When done well, livestreams have the ability to break down communication barriers between viewers and your brand. People livestream all sorts of things, whether they’re sharing groundbreaking news or even something simply silly. Remember when Red Bull livestreamed their skydiving attempt from the edge of space? Perhaps one of your friends recently started a livestream to document their first time eating a corn dog! Whatever the case may be, livestreams create a shared experience between you and your viewers — and businesses can get in on the action.
This powerful tool allows businsses and brands to connect with their audiences from anywhere, instantly fostering a more personal conversation. In this space, people have a unique chance to ask questions and show their appreciation for your organization. And as it becomes increasingly important for businesses to show they’re authentic and human, we think that livestreaming will help keep you ahead of the game. But hold on a second, this doesn’t mean you should go livestreaming all willy-nilly. Make it a mission to learn how to set yourself up for livestreaming success and engage your audience during your stream.
From encouraging interaction to embracing conversation, here are some tips that will help you engage your audience with live video! Let’s dig in.
During livestreams, viewers often share their thoughts or questions in a comment section happening in real-time. Whether it’s sharing their love with hundreds of heart emojis or asking hard-hitting questions, those who interact with your livestream want to be noticed by you. Try encouraging conversation and interaction between your audience and your brand by addressing your viewers directly.
While streaming, keep an eye out for interesting questions and people’s comments you can easily piggyback off of. By calling out someone’s name and engaging with their comments or questions, you can create a special moment for that particular viewer. Even though you’re not Beyoncé or another A-list celebrity, giving someone a sense of recognition in a sea of other audience members can make things feel more personal. On the other hand, sometimes your audience may be quiet, more passive viewers. Probe the quiet ones to become active participants by asking simple questions throughout your stream.
“By calling out someone’s name and engaging with their comments or questions, you can create a special moment for that particular viewer.”
And, if you’re planning a live Q&A, you can field questions from your audience across social media platforms before you go live. Fielding questions in advance gives you the opportuntiy to address viewers by name, and for longer livestreams, having questions in your back pocket to pull out can keep things flowing more naturally if there’s ever a lull in the comments section.
HERE’S THE LOW-DOWN:
- Keep an eye out for interesting questions that you can piggyback off of
- Call out people’s names specifically when answering questions
- Solicit questions ahead of time to fill the queue just in case
Transparency is the nature of a livestream. Being your authentic self and riding with any slip-ups shows you’re human. While it’s important to be authentic, you don’t have to feel like you’re diving into the deep end as soon as you hit the record button. You can have a loose plan going into the livestream so you know what you’ll be talking about. In fact, we recommend it!
Straying from your outline is no big deal — if your viewers start to get excited about something a little off-topic in the comments section, just roll with it! Chances are your audience will appreciate that you’re engaged with their interests and that you’re taking the time to answer their most burning questions. Go with the flow and think of it as a refresher before you navigate the conversation back on track to the topics you want to cover. Plus, your ability to embrace conversation will reflect positively on your brand.
Right when you think video marketing could not get any more human, live video takes it to another level. It’s almost like FaceTiming with your grandma to ask her about that one super-secret family recipe. Chances are, you’ll wind up talking about a lot more than the recipe, (“How’s school? Are you bundling up with that sweater I knitted you? I hope you’re eating enough broccoli.”) But that’s OK! Allow time for connecting with your audience on other topics just like you’d talk about things unrelated to the secret family recipe with your grandma. You’ll establish trust and let them know you’re receptive to what they have to say.
HERE’S THE LOW-DOWN:
- Be your authentic self and ride with any slip-ups to show you’re human
- Have a loose plan in mind, but don’t be afraid to stray from your outline
- Allow time for connecting with your audience on other topics they’re excited about
Although livestreaming our office pup, Lenny, catching as many tossed carrots as he can sounds like high quality material, it’s a good idea to take a strategic approach to live video like you would with any other video you create. Businesses today use live video for Q&As, special announcements, product introductions, interviews, events, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and more. And afterall … who’s to say there isn’t a place for Lenny’s carrot trick in a successful video marketing strategy? Sometimes pure entertainment opens your viewer’s eyes to a never-before-seen aspect of your organization they will surely love.
