Live Video Streams Go Mainstream

In April 2007, I wrote a series entitled “You.tv” that documented the transformation in user-generated online video from episodic content to live broadcasting. Over time the You.tv movement would come to be known as lifecasting, live streaming, or live casting, as it shared with viewers everything the Webcam captured, as it happened.

Since then, live streaming has evolved from nichecasting to mainstream broadcasting, with more and more individuals, and now celebrities and businesses, live casting video streams to viewers across the social Web. Most notably, two players to date dominate this space, Justin.tv (documented in my original You.tv segment) and Ustream.tv.

Founded by good friends John Ham and Brad Hunstable in 2006, Ustream started as a medium to connect overseas soldiers to families and everyday people to others just like them.

Now, Ustream has become synonymous with live web video and mainstream broadcasters, thanks in part to the many celebrities, media properties, businesses, and event organizers who successfully experimented with the service. Over a few short years, Ustream eventually evolved into the “go to” service for connecting notable personalities with fans while also building new channels of communications between brands and their customers, influencers, and prospects.

Indeed the era of life- and live casting over the Web is upon us.

If you’re not yet on one of these services, it’s time to examine how they can fold into the social media marketing mix and complement the overall marketing strategy.

Ustream is its own broadcast network. On any given day, you can find Ocho Cinco talking to his community live…

Soulja Boy…

Selena Gomez…

Or Wynton Marsalas…

These are but a few of the countless examples of live channels users can select in addition to those hosted by everyday people, brands, entrepreneurs, investors, business owners, experts, etc. You name it and you can bet, there’s a channel for that…

Perhaps one of the most engaging aspects of the service is the ability to host a live chat with the community while simultaneously broadcasting live. It’s immersive, engaging, and it extends conversations across multiple social networks – live.

As such, the hosted dialogue helps it gain visibility outside of the Ustream domain, attracting those individuals who follow the very people interacting directly in the chat or in outside services such as Twitter and Facebook, attracting immediate contacts as well as friends of friends with every update. Ustream, for example, also pulls in commentary into its hosted chat from outside networks including Twitter. Naturally the curiosity of alert followers will prompt them to click through to see what they’re missing and thus, expand the viewer base and audience in the process. It’s not unlikely to see videos host hundreds of thousands of viewers concurrently within Ustream while also becoming trending topics on Twitter.

Social Media Killed the MTV Star

Ustream has earned eminence among savvy new media architects and engineers and as a result, the service is now the benefactor of innovation in communications, media distribution, and interaction, which are among the most vital pillars of Social Media.

Whereas MTV (video) killed the radio star, Ustream is now threatening the MTV star. Facebook and Ustream, two incredibly active and prominent networks in their own right, recently aligned to offer a hosted service on the Facebook platform designed to help brands engage their Facebook community through live interactive events, fusing Facebook, Ustream, Twitter and other social networks into one interactive experience.

As defined by Ustream and Facebook:

Ustream on Facebook enables brands, businesses, musicians, artists, actors, politicians and media companies to go live, interact with fans, and build memorable experiences.

Award-winning Hip Hop artist Chamillionaire and International music star Shakira were among the first to embrace the hybrid system to debut their new music videos, bypassing MTV as the launch vehicle altogether.

Just recently, Ustream was selected to host the official live stream of the 51st Grammy Awards. With a dedicated live viewership of at least 200,000, Randi Zuckerberg and Brandee Barker of Facebook in addition to Taryn Southern and others, ensured that the Web audience experienced the event as if they were on the red carpet while also creating an engaged threaded chat that captivated all participants.

In the last two years, I’ve run many programs on Ustream and Justin.tv. Within the last month alone, we organized the live streaming of the Monty Python reunion with the Independent Film Channel (IFC), the TechCrunch Real-time Crunchup event, as well as the Stella Artois World Draught Master Finals, each drawing tens of thousands of live viewers and many more watching the archived streams. Needless to say, live Web video is factored into those campaigns where the community can benefit from having access to content they might not have otherwise experience – growing the network and engendering goodwill in the process.

