When live events came to a halt, livestreaming took precedence, drawing a rising number of viewers looking for a new way to connect. In fact, 24% of US internet users ages 16 to 64 began watching more livestreams during the first month of lockdowns, according to a March 2020 survey from GlobalWebIndex. 

Livestreaming viewership boomed over the last year as a direct result of the pandemic, but the trend didn’t start there. Stay-at-home mandates only accelerated the growth of the existing livestreaming landscape, which was already an increasingly popular way to engage with influencers, attend virtual events, watch video game content, and, more recently, discover products through live shopping.

Newfound relevance has given major livestreaming platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch more reason to continue rolling out new features, and marketers are taking note—especially when it comes to experimenting with advertising and commerce opportunities.  

By 2023, we forecast 163.4 million live video viewers in the US. -
By 2023, we forecast 163.4 million live video viewers in the US.

Top livestream services

Although the total number of livestreaming viewers are not available to the public, it’s likely that major social media networks and video sites are leading the way due to the sheer volume of active users. And there’s an appetite for it, too. According to Sprout Social, which gauged consumer interest around different forms of social content from February 28–March 4, 2020—even prior to pandemic lockdowns in the US—40% of US internet users said they wanted to see more live video.

Social platforms have been quick to respond to demand, enhancing their video capabilities with live functionality and new features for consumers, creators, and businesses. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitch all reported big gains in viewership during the pandemic. As cited in our February 2021 Livestreaming Landscape report, Instagram Live usage grew 70% in April 2020, Twitch generated an 83% rise in viewership year over year and YouTube saw watch time on gaming livestreams exceed 10 billion hours in 2020. This growth is expected to be sustained even as virtual events become less relevant. 

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Instagram is the leading platform for live video among US creators. -
Instagram is the leading platform for live video among US creators.

Livestreaming with influencers

Influencer marketing is a key component of livestreaming. For awareness campaigns, product launches or even lower-level conversion strategies, brands can extend their reach by collaborating with influencers who have large followings. 

Similar to Stories, livestreaming is a way for digital creators to present content that is often less polished than photos or recorded video. The result is more authentic engagement with digital shoppers looking to discover—and even ask questions about—the brands and products they see on screen. The effectiveness of word-of-mouth is strong at a time when consumers are purchasing products they don’t try in-store. 

Our findings report that Instagram Live and Facebook Live ranked higher than other platforms associated with influencer marketing, including TikTok and Snapchat. Twitch and YouTube were not viewed as important spaces for influencer marketing by most respondents.

Live video, however, doesn’t come without some risk, which is why selecting the right influencer is paramount. Look for an influencer (or macro-influencer) you can trust, who has experience with livestreaming, and can interact well with their audience. 

Gaming livestreams

Major players like Twitch, Facebook Gaming, and YouTube Gaming have carved out their own powerhouse subsection of livestreaming. In Q2 2021, people around the world (excluding China) spent a collective 9 billion hours watching livestreaming video game content, spiking from 3.8 billion hours in Q2 2019. 

Esports is a central element of the video gaming ecosystem. The $1 billion industry of organized competitive video gaming gives viewers more reason to tune in live. That’s good news for creators, who have the ability to monetize their streams with paid advertisements. 

These marketing opportunities aren’t solely for those in the gameplay arena. Celebrities, athletes, lifestyle influencers, and even politicians have taken to Twitch to reach new audiences, triggering a shift towards the mainstream that could diversify the users. 

Livestream commerce

One of the biggest developments for livestreaming last year was the emergence of live shopping on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. New features to Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops allow a call to action so livestream viewers learn more and purchase products within the app. 

Live shopping is already a lucrative market in China, where an estimated 45% of China’s digital shoppers (320 million people) will buy via livestream in 2023. Taobao Live, a livestreaming channel under the China-based retailer Alibaba, pioneered the service in 2018 as a QVC-style shoppable show. 

It’s unclear whether US consumer behavior will advance in the same way, but there are some companies making rapid headway. Mobile marketplace NTWRK—also a former TikTok partner—hosted four “shopping festivals” in the US that have generated more than 10 million views each and resulted in a total of 250,000 active buyers, according to Retail Dive. Early adoption with livestream commerce is predominantly in the fashion and beauty space, both on their way to take off in the US.