You may not be familiar with interactive broadcasting, but you might know it by another name: live streaming. Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have been pushing personal live streaming all year, although many businesses still don’t really understand the hype.
One place that does understand the hype is China, however.
While businesses in the U.S. have thus far generally approached interactive broadcasting with the same weariness they reserve for the latest hot social network, China and parts of Asia have adopted the technology with enthusiasm and shown that it has significant commercial advantage.
Roughly 46 percent of China’s internet population now engages with interactive broadcasting, and Credit Suisse predicts that the market for interactive broadcasting in China will reach an estimated $5 billion. That’s only $2 billion less than the market for movies in China, for those who are counting.
Chinese firms are using interactive broadcasting as a cheap form of consumer engagement and interactivity, monetizing it through add-ons that viewers can purchase in the middle of broadcasts to grab the broadcaster’s attention, and leveraging the technology in sophisticated ways for marketing and brand awareness, among other uses.
Businesses in the U.S. should be taking note, and here are five ways they can take advantage of interactive broadcasting today.
- Lead the Conversation with Live Event Streaming
Most people can’t attend all the events and conferences they would like to see in person. Businesses can help, however, by acting as avatar on the show floor for these people want to attend an event but can’t.
With interactive broadcasting, you can turn your business into the man-on-the-street at trade shows and events, driving brand awareness and showing that your business is well connected in your industry.
Through the interactive component of live streaming, you can take this virtual event access a step further by letting viewers dictate what you cover and where you go. Viewers can chat or even pipe in via video to guide your broadcast or ask questions of people at the event.
- Increase Product Adoption with Real-Time Training
For many businesses, especially software-as-a-service startups, adoption is a key factor. Getting customers hooked on a product and using it properly is critical, which is one reason that training videos and tutorials matter.
Better than static training videos, however, are interactive training sessions and product demos that your business can host for current or prospective customers. These interactive broadcasts allow attendees to ask questions and help guide the training, ensuring that actual viewer needs are being met by the training.
“Interactive broadcasting delivers not only a rich environment where prospective customers can engage with a product, it also helps build brand loyalty and a sense of engagement that just isn’t there with YouTube videos,” notes Tony Zhao, founder of interactive broadcasting company, Agora.io.
- Promote Specials and New Products
Offering specials or regular promotions is a popular technique for driving sales. Businesses can use interactive broadcasting events based around these promotions as a way to increase interest and spread the word.
Instead of just launching a promotion on your website and announcing it through an email blast, you might for instance tie the promotion to a live event based around the promotion or the product on sale. Customers come for the event, and in the process the broadcast drives traffic to the promotion and reinforces it as a sales event.
The Chinese market has shown that this can be especially useful for new product launches.
- Build Interest with Behind-the-Scenes Access
Brand loyalty is a hard thing to come by in 2016, and one way that top firms create this loyalty aside from great products is through engagement and brand authenticity. Customers can smell marketing motive a mile away, and authenticity is therefore important.
One way that businesses can help build loyalty through authenticity is by giving customers behind-the-scenes access to their firm. Interactive broadcasting can help.
Avenue Beads in Chicago, for instance, used interactive broadcasting to take customers behind the scenes on a tour of their glass jewelry and artwork creation process. Potential customers not only could see the art creation process in action, they also could interact with employees and ask questions. This helped Avenue Beads create brand loyalty with their customers that they just could not have gotten otherwise.
- Stand Out with Exclusive Interviews
Every marketer will tell you that content marketing should be a part of your customer outreach program. One problem is that creating meaningful content can be hard and expensive.
Interactive broadcasting can help. By offering real-time video interviews of staff or industry experts that viewers can engage with and talk with directly, you can create both cheap and engaging content to drive your marketing needs.
“People want to be involved, to create and to be a part of something interactive. That presents an opportunity for brands to originate and co-create video content with their communities,” notes Lee Odden at marketing site, Ragan.com.
Interactive broadcasting has other uses in business, of course, some that have been demonstrated in Asia, some still to be discovered. The important takeaway, however, is that interactive broadcasting is a new medium that isn’t going away—and businesses can and will use it in the future. The only question is whether your business will use it today.
Co-Authors: JT Ripton and Peter Scott