You hit the live button, and the viewer count doesn’t budge.
You assume it’s a tech problem and open another screen to see if it shows up. It’s working. The counter shows one viewer but returns to zero when you close the second screen.
What happens if crickets are the only ones to attend your brand’s live podcast, video show, or webinar?
I posed that question on LinkedIn and Qwoted to see what the marketing experts had to say. Their answers have me rethinking the definition and value of “live” content in a marketing strategy.
Hearing from the viewers
“What are the advantages of a livestream? There is only one: Interaction with the audience,” says Chris Inman, president of I.D.E.A. Cleveland, an agency that works with small businesses on video marketing content.
That advantage occurred in a recent live video tutorial about a product feature hosted by RecurPost. Marketing manager Debbie Moran says someone commented about a problem they experienced, prompting the company to start work on fixing the bug immediately.
“Sometimes even one valuable response on livestreams could be immensely helpful,” Debbie says.
Getting more juice on replays
As the author of Going Live: Live Podcasting for the Win, Christoph Trappe would seem like the person to advocate for live all the time. But, he says, it depends on your brand’s goals.
Who cares about the total number if a small audience encompasses the right viewers?
Christoph says you can reach more of the target audience with your live videos by adopting a multi-stream approach. Go live with your broadcast on X, LinkedIn, YouTube, Amazon Live, etc. — wherever your audience is.
And a lot of people also watch livestreams on replay. A LinkedIn livestream with 200 live viewers might get another 300 on replay because the platform’s algorithm feeds it to people at different times.
But if nobody’s watching on any of those channels, should you continue?
Christoph says yes. “Would you stop any content strategy just because nobody’s watching when you first start? Would you ever do anything? Would you ever do a blog? … So don’t give up too quickly.
“Put some emotion behind it and actually do it for a while,” he suggests.
Repurposing live content
RecurPost’s Debbie Moran says her team repurposes livestreams into clips, blog posts, and social media updates: “It’s like making a cake and then using the same ingredients for cupcakes and cookies — more treats for everyone.”
Christoph Trappe uses an AI tool called Opus Clips to create video clips from his livestreams. He also suggests marketers optimize their livestreams around keyword research and turn the resulting videos into longer-form written content.
Scrutinizing the merits of live
If no one is watching, you and your team should ask two questions, says Amy Higgins, principal of Amy Higgins Consulting:
- What experience do you create through the live event?
- What resources are available to work on the videos?
The answers can help shape your next steps.
A livestream doesn’t let you edit out bloopers, and that spontaneity may add fun for presenters and viewers. It also cuts down on post-product work required of the team or agency.
But pre-recorded videos let you polish the content, delivering a more professional experience but requiring more time to execute. Presenters also may feel more relaxed without the pressures of livestreaming.
I.D.E.A. Cleveland’s Chris Inman says he’s never experienced a situation where a live webinar works better than a video-on-demand webinar. “We all want instant gratification on our own time, not others,” he says.
Experiencing live and recorded
Last September, Rhea Landholm, communications manager at the Center for Rural Affairs, hosted a live event with a pre-recorded video for the center’s 50th anniversary.
Three people watched. “I felt like I was talking to myself in the chat,” she says.
It’s not that she didn’t promote the event. Rhea published the event on the organization’s website, created a Facebook event, and touted it on LinkedIn, X, and Instagram. She set up YouTube Premiere so everyone who visited the channel seven days before the live release would know about the debut. And she promoted it in the center’s newsletter, which went to 17,000 people.
“We had never done a premiere before, and I was hoping this would be a way to connect some of our constituents,” Rhea says.
Though only three people showed up that first evening, her efforts did pay off. The video has had 411 views since, which is a good number for the center.
And Rhea did what the other experts in this article recommended: She maximized the content. A three-minute version automatically plays when people visit the center’s YouTube page (where it earned 50 views in the following months.)
It wasn’t the first time the Center for Rural Affairs went live. In 2020, the organization launched a weekly livestream called Rural Rapport, which featured its staff discussing their work. But in 2022, the Rural Rapport went monthly as a pre-recorded show featuring partners and constituents affected by the center’s work.
Rhea says the staff and guests involved in the videos prefer the recorded option, and the switch hasn’t affected viewership. “We don’t treat recording vs. live video any differently. It’s just more convenient,” she says.
Chirping for live video
So, if the crickets are the only ones to show up for your live content, don’t stop doing it. But make the most of what and how you’re doing it.
Pre-record the content and show up live to take comments, share links, and engage with the community. Take the show live on multiple platforms where your audience hangs out. Repackage the live content into assets for your blog, social media, and more.
A multi-use strategy will eventually replace those crickets with people consuming and reacting to your content.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute