Social Media

Livestreaming & the Emergence of Participation Media [SXSW]

March 21, 2016

Our SXSW ambassadors have returned from Austin creatively recharged and ready to share their experiences and learnings from the 2016 SXSW Interactive festival. The below post is a first-person account from one of our brand ambassadors, Shalini Agrawal, Associate Media Director at 360i. In this post Shalini recaps one of the SXSW panels she attended on emerging livestream platforms and dives into the “Participation Media” trend.


As marketers, we’ve become obsessed with getting the right message to the right person at the right time. We spend hours or days curating the right tweet, post, image or video and deciding the exact second to release it to our targeted audience. We plan to exert spontaneity while being relevant to other information in users’ feeds or surroundings. But, a new type of media is emerging and it just may allow brands to lead a conversation rather than just be present in one. This new type of media is being referred to as “Participation Media” and, after attending the “Livestreaming Is Bigger Than You Realize” session at SXSW, I believe it will be a huge trend over the next year.

The panel session focused on Twitch and YouNow, two relatively newer and emerging

livestream platforms, and how they have differentiated themselves from Meerkat, Periscope, newly-released Facebook Live and their non-live predecessor YouTube by implementing a few key features listed below. The panel additionally provided tips to marketers considering livestreaming content – particularly through Twitch and/or YouNow – and ways to increase success on the platforms.

Twitch and YouNow Key Features:

  1. Ability to Pay Content Creators Directly. Rather than being dependent on reaching a certain number of followers to be able to generate revenue through advertisers, Twitch and YouNow allow any audience member to “tip” the content creator. They’ve adopted techniques used by the online gaming industry to make tipping more appealing, and even addictive. Users convert their online dollars into YouNow coins or bars that can be used to send direct messages, virtual gifts, or just improve their visibility to content creators. This reward system makes users feel like they are not only supporting the content creator, but also themselves. YouNow says $1.5 million passes through the site’s tip jars every month. And 50% of tips go to content creators.

Successful Direct-Response Example: Karen Allen, President of Karen Allen Consulting, highlighted how the music group Pentatonix used YouNow to promote their new album. They promised their audience that they would sing an additional song for every tip or album purchased on Amazon. Through this live, interactive model, they were able to drive album sales and also earn money directly on the platform.

  1. Split-Screen Functionality. YouNow offers the ability to feature two broadcasters at once, side-by-side, allowing content creators to engage with each other and share fans. The Split-Screen feature drives increased spontaneity and entertainment for users, while creating a new challenge for content creators: sharing the screen.

Successful Branding Example: JR Griffin, VP of Digital Brand Partnerships at FremantleMedia, described his experience working with American Idol to feature auditions through YouNow’s Split-Screen Functionality to increase interest among a younger demographic and get people excited for the next season. To ensure the auditions were fair, American Idol removed the tipping functionality.

  1. View Rollover. If a user stops broadcasting on Periscope or Meerkat, their viewers are left looking for their next source of entertainment. In contrast, YouNow broadcasters compete for the attention of the entire social network through a roiling leaderboard tacked to the side of the screen. Once a user stops broadcasting, their viewers are automatically directed to a livestream of the next-ranking YouNow broadcaster. This helps increase view counts for content creators as well as keeps users engaged in the app.

Successful Engagement Example: Zach Clayton, a 15-year-old who became the most popular broadcaster on YouNow, described how in one night he went from 10 to 300 followers by earning viewers after people ranked above him logged off. Now, he has 7,000 followers.

  1. Live Chat. While the broadcaster is live, viewers can converse with each other in a side chat bar, which can be seen live by the broadcaster. Users can use this space to talk about the livestream and make requests to the broadcaster.

Successful Engagement & Direct Response Example: Live during the session, Paula Batson, VP of Public Relations and Communications at YouNow, Inc., polled the audience to find someone who was celebrating a birthday. Then, she went on YouNow, found singer Emma McGann’s channel, and posted in the chatbox a request to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Elsie (the audience member). Batson also included some tips to ensure that the chat would be seen. Within a few seconds, McGann was singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Elsie.

Thinking Twitch and/or YouNow might be a good fit for your content marketing strategy? Here are some recommendations the panel had for marketers:

  • Stay on The Stage: Matt Wolf, VP Entertainment and Strategic Alliances at Coca-Cola, described how Coca-Cola became active on Twitch by showing gaming content via its profile, CokeEsports. He urged marketers to stay away from the chat area in order to reduce any possible miscommunications and to keep their brands in the showcase area to maintain positive perception.
  • Know Your Audience: 98% of Twitch users are active gamers while 70% of YouNow users are between 13 and24-years-old. Engage them by discussing content that’s relevant to them, and elevate your brand’s perception by encouraging them to get involved.
  • Do Not Repurpose Content from Other Media: Using messaging consistent with TV or high-profile social channels will appear forced and make the users perceive that you are advertising to them.

Remember, these emerging platforms are about dialogue and are not meant to replace your current social media tactics, but rather to enhance them and help you reach new, niche audiences. As brand involvement is still very new on these platforms, marketers should take time to consider if the platforms are right for their content strategies and if their campaigns will feel native to the platform.

For more on 360i at SXSW 2016, check out #SX360i on Twitter, and read the additional SXSW content being posted by ambassadors on the 360i blog this week. To learn more about the livestreaming space, read 360i’s post, ‘Live From Facebook, Periscope & Snapchat: It’s Streaming Video.’

Cover photo via Tech Economy.