Content marketing is like economics: it’s all about supply and demand. 

In B2B, the demand for content is steady, while supply is exploding. With more blog posts, infographics and SlideShares created every minute, supply is far exceeding demand. In this sea of content, it’s hard for your content to get noticed. 

Except if you’re in B2B and doing live video.

The Promise of Live Video for B2B Brands

While B2C brands are broadcasting live video via Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope and Facebook Live, B2B brands have been slower on the uptake. Jason Miller, global content marketing leader at LinkedIn, sees only the largest B2B brands — IBM, GE, Adobe, etc. — using live video. 

According to Miller, “that’s because they have huge audiences already in place and the expertise in adapting their strategies to new platforms and emerging technologies.”

The way Vincenzo Landino sees it, the limited supply of live video from B2B brands poses an opportunity. Landino, the co-founder and creative director of video marketing firm Aftermarq, helps produce live video for B2B brands, including a number of software companies. 

According to Landino, “The space is moving so quickly that early adopters in B2B are being rewarded heavily. If it takes five years for a B2B brand to jump on this bandwagon, it will be far too late.”

It’s easier than ever to get started with live video. In the past, you’d need a camera crew, a satellite feed and a streaming provider. Today, you can broadcast live video from an app on your smartphone. And live video creates a closer connection to your audience compared to infographics and e-books.

Lori Wright is Chief Marketing Officer at BlueJeans Network, a cloud-based video service. According to Wright, “We’re going to see B2B use live video on a massive scale moving forward to connect and interact because it’s easy, inexpensive and personal.”

Let’s highlight key questions B2B brands must answer before using live video.

Are You Prepared to Surrender Some Control?

During its Dreamforce conference, Salesforce utilized Snapchat and Facebook Live to broadcast live video from the show floor. They invited attendees to contribute “snaps” of their conference experience and used Facebook Live to livestream a number of sessions.

Before proceeding, Salesforce must have considered the risk versus reward. If something were to go wrong at the event, thousands of in-person attendees might see it. But with a live stream, an embarrassing moment can be seen by the entire world. 

On the other hand, B2B brands can reap the rewards of having live video streamed from their events. Influencers and brand advocates attend, and live video gives them the opportunity to promote and amplify the event to their followers.

So those rewards come with the price of surrendering some control. 

According to Landino, “B2B brands have to understand that they need to relinquish the power they had over traditional marketing outlets and allow their best advocates (e.g. employees and customers) to generate content. Rather than broadcast, they need to listen, engage and empower.”

Do We Have Documented Business Objectives?

With any new medium, B2B brands often jump in without first determining business objectives. 

For Brian Fanzo, CEO at iSocialFanz, B2B brands focus too much on a particular social network or app. Because certain apps place limitations on what businesses can measure or achieve, selecting an app first can dampen the potential upside. Start by documenting the business objectives, then use those objectives to determine the right solution.

“For all the brands I work with, we start by defining a goal and what success will look like. Then, we research to understand where the audience is and which app or apps would be best to leverage in our strategy.”

In addition to documenting business objectives, B2B brands ought to consider the viewing experience. Do they wish to livestream an event’s keynote presentation, or would they prefer to give “behind the scenes” access to presenters when they step off the stage?

Learning Opportunities

According to Wright, “To prepare, companies need to plan; they need to determine what they want the experience to be, define its primary goal, and proceed from there in terms of content, tone and format.”

Once business goals and visitor experience are defined, it’s important to rehearse. For Facebook Live, Wright recommends using the “Only Me” audience selector to do a test run. According to Facebook’s Help Center, “This option allows you to post stuff to your Timeline that is visible only to you.”

“Take a practice run or two. Just because you want to keep it friendly and casual doesn’t mean you should go totally off the cuff in front of potentially millions of people,” added Wright. 

How Do We Measure Success?

B2B marketers are masters of attribution: for every program, they can quote impressions, clicks, leads, opportunities and sales. While live video can have a “feel good” element (e.g. “We had 1,000 viewers online today!”), the same rigor should be applied as with other programs. The metrics should tie back to documented business objectives.

While Fanzo prefers to select an app based on his clients’ business objectives, sometimes the app decision has already been made. So what happens if he’s using an app that limits his ability to measure success? He’ll find creative ways to bridge from one app to another.

“As an example, I’ve used Snapchat to get people excited about an upcoming product release, then let them know they need to take a screenshot on Snapchat and share it to Twitter with a specific hashtag to win a prize,“ said Fanzo.

From there, Fanzo creates a paid social media campaign to target those who shared on Twitter. He’ll promote a piece of gated content to them. When they register to download the content, they become a lead for his client. 

Do Other Activities Drive Higher Impact?

Time is a zero sum game: the time you spend on one campaign is time you cannot spend on another. For B2B marketers, where they spend their time is as important as where they spend their dollars. They must analyze opportunity cost: when deciding on live video, which other projects will be deferred?

Conversion rate optimization and search engine optimization won’t land you on the cover of AdvertisingAge, but may result in a higher impact to your business. So carefully weigh the impact of live video against other priorities.

According to LinkedIn’s Miller, “If you have mastered everything in your B2B marketing arsenal and your audience is specifically asking for it, then maybe it’s time to experiment. But don’t do it because it’s the sexy new thing to do. Do it when you are sure it will add value to your overall digital marketing strategy. If this day never comes, so be it.”

The Time is Right for Live Video Experimentation

Steady demand combined with low supply make this a good time for B2B marketers to experiment with live video. With very little up front cost, you can try it and decide whether to continue. 

You might discover a new way to connect with customers, or you may determine that live video is not for you. In either case, make sure you answer some key questions before you begin.

Title image Mitch Nielsen

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.