What is live streaming?
Live streaming is a technology that lets you watch, create and share videos in real time, a bit like live TV. All you need to be able to live stream is an internet enabled device, like a smart phone or tablet, and a platform (such as a website or app) to live stream from.
Current popular live streaming apps include Facebook Live, Instagram Live stories, Twitch TV (often used by the gaming community), House Party and Tik Tok.
Unlike pre-recorded videos that can be cut and edited, live streaming is just that – live and uncensored.
Some live streams can be private. For example, video conferencing, like Skype or Zoom, uses live streaming technology to allow you to talk to people you have invited. To make sure they stay private, they should be password protected and passwords shouldn’t be shared with people you don’t know.
Some live streams are public and might be watched by hundreds or even thousands of people.
Viewers can comment and interact live by posting messages that appear beside the live stream. They can also share emojis such as hearts, and gifts such as coins which appear on the screen.
What makes live streaming popular?
The inspiration to live stream comes from reality TV and YouTube, where you can broadcast anything you are doing, right there in the moment, all across the world.
Live streaming is appealing to children and young people, particularly primary aged children. It gives them a chance to be a creator, a presenter and to be seen and heard by an audience and connect to their favourite celebrities.
Many live streamers love the sense of being ‘in the moment’ and interacting with family, friends, or even a global audience. From a birthday message to loved ones, to a topical Q and A or a talent showcase, there are endless opportunities to broadcast fun, important, or exciting moments live.
Viewing live streams lets children and young people connect with their own favourite live streamers. They share comments with other viewers and even interact directly with celebrities.
When used in positive way, live streaming is an excellent tool for children and young people to create identity and develop confidence and communication skills.
Children and young people enjoy getting attention and praise, and self-expression is important for development. Sharing something and getting positive feedback from others can be the ultimate confidence boost and build their self-esteem.
Live streaming also allows children and young people to connect with people with similar interests, views and going through similar experiences. This can help some young people feel less socially isolated.
Live streamers can also receive financial rewards, which is an exciting goal for some young people. For example, audiences can gift virtual coins which can be turned into money.
What to consider when selecting a live streaming platform
If you’re using video for internal business communications, such as live town halls, all-hands, remote onboarding or trainings, it’s essential that your chosen video platform will keep your content (and users) secure. If you’re leveraging video as an effective marketing tool, you’ll want to make sure you’re delivering content where and how you want, within your company’s brand experience.
Important features for live streaming for business — like privacy, authorization, customization, embedding restrictions, and security — help define the content you stream and the audience that watches your live and on-demand events. Businesses looking to brand their content, for instance, will need the ability to white label web players, remove a platform’s logo from their page, and embed the videos on their own landing pages.
Of course, your needs will vary, but here are some factors to consider when conducting a live streaming platform comparison:
- Authentication: How can my audience access video content securely (and how can we ensure it will scale)?
- Authorization: How can my team manage their video content? What permissions do they have?
- Customization: How can I ensure my company’s brand will be front and center when people watch my video?
- Pricing: Is the value I’m getting worth the cost?
As live streaming has become more ubiquitous, so have the “DIY” options, like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Periscope, and Instagram Live. We’ll touch upon those options in this article, but it’s worth noting that they will, by and large, pale in comparison to many of these platforms. Free live streaming tools are intended for consumers, not companies. They’re built with the intention of putting the viewer first, often forcing creators to juggle multiple platforms to manage their video content and distribution.
If you have deeper needs than just going live to an external audience, if your stakes are higher and you cannot experience any downtime, if you need a white label, branded, platform-agnostic video player, you’ll need to invest in a more robust live streaming platform.
Let’s recap some of the pros and cons of the bigger players in the professional live streaming space.
Live streaming platform comparison
We would be remiss to not include a mention of our live streaming solution, right? Today, Vimeo has multiple solutions to help businesses get what they need with video, no matter the strategy or infrastructure.
Launched in 2019, Vimeo Enterprise is the latest addition to our family of products, offering even more security and exclusive features that meet the needs of medium and large businesses. Vimeo Enterprise takes what our 90 million members already know and love about Vimeo — like a branded, beautiful player and customized embedding — with added security and features that businesses need to scale and grow, including:
- Single sign-on authentication
- Live streaming to secure Showcase pages
- User-level analytics
- Live production services
- Dedicated enterprise support and account management
- Uptime guarantees and SLAs
If your business requires advanced functionality, like multiple simultaneous streams, geoblocking and IP restriction (security and gating), monetization, API access, or eCDN, Vimeo Livestream can help.
