By Paolo Nieddu
First published by Marketing Magazine. You can read the full article on Marketing's website.
As we all know the 'water cooler moment' is generally defined as ‘a significant moment in television history that is discussed the next day in the workplace’. However, in this era of 2nd screen viewing behaviours, time shifted viewing and on demand TV consumption, the notion of a water cooler moment seems altogether rather quaint as genuine, universally compelling, conversation driving mass broadcast events are now few and far between.
While we do still get the occasional [delete as appropriate] god-awful / breath-taking performance from an X-Factor hopeful, generation defining moment of sporting history, or controversial conclusion of the latest boxset series, where people have their water cooler moment conversations has shifted. They now manifest themselves across various social channels; a live opinion on Twitter, a visual meme on Facebook, a link to a YouTube video shared on WhatsApp….
As we all know, these conversations aren’t just limited to what we’re consuming live on TV. Every week there is a plethora of buzzworthy news and content to talk about. The difference is that these water cooler conversations don’t fully expire the next day.
A truly viral piece of content tends to gain traction in the first 48 hours and then filters through peer groups and networks so there is a long tail of discovery and subsequent echo of conversation for days and sometimes weeks afterwards. Of course the caveat being that the content itself has to be pretty special...
Within this context, the rise of live social broadcasting platforms is a very interesting proposition for brands as it offers the opportunity to deliver captivating content experiences that not only avoids the significant investment and high stakes associated with traditional broadcast, but also has the potential to create water cooler moment conversations within their natural habitat.
The live social broadcast platform battleground looks to be shaping up into a genuinely fascinating battle between rising twin powers of Meerkat and Periscope with the added spice of a new pretender to the throne in the recently launched David Beckham backed MyEye.
All three offerings have their pros and cons but before diving headfirst into the debate about which platform or platforms you should commit to, the vital first step it is to consider the overarching notion of live social broadcast along with the risks but also opportunities that come with the potential of shiny new communications platforms (digital or otherwise).
Risks & Opportunities
1. What To Broadcast
Pointing the camera at every single event your brand does and broadcasting it to the world is like posting an Instagram of every single moment of your daily life, however mundane and hoping people will like or comment. Even if your brand executes regular experiential events for example, consider what a viewer watching from afar will get out of the experience. Is it what you’re doing captivating? What value are you providing? Will people talk about what they saw to their network of friends?
Design for the Platform
The more astute approach is to develop bespoke content experiences that are anchored in the core features and functionality of the platform itself. Understanding what is technically possible can then inform how you design the experience. For example, it’s now possible to stream content direct from GoPro cameras into a Meerkat live stream. Think of the amazing possibilities this offers sports brands alone.
2. Audience Interaction
Not Leveraging The 'Captive Active' Audience
Social media is by its very nature about connections and conversations and it’s no different with either Meerkat, Periscope or MyEye, hence why they’ve all been designed with engagement functionality baked in. By not inviting your audience to get involved with you during a live broadcast, you’re missing a huge opportunity to connect with a captive audience and provide the additional fuel for them to share their experience they’ve had with your brand.
Harnessing The Two Way Conversation
Think of your viewers like a live studio audience who want to take part in some way with the performance you are putting on. By embedding opportunities for engagement within the framework of the broadcast it significantly elevates the content experience from a passive one to an active one. There is huge opportunity to push the boundaries beyond likes, user comments and questions. For example, gamification is an interesting territory, what if a brand allowed the audience to influence the entire direction of a content experience narrative?
3. Beyond the Moment
You Had to Be There
The ephemeral nature of live broadcast content is what makes it so compelling - knowing that your brand is streaming a content experience that is unique to that particular moment in time is a powerful notion and ultimately the key driver of the water cooler moment. But what if parts of your audience couldn’t tune in live for some reason? While you’ll never be able to truly recreate the live nature of the original live, it’s important to consider the second and third waves of people who still hold an active interest in consuming your content experience.
It’s still possible to benefit from the echoes of conversation around your content experience by packaging it up in a way that creates a legacy beyond the broadcast and subsequent 72 hours. A great example of this, predating the existence of any of the platforms we’ve discussed, is Red Bull Stratos. While the jump itself was the defining moment that millions of us watching live on YouTube will remember, how Red Bull have built out the story post the event moment itself has created a legacy that will captivate people for years to come. While the vast majority of brands are unlikely to put on a stunt of this audacity, creating a legacy that lives beyond the moment itself should be considered as a fundamental element of your strategy.
4. Substance vs. Style
Over Production Values
A key area of tension that many marketers will face is around what how their brand is presented to the world through streaming platforms that are designed to be experienced through tablet and smartphone devices. There will be a temptation for brand stakeholders to default into the approach they take with highly polished pieces of digital video content or TV advertising. While this is understandable it’s worth remembering that producing a live music gig is very different to producing a music video.
Embrace The Authenticity
The very nature of live TV events is that nothing is 100% set in stone, no matter how slick the production (annual case in point, The Brit Awards). Experiencing a live event that is imperfect and as a consequence, authentic, can be the key trigger for water cooler moment conversations. The balance to strike is one where a brand delivers a well thought out, rich and engaging content experience that feels authentic and true to their brand. If executed correctly, in some cases this could contribute to a significant shift in brand perception.
5. Scaling Your Audience
Broadcasting To The Few
Picture the scene, your months in the planning social live broadcast idea is about to commence, you’ve passionately sold in the idea internally and believe you’ve got a very unique and compelling angle on an area that even your superiors never believed could be tackled through content marketing, it’s all come together nicely. You go live. You keep one eye on what’s playing out, which is going perfectly and the other eye on the data feed of engagements and viewers. To your horror, the total audience figure doesn’t even get into double figures and you can already feel the pressure building…This, albeit dramatic, scenario probably encapsulates the core underlying fear in the minds of agencies and marketers alike. However, it doesn’t have to be like that...
Harnessing Appointment to View
The key to guaranteeing a significant scale of audience lies in the established TV industry comms model of targeted frequency driving views for TX. In other words, inform as many of your target audience as possible, as regularly as possible, in the places they are most likely to be, to tune in to the social broadcast platform on a specific time and date. Even more succinctly, create a mini awareness campaign to promote your broadcast. Now this may sound obvious, but without planning this as part of your strategy, even with the most compelling piece content experience the world has ever seen, fewer people means fewer and more diluted water cooler moment conversations.
The ingredients to succeed
Over time many of the risks are likely to dissipate and many of the opportunities will evolve even further. What is likely to remain constant however are three fundamental ingredients that require careful consideration before committing to live social broadcasting for your brand.
Think audience first. What will they find compelling, entertaining and valuable to drive them to share their experience with their friends and peers?
Define how your brand is going to add to the culture of the world. The holy grail within this space is to create content experiences so powerful (the water cooler moment) that they resonate beyond your core target audience.
Finally, this needs to be underpinned by embracing a mindset of failing brilliantly. If you’re not taking risks then you’re not pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.