The State of Live Streaming Social Video

By Adam Greenwald  |  March 19, 2019

state of live video blog

Which audiences are really interacting with live video on social? What other streaming platforms are gaining steam? Who should invest in live video?

Get answers to these questions and more as MSPC senior digital content analyst Adam Greenwald explores the state of live social streaming video below.

What’s ahead:


What exactly is social live video?

Think of social live video streaming as a hybrid of live television, a chat room and a social forum. With live video, brands and publishers are still experimenting and finding value, but standards for what constitutes “good live video content” are becoming codified as the format becomes more mature.

What’s with all the hype about social live video?

Although the content format is only a few years old, live video streaming poses a unique challenge for content marketers: It goes against all known principles of “snackable content,” but it’s not quite live television, either.

Not many businesses are taking advantage of this powerful audience-building tool with consistent, serialized updates—but streaming audiences are growing.

Why do users like watching live video online?

According to Yahoo’s Live Video Opportunity report, audiences feel stronger emotional connections and reactions to social live video content because they feel like they are part of the action and can participate in real time. Like live sporting events and awards shows, watching an event as it happens gives users the feeling of being in the audience—no FOMO necessary.

Should your marketing team invest in creating live streaming content?

The MSPC team has broken down live streaming platform capabilities, which types of audiences can be reached on each, and examples from brands and publishers to help you understand the state of social live video in 2019.

Facebook Live

Facebook Live video launched in April 2016 and has been growing steadily.

“You can’t be successful on Facebook if you’re not doing video, and live video,” said Heather Dopson of GoDaddy at Digital Summit Minneapolis 2018.

Who’s watching Facebook Live video

Globally, nearly 2 billion people have watched a Facebook Live video as of April 2018, according to an update from the platform’s product manager, Fidji Simo. In late 2016, 17% of U.S. internet users had watched Facebook Live, according to eMarketer. One in five Facebook videos are live streams, and daily watch time for Facebook Live broadcasts grew 400% from 2016 to 2017, according to Facebook.

What’s being watched on Facebook Live video

  • Vertical and horizontal videos up to four hours in length
  • Recommended length: At least 10 minutes to let users tune in to build momentum
  • Type of content: Live event coverage, interactive Q&As, educational how-tos, interviews, webinars, new product launches and tutorials, and behind the scenes with brand personalities
  • Pre-recorded video upload option: Yes
  • Level of professionalism: Videos shot on mobile phones, all the way to pre-recorded, highly produced video with HD cameras
  • Archive potential: Yes, optional

Facebook Live video examples:

  • Sephora’s monthly live beauty products trends videos average 200,000+ views.
  • Martha Stewart’s monthly live cooking shows average 100,000+ views.
  • IBM Systems Magazine’s live interview with subject matter expert Bob Rogers grabbed 500+ views.
  • Buzzfeed exploding a watermelon live using rubber bands has 11 million views.

Added features of Facebook Live video

Comments and reactions are recorded in real time and are saved with archive.

Is Facebook Live right for your business?

Yes if your audience is already on Facebook and you want to reach the most people possible. Facebook Live streams are exposed to more users in News Feed, but have less time watched compared to YouTube Live.

YouTube Live

The granddaddy of all video platforms introduced live streaming in 2011.

Who’s watching YouTube Live video

In November 2016, 16% of U.S. internet users had watched YouTube Live, according to eMarketer. As of September 2018, more than 8.5 million users subscribe to the YouTube Live channel.

What’s being watched on YouTube Live video

  • Horizontal widescreen videos ranging from 30 minutes to four hours
  • Recommended length: 15–30 minutes, since YouTube users expect longer content
  • Type of content: Podcast-style interviews, baby panda watch cam, live sports, day-in-the-life video blogs (vlogs) and behind-the-scenes looks at events
  • Level of professionalism: Highest level of quality out of all platforms expected, with professional HD cameras and highly produced video
  • Pre-recorded video upload option: Yes
  • Archive potential: Yes, optional

YouTube Live video examples

  • Red Bull Stratos world record jump has 5 million+ views.
  • SpaceX Falcon Heavy test launch has 22 million+ views.
  • Microsoft Xbox’s six-hour broadcast for Halo 5 helped break sales records and encouraged long-term fans to rethink what they knew about Halo.

Added features of YouTube Live

YouTube is a community. The ability to like and comment on videos allow YouTube users to interact, and for the video creator to respond. YouTube Live allows these interactions to happen in real-time, adding to the authenticity of experience. By subscribing to a channel, users get alerts when new videos are posted and when someone goes live on YouTube.

Is YouTube Live right for your business?

Yes if you want to reach users who will spend more time watching in-depth, long-form content. YouTube Live offers better video quality and more SEO opportunities, but less immediate reach for new audiences than Facebook Live.