And, if this all seems a bit much for you, our Vimeo Premium subscription includes unlimited live streaming, without some of the more advanced bells and whistles. Whatever your needs, we’re happy to determine which option is best for you.
Want to see the product live? Check out how to live stream with Vimeo every Tuesday during our Weekly Demo.
2. IBM Cloud Video
IBM Cloud Video, formerly Ustream, offers live streaming and video solutions with all kind of advanced features. Silver, Gold, and Platinum subscriptions, which range anywhere from $99/month to $999/month, are based in part on “viewer hours,” or how much time users spend watching your content. If you surpass the allotted number of viewer hours, additional fees are tacked on.
This means if your event runs longer than expected, or is more popular than you anticipated, there will likely be an additional fee. For larger organizations holding town hall meetings or looking to promote a new product announcement, these overages can be an unwelcome – and costly – surprise. Fortunately, Vimeo’s enterprise offerings do not include any overages, making for a predictable pricing model, so you know what you’re paying up front.
IBM Cloud Video does offer user authorization (single sign-on) and password protection of events, to help keep your sensitive video content secure, as well as dedicated support and production services, should you need an extra helping hand either virtually or during an event. However, IBM Cloud Video does not offer hands-on, in-person training for your team, so unless you already have video experts on-staff, you’ll be left to learn the ropes on your own.
Boston-based Brightcove continues to stake its claim in the video space with its 2018 acquisition of Ooyala’s platform business. Today, Brightcove tackles three core areas for its business strategy: enterprise communications, marketing, and monetization.
Its enterprise solutions offers many of the same features as Vimeo Enterprise, including live streaming, branded video galleries, SSO, and domain restriction. A notable caveat is if your organization is new to live streaming and wants hands-on production support — whether it’s supplying the switchers and encoders or setting up a multi-cam event — you’ll be tasked with going it alone, or hiring various external freelancers to produce an event for you. Vimeo Enterprise includes exclusive access to our award-winning live production services and training for a no-fail event of any size
Founded in 2007, Panopto operates in five cities around the world with around 100 employees, and boasts about being a leader in video content management. This distinction promptly brings us to the sticking point: Live streaming is not its bread and butter. Video asset management is. We’ve heard that some companies opt to use Panopto as a video CMS, but pay for a separate service for reliable live streaming — not an ideal solution for scaling lean businesses.
Additionally, if authorization is top of mind, implementing single sign-on appears rather technical, with help guides topping almost 1,600 words and multiple steps. As with other streaming services on this list, Panopto does not offer live production services, again leaving you to your own devices to coordinate a no-fail event.
Even if on-demand streaming video is of greater importance for your business, Panopto lacks features that can help you get more out of them. Tools like email capture or cards are not available, for instance. This means if you’re looking to build in a post-event call-to-action, or use your video for lead generation, you’ll have to find other work-arounds.
Kaltura established itself in the video space over a decade ago for being open source, meaning developers could make it their own and expand upon it freely. While open source does mean more customization, it also requires more technical know-how to get it up and running.
Looking to customize your player? It’s possible with Kaltura, but requires knowledge of CSS coding. Vimeo’s player customization is built directly into our platform, with a user-friendly interface of a few toggle buttons and color palette selection to make it your own.
We’ve heard support can be hit or miss, as well. According to their website, Kaltura offers a knowledge base, video learning portal, and a ticket-based support center. When your company’s biggest moments are on the line, having your questions or concerns put in a queue is not an option. Vimeo’s enterprise offerings includes top-notch support that you expect and deserve, from our growing staff of friendly humans.
Qumu prides itself on offering a seamless CMS for both on-demand and live streaming. While its technology is powerful, Qumu is tightly aligned to internal communications use cases only. If you’re looking for an all-in-one, end-to-end solution for all your business needs — both internal and external — Qumu likely won’t make the cut.
Partnering with a service like Qumu can also require deploying hardware within your own internal network, which creates a fairly high barrier to entry and implementation. Not only is this process expensive, it also takes a fair bit of time to roll out.
What’s more, creating an on-brand viewing experience isn’t feasible with Qumu, as white labeling, password protection, custom branding, or embedding videos with domain restrictions is not available. Plus, features like email capture and video CTAs aren’t built in, either.
