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In August 2015, social media giant Facebook began the slow rollout of a live streaming feature it called Facebook Live. By spring/summer 2016, all Facebook users had access to this functionality, and it quickly took off.
Teenagers used it to stream to their friends, while businesses added it to their video marketing arsenal.
What is Facebook Live?
Facebook Live enables you to easily create live video broadcasts on Facebook from your smartphone or desktop.
At the end of the broadcast, your video is saved and displayed on your Facebook page for later viewing.
While gaining plenty of traction with it, Facebook was not the first company to offer live streaming services.
What Happened to Meerkat and Periscope?
In early 2015, Meerkat launched its successful live streaming app, and it received a fair amount of attention at the South by Southwest Festival that March.
Its stardom, however, was short-lived as Twitter’s Periscope dropped and quickly eclipsed Meerkat due to its ability to grow and evolve in a way that Meerkat could not.
Periscope reigned supreme for the next year or so. Then Facebook Live came along.
Easy to Use
Like other live streaming products, Facebook Live is fairly simple to use and requires little more than a smartphone camera.
This ease of use, combined with many people already having a Facebook account, means that Facebook Live has taken Periscope’s crown and does not show any sign of returning it.
Expect the unexpected: At the start of this Martha Stewart video featuring actress Jennifer Garner, the lifestyle maven doesn’t realize that the live broadcast has begun.
The Nitty Gritty of Facebook Live and How to Use It
Anyone using the Facebook for iOS, Facebook for Android, or Facebook Creator apps have access to the Live feature.
You can live-broadcast for up to four hours.
When you start a Live video, Facebook pops a notification on to your News Feed or profile that you are broadcasting live.
Viewers will see a red LIVE icon at the top left-hand corner of the video. The number of current viewers will also display.
Candid moments: the Clemson Tigers used Facebook Live to celebrate their championship win in U.S. college football. Celebrations and candid reactions are one way to use Facebook Live.
Choosing An Audience
Facebook allows you some extent of control over who your audience is for your Live broadcast. Prior to beginning, you can decide who sees your video by selecting the audience of your choice. You can set restrictions based on:
- Geographic location
For example, you might restrict your audience to users age 18 and up, regardless of gender, who are located in the states of Colorado and Maryland.
What Happens to Live Videos After Streaming Ends?
At the end of the broadcast, your video will be saved and published to your page or profile so that others can view it at a later time.
You can leave the video up as long as you want.
The Many Uses of Facebook Live (And Who Is Using It)
The sky is the limit when it comes to the type of content you can find on Facebook Live. Here is a brief sample of how people have used Facebook Live:
- The Glen Carbon Village Board have decided to stream their meetings using Facebook Live instead of using a local television channel.
- A fifth-generation sheep shearer in Oregon broadcasts himself shearing sheep to help drum up sales for the resulting fleece.
- Beauty retailer Sephora uses Facebook Live to broadcast AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions that answer questions posed by viewers and provide information on things that are trending.
- Laura Alcala, the mother of an autistic son, received tips helping her find her son after the son’s Lyft driver dropped him off at the incorrect location. After doing a Facebook Live with a local news station, viewers provided Alcala with tips helping her find her son.
- Household guru Martha Stewart has taken to Facebook Live to share tips, tutorials, and behind-the-scenes peeks.
The Dark Side of Facebook Live: Crime and Violence Live-Streamed
Though there are a lot of upsides to using Facebook Live, downsides are present too.
There has been concern over whether live streaming on Facebook (and other social media networks) is contributing to fatal car accidents after one woman broadcasts a high-speed crash resulting in her death and serious injuries for her passenger.
Ideas for Facebook Live Broadcasts
Here are some ideas to jump-start your creativity.
Live Cooking Shows
If you are own a cooking store or a restaurant, you could do live cooking segments and AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions where viewers can send in questions that you answer during your broadcast.
Ask Me Anything
AMAs are a good option for anyone with an area of expertise. For example, booksellers can do segments on things like the best books for winter or books to read if you are battling depression.
AMA videos have been done by everyone from fitness trainers to psychology professors.
People love what are called unboxing videos. They are exactly as they sound: a video that features someone opening and unpacking something they ordered.
Live unboxing videos have been done by:
- Creative and technical professionals who unbox tools they use (like camera gear, musical instruments, or computers)
- News organizations
- Boutique brands and big brands
- People with consumer advocacy pages that focus on a particular audience segment like stay-at-home parents and products that are helpful for that group
Some people combine Facebook Live unboxing with product giveaways.
