The Impact of Live Streaming Services on Social Media Engagement

The rapidly developing social media environment has led to a significant transformation in the way people consume and share content through the various platforms that they have access to. Nowadays, live streaming capabilities integrated into social media functionality have created more opportunities for companies to employ new social media strategies in order to increase their outreach to potential customers. This has been due to live streaming blurring the barriers between real life and online experiences, allowing companies to let customers feel as if they are a part of the experiences that they are trying to market to them. As a result, this more intimate form of marketing can lead to greater engagement with the consumer, ultimately resulting in greater conversion rates. Examples of these strategies come in various forms such as live Q&A sessions, behind the scenes coverage of events, and most recently the use of gaming live streams, which has been implemented by companies in the esports industry. Companies often use social media platforms in order to direct their consumers onto their main site or product. This results in them wanting to maximize the time which the consumer spends on viewing their social media content, in hope that it will intrigue them enough to research more about the company or the product in question. It is widely believed that VoD and especially live streaming are the best way to entertain and retain an audience with a single piece of content, because the viewer often does not know the outcome of what they are watching. At the point of this paper, the live streaming industry is predicted to grow significantly through the next few years. This is due to the recent trend of cord-cutting or the act of moving away from traditional TV viewing, towards online content given that the functionality is now available to them.

Benefits of Live Streaming Services on Social Media Engagement

“Projections show that by 2020, 82% of all internet traffic will be live video content”. LIVE is the key word here, and live streaming video is far more effective at keeping an audience compared to pre-recorded video clips. If a viewer knows that there is a live broadcast with content that interests them, they are more likely to make the time to watch it. It can be estimated that about 30% of people who attend the stream within the first few minutes of a broadcast will stay for the whole thing, as opposed to a pre-recorded video clip where about 10% of viewers will finish a video that is the same length. This can vary based on the content of the pre-recorded video or the event being live-streamed, but as a whole, live video is more effective at keeping an audience.

Live streaming benefits both social media users and businesses looking to further engage their followers and audience. Live streaming services and solutions are designed to help people and businesses broadcast live content to their audience. Of course, this often means there is a cost associated with these types of services, but in the long run, the investment is typically worth it. Some of the benefits of live streaming include increased user engagement, real-time audience interaction, and an increase in brand visibility.

Increased User Engagement

The main concern of businesses and content creators in social media platforms is to find effective ways to engage the audience. They want the audience to give full attention to the content, but it has become increasingly difficult with various forms of distractions nowadays. Real-time conversation has been considered the most effective way to engage the audience, and live streaming provides just that. At any given time during the live broadcast, the audience can give a reaction or ask questions and get them answered right away. This will make the audience feel appreciated as they are getting personal interaction with the broadcaster. The comments and concerns from the viewers can also be used to make immediate adjustments to the content, and the audience will be more satisfied seeing that their voice is being heard.

According to Mark Schaefer, “the potential of live streaming is enormous. I believe eventually, every single person and every single business will have some kind of live broadcasting ability”. Schaefer’s opinion reflects the promising benefits of live streaming services for social media users, businesses, and the platform itself. As the most prominent social media platform in the world, Facebook is the first to initiate the trend by providing all their users with a live broadcasting feature. In April 2016, Facebook launched Facebook Live, thus allowing people to broadcast from their iOS or Android device to their Facebook News Feed. After a brief testing restricted to celebrities, Facebook finally opened the service to the public and has seen soaring popularity ever since. Other social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are not standing idly by, as they are in the midst of implementing their own live streaming services. With so many businesses and social media influencers relying on these platforms to reach their audience, the live streaming trend brings about an increase in user engagement.

