By Carl Carter, APR, AMM
This summer’s shiny new toy seems to be streaming video. Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook’s Live video have made it easy for anybody to broadcast whatever they’re doing live – and to get it in social media feeds where a lot of people will see it. Almost overnight, we all started seeing live videos in our social media feeds. Barking dogs, crawling babies, and chanting auctioneers.
It’s there, it’s easy, it’s free and everybody’s doing it. Why not?
Precisely because it’s easy, it’s free and – especially – everybody’s doing it.
To explain why, let’s look at a little web history, with a focus on the easy, free and popular.
Best (or worst) of all, they were all free, or nearly so. Just paste in some code and you were fixed in most cases. Suddenly, our web pages were having earthquakes, snowstorms, shooting stars and (my personal favorite) a disembodied waving tooth named Duke, intended to demonstrate the capabilities of the Java programming language.
If you’re not a dentist (and few dentists had sites in those days), you don’t need a tooth on your site – waving or otherwise.
Finally, let’s not forget the regrettable QR code – a tool nearly everybody adopted for about five minutes a few years ago. This one was especially painful for me, because I was enthusiastic about QR codes at first. But the way everybody used it, the code was generally nothing but a link. We put them in strange places like billboards on highways, where the person would have to hang out the window of a fast-moving car to scan the code. We put them on the very web sites to which they linked. They soon became an object of ridicule.
As soon as every Tom, Dick and Harry can start doing your new trick, it ceases to be impressive. So allow me to propose a few criteria for evaluating the easy, free and cool gadgets, and how they might fit into your web site or marketing plans.
- Go slowly if everybody’s doing it. Remember that awkward kid from high school who tried too hard to be cool but never quite knew how to pull it off? That’s how you can come off if you’re constantly playing with the latest web and tech toys. Watch a while. See what’s working and what’s not. See what useful ideas are left after enthusiasm for it wanes. It’s important to remember that a year from now, nobody will know or care if you did it first. For purposes of your reputation and image, the important thing is whether you did it well.
- Make sure you’re leading, not following. Free means everybody can do it, and easy means everybody will. But you’ve worked hard to establish a reputation as a leader. Why become part of a stampeding crowd? If you’re going to use live video (something that may well serve a good purpose), consider using a paid service that allows interactivity and control, and allows you to better target the audience you need. I recently facilitated a very successful 10-week series of classes for public relations professionals, using a modestly priced conferencing service that allowed full class interaction. Further, it was secure – an important consideration when people are paying to be part of the class. You’re always better off when you’re aiming at a particular target audience.
- Don’t drop your quality standards. When something’s too easy, it’s tempting to do it in a sloppy way. When you’re holding a smartphone in your shaky hands and moving it around – and letting people look at it live – you’re transmitting an image of a company that does things in a half-baked way. Remember this: You’re only as good as the worst thing you put on the Internet. If you’re going to go live, do it with a quality camera, good lighting and quality sound.
Carl Carter, APR, provides public relations counsel and services to clients throughout the United States. Give him a call at 205-378-9290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was originally printed in Auctioneer Magazine, August 2016. Used here by permission of the National Auctioneers Association.