The Amazon-owned live streaming platform was initially popular with gamers, but its audience has been broadening since 2011.

Who’s watching Twitch live streaming

Twitch users are 81.5% male with 55% between the ages of 18–34, according to comScore. Note: Amazon purchased Twitch in 2014.

What’s being watched on Twitch live streaming

  • Horizontal widescreen video with average watch times of four to eight hours
  • Recommended length: at least one hour to allow for in-chat discussions
  • Type of content: Personality-based commentary on eSports video game streaming, classic TV and movie marathons, live music events, charity events
  • Level of professionalism: High quality video and audio commentary are essential
  • Pre-recorded video upload option: Yes
  • Archive potential: Yes, auto-archive all broadcasts option

Twitch live streaming examples:

  • Old Spice hand gym channel has 7 million+ views.
  • Totino’s XBox One showdown channel has 500,000+ views.
  • Buzzfeed News experimented on Twitch by streaming live from the bottom of the ocean, as well as covering election results, after noticing a drop in Facebook Live viewership.

Added features of Twitch

Twitch allows voting in polls. Group chat is standard on every Twitch stream. Paid subscriptions from $5–$25 are available. One-time monetary donations make charity events appealing on Twitch.

Is Twitch live streaming right for your business?

Yes if you want to reach the younger Gen Z demographic. Twitch users spend hours on end watching and talking about practically anything on Twitch.

Periscope by Twitter

Twitter’s live video tool has been allowing users to stream since 2015.

Who’s watching Periscope live video

In November 2016, 9% of U.S. internet users had watched live-streamed Periscope video on Twitter, according to eMarketer.

What’s being watched on Periscope live video

  • Vertical video that averages a few minutes in length
  • Recommended length: Five-minute updates
  • Type of content: Breaking news and live sports
  • Level of professionalism: Lower level quality; most Periscope videos are shot on mobile phones
  • Pre-recorded video upload option: No
  • Archive potential: Yes, you can save and post your Periscope videos to Twitter

Periscope live video brand examples

  • BarkBox dog treats used Periscope to highlight dogs in its office, with the top video getting 700+ views.
  • General Electric used a live, three-hour 3D printing of a boarding pass to announce the winner of a trip to the Oshkosh Airshow.
  • Adobe streamed a 24-hour conversation on Periscope to celebrate its 2015 release of Creative Cloud. Users were able to interact and ask questions of 24 Adobe team members around the world.

Is Periscope right for your business?

Yes if you want to reach news junkies and business networkers. Periscope is owned by Twitter and uses tweets as primary distribution for Periscope live videos.

Instagram Live

Instagram Live launched in late 2016 and has been developing increasingly robust capabilities as part of Instagram Stories.

Who’s watching Instagram Live

Instagram’s audience is focused primarily on stylistic visuals, photography and interesting artistic video.

What’s being watched on Instagram Live

  • Vertical videos up to one hour in length
  • Recommended length: Five to 10 minutes of faster-paced content that has a variety of visuals
  • Type of content: Live events, interesting art/scenery and interactive Q&A sessions
  • Level of professionalism: Less production value, but aesthetic and quality visuals are key since Instagram’s audience is more artistic than other platforms
  • Pre-recorded video upload option: No
  • Archive potential: Yes, Instagram lets you save your live stories to your profile

Instagram Live examples:

  • Gucci partnered with Jared Leto to use the Live with Friends feature, which lets multiple accounts broadcast from one live stream.
  • Vogue offered a behind-the-scenes look at the Met Gala, with celebrity interviews and red carpet coverage.

Is Instagram Live right for your business?

Yes if you want to reach artistic, fashion-forward users. Instagram Live Stories is a way to reach your Instagram audience already following your brand.

LinkedIn Live – A Preview

Microsoft-owned LinkedIn announced mid-February 2019 that it’s getting into the live streaming business. While details and public release date aren’t available at the time of publication, it’s worth keeping an eye out for LinkedIn Live as it starts to roll out to 600 million global users.

As with most LinkedIn features, LinkedIn Live will most likely roll out to a select group of influential users. At least one example of a LinkedIn Live replay recording is available via Allen Gannett.

Considering LinkedIn’s users are business professionals, the types of content most likely to succeed on LinkedIn Live include fireside chat style interviews, live updates from conferences and trade shows, product reveals and demonstrations, and Q&As with your brand’s subject matter experts.

Conclusion – What’s Next Now

Nothing in digital marketing is changing faster than live streaming social video. With constant updates and a multitude of options, distribution strategies for content is key. Contact MSPC to learn how to ignite your audience with killer content coupled with smart distribution.

Read next: 5 Best Types of Content in Content Marketing for Great Storytelling

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