Real-time Interaction with Audience

According to Hootsuite, “75% of internet users between the ages of 18 and 34 watch or stream video content.” These statistics show that video content plays a crucial role in our society. Our research conducted revealed a finding that live streaming services provide broadcasting opportunities for users and enable interaction with the audience at the same time. The special feature of live streaming services is “real-time” broadcasting, which allows some sort of interaction with the audience. There are various ways to interact with the audience on live streaming services, primarily through video game broadcasting. Users are able to engage in conversations with their viewers through a chat or voice conversation, depending on what platform the broadcasting is taking place on. Due to the nature of the video game content, there are usually questions being asked about how to get better at the game. Therefore, broadcasters can provide live demonstrations in response to the questions, which make it easier for viewers to understand since they can ask further questions if they are confused. This form of teaching is superior to a video demonstration because questions can be answered in depth and on the spot. The user can reach the maximum understanding of a subject if the broadcaster is able to explain it well. At that point, the demonstrative content would be beneficial and the live streaming service is a success. Viewers are also able to provide feedback on the content being streamed live so the broadcaster can make improvements on future broadcasts. This, in turn, is a beneficial learning experience for both the broadcaster and the viewers. Non-video game broadcasters also get to benefit from live streaming services due to the fact that simultaneous interaction is possible. For music, art, or podcast broadcasting, there can be a question and answer session with the viewers about the content. This exchange of ideas can give the broadcaster inspiration for future content, and the response of the viewers can help determine the type of content that should be made. Any type of broadcasting can hold an event or a giveaway with the viewers. This has the potential to attract a larger audience and can create a more positive image for the broadcaster. An event to involve the viewers also gives a sense of community for the audience and the broadcaster. All of these forms of interactions are possible due to the “real-time” broadcasting nature of live streaming services and have the potential to increase audience size and audience satisfaction for the content.

Enhanced Brand Visibility

Live streaming implementations by brands are gaining popularity. There are plenty of cases where streaming events have resulted in purchases or sign-ups from viewers. Whether it’s entertainment value, educational, or a new product demonstration, seeing your brand in this capacity can lead to very positive results. This is a direct result of the interaction and perception offered by live streaming. On the internet, where fraudulent companies are a dime a dozen, building confidence in consumers is crucial. The more your target market sees and hears you, the more real you become. 2016 consumers today are savvier than ever about making informed decisions, and a live broadcast is an uncut, unedited medium that can build bridges between a brand and its consumers.

Whether the live streaming video is a game, an interview, a documentary, or an event, any stream that is related to your brand can create excitement through promotion. Streaming raises awareness of your brand. The ability to interact with the audience allows them to get a better feel about who you are, beyond what your brand offers. While audience members who are already familiar with you will enjoy the opportunity to see you in a more casual and personal atmosphere.

Challenges and Limitations of Live Streaming Services

Existing literature suggests a number of challenges and limitations with live streaming services. One of the most frequently reported issues is related to the quality of service, which includes interruptions, spontaneous termination of the session, or poor audio or video quality. Seo, Yang, and Kim (2016) discuss how connection stability directly affects QoS, stating “a stable upload speed is required throughout the session so that users can use the service without any interruption” (p. 3). A dynamic bit rate is a feature of adaptive streaming, where video quality can be altered by the server and client between multiple bit rates, which allows a stable QoS for applications and services. This could prove to be a useful implementation for live streams if it were an industry standard, given that the streaming broadcaster may be moving through various ranges of upload speeds. Another technical issue that still raises concern today is the delay in the live stream when a user is interacting with the broadcaster. This is known as latency, and while high latency is generally desired for stabilizing QoS, it can effectively disrupt user-to-user or user-to-broadcaster interactions. High latency is not only a deterrent for user experience; it can hinder the quality of service by causing buffering if a client’s advertised rate approaches the next chunk of streamed data. The second of the two mentioned technical issues is primarily used for consumer-based QoS and is referred to as Quality of Experience (QoE). This is the overall sense of enjoyment obtained by the viewer from the broadcaster’s platform. It contrasts from QoS, which is aimed at error-free delivery of the service, to what the end user actually experiences. This can include a range of expectations from video and audio quality, ease of access, technical difficulties, and simplicity of the stream, availability, and the broadcaster’s reliability. Live streaming services were not specifically mentioned in the literature found for QoE, mostly focusing on on-demand video services. However, it is reasonable to assume that it defines what a user would expect from their time spent watching a live stream.