Professional photographer Trey Ratcliffe does a live unboxing of a DJI Phantom drone in this Facebook video broadcasted from a helipad in Queenstown, New Zealand.
There’s even a trend toward unboxing water-resistant or water-proof products — you guessed it — underwater. While we’re not aware of anyone doing this on Facebook Live, it’s probably only a matter of time.
Announcements and Product Demos
If you are making significant changes to your business, such as launching a new product line or gearing up for a major sale, consider announcing this via a Live broadcast.
Software companies might use this tool to walk their users through bug fixes and newly-implemented features.
You can also provide behind-the-scenes looks to your viewers. For example, if you own a small bread shop, consider walking your visitors through a day in your life.
People are curious about how others live so don’t discount showing the 4 AM wake-ups, spilled flour, and final product deliveries.
Broadway singer and actor Leslie Odom, Jr. shares a Facebook Live broadcast from backstage at Hamilton. With Facebook Live you can take your fans behind the scenes of your lifestyle and work.
Most of what we have mentioned are one-off broadcasts, but if you have the resources, consider creating and streaming a regular series of content.
How to Use Facebook Live
Starting a broadcast with Facebook Live is fairly simple.
Before starting, be sure that you have the Facebook for iOS, Facebook for Android, or Facebook Creator app downloaded on your mobile device.
Do I Need a Special Camera?
You can stream using the camera on your smartphone or tablet (and that is all that is required), but there are cameras out there designed to improve the quality of your broadcasts (such as the Mevo Plus and Portal from Facebook).
- Log in to your Facebook account.
- Tap on the camera icon to the left of your search bar.
- Your phone will prompt you to grant Facebook access to your camera and microphone. Do this, otherwise, you will not be able to broadcast.
- At the bottom of your screen, switch to Live.
- Choose the privacy and posting settings you want for your upcoming broadcast.
- Write a description for your upcoming broadcast.
- Tag the friends you want to see your video, set your current location, and/or add information on what activity you are currently doing.
- Set your camera orientation.
- If desired, add any lenses, filters, or text/drawings to your video.
- Click Start Live Video to begin broadcasting.
- When you are done broadcasting, click Finish to end. Be sure to save your video and post it for viewers to see at a later date.
Mevo is a live-streaming camera that enables hands-free filming from multiple angles.
Tips and Tricks for Great Broadcasts
One of the biggest perks of Facebook Live is its ease of use and low requirements in terms of tools.
However, that does not mean that you will not see greater success if you broadcast quality videos — no one wants to watch Blair Witch Project-style videos!
In the following sections, we will provide you with the tips and tricks you need to produce the best possible videos. Our goal is to help you prevent viewers from bouncing due to poor broadcast quality!
Make Sure Your Connection is Strong
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is that the internet connection you are using is strong enough to support your continuous streaming.
Not only do you want to keep your content from appearing grainy, but you also do not want to drop your connection and stop your broadcast abruptly.
Per Facebook, “WiFi tends to work best, but if you can’t find a nearby network, you’ll want a 4G connection.”
Test Your Speed First
If you are not sure if the connection you are using is fast enough, Facebook recommends that you download and use the Speedtest app from the App Store or Google Play to test your speeds ahead of time.
Make a Content Plan
Content creation is harder than it appears, so we recommend sitting down and planning your upcoming broadcasts.
You do not need to get super in-depth — you just need to have content ideas in mind, as well as some talking points related to your overarching idea.
Build Anticipation Among Viewers by Announcing Your Broadcasts Ahead of Time
One way to increase the number of viewers for your broadcasts is to create a written post ahead of time that announces when you will be going live.
Yes, we do see the irony in claiming that videos are a replacement for static text, then advising you to use the written word to drum up anticipation for your videos.
However, by announcing your broadcast ahead of time (typically about one day ahead), you give your viewers a chance to plan around your broadcast instead of hoping people stumble upon it as they scroll through their News Feeds.
Viewers Can Subscribe To Your Live Notifications
You can also ask that your viewers subscribe to your Live notifications, which prompts them with notifications anytime you start a Live stream.
Tell Them What To Expect
Create a catchy description ahead of time so that your viewers know what to expect when they tune in.
Engage with Your Viewers Personally
When watching you Live, viewers can send in questions or send comments your way.
