Facebook LiveCreating a video good enough for public consumption can be an expensive business – or it certainly used to be. The ‘Snapchat effect’, as we like to call it, has changed the video landscape significantly.

Viewers today aren’t necessarily expecting videos to have high production values – they just want the content to be good. We have Snapchat to thank for this lowering of expectations, if that’s what you can call it.

The rise of the platform indicates that a video is at its most powerful when it is clever, relevant and authentic – so what if it’s a little rough around that edges; that just adds to its authenticity. Brand authenticity, after all, is a key factor in getting consumers to engage with your business. Just the other day, a marketer was telling me that they were creating content in a “user-generated style” so it would be more authentic and believable.

So, why is it that video is still underutilised by brands?

In a new study, Buffer found that of the seven posts that brands share on Facebook per week, far less than 1% are videos. That is despite video getting three times as much engagement as any other kind of content.

Introducing Facebook Live

The findings suggest that it’s high time brands started sharing more video on Facebook – especially with the social media giant announcing a few months back that it now ranks live videos higher in the news feed, in support of new offering, Facebook Live.

Facebook Live promises brands that it will introduce them to new followers, while providing them with an opportunity to keep current fans happy – although, presumably, this depends on the quality of the content served up.

It also gives brands the ability to “Tell your story, your way”, with in-built creative tools such as filters making it “easy to express yourself in ways that delight your followers and make it even more fun”.

Sounds familiar, right?

Facebook Live doesn’t differ a great deal from Periscope, the live streaming app that Twitter acquired in March 2015. Like Periscope, Facebook Live also lets users stream video of themselves live to their followers.

To illustrate how alike the two apps are, Periscope founder and CEO, Kayvon Beykpour, in a recent interview with Guardian, said he was flattered that Facebook was “shamelessly” following them into live video.

Is live streaming as good a marketing tool as they say?

Facebook and Twitter clearly think that live streaming is where social media is headed. Either that, or they’re hedging their bets.

Speaking on whether live streaming will ever truly take off, Beykpour said: “People now aren’t asking the question: ‘Why should I live stream this?’ They’re asking all kinds of other questions, but they’re not debating the merits of the medium.”

Beykpour also claims that people are becoming more and more comfortable with creating and sharing videos from their mobile devices. “It’s just part of the pervasiveness of these devices, and sharing generally, that is changing over time,” he told the Guardian.

However, while people will not take too much convincing to watch a live stream of their friends and family, they will no doubt need more incentive to watch a brand’s live video.

That hasn’t stopped the likes of US retailer Target, cosmetics company Benefit and carmaker BMW from experimenting with the medium.

Commenting on the medium, Kristi Argyilan, Target’s senior vice-president of marketing, says that “the requirements of marketing have evolved in the last five to seven years, away from paying for slick packaging for messaging to force on the consumer”. Today, customers “want to engage in dialogue with a brand and for a brand to be really authentic in how we’re presenting ourselves,” she told the Financial Times.

Target is a huge brand, however – it has 1.8 million followers on Twitter and over 23 million likes on Facebook. They’d see decent engagement levels regardless.

What chance do smaller brands have?

It’s hard to say at the minute whether live streaming will be worth a smaller brand’s time. Periscope’s CEO suggests he doesn’t spend too much time following brands on the channel.

“If you look at my feed on any given day, you’ll see a collection of things that are important to me personally, because it’s family or a friend. I get to see my parents going on walks – they have five people watching their broadcast, but it’s a really nice, intimate experience,” Beykpour said.

Perhaps this is indicative of why for every 200 (ish) pieces of content posted on Facebook, only one takes the form of a video. Marketers aren’t convinced that video, live or otherwise, is worth the expense and time it costs to create. Despite just about every social media ‘prophet’ declaring video to be ‘the future of content marketing’.

However, we simply can’t ignore those engagement stats. Nor those that reveal how 55% of people watch videos online every day. Or that companies using video enjoy 41% more web traffic than non-users.

Our advice for the rest of 2016, then: be sure to experiment with video – but unless you’re in the enviable position of having limitless funds to throw at it, be careful when evaluating the cost vs benefit. Consider the longevity of the piece – if it has a decent ‘shelf-life’ it may be worth the investment, whereas something topical may have instant impact, but in the long run might not be worth it if it loses it’s value in a few days/weeks. If that means holding fire on live streaming for the time being, then so be it.

If you’ve experimented with live streaming or dipped a toe into video for the first time, we’d love to hear about your experience…