, it’s becoming more and more accessible. The question is, how can it play a role in public relations activities and sales?
EASTWEST PR’s correspondent Charles Young shares how, in China, they are already ahead of the game, with live streaming already integrated into commerce. Platforms like Alibaba with their Taobao shopping and WeChat with their online app stores now enable people to find, view, and purchase products and services of all manner and all sizes in real time and online. And because payment gateways are also incorporated into their mobile phones, for many people, mobile shopping at the point of purchase is becoming like the old home shopping channels that were put on years ago by the QVC network. Instagram and Facebook are two popular social media apps, and these could make them the perfect platform for livestreaming. There is also the concept of multicasting, that rather than just streaming content to one channel, with certain technologies, you can actually stream across multiple platforms. Be cautious though, as there are some challenges to that.
Live streaming platforms to consider
For Instagram, it has a main demographic of people in their 20s to 30s, and you can only go live using the mobile app on Instagram, not on desktop or browser, so it’s very much an Android/iOS native streaming app. For many people that use Instagram, one issue is the lack of content around images. The benefit of Twitter and Periscope as the platform for sharing video online is that you’ve already got followers and a narrative that speaks to those people, whether it’s your own tweets or tweets you’ve reposted, so Twitter already has an audience waiting for what will be shared. Periscope has a number of handy features, like the ability to replay videos at any time. In other words, it’s not just a stream; it actually records and turns it into a video. There are other integrated social features too, like people being able to join or leave, being able to leave emoticons and comments, and adjusting privacy settings so you can stop people coming in or out. You can also see who you’re broadcasting to, so that’s a nice way of live streaming to a dedicated group where you can actually make them feel part of a community. There are some comments though, if you look on the iOS store. One says that genuine accounts are being blocked for no particular reason, and people then are finding that the followers that they’ve got are no longer able to watch their content. The other is that it’s being hijacked by the underworld. Basically, it’s being used for pornography. Now, that doesn’t have to affect your own use of Periscope, but it may mean that, as a corporate platform, it may or may not be what you want to use.
There is another app called Livestream which is also dedicated to mobile, and it’s only available in Android and iOS. You can create films that can be broadcast in HD, and you can also send your video by connection through to Facebook or Twitter using your website. Looking at the reviews, Livestream seems to have a couple of comments. One is, again, it’s being used by the underground for streaming indecent images. And also, whilst it says it’s free, actually, many say you need to pay £70 a month in order to use it, so there may or may not be some truth to that but the comments in the sections on the app stores are saying that it’s not quite what it should be.
In China, the big growth story has been ByteDance’sTikTok, and that is certainly creating a storm with these videos set to music. In China, the big one that’s being used is Taobao for live streaming sales promotions. People there are buying and watching and following it. There was a story recently that came out about a female streamer who is the top e-commerce live streamer. Her name is Viya, and on the 10th of October in 2019, she sold 353 million RMB. In one day, she sold nearly $50 million worth of merchandise. She has 200 staff, and she has become the ultimate sales demonstrator online, showing that China has already moved well beyond its Western counterparts. There are other channels like Vigo, and there are a whole host on the App Store and Android Play Store where you can stream content, but be wary and check out reviews and check out the platform itself before committing to using it for your business.
Vimeo and Restream
There are some platforms that are professional and are doing proprietary video. Video consumption online has jumped over 65% since 2018 with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, all these big companies creating both their own technologies and owning the consumers. There are companies like Vimeo who have video platforms, and Vimeo has created a Vimeo Enterprise premium package, which enables streaming video across five multiple platforms. For business to business, that’s very interesting, because LinkedIn is really the only game in town if you’re marketing yourself, and video on LinkedIn has been growing in terms of traction. However, LinkedIn says that live video broadcasting is available for a limited number of members and LinkedIn pages, and you would be required to fill out a form on how often you’ll be live casting, what you’d be live casting about, and the history of the company, so some humans will be fact-checking to ensure that that platform is not hijacked. With the simulcasting on Vimeo, YouTube accounts can also be linked along with integration of custom syndication of content to Twitch and Periscope, Twitch being the more consumer level playing field for video. With Vimeo, you could also embed the Vimeo player into your own websites, meaning you can stream to people visiting your website. If you’re selling merchandise, you could promote it on the live stream and eventually lead them through to the shopping cart.
Another alternative is a website called Restream, which is allows live video broadcasting to over 30 social networks. This was founded in 2015 by a couple of men, and it has an office in Ukraine and in the US. They now have 200 million users worldwide, so within five years, it’s become a phenomenal success story, one that, frankly, many might not have even heard of, because it’s not the end channel, but its the carrier. There are other platforms like ManyCam, which enable streaming to multiple platforms at the same time. It’s an encoding software that takes content from one’s phone or cameras in a studio and sends them out to those other platforms. The thing to remember is that the more platform you’re streaming to, the more bandwidth you’ll need, possibly necessitating the need for a computer with greater RAM for managing the different streams of video and greater bandwidth for the internet connection. Another thing to remember is when casting out to all of these platforms, products like Vimeo and another one called OBS, which is Open Broadcaster Software, enable the chat to be integrated in real time as well. If you have all of these platforms with lots of people sending in messages, be prepared to handle the influx of messages, or else it might create a bad user experience.
Live streaming on Facebook vs. Youtube
Looking at the two big games in town, Facebook and YouTube, Facebook is a great place to share live video, either directly through their own live stream or through a program Restream. Do remember that the people there aren’t going there just to watch video; they’re going there to do messaging, to post pictures, and so on. So, whilst you may have a community there that has an open discussion, they may not necessarily go there to watch the video. Imagine them in the front room of a house like the living room or the lounge, and the television’s on, but they’re distracted by the newspaper, the book, the dog, the family, or the friends. On the other hand, YouTube is more like going to the cinema, because people actually go to YouTube to watch video. YouTube is also owned by Google, so the content on YouTube is catalogued and becomes search engine-friendly which, naturally, is very good for SEO or search engine optimisation. On YouTube, however, to some degree, it is a one-trick pony as it doesn’t really foster that sense of a community. And so, think about how to get the traffic and how to get the people to come and watch what you’re sharing if you’re live streaming.
This is where both platforms, all platforms, have their own inherent advantages, because they’re all slightly different. Facebook is still the most popular social media platform in the world, but another idea could be integrating LinkedIn as well via Restream, assuming that the content is applicable across all platforms, which it may not be, since LinkedIn is a B2B community, Facebook is a consumer community, and Instagram may be for a particular age group, so that’s one thing to keep in mind. In the SPEAK|pr module, under Personalisation, there are three audience groups: the internal, the partners, and the external, and it’s quite possible to think about streaming content on your own website or to your own community of followers, and that’d be one video channel, and then to have an external one, too, for instance, for your Facebook community.
Channelisation, according to the different audience streams, can be played out in terms of the amplification strategy and what platforms it is sent out to. Some announcements may be generic enough to go across all platforms to all people in a live manner, and some may be live for some people. Maybe team meetings could be live, but in a closed chatroom. It’s important to look at streaming because video now is a main platform and medium for everybody, and there are many options. The main thing is to make sure that content is compelling and relevant. As Viya has shown by selling nearly $50 million worth of products in one day using one platform, mobile commerce and live streaming are definitely growing in popularity and they are here to stay. More importantly, it’s possibly a great way to build and drive sales.