Continued investment and innovation by the big social media platforms looks set to continue into 2017. Twitter’s self-proclaimed role as the place to find out ‘what’s happening now’ clearly hints at ambitions to integrate with broadcast television, and the recent acquisition of NFL screening rights suggests that vision can become a successful reality.
Indeed the whole area of live sports looks set to be a highly contested battleground in the near future with tech companies rushing to carve out a niche. Facebook cautiously entered the arena in 2016, penning a deal to stream pre-Olympic US basketball games. YouTube is showing its hand too: it’s signed a deal to live stream the next UEFA Champions League finals, and is rumoured to be launching Unplugged, a live TV service, in the near future.
So far, few brands are truly excelling in the live social arena but, for some, it might be possible to dip a toe in the fast-moving waters through collaboration with superfans and celebrities. Audiences grant more latitude to individuals than to even the most loved brands; influencer marketing could be an opportunity for some to affordably test live content through others before expensively committing to a new way of working.
And with all of this movement, the trend towards live social could presage the ultimate integration of broadcast TV with social media – something that would, without doubt, change the face of media and marketing forever.
There can be no doubt that live streaming in social will continue to attract interest and experimentation by platforms and users throughout 2017. But when it comes to brands, the future is less clear, and the potential implications far greater, because of what it means for the way they approach creative work.
Earlier this year, users were criticised for uploading pre-recorded videos to Facebook Live platform and defended themselves by claiming that their content ‘was recorded live, even if not broadcast live’.
While you’d be forgiven for thinking that the commenters believed other videos were filmed in the astral plane or the Upside Down, what this really reveals is that when we say ‘live’ we mean something very different – we mean ‘un-edited, unfiltered, and imperfect’.
These new technologies are reducing the lag before publication: we can’t double-check our content before we push it out into the world. And that’s where brands and people are different. Ordinary social users don’t plan their posts months in advance; they don’t go through complex sign off processes involving legal regulations, claims, values, target audiences and message testing; and, most importantly, their reputations don’t suffer in the same way if their production values aren’t high enough.
The most important thing, therefore, for brands to remember about live social as they move into 2017 is that, if they’re going to be bold and release content which hasn’t been finessed, they need to be very sure that it’ll offer real value to viewers. And, if it can’t, perhaps the bravest (and wisest) thing they can do is to stay out of the fray.
Richard Marshall is group chief executive of TMW Unlimited