3 Live Videos Where Nothing Happened—and It Was a Hit for the Brand

By: Ian James Wright

July 19, 2017

As communicators flock to Facebook Live because of the preferential algorithmic treatment that Facebook gives to native content, many are finding that live video is a tricky beast. Tactics that worked in more traditional video formats aren’t cutting it, and most brands don’t have access to the sort of behind-the-scenes goods that snag viewers easily (for example, live Q&A with the Hamilton cast).

Nadia Petschek Rawls, editorial director of growth at Medium, cautions brands although live videos can remain posted to your brand Facebook page indefinitely, “most engagement happens while live, so it won’t have the same kind of viral travel another video does.” She says that content must be tailored to the platform to succeed in the moment.

What content, then, would that be—assuming we don’t have backstage access to the Oscars?

Nadia Petschek Rawls, TED Conferences

Nadia Petschek Rawls, Editorial Director of Growth, Medium

One of the most successful kinds of live stream videos, says Rawls, is when “you’re waiting for something, some kind of countdown.” Counterintuitively, nothing much is happening in these videos for most of the time; the audience is simply anticipating something happening. For example, Rawls cites the time staff at BuzzFeed Video put baby goats in their boss’s office and waited for him to come back and find them. Lots of people were commenting as they awaited the payoff of the joke.

Another well-known recent example was when Animal Adventure Park’s April the Giraffe was about to give birth to a calf. The park live streamed April’s life for two months before the birth actually occurred, allowing plenty of time to build a base of followers; at the moment of truth, there were more than a million people watching.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert took this idea in an absurd direction when it live streamed a garbage can. Sure, it was a garbage can at the 2016 Republican National Convention, but the idea of the garbage can as a focal point (aside from being a satirical jab) underscores what Rawls says is the lesson here: “There will always be things the audience can comment on and talk about together that makes a video like this successful.” The real action can be in the discussion around what’s on camera, not what’s actually on camera.

A slightly different category of video that Rawls has noticed gaining popularity is the type that people can just have on in the background and not pay much attention to. These can last for a long time and are not “engaging” in the traditional sense, but people enjoy the background noise and glancing over once in a while to check on the progress of something. This is inspired by a trend that recently became popular in Norway, “slow television.” The first notable show in the category was Bergensbanen – minutt for minutt,” in which a camera affixed to the front of a train showed viewers the scenic journey to Oslo. Another early entry used a similar setup to broadcast the 134-hour coastal voyage of a ship. 

So when you’re brainstorming your next live video, forget about the notion of something action-packed with a hot influencer. Something monotone, something—dare we say it?—a little boring might actually be the key to success.

Follow Ian: @ianwright0101

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