“It’s a good idea to take a strategic approach to live video like you would with any other video you create.”
With your audience’s interests in mind, sit down and roadmap your content calendar to see what kind of live video could fit best. Ask yourself, “What would people find valuable and engaging?” and “What could I show people to make them feel more connected to our brand?”
After you’ve set a date and established a plan of action, make sure you have at least a few days before your livestream to hype it up and promote it across social media. Don’t let people miss out on everything you have in store! It would be a bummer if you put all the effort into going live but no one joined because they didn’t know about it. Alternatively, people might join, but they may not stick around for long because they have a meeting or some other conflict they didn’t account for. So, let people know about your livestream event in advance so they can get psyched to tune in and cook up their own questions to join the conversation when it’s all happening in real time!
HERE’S THE LOW-DOWN:
- Take a strategic approach to live video and consider your audience’s interests
- Roadmap your content to figure out which type of live video works best
- Promote your livestream across social at least a few days in advance
Picture this: You’re in the middle of your livestream, and suddenly, your coworker walks into the room munching on a bag of cheese puffs. What do you do?
Well, you could brush off the interruption as if nothing ever happened. Or, you could take a moment to improvise and introduce this cheese-puff-lover to your audience. Why not take advantage of unpredictable scenarios? Clue your viewers in to what’s happening in your environment — wherever you are — and roll with it. Moments like these have a tendency to surprise people and keep them engaged.
At Wistia, we recently held a live Q&A with Chris Lavigne and Dan Mills, two of our Creative team members who were responsible for producing our four-part original series One, Ten, One Hundred. In this livestream (check it out below!), we set up several cameras: one on Lenny the labradoodle, one on our social media coordinator fielding questions, and one on an office dinosaur decoration. Our Lenny cam, Maria cam, and Dino cam gave us options to switch points of view for some extra entertainment. No one with a bag of cheese puffs came strolling in, but Maria did sneeze in the background. Did Maria ruin our livestream? Not at all! We switched to our Maria cam to check in with her, and our viewers commented with some laughs and “bless you’s.”
When you’re agile and open to pushing your original plan aside, the spontaneity of livestreams can create opportunities for your authenticity to shine and your audience to interact with you in a light-hearted way.
HERE’S THE LOW-DOWN:
- Don’t be afraid to improvise and take advantage of unpredictable scenarios
- Clue your viewers in on what’s happening in your environment
- Be agile and open to pushing your original plan aside
Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth livestream, you can learn something new to sharpen your skills every time. We don’t think Guy Fieri was born knowing how to perfectly present a dish and take us to Flavortown on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. These things take practice! Perhaps streaming on Facebook Live wasn’t as successful as you thought it would be. Before your next stream, do additional research to figure out which channel your audience is most active on in order to garner more viewers. Or, maybe your sound was a tad bit wonky. For the future, invest in an external microphone to smooth out your audio.
If you recorded your livestream for people to watch at their own leisure, make it a point to play it back for yourself and log things that did and didn’t work. Be your own worst critic so you can keep improving. Before you know it, Guy Fieri will have nothing on you!
What you learn from your live Q&A can also help you unearth some hidden content gems. If people ask a plethora of great questions, take note and jot ‘em all down. Later on, you can sift through what’s burning in the back of people’s minds and look for opportunities to write new blog posts or produce new videos that have all the answers to their questions.
HERE’S THE LOW-DOWN:
- Reflect on your live stream hits and misses to adjust accordingly
- Be your own worst critic so you can keep improving
- Find opportunities to create new content by sifting through people’s questions from live Q&As
Yes, going live can be as simple as pressing a button on your phone. But, as a brand, just winging it for the most part probably won’t do. Unlike going live on your personal Instagram account to your 100 followers, as a business, you have to consider your brand and the image you want to uphold.
