The jury is in: Online video is very clearly changing the way businesses interact with their customers. Live streaming, in particular, has exploded in popularity over the past year thanks in part to Facebook's launch of Facebook Live.

It's no big surprise that live streaming has become so popular; it's intimate, authentic and it turns a video into an experience that audiences feel like they can be a part of. Early reports from Facebook indicated that users watched live videos three times longer than pre-recorded ones, proving that live streaming can make a huge difference for customer engagement.

I've only recently begun utilizing Facebook Live in my own business, but I've already seen some thrilling results. Below are four of the most effective use-cases for Facebook Live. To anyone who's itching to get in on the action, but doesn't quite know where to start: This is for you.

1. Give customers a look inside your company.

People tend to have more brand loyalty when they can connect a company's name to the faces of the individuals behind it. That's exactly why using Facebook Live to provide glimpses into your day-to-day operations can help build customer loyalty.

Use your creative capacity to take this practice in many different directions. For example, you could demonstrate how you complete a specific process, share behind-the-scenes information your audience could only learn if you showed them through video or showcase your team members and leadership team.

Whichever strategy you choose, have some fun with it and strive to make it an authentic experience for your viewers.

2. Tease new products and updates.

When you have a new product or software update nearing release, it's important to keep your customers not only informed, but excited. A live video is a great way to tease the product, gauge customer interest and answer questions all at the same time.

If you sell a physical product, you can entice your audience with shots of the packaging and even create your own tantalizing unboxing video. For software, I recommend a live product tour that touches on all the key features and explains how they'll be beneficial for your customers.

3. Broadcast big company events.

If your company is hosting an event that might interest your customers, consider streaming the whole thing (or key parts of it) through Facebook Live. This keeps your audience up-to-date with noteworthy company developments.

Conferences are an ideal use for live streaming, because it gives viewers the experience of being there in person and might encourage them to show up next time. The same goes for companies whose chief product is a regularly recurring event that customers pay to attend. You could also livestream a product announcement event to get your audience hyped up and eager to learn more.

4. Conduct interviews and Q&As.

Everyone tends to pay a little closer attention to an interview when it's happening live. Viewers feel more connected to the participants because they know their statements are less scripted and can't be altered through editing.

Streaming your interview or Q&A session also allows you to incorporate questions from viewers, creating a dynamic experience for your audience. In order to get people participating in the interview, you'll have to do your part to solicit their interaction ahead of time.

"If you want to increase engagement, you've got to engage," says serial entrepreneur Chris Ducker. "Ask questions, ask for comments, ask for likes and shares. If you don't ask, you don't receive."

Your Facebook Live broadcasts remain on your page indefinitely, so you will continue getting value out of your content even after you've ended the livestream. Once you've started to form a live video strategy, read a few guides on live streaming best practices to familiarize yourself with some basic recommendations and things to avoid.

Then you'll be ready to start connecting with your customers in real time to drive results for your business.

Published on: Aug 15, 2017