What Brands Can Learn About Live Content From HQ Trivia


For years, people have touted live content as the next big thing. First, Justin.TV paved the way with 24-hour streaming. Before long, seemingly every app in the world introduced live-streaming capabilities. But even while the opportunity to go live has grown exponentially, the content that captures the most attention is often the latest Netflix original.
Until now.
Over Christmas, my jaw dropped as I stared at my phone. In less than 15 minutes, I watched a few hundred thousand people compete for $12,000, a pot that was ultimately split between two people—yes, they each won $6,000 faster than it took for me to type this.
That experience hooked me into playing HQ Trivia at least once a day since. In this article, we’ll break down what makes HQ Trivia so captivating along with lessons brands can apply to their live content.

What Makes HQ Trivia So Compelling?

What is HQ Trivia?
A quick overview: HQ Trivia is an app that enables people to compete in live games of single-elimination trivia. Each game features only 12 questions with all winners winning an equal share of the cash prize.
HQ Trivia is Inherently Social
No, not social like Facebook or Instagram. HQ Trivia is social like people were before they (we) became glued to their (our) phone screens. When you play HQ Trivia, it’s more fun to play with other people, people in the same room, who might be able to chip in with an answer.

Another social component is referral codes which give users “extra lives” when they get a friend to sign up. HQ Trivia is the only app I’ve ever sent to friends via text message in the hopes that they’d join. If people like me are texting friends to download an app, you likely won’t need to run any TV ads in the near future.
Not only is the game real-world social, but a lot of the questions have social elements, such as absurd incorrect answers which people end up Photoshopping.

Additionally, HQ Trivia fuels fans looking to post about the game with their entertaining GIPHY channel.

Active Participation
Standard live streams have people viewing the content in a mostly passive experience. You might get a comment read or a question answered, but rarely do you truly get to participate. The opposite is true for HQ Trivia. Even after being eliminated, I’m curious to see if I’ll know the answers to the remaining questions, a curiosity that keeps me engaged with the broadcast from start to finish.
Hosts with Improv Training
Half the entertainment around a live broadcast is the unpredictability and that anything can happen. With any live broadcast, it’s inevitable that things won’t go exactly as planned. Often these flubs are filled with awkward moments of silence. HQ Trivia’s main host Scott Rogowsky comes from an improv background, and it shows. As the app glitches from heavy traffic, Scott doesn’t miss a beat, vamping about what’s going on in the world.
Recognition & Shoutouts
Before each game begins, the host calls out people in the chat. This small recognition encourages people to be social and connect with HQ Trivia on Twitter.
Additionally, a bonus reward for following HQ Trivia on Twitter is that they’ll sometimes hint at answers to questions in upcoming games.
Just the Right Difficulty
When a game is too difficult or too easy, people lose interest. By starting with very easy questions, you gain a feeling of momentum. With each question having only three choices, when you get a question wrong, it still feels like you were close to picking the right answer, making you want to come back again tomorrow. The last viral game to strike the perfect level of difficulty was FlappyBird.
HQ Trivia - Question
Non-Intrusive Push Notifications
It’s very easy (and far too common) for apps to abuse notifications, but HQ Trivia rarely sends out a push notification besides when a game is about to start.
Consistent Live Schedule
Having a consistent schedule makes it easier for people to fit HQ Trivia into their lives, as well as something to look forward to. While there are still benefits for a brand to do a one-time live broadcast, consistency is king.
Predictability + Surprises
The format of each HQ Trivia game is the same, but there are still a few surprises sprinkled into each game. From obscure trivia questions to which you know the answer to increased jackpot amounts to Jimmy Kimmel guest hosting, the little surprises keep you engaged with the app.

Lessons for Brands From HQ Trivia

You don’t have to host trivia to capture and keep attention during a live stream, but you can leverage other elements that work so well for HQ Trivia.

  1. Find a way to make your live stream social, beyond just the platform.
  2. Encourage participation by recognizing top fans. If you find a content format people love, consider hosting a live stream on a consistent schedule.
  3. And most importantly, if you sign up for HQ Trivia, please use my referral code. I need all of the help I can get.

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Background on The Social Lights
The Social Lights® is a social-first agency headquartered in Minneapolis that partners with clients to grow their business through strategy development, creative production, media buying, and social media management. Current clients include General Mills, Ecolab, Cargill, Caribou Coffee, Kwik Trip, Polaris and Massage Envy. The Social Lights was founded in 2011 and is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise. Learn more at The Social Lights.

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