“Unlike going live on your personal Instagram account to your 100 followers, as a business, you have to consider your brand and the image you want to uphold.”
If you don’t have a way to engage your audience, there’s no reason for them to stick around. Give people a reason to want to interact with your brand during a stream by creating interest and opening up the conversation. If you make a good impression, people may seek out your other content long after your livestream is over.
We want you to be the confident, friendly host we know you are during your livestream. So, remember these tips for engaging your audience before you jump in. From addressing your viewers to establishing trust, you’ll add a more personal feel to your stream and easily navigate the unexpected!
Why Your Content Strategy Should Target a Niche Audience (Not Potential Customers)
As Raymond Williams once said, “There are no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses.” As marketers, we tend to look at the world as three distinct masses:
- Existing customers
- Potential customers
- People who will never be customers
However, outside of our own lens, there’s usually nothing that unites the people within these groups. While, as a business, we tend to think of our potential customer base as a homogenous group of people who we can and should market to, this is rarely an accurate view of the world. In reality, those that are likely to buy our products and services are usually a hodgepodge of individuals from different communities and interest groups.
Marketing best practice engenders this skewed perspective. By doing keyword research, user interviews, and creating buyer personas, we’re building up a picture of the world as viewed by a fictional cohort.
“By doing keyword research, user interviews, and creating buyer personas, we’re building up a picture of the world as viewed by a fictional cohort.”
In the world of content marketing, we’re then tasked with the challenge of creating content that appeals to the interests of these people. But how can you create content that appeals to a group of people who don’t really identify as a group of people?
Let’s take a fairly straightforward example — the equally fictional musical instrument repair shop, “Don’t Fret,” run by our very own creative director.
The potential customer base for Don’t Fret is people who need instruments repaired in Somerville, MA. There are probably two characteristics that unite this group:
- They own musical instruments that need repair
- They spend time in Somerville, MA
Other than that, everything else will be varied. Some of these people will be musicians themselves, some will have children who play, and some will be restoring antiques or family heirlooms. Some will have guitars, some will have cellos, and there might be the occasional oud in the mix. Some will be professionals who need a set-up to withstand regular touring, and others will be hobbyists who mostly play at home.
In short, even for a small local business like this, there’s not a whole lot that unites the entire customer base. If my task is to create content that will appeal to all customers, I’m stuck with a fairly narrow brief: I must create something that will appeal to harpists and lutists, amateurs and professionals, collectors and layman i.e. everyone, and therefore, no-one.
It’s easy to see how trying to be all things to all people, even for a local business with a clear audience and value proposition, often leads marketers towards creating uninteresting and uninspiring content.
Target customers, so defined, are not a group of people you can create content for. It’s a made-up group of people, an abstraction that can be helpful for you in categorizing users and interactions, but one that typically doesn’t reflect anything tangible in the real world.
While it may be incoherent to think of potential customers as a group of people to create content for, there are invariably plenty of very real interest groups that can meaningfully be served by great content marketing.
What makes them good targets are a clear shared interest that spurs a great deal of conversation, with desires and challenges related to that interest. These groups will tend to coalesce around things that significantly contribute to an individual’s identity — subcultures, passions, culture, vocations, and causes.
“These groups will tend to coalesce around things that significantly contribute to an individual’s identity — subcultures, passions, culture, vocations, and causes.”
Our challenge, as marketers, is to identify these niche audiences by finding extremely active and passionate interest groups that are tangentially related to our customer base i.e. communities that a substantial number of our existing customers are a part of.
For the “Don’t Fret” guitar shop, we can see how different communities based on professions and hobbies can intersect with the customer base to provide niche audiences that have clear desires, needs, and challenges as communities.
Now, there are some fairly straightforward ways of discovering these types of niche audiences for your business.