Live video can be very “conversational.” Engage by answering viewer questions or by simply greeting new users that join.
Conversely, you can be the one asking questions of your audience — when they respond, you read them aloud to others who are viewing.
Be sure to address people using their names!
Longer Broadcasts Can Be Better
Remember, there are many ways for users to discover your broadcasts, including:
- The Facebook Live app
- Responding to your notifications (if they subscribe to your feed)
- Seeing the Live video on your page or profile
By broadcasting for a longer period of time, you allow viewers greater time to join in and watch, increasing the total number of people who see the content you are creating!
Facebook Live: How Does It Fit In With Your Business Strategy?
There are many reasons why you should be interested in Facebook Live, especially if you are an entrepreneur or a small business.
A few pointers before you start:
- Maintain your independence of thought. Just because many people are using, and talking about, Facebook Live, doesn’t mean it’s going to move the needle on your business objectives.
- Maintain an experimental mindset: It’s cheap to conduct experiments with Facebook Live. Explore a variety of approaches and see what resonates with your target audience.
- Start with the end in mind: your top business objectives. (If you aren’t clear on these, spend the time to clarify the top 3-5).
Business owners need to create content that engages their target audience at three stages of interaction:
- Becoming aware of your brand
- Considering what your brand offers
- Transacting with your brand
It’s likely that Facebook Live will offer opportunities at the beginning stages of #2: enticing your target audience to become interested in exploring your brand’s offerings.
Once that initial interest has been sparked though, you’ll want to already have a plan in place to deepen that interest and turn it into transactions on your website.
How Does Facebook Live Fit in With Your Social Media Strategy?
Facebook is an excellent channel for building awareness about your brand and jump-starting interest (consideration).
For building initial awareness, highly targeted Facebook Ads are a good tool.
Facebook Live can then be used to move those new fans from having just become aware of your brand to become interested in learning more about it.
When using Facebook Live, consider the following.
Let People Get To Know You
Sales experts will tell you that a good portion of your target audience needs to know something about the people behind your brand before they feel comfortable doing business with you.
With Facebook Live, casual, unscripted moments can reveal the personalities behind your business and help people know you a bit better.
Do a Soft ‘Pull’ On Lead Magnets
Facebook is primarily a social platform and doing hard “Buy now!” appeals typically doesn’t work. Being social does.
So, while you want to emphasize conversation and interaction, you can work into your live broadcasts opportunities for your viewers: such as downloading a free e-book from your website; signing up for an upcoming free webinar.
Some incorporate giveaways and discount codes as well.
Gathering Data and Measuring Success
Facebook Live might be a new, innovative tool, but you should still subject it to the measurements and tests you would use on any other outreach or marketing method.
After all, you are still spending time on creating your content, even if you have not made any financial investment.
So, how do you figure out if your Facebook Live efforts are effective or not?
Again, you’ll have to start with your own top business objectives. Make sure you’re clear on how you’re measuring those.
What and How Should You Measure?
Some simple measurement tactics you can use with Facebook Live include:
- When sharing URLs to your website or any landing or registration pages you use, be sure to deploy campaign URLs so you can detect the source of traffic — and measure impact.
- If you offer a discount code, make sure it’s exclusive to your Facebook Live broadcast(s).
- Be sure to track costs associated with Facebook Live broadcasts. If you use the broadcasts to acquire sign-ups/leads, you’ll be able to calculate cost-per-acquisition.
What Metrics Does Facebook Supply?
Now, let’s take a look at what metrics Facebook supplies you with. But here’s a caveat about engagement metrics: be careful to not count these as indicators of business success.
Engagement metrics are best used as internal company metrics, not KPIs — in other words, as indicators showing whether your Facebook Live content is resonating with your target audience or not.
You can find information for your account in Page Insights > Posts > Post Types as follows.
This metric shows you the number of people viewing your video at every minute of your broadcast. It is a high-level overview of how many people you have reached.
Be aware that this metric does include views that are less than three-seconds long (because many people have auto-play enabled, such short videos are likely not data points with which you should be concerned).
By default, this statistic is broken down by unique vs. repeat views, but you can change this to auto-played vs. clicked-to-play or paid vs. organic.
This metric shows a breakdown of how many viewers took action with your video, including sharing it, clicking on it, liking it, or commenting on it. You will also see negative feedback (e.g., someone hides your video or report it as inappropriate).
