Web Strategy: How to use Live Interactive Video Streaming for your Web Experience, Events, and Crises

Live Interactive Video Streaming, also called live streaming, life casting, or event streaming can provide the web strategist with a low-cost effective tool to enhance communications to customers. This document outlines the most successful ways to use these tools, and provides some best practices.

Live streaming has gotten the attention of the media, press, and bloggers, yet when peering back in history, it’s not a new technology. The big difference is that there are many providers that offer this service and it’s the frequently self-publishing of individuals on blogs makes it easy for anyone to get in on the action

Live video streaming in an inexpensive and ‘human’ medium that can involve a community in an interactive online event.

Life Interactive Video Streaming: A real time video that is often created from a webcam or embedded camera on a laptop (many Macs come standard with this) that let’s anyone publish in real-time to their audience. The interaction part comes from the live attendees being able to interact with each other and the show creator in a real time chat room. I find this attributed to be critical in describing this form of the medium.

Three Effective Use Cases:

1) Event Streaming
One of the best uses of live interactive video streaming is at events, whether at corporate ones, conferences, or product announcements. Supplement your many events with this inexpensive service by assigning an employee (or inviting an existing event streamer) to your event. Provide them with power, robust internet access (Lan line prefereed) and a good location to setup their camera. In come situations, if the event is already being streamed, it’s possible to import the existing audio and video feed into the site, making it easier.

Who’s doing this? Corporate events, presidential debates, conferences organizers

Risks: I’ve seen issues where corporate firewalls have caused havoc in setup, mismatch between audio video gear, and lastly, issues with existing video crews not wanting to participate due to threat of newer cheaper tools, or ‘union rules’.

2) Crises

Ever had a crises? Sure you have, nearly every brand is going to have an exploding product or downed website. In the new live and social web, the best thing to do is to put your best face forward, apologize, and demonstrate to your customers how you genuinely and authentically fix issues. Take zooomr for example, this two man photo sharing startup by Kris Tate and Thomas Hawk was going to release a new version of their website, but sadly, the upgrade went horribly wrong, and the site went down, and appeared by unrecoverable. Rather than scurrying away, they use live interactive streaming to broadcast and show exactly what they were doing to fix the issue. They streamed for over a week on end and showed how they were fixing the problem, even when they were too dead tired to carry on. In the end, they earned the trust of their community, received donations, and eventually got their website back up.

Risks: Exposing how weak you are during a vulnerable time is a risky strategy, but one that could win over the community if you are honestly giving the effort to correct what your audience and customers want. Authenticity requires genuine action.

3) You’re interesting

This pretty much applies to all other situations. For many digital egoists, they are applying life casting and streaming to the whole world their very minutia of their lives. Sadly, after the hype has left the medium nearly half a year ago, the world has stopped caring about watching the lives of an average Joe or Jane. Only people with very interesting lives will gain traction and audience from life streaming. Those would include the rich, famous, actors, musicians, talented, or the very attractive. Secondly, those who live in very unique areas or have a unique lifestyle (like NY’s “Naked Cowboy”) will get traction.

For companies, if you have a very unique behind the scenes process that you want to share about your products being manufactured, or have an exceptionally busy of amazing store (or a view from that store) consider using live video web streaming. Depending on the situation, you may want to turn off comments.

Risks: Failing to truly be interesting will result in wasted time and embarrassment from your peers. Learn to use these tools effectively.

How to get started?

Input Device: Locate an on-board webcam, or purchase a webcam (a hundred dollar Logitech is more than sufficient for most uses. For higher quality events and conferences, consider using higher grade cameras and mics for best production

Services: There’s quite a few Live Video Streaming services available, you can see my master list (which has been republished by the LA Times) to find the right one for you and your demographic.

Experiment internally:
Start playing with these tools to get familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. Try obtaining an EDVO card to stream from remote locations. Also test if these tools work behind the firewall.

Integrate with other communications: I found that if you plan to live stream an event, you’ll need to tell attendees in advance so they can schedule on their calendars to attend. Also consider using Twitter to attract people to your stream.

Interact: The best case scenarios are when the audience gets to help guide and lead the experience. As a result, they will feel ownership, stay engaged, and want to be part of the experience. Read and participate in the forums in near real time, ask questions, let them guide and be part of the show. For example, I used live streaming at the web 20 expo and the viewers told me who they wanted me to interview, where, and what sessions to cover.

My Background with Live Video Streaming
I was one of the first to use event streaming at the Web 2.0 expo using Ustream.tv technology. Working with that team, we experiemented with the medium, which included giving a set to Robert Scoble. I use a tripod, and created an ‘online show’ and interviewed hundreds of attendees, and Robert became a temporary lifecaster. In our final panel, Chris Pirillo joined us, and has been publishing his Live Pirillo show ever since.

Lastly, I was on the Board of Advisors for Ustream.tv, until joining Forrester as an Analyst. I’m very familiar with this growing market.

Additional Resources

For more information, read all my posts tagged Web Strategy (they’re like white papers, or reports) or all posts tagged live video streaming.