Interview your customers
Rather than just asking for their opinions on your product or service, use this opportunity to find out what makes them tick. Ask them how they spend their free time, what kind of websites they regularly visit, what organizations they’re members of, and what communities they consider themselves a part of.
If there’s a subculture, there’s usually a subreddit. Explore the depths of Reddit to discover what kinds of topics your potential customers are regularly talking about.
Explore Twitter data
Use tools like SparkToro and Followerwonk to find out what topics and content your existing customer base are most readily engaging with on Twitter. Discover if there are any trends in how people identify themselves in their bios, and look at the content of tweets to determine the topics that ignite passionate reactions.
Increasingly, effective word of mouth distribution is not only a “nice to have” that can help things go viral, but an essential ingredient in ensuring any successful content marketing campaign. Unless your content is being shared organically, both on private social networks (e.g. Slack, Whatsapp) and public ones (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), then it simply won’t be found. Both search and social are becoming “winner takes all” games, and the winner is the content that secures the most organic interest.
Word of mouth is fuelled by conversation, so the crucial first step in securing word of mouth distribution is picking a niche audience that talks to one another.
Unless you represent a sports team, your customers probably won’t talk to each other on a regular basis, so this necessitates moving as far away from this broad, all-encompassing audience as possible and towards a very focused target group.
The more niche your target audience, the more likely you are to be able to create the best content in the world for that community. There’s a wealth of content that’s created to loosely appeal to broad demographics and industries, but very little that’s made for the communities of a few thousand people who are super-passionate about specific things.
You create word of mouth by finding your nerds. Take again, our creative director’s fictional repair shop, “Don’t Fret.” We could create content about how to restring a guitar‚ which would appeal very loosely to most of our customers. But, there are a million and one tutorials online that explain how to restring a guitar, and ours would be adding nothing new to the pile, meaning very few people would care, and the content likely wouldn’t get found.
“There are a million and one tutorials online that explain how to restring a guitar and ours would be adding nothing new to the pile.”
However, if we decide to create some content about how to reduce humidity fluctuations in a dive bar, aimed at sound technicians, we’ll be creating genuinely unique content that’s extremely interesting just for the small subset of people who manage live sound at neighborhood bars and clubs around the world.
Because it will appeal to those folks specifically, this content will stand a better chance of being shared, and these sound engineers will grow an affinity towards our brand because we created something genuinely useful and interesting for them. They might then recommend us to the people they speak to regularly (musicians), who in turn discover and recommend us to those they influence, and so on.
This content will then eventually lead to awareness and affinity amongst our target audience, even though the content is far too specific to be of interest to the vast majority of people who need an instrument repaired.
This is why, paradoxically, targeting extremely niche audiences, and making the best content in the world for them is the most scalable way to increase affinity amongst a broad base of potential customers.
Season 1 is Done: Binge-Watch All of Brandwagon
Phew, releasing our weekly talk show for marketers, Brandwagon, has been a super exciting ride (car pun intended). And if you’ve been keeping up for the last 10 episodes, you might’ve learned why Mailchimp is investing more in content and less in advertising, gleaned insights about building authentic brands from inspiring leaders like Lauren Fleshman, the Co-Founder of Picky Bars, and Nancy Dussault Smith, CMO of Hydrow, and you might’ve even learned why Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SparkToro, hates Google so much. Not only that, but you saw our team expense a ‘91 Volvo wagon and commission an artist to make it the ultimate — you guessed it — Brandwagon.
And if you haven’t been following along, we think it’s safe to say that you have some catching up to do. But, no need to spin those wheels! Now you don’t have to pump the brakes between episodes, because the entire season is out and ready to binge-watch. So, bust out the snacks, tune in at your desk (it’s an educational show, after all), and learn what it takes to build a memorable brand from experts in the marketing industry. Ready to binge-watch Brandwagon? Click below to hop on in to the first season!
