Chats have been online since the beginning: they began with basic person-to-person chat boxes, enabling people to converse with one another over platforms like Facebook. They eventually evolved into chatbots, which are often a brand’s resident artificial intelligence that helps website visitors navigate.
Live streaming, too, has developed over time, becoming a favorite way of watching content or events (like those people cannot attend in-person). Similar to how watching a movie with someone is part of the joy of visiting the cinema, live streaming is adopting chat applications so viewers can enjoy videos together—even if they are across the world.
The scale of live streaming
Live streams can fall on a broad spectrum of scale. Some are high-end, like major concerts or seminars that last for hours; and others are smaller, like teenagers sharing videos via Snapchat or Instagram to a small number of followers. Some can even be both, like startup Utopi which allows anyone (from local organizers and global influencers) to raise funds for meaningful causes, via live streaming.
On the smaller end, live streaming and chats seem to go hand-in-hand. Facebook’s direct messaging feature has been an integral part of its interface for a long time, but once the platform joined the live streaming game, both elements allow users to broadcast themselves while viewers discuss what they are seeing. The ability to quickly communicate who is who’s favorite broadcaster has given rise to a new kind of social media influencer; the type that can become celebrities in their own rights if they share enough enticing content that gathers a community around it.
Common Sense Media details several different platforms that allow both chatting and live streaming. There are the giants, of course, like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube that enable a one-way street between influencers and viewers, where the latter can converse with one another but not with the influencer directly. Twitter’s Periscope was one of the first live stream outlets, and Live.ly (a professional descendant of musical.ly) lets users engage in “hang-out” environments rather than performance-based ones.
Chatting In Large Numbers
On the larger end, a company called TOK.tv is an excellent example of how chats can enrich the experience of significant events—namely, sports. One of TOK.tv’s goals is to bring sporting enthusiasts closer together, so it streams many live matches (users can rewatch specific games and highlight reels as much as they’d like) and lets fans across the world talk directly with one another via chat box. Brands can communicate with members as well, emphasizing the fact that they too are made of sports fans. TOK.tv also boasts a unique chatbot that answers members’ sports-related questions when asked.
Why chats are useful in marketing
DaCast says that integrating chat features alongside videos is a practical idea to reach viewers and foster community interaction:
“Live streaming video is already engaging. Live chat allows users to interact and respond to the content in real-time. It creates a virtual meeting place where viewers can feel like they are part of a community… Another important reason for live chat is to gather feedback. Chat allows you to interact with your audience in real-time and get insight on how they respond to your video content. This can be invaluable when refining strategies or gathering analytics data. This is the qualitative data that helps flesh out the understandings that analytics can give you.”
Another major playing on the live streaming field is YouTube. In January 2017, YouTube announced a feature called Super Chat, which allows viewers to pin comments on live streams—for a small price. The more users pay, the longer their pin is displayed. The Verge notes that this feature is similar to what Twitch offers with Cheering: Twitch is famous for live streaming video games and esports, so Cheering is a way for viewers to tip streamers with “chat emotes.”
Chatting fosters more intimate engagement with content. Merely watching a live stream is one thing—but most people view them from the comfort of their own homes, so the ability to talk about it is another. Not only does this encourage a sense of community for viewers, but it also allows them to raise their voices and share opinions regarding elements they like and dislike. Content providers can then take their comments into account and continuously alter future material that aligns more closely with their audience’s desires.
The chatting and live streaming partnership is not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s a technology that allows people to share details of their lives in real time (for attention), participate in events that are otherwise inaccessible to them, and discuss content without having to use separate devices or wait until later. Live streams bring material to the people—and the people form communities when they can interact with one another.