Technical Issues and Connectivity Problems

Latency is however long it takes for a little bit of data (in this case audio or video) to travel from one purpose to a different. Low latency is vital in real time communications, a decent example being 2 approach radio, time period spoken communication would be not possible if there have been huge delays in causing and receiving messages. but it’s a lot of less necessary in on demand video or audio streaming. A live music gig may well be simulcast over the net to say fans round the world. A latency of even up to a moment wouldn’t be a problem and therefore the sensible lower limit of latency would probably result during saved transmission prices. These 2 requests for a coffee latency possibility and close to a video quality ar incompatible in internet streaming. This can be as a result of an occasional latency stream can have tiny little bit of knowledge of the subsequent video and audio because it has arrived before the higher quality stream therefore playback of those streams can lead to a erratic change between the 2. This can be not associate with degree acceptable level of watching and so live streams ar typically found to be high latency to confirm quality playback.

Two of the foremost necessary technical challenges that face live streaming are that of bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth, described as knowledge measure quantity over a amount of your time, determines the standard and speed of the video or audio streaming. prime quality video can need a bigger quantity of information being sent at intervals the an equivalent amount of time that a coffee quality stream requiring the next bandwidth. this could end in the viewer experiencing a ‘buffering’ screen. this can be once the viewer may be a transient halt within the stream as a result of the stream hasn’t downloaded enough knowledge for the video to continue play. This will be terribly annoying and is barely actually acceptable for time period communication and not on demand streaming. Live audio may be contend back at a chic quality by a 56k electronic equipment however this may involve an evening delay in transmission, throughout now a lot of of the audio would have already happened and started enjoying therefore the user would expertise a stop-begin result. this could be avoided by increasing or reducing the latency.

Privacy and Security Concerns

A recent study investigated the challenging aspects of using mobile camera phones in public settings, which is an intertwined issue with live streaming. Their study examined the change from one-to-one surveillance between an event and an observer to the potential for citizen journalism to create a situation of five-to-one surveillance where people are being filmed without consent by multiple others. The researchers’ investigation into the principles of pre-modern and modern public spaces concluded that new camera technologies can be intrusive by undoing the development of adding increased privacy alongside social freedom. This has major implications today considering that there is a rapid decline in traditional public space due to the growth of privatized shopping centers and the explosion of internet usage. Live streaming further eradicates the definition of public space because an event may still be viewable to the public yet hosted in a completely private setting. This amalgamation between private and public space increases the risk of intrusion when private events are unwittingly broadcasted to a potentially unlimited number of viewers. High-profile political and cultural events are also at increased risk from activities like citizen journalism because there is now a public understanding that uncensored truth is captured on film. This can lead to information control strategies from event hosts and increased confrontation between those wanting to capture real events and those wanting to prevent them from being filmed.

In 2015, Bloomberg View ran a column arguing that “privacy is not the most pressing issue posed by today’s data revolution.” The column claimed that while privacy is a concern for many people, issues such as government surveillance, private sector data collection, and the inability to relinquish past online personas outweigh privacy, and rightly so. Live streaming services can cause privacy to become a serious concern due to the fact that an event is broadcast in real time, thus increasing the risk of remaining available in perpetuity. This is particularly concerning in the context of citizen journalism, where videos of unfiltered content may be captured and stored.

Future Trends and Opportunities in Live Streaming Services

Monetization is directly linked as both an opportunity for live streaming platforms and content creators. As stated earlier, many content creators are doing full-time work for little gain and ergo seek a stable revenue source. This has often led back to making YouTube videos, meaning they are skimming the top creators off the live streaming platform market. YouTube might not provide the best platform to make video content, but it provides a good means to an end of monetization due to Google AdSense. In contrast, many of the top creators who originally built their fan base with video content have tried live streaming and conceded that while it may provide a more enjoyable experience, it is not as tough on the revenue. Primary attributed reasons are that viewers donate financially in small amounts and subscriptions may not offer value when competing with free content, while representing an environment where creators feel sheepish to pitch too hard on these methods without seeming money-oriented. With the recent offering of features such as Twitch cheers and bits, a more sentimental and animated way to donate to streamers, one could argue that it provides a better experience for viewers and creators. However, many feel that these methods take away value for money from the donator and still offer little incentive. An experimental view is to conceive the possibility that the embrace of third-party product placement within streams and streamer endorsement deals can bring more revenue to the content creator, often reciprocal in value for the company.