5 Key Takeaways from Season One of “The Brandwagon Interviews” Podcast
If you’re a marketer and you like podcasts, then the first season of The Brandwagon Interviews might just be the perfect podcast for you. For 10 weeks, we invited 10 special guests from an array of industries onto the set of Brandwagon to talk about all things brand marketing with Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage. From Mailchimp to UM Worldwide and Harpoon Brewery to ProfitWell, we’ve learned a lot from the masterminds behind these amazing brands.
In this post, we’re highlighting the most valuable lessons learned from all the conversations that were featured on The Brandwagon Interviews podcast. Be sure to listen to each episode on your favorite streaming platform and read on for our key takeaways!
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher
When Dan Kenary, CEO of Harpoon Brewery, and Mark DiCristina, Head of Brand at Mailchimp, dropped by our studio, they both knew what it was like competing in saturated markets. Despite being in different industries, Kenary and DiCristina knew that the best way to stand out amongst the competition was to differentiate their brands.
Harpoon Brewery was one of the first craft breweries on the East Coast. However, it wasn’t long before competition exploded in the craft brewery and microbrewery space. So, how did they differentiate themselves? Kenary explained that the company focused on building a strong brand and connecting with their customers. Even without flashy advertising, this strategy helped the brand cut through the competition. To differentiate themselves further, Harpoon also created a sub-brand called UFO, which helped the business appeal to a new segment and grow in unexpected ways. And today, knowing their brand like the back of their hand, Harpoon manages a house of five distinct brands all under the Harpoon umbrella.
In the early days of Mailchimp, a marketing automation software platform, the company wasn’t the biggest or well-funded fish in the sea by a long shot. DiCristina described how Mailchimp understood they wouldn’t be successful by playing the same game as everyone else. Instead of outspending other companies and competing with them on a dollar for dollar basis, DiCristina said, “ … our approach, which is really a credit to Ben, our CEO and co-founder, was to be as different as we possibly could and use our weakness as a strength.” Ultimately, DiCristina said what ended up helping Mailchimp stand out was their appetite for being weird and playful, and their belief in creating real connections with their customers.
From the experiences of both Kenary and DiCristina, it’s clear that making your brand a key differentiator can help you stand out in markets where everyone is stuck in a similar mold. Let your brand communicate more about your values and trust that you’ll connect with the right folks.
The second lesson we learned was about consistency and why it’s a crucial part of the recipe for creating a strong brand. Veronica Parker-Hahn, SVP of Growth and Innovation at Effie Worldwide, and Dan Kenary of Harpoon had a few words to say about the importance of strategic rigor and remaining consistent.
Parker-Hahn began her career in the advertising industry, and over the past 15 years, she’s worked with major brands like DirecTV, State Farm Insurance, Reebok, and many more. Over the years, she’s learned that creativity is only a fraction of what builds a strong brand. Building a strong brand and creating an effective campaign starts with a deliberate, well-thought-out strategy. In addition to strategic rigor, you need to identify your values, and she emphasized, “ … what your brand stands for should permeate everything you do.”
Kenary also shared similar sentiments about remaining consistent with your brand. At Harpoon, they built the brand under the banner, “Love Beer. Love Life.,” and to this day, they ensure every interaction they have with consumers is consistent with what they’re trying to represent. In Kenary’s mind, if you’re not consistent, your brand loses meaning and people stop paying attention. Whether it’s communicating with someone in customer service or hosting a seasonal festival, every touchpoint with the consumer matters.
So, when thinking about building a stronger brand for your business, remember to always start with a solid strategy. Then, when it comes to executing on that strategy, make sure you understand the audience you want to reach and what makes them tick. Stay super consistent with the values you want to convey, both internally and externally, and you’ll be able to create a well-loved brand with a ton of loyal fans.
“Stay super consistent with the values you want to convey, both internally and externally, and you’ll be able to create a well-loved brand with a ton of loyal fans.”