You want positively engaged viewers, so pay careful attention to the videos that do well. The poorly performing ones are important, too: these are ones you do not want to replicate.
This is a pretty simple metric — how many times did someone to play your video? This metric is important because it helps you distinguish between people who glimpsed your video as it scrolled past them in their News Feed versus those who electively launched your video.
Facebook breaks this down a bit further so into clicks to play (someone sought out your video and clicked to play it), link clicks (clicks from a link in a post), and other clicks (which is information on how many times people clicked on other aspects of your post, such as the title or the “See more” link).
Further Reading On Metrics
For more in-depth information on what, at a high level, the different metrics mean, as well as how you can improve poor performance, we recommend reading Facebook’s Understanding How Your Videos Perform on Facebook.
In short, your short-term goal is to produce content that resonates with your target audience. So you want to maximize viewership, encourage engagement, and minimize negative feedback.
As you get started, you will likely see some pretty poor numbers, but as you learn what works (and what does not) and the quality of your content improves, you should see the improvements reflected in your measurements as well.
Here are a few common Q&As on using Facebook Live. Have a different question? Feel free to add it in the comments section below and we’ll respond.
I already have a Facebook page; do I really need to create videos using Facebook Live?
Well, you do not have to do anything, but we think that Facebook pages and Facebook Live complement each other very well. You can use your page to garner anticipation for your Facebook Live broadcasts, while you can use your page to link to videos, both past, present, and future.
Can I live stream to Facebook Live and other social platforms at the same time?
However, there are serious weaknesses with a lot of the options available. For example, there might not be feature parity with using the tools individually (you might not get live back-and-forth communication with your users, which is one of the key benefits of a live broadcast).
@TeamYoutube On Friday, our @livestream software glitched, showing “no signal” again. We ended the livestream and restarted and everything worked fine. But the first livestream was flagged as spam, and our ability to livestream has been revoked until April. pic.twitter.com/ZrqY47grTz
— Mel Robbins (@melrobbins) January 13, 2019
Above: Motivational speaker Mel Robbins ran into problems when she used a platform to livestream video to multiple social media channels at once. When the live-streaming malfunctioned it seems YouTube automatically flagged it as spam, leaving Mel in a bind.
Furthermore, the ease of use of the different apps varies. Each live streaming service operates somewhat differently, and it can be difficult to design a user interface that includes all of the necessary functionality in a way that makes sense intuitively.
Finally, some of the software options we mentioned are expensive. For individuals and small businesses on a budget, this might mean that such software is not an option at all.
What happened to the Facebook Live Map?
Since December 2018 we’ve noticed some changes in how live Facebook videos display. These changes have not yet been addressed in Facebook’s own Help QA on the subject.
- Prior to 2019, if your livestream was public, the video would also appear on a page called the Facebook Live Map. This was an interactive map of the world: you could click on cities and regions to find live local broadcasts. It was a fun way to discover new broadcasts and you could search for live video specifically (vs. prerecorded) without having to go to individual pages or profiles.
- You could also browse live videos by clicking on “Live video” in the left-hand navigation of your newsfeed.
However, the link for Facebook Live Map now redirects to Facebook Watch and the left-hand “Live video” options is gone, only “Facebook Watch” remains.
What appears on your Facebook Watch page will be based on pages you’ve liked and may not include any live video. If there are any live videos broadcasting based on your interests these will show up under “Latest videos” (in the left-hand navigation) on the Facebook Watch page.
Facebook Live is a powerful tool that should be a part of the marketing arsenal for every entrepreneur or small business.
Its low start-up cost (essentially, a Facebook page and a smartphone equipped with a camera), yet its potential for great rewards means that there are few things that could yield as much benefit for your business.
With that said, Facebook Live is still just a tool. It is up to you to put in the effort required to learn how to use it properly and to wield it effectively.
In spite of the amount of time such a project could take, we think that this could be a wise investment for you.
Success For Your Small Business in 2019
As you put your best foot forward in 2019 for small business success, bookmark our site for thousands of tips, tutorials and tools from top professionals.
Here are a few I personally recommend:
- The 9 Best Social Media Tools For Small Business
- How to Start Email Marketing Your Business Today
- Marketing Ideas On a Budget: 25 Best Tips and Tactics
Have a question about using Facebook Live? Simply leave it in the comments section below and we’d be happy to answer it!
Contributing Editors: Sherrie Gossett and Marko Csokasi