Why it doesn’t matter that no one watched your live stream

We tell stories with live happenings on the web. Here’s one simple way we boost our returns.


A successful happening online is more than just a scheduled live stream, live blog, live chat, launch or other moment on the web that performs well in realtime. While happenings are typically short (60 seconds to 60 minutes), their stories can start long beforetime, which means they climax in realtime and resonate aftertime. So the lifespan of a happening can unfold over weeks, months or even years, enabling us to connect with bigger and more relevant audiences.



A live snapshot of a longer story


Let’s say we’re planning to live stream a 3-minute song at a concert, or to launch a new blog. We can start marketing and building a community around the content as soon as we know it’s going to happen, even if we won’t know the date of the happening until later (and the exact time later still). And once the realtime moment is over we can optimise the story aftertime, continuing our marketing and community activities for as long as resources and relevance allow.


Now you might be thinking that’s all well and good, but what happens if no-one turns up to our scheduled live stream or blog launch? Can a story still connect with people who’ve missed out on the realtime moment? Of course it can. The happening is just a live snapshot of a longer story. A realtime highlight, if you will.


You probably weren’t among the 500 million live TV viewers who witnessed the first moon landing back in 1969, and yet the story resonates with you almost 50 years after it happened. Most stories only reach us aftertime, when we read about them on news sites and social media. So yes, people still connect with live happenings they’ve missed.


That’s why we develop a story for every happening we create, one that’s divided across three blocks of time: before, real and aftertime. This enables us to reach, engage and influence our audience before it happens and after it happens, regardless of whether the live moment attracts a crowd at all.


If "beforetime" sounds familiar, you might be thinking of "The Land Before Time", the Spielberg film about an orphaned Brontosaurus called Littlefoot. See it if you're 9 years old and like dinosaurs.


Longer stories do better


The lifespan of the “perfect” happening looks like a letter “S”. The longer the story (horizontal axis), the higher the returns will be (vertical). And the more traction a happening generates beforetime, the steeper the S will be. So a live stream or blog launch that no-one saw will, at worst, stretch the S into a flattish diagonal line that lengthens the time axis. When a happening doesn’t perform well in realtime, the overall returns are slower, but they are returns nonetheless.


There are many exceptions to the perfect “S”, of course. Beyonce’s album of 2013 was launched upon an unsuspecting world with a single Instagram post and not a minute of marketing beforetime. The lifespan of that story began with the realtime climax, exploding in the first 24 hours and tapering off in the days and weeks to follow. There are plenty of successful happenings without a beforetime.


In general, however, it’s the slow burning “S” happenings that yield the biggest returns. The lifespan of the moon landing started with President Kennedy’s speech to US Congress in 1961, eight years before it happened. The landing’s legacy has extended that lifespan for decades aftertime.


More recently, the story of Red Bull Stratos climaxed with Felix Baumgartner’s “jump from the edge of space” in 2012, a happening that attracted 8 million (YouTube/Live) viewers in realtime and priceless PR for Red Bull aftertime. The marketing started over two years beforetime, building buzz with a relentless stream of slick content.


Stratos was more than just a perfect “S”. It was the start of a new era, bringing to the web a moment that otherwise would have been destined for live TV. That’s why Felix is featured on our happeningo home page.


Make yours a happening online.


Back on Planet Earth, not every story can (or deserves to) be stretched out for years. But you can begin the story around your live stream or blog launch a little earlier beforetime, and extend it a little longer aftertime. The simplest way to boost the return on realtime content is to extend its lifespan a little.


At happeningo digital agency, most of our happenings kick off around 4 weeks beforetime, when we add them to a soonfeed timeline. This lets our audience discover, share and get an alert as it happens. Once the happening is announced in a soonfeed, you can build a community beforetime and gather a crowd in realtime, which is why we’ve just launched a soonfeed widget for marketers, community managers and event planners.


Just as every live happening needs a story to survive, every story needs a happening to thrive. To make yours a happening online, come say hello.


If you’ve read this far, you should sign up to the monthly mail in the footer for our latest blog posts, tips and upcoming happenings.


Richard Medic is Chief of Happenings at happeningo.com digital agency and founder of Soonfeed.com, the first timeline of scheduled happenings online.



A note about ROI


When we host a live stream, live blog or other realtime happening on the web, we aim to deliver three kinds of return on investment (ROI).



This involves finding and connecting with the biggest and most relevant audience possible. We focus primarily on reach beforetime, so our audience can connect with the story early, share the happening with others and be part of a conversation. Reach can be tracked with indicators such as the number of visits to the landing page and social post impressions, as well as SEO metrics including Social Signals.



Although some interaction among users takes place beforetime, it’s typically the realtime moment itself that generates the most engagement around a happening. People are more likely to interact when they’re part of a crowd. And it’s when they start talking to each other that the crowd evolves into a community. We call this “live community building”, and it can be tracked with indicators such as the number of social shares and conversation threads.



Once a happening reaches and engages a critical mass, a community starts to form that can be influenced at a deeper level. It takes time to get to this point, which is why the aftertime period in the lifespan of a happening is so important. We can measure influence by tracking conversion metrics such as newsletter signups, product sales or petition signatures, in addition to qualitative indicators like sentiment in social conversations.