Speaking of knowing the type of audience you want to reach, it really helps to know your niche inside and out when building your brand. Lauren Fleshman, Co-Founder and CMO of Picky Bars, and Patrick Campbell, CEO of ProfitWell, have discovered the many benefits of appealing to a niche audience.
As a former Nike-sponsored athlete, Lauren Fleshman grew to become an exceptional storyteller. In order to renew sponsorship deals, she recognized the importance of marketing her values, and when she started her own business, she marketed Picky Bars in the energy bar industry leading with the brand’s values. Lauren believes brands should lead with their values because it helps you find out why people like you in the first place. Then, you can lean into your niche and trust your brand will build from there.
One of the ways Lauren dove deep into Picky Bars’ niche was by starting a podcast with her husband called Work, Play, Love, where they chat transparently about all the mess-ups and struggles they’ve encountered running the company so far. Not only do they talk about the business, but they also open up about their relationship and balancing all the chaos of regular day-to-day life, giving their audience an opportunity to have a deeper connection with them and the Picky Bars brand.
At ProfitWell, a subscription software company, Patrick Campbell is appealing to a niche and building an engaged audience for the brand by creating binge-worthy video series. Along with their series Pricing Page Teardown, Subscription 60, The ProfitWell Report and Protect the Hustle, Campbell told Savage that ProfitWell has over 10 distinct shows in the works. Episodic video content has become one of ProfitWell’s primary marketing vehicles because traditional advertising campaigns and written content have become less effective for them over the past few years. Producing shows doesn’t guarantee more conversion, but they’re better at keeping their audience engaged with their brand, rather than aggravating them with intrusive ads.
Trying to reach a niche might sound counter-intuitive, but Campbell encourages people to get comfortable with marketing to niche audiences. You may not see the impact right off the bat, but there’s inherent value in developing an engaged audience over time.
For Picky Bars and ProfitWell, going all-in on their niche audiences has helped their business’ build better brand affinity than if they tried appealing to everyone. After all, the number of impressions you make with a campaign does not equal the number of people impressed.
The final lesson we took away from the first season of The Brandwagon Interviews, is just how important it is to create content for your audience that offers real value. Mark DiCristina of Mailchimp, Brendan Gaul of UM, and Patrick Campbell of ProfitWell, all have something in common — their teams create engaging video content that helps build better brand affinity.
Recently, Mailchimp has been releasing short-form video series, films, and podcasts out of their own new content studio, Mailchimp Presents. DiCristina said, “Mailchimp’s mission has always been about empowering small businesses and helping them succeed and grow. We’ve always done that with software, but over the last couple of years, we began to feel like there are other ways that we can do that.” With content that inspires, motivates, and makes people feel like they’re not alone, Mailchimp Presents has developed a valuable platform for an audience of entrepreneurs, while increasing the amount of time people spend with their overarching brand.
As we mentioned before, ProfitWell is also engaging niche audiences through multiple video series of their own. Not only is their content valuable for consumers, but they’ve also found value in repurposing clips for their marketing efforts. What ProfitWell is doing here is treating their video content like a product, which is advice we took to heart when promoting our own four-part docu-series, One, Ten, One Hundred (and spoiler alert, it worked!).
At the end of the day, consumers are able to sniff out content that’s solely based on trying to sell them more stuff, and people are keenly aware when brands are phony with their intentions. That’s why brands need to know when they have — or need to earn — permission to be a part of important conversations. For smaller companies, the need to create powerful content like the biggest brands can be overwhelming. But, approaching content humbly and understanding the value your company can genuinely offer to a niche audience will help you define your brand.
Now that you’ve heard from several masterminds behind amazing brands on The Brandwagon Interviews, get out there and put their wisdom to good use. From one marketer to another, establishing a strong brand in the modern marketing world is more important than ever. So, let these key takeaways guide you toward building a better brand and creating a more engaged audience who will stand by your business for a long time.
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