The biggest benefit of social media marketing isn’t instant sales, identifying your keenest buyers or even better customer service. You can pick up all of those on social media sites, but none of them is as powerful as the ability to build a close connection with your market. When you’re in touch with leads daily – through tweets or through Facebook discussions – your business will be on their mind when they’re ready to buy. But while social media can create relationships, those connections can be relatively loose. It doesn’t take much for someone to stop following a company’s tweets and once that’s happened, it doesn’t take long before that company is forgotten. It’s not just the number of connections that count in social media, it’s the depth of the engagement as well, and that’s something that even Twitter, with its brief posts, struggles to build. A number of leading social media types though have found a way of adding a uniquely deep level of engagement to their Twitter streams by teaming them with Ustream.
Formed in 2007, and now boasting 40 million monthly viewers, Ustream is a kind of live YouTube. Rather than recording videos then uploading them for others to view, users of Ustream can broadcast live, allowing anyone to watch them through the site. The videos are also recorded, making them available to be seen later by people who missed the original broadcast. It’s an approach that allows for spontaneity as well as all the excitement and unpredictability that’s a part of any live show. Groups as big as Black Eyed Peas and the Jonas Brothers are using Ustream to broadcast live to their fans while the American Music Awards used the service to beam stars live from the red carpet.
For businesses though, the real power of Ustream comes when live broadcasting is combined with two-way interaction. Earlier this month, for example, professional blogging expert Darren Rowse told his 90,000-plus Twitter followers that he would be on Ustream soon for “an impromptu Q&A session.” He tweeted the URL, and for 50 minutes answered questions delivered through Twitter while on air:
From Ustream to iTunes
Andy Brudtkuhl, “Chief Web Guru” at 48Web, a web strategy and internet marketing firm, takes this approach even further. Every Friday, he and his partner Doug Mitchell of createWOWmedia put on a live broadcast through Ustream, taking questions from viewers while they’re on air. But they also use that broadcast to push content in a number of different directions and drive their audience to take action. The audio track of the broadcast is recorded using GarageBand, turned into an MP3 and pushed to iTunes. The video of the broadcast is embedded into a blog post. A chat room allows viewers to interact with each other while they watch, as well as with the broadcasters. Using CamTwist, Andy can switch the feed to demonstrate an activity on his desktop, adding more variety to the on-screen presence than a pair of talking heads. And an opt-in form next to the video turns casual viewers into regular visitors.
“It’s also one more reason for people to come to our site,” Andy told new media marketing expert Jason Van Orden.
All of those extras certainly increase the power of the broadcast, making it available to more people, adding another level of interaction and engagement, and even providing a way to pick up some immediate benefits from viewers in the form of joining a mailing list. But it also requires a bigger investment of time and effort. Darren Rowse reported that while his 50-minute live chat had been fun, it had also been exhausting — and that was just a simple chat.
More importantly, it was also spontaneous. That’s an important aspect of Ustreaming that can be missed by over-eager broadcasters. Put out programs on a regular basis and as the broadcasts become more common, they — and their content — become less valuable. It doesn’t matter if you miss a program or decide not to watch a recording if you know there will be another one along in a week’s time (and probably discussing similar content). One of the attractions of Darren Rowse’s live chat was that no one knew it was coming (even Darren) and no one knows when the next one will take place. It was a rare chance to ask a leading professional blogger about the best way to make money from a website.
Watch Me Drive to Work
That spontaneity means that there’s a value to broadcasting almost anything at any time. And the ability do it even from an iPhone makes it possible to broadcast almost anything at any time. Joel Comm, creator of iFart Mobile, has picked up viewers who watched him Ustream his drive to work and a trip to buy a new television for his office. If the kind of trivial details that make up much of the small talk on Twitter help to build relationships, then there’s a value too in inviting members of your market even deeper into your life.
Ustream then is flexible. It can be combined with Twitter, or even email, and used as a mass two-way communication tool, allowing an entrepreneur to address thousands of leads at a time. You can think of it then as a live online conference, complete with Q&A session. You can use it as a content creation device, a way of shooting an interactive video whose contents can later be pushed out in a range of different directions and through different channels. And you can use it too as a way of allowing your leads to see exactly who you are and how you lead your life. It might not leave much room for privacy but it might well lead to the kind of close and unforgettable relationship with a market that translates directly into sales.