Building Social Media Apps With Live Video Streaming
There’s an app for everything today. So how do you get people to use yours? Allow them to create and share their own content—especially if that content is live streaming video.
Recently, Wowza surveyed professionals across industries to learn how they use and leverage apps and services with user-generated live video content (LiveUGC). This blog explores our findings, as well as trends in the UGC space; examples of successful platforms; and how to build LiveUGC platforms across a variety of industry segments.
In this post, we’ll look at the origins of LiveUGC in the social media and networking space, and how organizations are creating these types of interactive streaming experiences.
Why Build Social Video Apps With Live User-Generated Content?
So, why do social media platforms need user-generated live video, anyway? Because LiveUGC drives awareness and engagement. It allows viewers and broadcasters to directly interact with one another through one-to-many functionality — such as when broadcasters take viewer questions and feedback through real-time commenting — or one-to-one capabilities, such as video chat.
These types of interactions really work to drive engagement:
- The top two online activities people engage in are using social media platforms and watching videos, respectively.
- Viewers watch more than 500 hours of video daily on YouTube alone.
- More video content is uploaded to online channels every 30 days than the major U.S. TV networks have broadcast in 30 years.
- And user-generated video clips make up over half of all content streamed to smartphones.
Our survey data backs this up. The top reasons companies integrate LiveUGC into their apps or services are to deepen customer engagement (55 percent), increase brand awareness (20 percent) and drive sales or conversions (18 percent). What’s more, the top UGC platforms respondents use are those that host video only (used by 84 percent), followed by those that host video, images and text (71 percent).
Building LiveUGC Social Media and Networking Apps
An astounding 81 percent of the U.S. population uses social media. Our survey data reflects this, with social platforms topping the list of respondents’ most-used UGC apps, such as Facebook (used by 76 percent), LinkedIn (61 percent), Twitter (55 percent) and Instagram (54 percent). While these titans of UGC are dominating the market, newer entrants are experiencing great success by finding and adhering to a specific interest, use case or audience focus.
For example, while the live-streaming service is just one component of larger social networks, platforms such as YouNow and Live.Me revolve almost entirely around live-streaming video, allowing users to broadcast to the whole world or just video chat with friends and family. YouNow incentivizes its top-performing streamers with financial payouts, and largely features musical, artistic or humorous performances. Live.Me focuses more on game streaming.
Snapchat, which is popular especially with Millennial users, started as a person-to-person platform for sharing photos and videos that disappear a short time after being posted. It now also includes news and “Live Stories” from around the world. Snapchat has also focused increasingly on stickers and augmented reality (AR) elements that can be added to photo and video messages.
Streamago is another social networking and communications platform focused largely on one-to-one video chat. Built on Wowza Streaming Engine, Streamago climbed to the number-one position in the Apple and Android app stores shortly after its launch.
If you’re building one of these platforms, there are some key considerations to keep in mind, such as:
You need a mobile app for live streaming social content.
We live in an increasingly mobile-first world. Ever-growing segments of the population use a smartphone or mobile device to create and watch content, with over half of all online video now consumed on these devices. The number of users who access social media on smartphones is growing rapidly, too. As of 2015, there were 150 million monthly users; by 2020, this is predicted to reach 186 million users.
The massive growth of social apps with LiveUGC is driven by the fact that users can easily go live from anywhere, at any time, using the camera in their pocket — and can watch any stream with the same convenience. Advances in technology have made it easier than ever for user-generated live video to be both captured on smartphones and shared with massive audiences around the world.
Given these trends, one thing is clear: If you’re building a social app with live streaming user-generated content, mobile is essential to your strategy.
Our survey respondents recognize this: Mobile apps are the most popular use case among those whose companies have already implemented UGC (36 percent) or LiveUGC (38 percent).
Our respondents realize that the future is mobile: Nearly half (45 percent) say their companies plan to incorporate the ability for users to create and consume LiveUGC via mobile apps in the next two years. Large numbers also plan to add it into desktop applications (36 percent) and service offerings (34 percent).
It’s hip to be square (video).
If you’re creating a social LiveUGC app, supporting square video is important, as this format lends itself to higher levels of user engagement.
Since the introduction of the 16:9 screen, many video experts have preached the “proper” way of formatting streaming in the horizontal (landscape) rather than the vertical (portrait) view, which encompasses both full-screen video and the square format. With the square format, the video only takes up part of the screen, with room for comments and interactive elements to be accessed below it, so viewers can participate with the stream without having to hide the video.