The integration of live streaming with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is one highly anticipated future trend. Companies such as Facebook have already demonstrated them by firing two AR camera effects: “Live” and “Today”, the first allowing streamers to market the feeling of being live, the second giving the functionality to place audience filters over their videos. Although the true AR/VR live streaming experience is some years away, it is an exciting prospect for both content creators and viewers for a multitude of reasons. A much quoted example is that of a live streaming eSports competitor being able to allow viewers to “sit” in his game via a VR headset, providing an entirely new experience in viewer immersion. For content creators generally, AR/VR integration could open up a wealth of new ways to create and monetize content, but this comes with a certain satisfaction guarantee for viewers.

Integration with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are on the rise and are predicted to take the entertainment and social world by storm. With the breakthrough of the Pokemon GO game in 2016 that became an instant global phenomenon, this signaled that the world is slowly but surely opening up to AR. This creates a huge opportunity for the live streaming platform, with AR and VR having a very strong use case in events and live streaming. Imagine being able to transport someone from their living room to the front row of a music concert or sporting event. Although it may be a few years yet until we have full VR immersion, 360 live streaming is a realistic prospect in the near future and will be a sought-after feature for live streaming platforms. It will also be possible to create custom AR and VR experiences and sponsored content for particular brands, with the youth and technology early adopter demographic being particularly receptive to these kinds of advertising and marketing initiatives. An example could be a game company sponsoring an exclusive AR treasure hunt event for a streamer’s viewers with a prize of one of their new games. This opens up an array of marketing and monetization opportunities and will result in deeper engagement and viewership for streams that have AR and VR content. Due to the high cost of entry for developing these technologies, it is likely that bigger companies will take the first step and there may be opportunities for partnerships between the developer of the AR/VR content and the live streamer. This could then set the stage for AR and VR content becoming a regular in certain streams and filtering down as the cost and demand decreases. Given the rate at which technology is advancing, it may only be a matter of years until AR and VR become a staple in live streaming and are able to offer truly immersive experiences.

Monetization Strategies for Live Streaming Platforms

But some methods of monetizing are quite the commitment to bringing in a revenue stream. According to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, “For example, some developers and partners have to sell virtual goods on Amazon to promote games or in-game content in order to get premium exposure for items on Twitch. Then, just a few weeks ago, subscriptions have seen another update that provides more custom subscription options for the partner to promote or reward certain behaviors.” Said by Matthew DiPietro, the vice president of marketing, these methods are all call-to-action methods that have a high payout in revenue, but it’s at a very high time investment risk. Some of the virtual goods classes as a game on Twitch can get up to 40% of the profits from each sale of the game or any in-game purchases using a method called game item promotion. Ads are also a way of monetizing that has a high revenue rate, but it is not highly regarded due to the potential opportunity cost of lost viewers.

Live streaming is a platform which allows a user to stream a video in real time. The old way to do it was you would record a video and then upload it to the internet, whether it be to a video sharing website or your own website. There have been esports, board game leagues, Dungeons and Dragons, and other competitive games that use live streaming. Live streams have all the action happening right now. Now imagine the ability to live stream incorporating video games. The streaming service called Twitch allows people to live stream their gameplay and cast to an audience who can chat with the person streaming.

Influencer Marketing and Collaborations

Twitch, a live streaming service that initially began by targeting the gaming community, has since branched out to include various other forms of content. Twitch features channels from people who are well-known within their respective communities. Twitch realized that it’s these individuals who are the influencers and tastemakers that can greatly affect the brand affinity of their viewers. Anecdotal stories from a number of streamers indicate that they’ve been approached by game developers with offers of payment to play their game on stream to help boost its popularity. This has been a popular method to get a product noticed within a niche market, and it’s fairly common to see more obscure game titles get a sales boost on the day of being featured on a stream. With the highly anticipated release of Facebook’s gaming app, it’s likely streamer collaborations will become more prevalent across a variety of platforms.

A key trend of marketing, largely attributed to the rise of digital and social media, is the utilization of influencers to market brand and product messages. This can be harnessed through a variety of methods, whether it be to sponsor a streaming session, play a specific game that’s tied to a product, or simply feature the product in the background. Influencer marketing can help build a more personal connection between a brand and a potential consumer. This is ideal for promoting a product in a more subtle manner, as going in all guns blazing with a traditional advertisement may not resonate well with a social media-savvy younger audience.

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