Love it or hate it, HQ Trivia is a phenomenon.
Created by Vine co-founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, the application blends entertainment and trivia to deliver live interactive content to an audience of anywhere between 500,000 and 2 million viewers per broadcast.
Even with a valuation of more than $100 million, at the center of HQ Trivia is a relatively simple concept: appointment-to-view content that rewards participation not only by giving away substantial cash prizes, but by creating an experience that is both immersive and exhilarating for players.
With more retailers experimenting with content as a way to engage with their customers and build brand awareness, apps like HQ Trivia are demonstrating that with the right formula, “live” can work. But the concept isn’t new.
Since the launch of Home Shopping Network in the early 1980s, brands have used traditional broadcast TV to bring 24-hour home shopping to viewers around the world. In recent years, apps like MikMak have attempted to create a kind of “QVC for millennials,” leaning on behaviors around mobile video and even gamification to sell products via their content. And multiple brands such as Benefit and Target have experimented with live content, leveraging existing platforms such as Facebook and Twitch to move beyond brand awareness and drive direct-to-consumer sales.
With many brands hoping to make live a significant part of their content strategy in 2018, what lessons can they learn from HQ Trivia?
Create a destination
Any brand tasked with creating engaging social content knows how challenging it is to hold viewers’ attention long enough to get your message across, especially when the next feed is just a swipe away. HQ Trivia encourages audiences to lean-in by focusing on a single live broadcast, removing all other distractions and creating a dedicated destination for its content.
For brands looking to achieve similar results, having live broadcasts take place inside their own flagship apps is another way to remove the potential distractions of Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat. Weekly (or even daily) appointment-to-view livestreams can be a great way to encourage return visits.
Make it entertaining
Any HQ Trivia aficionado will tell you that the game’s host, Scott Rogowsky, knows how to capture his audience. Along with special guest hosts, Rogowsky has defined HQ Trivia’s brand with his unique presenting style—keeping the content feeling fresh and unique even after more than 350 “episodes.”
In the retail space, Amazon perhaps came closest to this by borrowing tried and tested formats from QVC and daytime TV and attempting to create something that was both unique and familiar.
Online retailers can re-create this by focusing on what makes their brand unique and choosing formats that work with their products. Successful branded content is about making it feel less like an ad and more like a TV show.
The chances of winning even a fraction of HQ Trivia’s cash prizes are slim, and most players know this. But what keeps them coming back is an exhilarating and fun experience that is rewarding in other ways.
Discounts and deals are an obvious way to make livestreams more appealing to consumers. MikMak employed simple gamification in its app by giving viewers discounts for early purchases or emphasizing limited stock.
Most online retailers have regular sales and promotion, and many have established communities around their products. Making these part of their live content strategies is a good way to create new audiences and give consumers a more immersive and rewarding experience.
Technology comes second
Until recently, the popularity of HQ Trivia far outweighed the capability of its platform, with many players reporting freezing and lagging during gameplay. Regardless, audiences keep coming back for more because HQ Trivia knows that the content is more important than the technology.
For brands (especially smaller ones), adding livestreaming and interactive content capabilities to existing apps or websites can be a daunting task, but there are plenty of off-the-shelf services that will plug straight into most e-commerce platforms.
As more brands move into the space, infrastructure costs for live video are decreasing, loosening the dependency on social platforms and making it more accessible than ever.
Creating a go-to destination for live content outside of social networks provides brands with new opportunities to use content for direct-to-consumer sales and allows then retain better control over their relationships with consumers.
With the consumption of video increasing and competition among brands to stand out rising, it’s never been more important for brands to take more unique and innovative approaches to their content strategies.
Lee Simpson is head of television and entertainment at ustwo, the digital products studio behind hit game Monument Valley.
This article first appeared on AdWeek.