covid19 on TV screen

Live Video Makes a Comeback in Wake of COVID-19

By: Sophie Maerowitz

March 16, 2020

When Facebook Live debuted in 2015, it was heralded as a social media game-changer. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made Live his pet project as the platform struggled to catch up to Periscope, Snapchat and other purveyors of live video. (Remember Zuckerberg’s bizarre backyard tribute to smoked meats?) Social media marketers crowned 2016 the year of the live stream, and communications teams scrambled to turn their company headquarters into miniature television production studios.

Like most social media trends, the hype didn’t last.

“RIP Facebook Live,” proclaimed a February 2018 Columbia Journalism Review article reporting an over 50 percent drop in paid publisher Live videos in 2017. While Facebook had hoped Live would create a new cashflow for the company, publishers did not see the return on investment they needed to justify the costs.

Brands followed suit, putting their ad dollars behind Facebook-owned Instagram posts and Stories rather than promoting or attempting to partner with the platform on Facebook Live videos. Facebook pivoted into becoming a video publisher itself with its Watch offering.

In the wake of COVID-19, however, live video has once again become a staple of providing up-to-date information to journalists and the general public, especially from government entities. Local news outlets have partnered with municipalities to present up-to-date COVID directives across social media platforms, hoping to reach the growing number of television-free households.

Of course, as the social media sphere has expanded, so too have the live streaming services available to communicators. Since the advent of live video, brands, government agencies and nonprofits have built cross-channel strategies incorporating Instagram Live, YouTube Live and Twitch into their content mix, among other platforms.

With an increasing number of institutions and storefronts now mandated to shut down operations, communicators have turned to live video as a workaround for serving existing clientele and reaching new ones. Some organizations have tied live streaming directly to their core missions. The Cincinnati Zoo, for instance, is hosting daily live streams to offer an entertaining and educational resource to schoolchildren stuck at home. Many other organizations and institutions are expected to follow suit.

What is your organization doing on social to communicate around COVID? Inquiring Social Shake-Up minds want to know! Tag me on Twitter (@SophieMaerowitz) for consideration in future What’s Shakin’ coverage—the goal being to help fellow social marketers figure out how to handle operations during this unprecedented crisis. And please, please take care. 

At The Social Shake-Up