When Jane Jetson answered a video call from her husband, George, in Hanna-Barbera's 1960s cartoon series "The Jetsons," videoconferencing seemed as far-fetched as it did futuristic. Back then, the only way to chat face-to-face with a family member, friend, colleague or client was to occupy the same physical space with them. Fast-forward 50 years and live video broadcasting isn't just possible; thanks to platforms like Skype, Facebook Live and Apple's FaceTime, it's pervasive.
Now, live video is poised to become even more ubiquitous, thanks to social-networking giant LinkedIn, which is launching a new live video service called LinkedIn Live.
Although LinkedIn has nearly 600 million users around the world, the new video service initially will be available only to a select group of power users who will be invited to use it. Those who don't initially receive an invitation can request one, and it's expected that all LinkedIn users eventually will be able to use LinkedIn Live -- although no plans have been announced for a widespread rollout.
Using LinkedIn Live, individuals and organizations will be able to broadcast real-time video privately to groups of select LinkedIn users, or publicly to the entire LinkedIn community. Either way, the company said the platform is designed for broadcasting "interactive" and/or "timely" events such as conferences, product launches, expert Q&As, earnings calls and award ceremonies.
To assist users with content creation and streaming, LinkedIn has established partnerships with third-party developers such as Wirecast, Switcher Studio, Wowza Media Systems, Socialive and Brandlive, all of which will lend their expertise to LinkedIn Live in order to ensure professional- instead of amateur-quality live streams.
"Video is the fastest growing format on our platform right now, and the one most likely to get people talking," Pete Davies, LinkedIn's director of product management, said. "Live has been the most requested feature."
Four More Live Video Services for Business Users
By most accounts, LinkedIn is late to the live-video game. Skype, for instance, debuted in 2003 and has been offering professional-grade video conferencing since 2014 via Skype for Business. Skype isn't only option, though. Here are four other platforms that preceded LinkedIn Live, each of which remains a solid option for executives who wish to utilize live video for marketing, thought leadership, video conferencing, workforce engagement or other business objectives:
• YouTube Live: YouTube has been the leader in online video since its debut in 2005. What began as a platform for viral videos and video blogging, however, has blossomed into a viable business tool for video marketers. Although it's not designed for group video conferencing, YouTube's YouTube Live service is ideal for broadcasting live video, including corporate meetings, product launches and special events. Videos can be streamed to users in real time, and can also be saved as public videos for on-demand playback. Because YouTube is a public-facing platform, it's ideal for executives and companies that want to use live video for marketing and branding; potential customers and employees can watch events live or after the fact in order to learn more about an executive or company. The positive impressions viewers form can help organizations and their leaders improve their reputations, enhance stakeholder engagement, and increase brand recognition and loyalty.
• Zoom: Companies and executives that want to leverage video for productivity instead of promotion should consider a platform like Zoom. Users like it because it's an all-in-one solution: Its video-conferencing service includes HD audio and video, with support for up to 1,000 video users; built-in collaboration tools, including screen sharing, co-annotation, file sharing and team chat; and archiving capabilities, with the ability to record meetings and create searchable transcriptions. Meanwhile, users who want broadcasting capabilities, too, can use Zoom's webcast solution to host online events with up to 100 interactive video participants and more than 10,000 attendees. Yet another offering is "Zoom Rooms," whereby Zoom outfits conference rooms with the equipment -- monitors, cameras, digital signage, digital whiteboards -- to jumpstart real-time collaboration among remote teams. Plus, a basic Zoom account is free and allows unlimited meetings (although group meetings with three or more participants are limited to 40 minutes unless you upgrade to a paid plan).
• BlueJeans: Zoom's chief competitor is BlueJeans, which offers many of the same features and benefits, including video conferencing with screen-sharing and recording capabilities; hardware services for creating interactive conference rooms; and webcasting services that support up to 15,000 attendees and up to 100 video presenters. The latter offering is especially notable because it includes interactive audience engagement tools such as Q&A, event chat, polling and hand raising. Plus, users can broadcast to the public by streaming their BlueJeans videos to social media via Facebook Live. Although there's no free option, subscriptions start at just $12.49 per month for individuals and small businesses that want to support meetings of up to 50 participants.
• Crowdcast: For those who want to use video as the basis for creating an online community, however, a solution like Crowdcast is hard to beat. For one, events hosted on the platform can be monetized with the ability to create registration pages and accept payments or donations. Likewise, organizers can limit seats to create an air of exclusivity or a sense of urgency. Engagement is easy, too, thanks to tools for Q&A, polling, voting and chat; presenters can even invite participants on screen (instead of on stage) to interact with them in front of their virtual audience. Organizers can capture key moments and share them on social media, create a customized landing page, embed their event on an existing web page and collect analytics that help identify which participants were most engaged, or which parts of the event were most effective.