For TV and computer viewing, horizontal video makes perfect sense. But for mobile viewing, this is increasingly fighting the ergonomic and natural tendencies of users. Research from the iab 2017 video landscape report revealed that:
Our survey data reflects these trends: Most respondents still prefer to both shoot and view video in horizontal format (79 percent and 67 percent, respectively). However, the percentages of respondents who prefer to view video in either square or vertical format are slightly higher than those who prefer to shoot in these formats (14 percent prefer viewing in square and 16 percent in vertical, versus 10 percent each who prefer shooting in these formats).
This shows that while the bias toward shooting in horizontal format stubbornly remains, viewing preferences are beginning to shift — and content creators will need to shift, as well.
Your app must be flexible across platforms and devices.
While mobile is quickly becoming the preferred method, social media users access these platforms from a range of devices. What’s more, to be truly successful, social apps must be accessible by users in locations scattered all over the world — especially if the user experience involves video chat to connect friends and family in remote locations.
From developers to sales, C-suite executives to IT teams, device or platform flexibility is one of the top two considerations (along with quality), accounting for half of the ranked responses. Mobile live-stream publishing (40 percent) and playback (43 percent) also top the list.
Mobile streaming means working with, and optimizing across, multiple operating systems, versions and platforms. While this presents the opportunity to reach a much larger population of viewers at once, creating multiple, simultaneous apps and platforms can also increase your project’s complexity, time to market, cost and risk.
Luckily, there are tools available that converge cross-platform development and make it easier than ever to tap into the most innovative functionality, such as:
- Software Development Kits (SDKs): SDKs built for streaming get developers up and running right away, offering ready access to mobile-streaming APIs and best practices.
- Frameworks: Several cross-mobile-platform development frameworks, such as React Native and Xamarin, have been introduced, which enable apps for different operating systems to be developed in parallel with one another.
You need the ability to scale streaming instantly to reach huge global audiences.
Platforms and services that allow users to generate and deliver live streams have global appeal:
The ability for users to contribute their voices and live streams as part of this global trend brings big opportunities — but also some big challenges.
By definition, LiveUGC apps for social networking enable multiple users to contribute and consume content with about the same performance and quality from anywhere with network connectivity. For the best performance, you need to locate stream processing resources (i.e., those for transcoding, transrating and transmuxing) as close as possible to the source where content is being created. It’s also best to have delivery nodes located as close as possible to your end viewers.
Having a global or highly dispersed user base can complicate this. However, there are two common methods for addressing this challenge:
1. Leveraging global streaming platforms and APIs as services. Benefits of using global streaming platforms and APIs, such as those offered through the Wowza Streaming Cloud™ service, include:
- Quick startup through ready access to hardware, software and networking assets optimized for streaming delivery.
- Rapid scaling of computing resources (to support additional inbound streams) and network resources (to support larger audiences) in an on-demand or even automated fashion.
- Low capital expenditure, so you can deliver streaming without racking up costs for acquisition, maintenance and operations.
2. Deploying and managing global streaming infrastructures. Advantages of managing your own infrastructure by standing up and managing compute and software resources, such as Wowza Streaming Engine™ software, include:
- Greater control over compute, networking and storage resources for your streaming workflow to match your schedules and needs.
- Version management that allows you to choose if and when you want to upgrade and/or roll back to previous API versions, so you can ensure continuity of service when using custom code.
- Security (or at least, peace of mind) from knowing and controlling which security features are employed within your software stack — though opinions vary on whether home-grown platforms are actually more secure than managed ones.
- Potential cost-savings at scale when streams experience sudden spikes in viewership, which can result in overcharges when using a managed service.
Build a Live-Streaming Interactive Social App With Wowza
Here’s a look at how Wowza technology can help you integrate live-streaming UGC into your social media app, website or service:
With Wowza Streaming Engine media server software, you can add proven streaming technology to your offerings, your way. Start with a single on-premises server, and build all the way out to a global network on public or private cloud resources. Wowza Streaming Engine supports the functionality you need, such as:
- Low-latency protocols.
- Mobile-compatible formats.
- Integration and compatibility with other popular tools.
- The ability to adapt to new technologies as they become available.
Wowza Streaming Cloud offers many of the live-streaming benefits of Wowza Streaming Engine as a fully-managed SaaS/PaaS offering. That means you don’t have to be a streaming expert to offer high-quality video content. Wowza Streaming Cloud delivers global resources for both stream processing and delivery, accessible by either a UI or live-streaming APIs — so organizations of any size can reliably deliver to audiences of any size, anywhere in the world.
Choose the solution that’s right for you, and start building tomorrow’s interactive video experiences today.
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