People love “live.”

It’s the reason viewers tuned into “Saturday Night Live” even during its darkest, unfunniest years (I’m looking at you, Jim Belushi). It’s why partygoers across America take time out of their busy drinking schedules on New Year’s Eve to see what’s happening in Times Square.

Live is real. It feels special and suspenseful. It means anything can happen.

From Twitch to YouTube vloggers to Katy Perry streaming her entire life to promote her new record, it’s not going away. And today’s technology is making it easier than ever for content marketing professionals to get in on the act.

From past to present

The current live video craze can be traced back to Periscope and the rise of smartphones, according to Brafton Senior Social Media Strategist Walton Clark.

“Live video on the web is not a new phenomenon, but required special equipment and software in the past,” Walton said.

“One of the first incarnations of modern live video came from Periscope, an app that worked to give users on Twitter the ability to stream live video. Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds with mobile devices increasing their ability to not only record video, but do so in better resolution. Today the average user now has a high-quality camera in their pocket.”

Other social networks paid attention, especially Mark Zuckerberg’s reigning champ.

“Facebook is particularly invested in live video, taking out advertisements to promote it, and weighting it higher in their algorithm,” Walton said.

“While it’s still early for industry-wide metrics, the reach and impressions from live video are significantly higher partially because networks have decided to weight them that way.”

If audience engagement is any indication, Facebook’s gamble is paying off.

The popularity of Facebook Live has increased 330 percent since its introduction. Meanwhile, viewers spend triple the amount of time watching Facebook Live videos than they do watching pre-produced clips. And viewers aren’t just watching – they comment 10 times as often on Facebook Live videos when compared to standard videos.

Getting your brand in on the act

While it’s clear modern marketers shouldn’t ignore Facebook Live and other live streaming platforms for their video marketing strategies, the question of where to begin remains.

“From a strategy standpoint, like any marketing collateral you’re creating, you need to figure out what your objectives are,” Walton said.

Perhaps your goal is engagement. Creating live videos that address blog comments or social queries and answer questions in real-time is a great way to make a connection with your audience. Maybe press for an upcoming event or product launch is more your speed, in which case a live video announcement with proper promotion is just the ticket to build excitement and generate audience interest.

In any case, there are best practices to keep in mind:

  • Get to the point: Don’t breathlessly rush through what you’re trying to say, but don’t take too long to get to the meat of the matter either. Time is money; don’t waste your audience’s.
  • Have a plan: The last thing you want is to look like a deer in headlights once the camera starts rolling. Have an outline of what you want to discuss before you begin streaming to prevent confusion and long, awkward pauses. That being said ….
  • Don’t read from a script: Live video is supposed to look and feel spontaneous. If you’re busy reading cue cards, it will take away from the format’s inherent appeal.
  • Care about quality: Yes, it’s easier than ever to produce live video using a smartphone, but take the time to ensure video and sound quality are up to snuff. It’s better to invest in some new equipment for live streaming purposes than to rely on tech that will turn viewers off.
  • Target your audience: Everything from the streaming platform you use to the style and tone of your videos should be dictated by the audience you’re trying to reach and the messaging you’re attempting to deliver.

While live video may seem geared more toward business-to-consumer audiences, don’t forget its power for the business-to-business crowd.

“Live video has an already-established track record for B2B businesses in the form of webinars,” Walton said.

Live video has an already-established track record for B2B businesses in the form of webinars

“This type of event marketing is a valuable tool for lead generation and engaging with larger audiences. B2B audiences can utilize their social networks to share live streams of presentations and their thought leadership. For example, if you’re doing a video explaining a concept, you can open up discussion with your prospective audience utilizing comments to get feedback and answer questions. Likewise, I have seen clients use it to make big announcements about their brand. Making it an event to check out is important to maximize impressions.”

While you may not break the internet overnight with your first live stream, by routinely providing valuable, relevant content to your audience, you can build a solid following, expand your brand reach and engage with prospective customers on a whole new level.

Eric Wendt is a writer and editor at Brafton. He discovered his love of words after realizing he was terrible at math. If he's not updating his Tumblr with poetry he's too embarrassed to share, there's a good chance he's out in search of the perfect pale ale.