Other examples of live web video include media properties (via their on air hosts) discussing the latest news, conferences streaming sessions, product companies hosting support and service Q&A to help resolve issues or inspire new usage applications, publicly traded companies reporting on earnings, etc. The examples are practically infinite.

And…Action

If you already run a Facebook Fan Page or you’re on the verge of piloting experimental video programming, consider live video as part of the initiative and measure the results.

Perhaps it should go without saying, but just for the sake of discussion, live events are in fact most anticipated and effective when a targeted pre-promotion program is implemented. Content is not automagically discovered nor is it proactively scheduled in advanced by the masses without connecting relevant information to those seeking it – before it’s aired.

Perhaps two of the most compelling attributes of live streaming video are price and ease of implementation. While productions can scale with the imagination, most of the video we’ve shot and broadcast was streamed through an everyday firewire camera through a notebook via a standard web connection. In several cases, we’ve added a video hub to switch between multiple streams to offer an experience similar to most traditional broadcast events. Live streaming services also make it incredibly easy to start broadcasting today. However, its simplicity can also be misleading. Remember, this is a production, and to captivate and hold the attention of viewers, requires creativity, personalization, value, and a thoughtful sense of and appreciation for entertainment.

Even though the price of admission for viewers is free, the value that they capture, and in turn share, is priceless.

What do you think? Are you considering live video as part of your social marketing strategy? If so, share an example…If not, let us know why.

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  • http://www.MarkMcCulloch.com Mark McCulloch Success Coach

    I have really enjoyed reading this post today on your blog.

    I have learnt a great deal from this and I will look further into live video streams.

    Thank you once again for your information and knowledge.

    Mark McCulloch

  • secretsushi

    Simply put, its just too accessible and easy not to seriously consider it.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Absolutely.

  • Facebook User

    great post and been using live streaming services for a while too (no dedicated show but once and while I'll use a service like Ustream or Qik. What about live streaming services in other parts of the world? Are we seeing a growing trend in Latin America, Europe, or Asia?

  • alejandrorecio

    The Internet is bringing live TV back; many have left behind the actual format because of all the restrictions and unpredicted stunts that characterize this kind of productions. This is just another example of how media conversion is evolving and soon everything you watch on TV will be available on the web with better features and more freedom. Its uses will contribute not only to the entertainment business but to receive live stream of actual events around the world that might change the news landscape forever.

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  • http://www.barberproductions.com Bruce Barber

    …and how can you not LOVE the new UStream app for the iPhone?

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Exactly!

  • http://www.confessionsofasocialmediamamapreneur.blogspot.com/ AlexisCeule

    I love this trend… it adds an instant gratification for the viewer, but probably a bit more anxiety to the “performer” on the video… think how much larger the audience can get in an instant! Great fun and use of technology. I wonder how long it'll take before it's not as exciting? hmmm… until then, happy viewing. Super blog Brian!

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  • http://ubermarketing.wordpress.com Akash Sharma

    Hi Brian, Great info again I believe live casting would play an important role in social media marketing strategy because currently if you look at the mediums on which people love to hear from the influencers or brands are webinars orlive podcasts so sites like ustream.tv would be a great platform platform to everyone who wants to share a video real time, and as far as the excitement level is concerned, the best example would be when TED videos are streamed live a lot of people flock up to watch.

  • http://www.bernetblog.ch/ marcel bernet

    hello brian – sorry missed you in paris. great post because it drills down something that we have to adapt to, evaluate and work with. we run a bi-monthly gathering on social media in zurich and i will find out in detail how i can use ustream to broadcast.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Marcel, perhaps next time! :)

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  • greeblemonkey

    I tested the app here at the office when it was released and it ran flawlessly for 15 minutes. So impressed!

  • http://lease-a-seo.com/ SEO Link Company

    Ustream is another tool essential for building community of united people. I'm so glad this was created.

    • discounttires

      This is a great tool. I do like how it brings everything together.

  • http://lease-a-seo.com/ SEO Link Company

    Ustream is another tool essential for building community of united people. I'm so glad this was created.

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  • discounttires

    Very cool. I just saw today that there is a new tech box coming out this year that should really add to this.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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