If you want to use video in your external marketing and communications (if it’s not part of your strategy yet, it should be!), you’ll require a separate subscription and system to manage them. Twice the implementation, onboarding, cost, and systems management for your IT team. Yikes!
A more entry-level option for live streaming for business, DaCast offers video management and live streaming solutions with fewer bells and whistles. What you’ll save in money, you’ll lose out with enterprise-grade solutions like SSO, eCDN, and tight security features. DaCast does offer customization options, although only through its API, adding a level of complexity for teams to create an on-brand viewing experience.
Live video, unlike other types of content, plays on people’s Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). Viewers will be drawn to your live video because it might not be there tomorrow. What if they miss out on something great?
Being live creates a sense of urgency that other mediums just can’t. In a world where yesterday news is old news, a live broadcast is the best way to bring attention to your brand.
More exposure. More reach.
On many platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, live videos get an advantage over videos on demand. The platforms push this kind of content forward and put it above others. Live streaming for brands and businesses isn’t crowded yet, which means your live content gets more exposure than others.
With live streaming videos, you can also reach more people because of the increased exposure. Since viewers spend 8x more watching live videos, they can be longer, which gives people more time to find and view your stream.
Unique interaction with customers
Live streaming offer brands and businesses an opportunity to interact with customers, unlike any other medium. It establishes a connection with customers and gives them a personal experience with the brand.
In the past, companies were untouchable and impersonal, and that was OK. But, on today’s market, consumers want to identify themselves with the brand. They want to get to know the business and the people behind it. A live video makes a company reachable and shows its personality.
Real-time interaction = more engagement
Better than interacting with customers online, is interacting with them live. The real-time interaction creates a conversation with your customers, which is second-best to in-person interaction, but much more scalable.
The live element also pushes your audience to engage with your content. During live videos, people want to be a part of the conversation, and they are more likely to share it too.
“For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.” – Facebook
Building trust is essential for businesses to succeed. Potential customers want to know the brand and know they can rely on them. The level of interaction on live video allows viewers to create a connection with the brand. If they like what they see, this connection leads to trust.
Another advantage of live streaming for brands is the freedom involved in it. There are no restrictions. You can go live for hours if you want. The content can lean more to the personal side, but it can also be more business related. It can be more commercial, or it can be more educational. The possibilities are endless.
If you think your business needs more content and plan to create videos on demand, keep in mind that live streaming videos, can be repurposed afterward. You can record your live stream and once you finish it, you can post on your social media platforms as more content. So, it becomes a video on demand.
To repurpose content, you need to make sure it will make sense as a video on demand. For example, if you do a live product demo with a flash sale, it might not be ideal to repurpose it, unless you edit it. But, if your live video is educational, it can work well as a video on your YouTube channel.
Disadvantages of Live Streaming for Brands and Businesses
There are many advantages to live streaming for brands and businesses, but, just like any other content type, there are some disadvantages. The main downside of live streaming as a business is also its most significant advantage; it’s live. There are no do-overs.
Not having a second chance can be scary for brands, because this sounds like there’s no room for mistakes. But that isn’t true. In fact, viewers can be more forgiving when it comes to live video, and many expect some live bloopers. It gives the broadcast a human aspect, which is essential for viewers to identify with your brand.
No do-overs also mean that you need to be more prepared than you would be for videos on demand. Have a llive stream check list handy, make sure you’ve checked and double checked every equipment. Place everything you might need within reach.
The more you do it, the easier it will be.
The Practice is Live
Another disadvantage of live streaming for businesses is that the only way to get better at it is to do it. Keep in mind that mistakes will happen. But, there are a few of things you can do to keep the errors to a minimum.
Firstly, you and your team can rehearse as much as possible, and you can also do a recorded dry run. In turn, you’ll be able to watch your video and figure out what needs to be improved.
Secondly, after every time you go live, you should analyze your efforts and determine where you can improve. Many viewers leave their feedback in the comment section, take them into account.
Lastly, you can plan for mistakes. Create contingency plans for things that could go wrong, so if it happens, you will have an action plan in hand.
When it comes to live streaming for brands, there are many more advantages than disadvantages, and we encourage you to give it a try. Contentwise, there are countless possibilities to explore, and your audience will appreciate the effort.
Businesses and brands can create live Q&As, interviews, behind the scenes, product or service demos and much more. Regardless of the content, you can create, you should focus your live video strategy on building a relationship with your customers and potential customers. Without a doubt, the main advantage of live streaming for brands and businesses is the possibility of building trust and a deeper connection with the audience.
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