From Periscope to Facebook Live to Twitch, live streaming has been one of the hottest topics across the social media marketing landscape for the past couple years. Despite the amount of attention it has received, it's still a relatively new innovation. This means there's still plenty of time to get a head start on your competitors and make a dent in the world of live streaming

Here's why you should strongly consider live streaming going into 2018 and how to select which platform is best for your brand:

Why should you live stream?

1. The growth and opportunity of the medium.

According to Business 2 Community, 80 percent of surveyed users would rather watch a live stream from a brand than read a blog post from the same company. Additionally, from 2016 to 2021, the live streaming market is projected to increase from $30 billion to $70 billion.

To top things off, with iconic brands like Lego, Red Bull and Uber becoming involved in live streaming, it's clear the medium is continuing to gain momentum and won't be going away anytime soon.

2. It's still relatively new.

Despite its growth, only 64 percent of internet users surveyed have even watched a live stream. One of the main advantages of getting to a trend early is, of course, less competition, so if you haven't done so already, the best time to begin capitalizing on live streaming is now.

3. The excitement and value of uncertainty.

A live stream is, well, live. When compared to more rehearsed forms of online communication, such as an edited YouTube video or email newsletter that's been proofread 10 times, the uncertainty of a live stream in itself is exciting, and could be a breath of fresh air for your audience.

In a world of full of Instagram filters, impromptu content might open up a whole new level of trust between you and your viewers.

4. The ability to have a "normal" conversation with your audience. 

Authenticity is important in the eyes of the consumer, and there are few ways better suited for connecting with your audience on an intimate level than live streaming. Simply saying "hello" and answering your viewer's questions and comments can go a long way.

By live streaming, you'll be able to connect with your audience in real time and build an authentic relationship with them just by having a conversation. 

Which live streaming platform is best for you?

1. First and foremost, go where your audience is.

The simplest way to know which platform to devote your time into is to begin thinking of live streaming as an extension or additional feature of already existing platforms as opposed to a standalone application.

If your audience is most engaged on Facebook, then focus your energy into Facebook Live. If your audience is most engaged on Instagram, then focus your energy into Instagram Live. If you've got a prolific YouTube channel, then zero in on YouTube Live.

If you don't yet have an engaged audience on any platform but are still looking to get into live streaming, then you should ask where your potential customers are most active. For example, if your customers skew Millennial, go with Instagram Live. If your customers skew a bit older, you can't go wrong with Facebook Live. If you're a video game company, invest in Twitch.

2. Stick to the "big name" platforms.

I'm a strong believer in playing it safe when it comes to selecting which platforms you put your precious time and energy into. With live streaming gaining so much momentum across social media, many of the smaller, standalone apps could easily erode into obsolescence with players like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube getting more involved. 

We saw this firsthand with the dissolving of Meerkat, the Periscope competitor often credited with starting the current live streaming trend across social media apps. We saw this again with the decline of Periscope's popularity after Twitter and other social media giants all rolled out their own live streaming services. 

It's best to build up an audience on the social media platforms you're damn near certain will be around 5 years from now, and unfortunately for most standalone apps, the odds aren't stacked in their favor.

Live streaming is a terrific way for brands of all sizes and verticals to cultivate a deeper relationship with their audience. Throughout this holiday season and going into 2018, consider integrating live streaming into your social media strategy. It just might be the addition that "moves the needle" for your marketing efforts.