Live and let live

In an attempt to capture the attention of audiences and amplify debate, this October SBS will launch its most ambitious television event to date.

As part of its compelling documentary series, Go Back To Where You Came From, six high-profile Australians will be transported to war-ravaged countries, following the footsteps of refugees, all while being broadcast live to millions of Australians.

But let’s take a step back for a moment.

When did people get so crazy about live streaming?

By now it’s a well-established fact that social media users are watching more video-based content than ever before, with live video engagement quickly surpassing standard video engagement.

For those who aren’t already doing it, live streaming is the broadcasting of real-time, live video to audiences via digital platforms – which means just about anyone who has a smart phone or tablet can do it. Whether your chosen platform is Snapchat and Instagram stories, Twitch, Facebook or YouTube the power to live-stream is in your hands.

People love live video due to its diverse platforms, and the excitement that is generated from the unpredictability of live content. It’s simply the next logical step to static video, which we have consumed in mass amounts on a daily basis for years.

Statistics also show live streaming on social channels is not a fad: it’s here to stay. With 63 per cent of 18 to 34 year olds already watching live streaming regularly, live video is set to be worth US$70 billion by 2020. This makes it a vital platform for brands looking to engage with millennials.

Live streaming from a war zone: what could possibly go wrong?!

From Tuesday 2 October to Thursday 4 October SBS will be tapping into this thirst for live streaming, exposing Australian audiences to live video footage of events occurring from conflict frontlines across multiple continents, on SBS Facebook live, SBS On Demand and free-to-air TV.

It’s a mammoth task for SBS – exposing talent and crew to incredibly dangerous situations, while trying to live stream to a nation thousands of miles away, using satellites and 4G.

Producer Joseph Maxwell believes the effort they’re making will be a driver for powerful storytelling.

“We wanted to amplify the debate and the scale and knew that if viewers were able to watch these engaging stories in real-time it would be so much more powerful,” he said.

“When we came up with the idea of reworking it as a live event, our heart rates went into overdrive – surely it wouldn’t be possible? We took that fear and that ambition as a good sign.”

Making the series happen will be a logistical challenge, balancing technology and outputs from a number of crews in different locations, according to Producer Rick McPhee.

“Each location spot has a different bespoke technological process. In one location, we’re using BGANS, which is almost like a satellite backpack. Elsewhere we will be using a fly away kit,” he said.

“Some locations we’ll rely on using bonded cellular, which uses the mobile network. And when we’re crossing to people in other parts of the world, we’ll be using Skype or Facetime. It’s a whole different range of technologies that we’re using. It depends what we can get from that location.”

And if it fails, it fails.

“This is ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ television. We have no guarantee the technology is going to work. Of course, we’re testing it, but on the day, who knows what is going to happen,” Rick said.

“It’s something that makes the show dynamic. Because there are live activities happening, we think we know what is going to happen, but we don’t. We might be crossing back to places we are not expecting to cross to because something is happening on the ground. So, it is a very flexible and fluid setup. We will be going where the action is.”

The payoff for taking the risk will undoubtedly be worth it.

It’s highly likely the interaction online and the view rates will be significantly higher than that of static television, along with playbacks on SBS On Demand in the following weeks. This will lift brand engagement on social media, and will most certainly lead to branded search terms on Google.

If you’re interested in the impact, take a look at the Google Trends website in the days of the broadcast and days following. You’ll find all manner of information, including the top 10 trending search terms. It will be interesting to see if “SBS” and “Go Back To Where You Came From Live” will sit within the top 10 results for Australia.

Live streaming – give it a go

If you haven’t already, give live streaming a chance next time your company has something interesting to say, or show.

Here are our tips for a successful Facebook Live stream:

  1. Promote: Before you go live, potential customers need to be aware of what you are live streaming and when. Once you start your live stream, consumers will receive a notification that you are live on Facebook, prompting them to tune in and engage.
  2. Prepare: Make sure you are in a well-lit room, the audio quality is high, the internet connection is strong and you have practiced what you intend to do in advance. Just because you can say anything doesn’t mean you should, remember to “keep-it-real” but remain on brand.
  3. Length: Stream for at least 10 minutes to gain maximum exposure. The more people that watch, the more people will be notified you are live.
  4. Be responsive: Facilitate engagement with your followers during the live stream by responding to comments and questions, and thanking them for their input.
  5. Analyse your results: Following your live stream, take the time to analyse your Facebook results, as well as other channels through Google Analytics.

Hopefully, your quest for authentic storytelling won’t lead you to a war-torn country. What SBS’s foray into live-broadcast can teach you however is that brands can, and should be more adventurous when experimenting with live streaming on social media.

Warts and all, consumers are receptive to brands that are real, accept their mistakes, and have fun along the way.

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