In the age of Netflix and DVRs, it’s weirdly ironic to watch the growing popularity of live video for social media marketing. Sure, most of it is recorded so you can access it later, but it has far more in common with the nightly news than with modern on-demand, personalized content.
It turns out, there’s something about watching an event unfold live that’s hard to replicate. To be there as it’s happening, in the moment with a group of friends and strangers, sharing a singular experience. It’s powerful. And it never really went out of style—it just took a while for technology to create a compelling modern version.
Facebook Live has realized the potential for live video combined with a social network. Not only are people watching in droves, they’re more engaged: People spend three times longer watching live video than they watch recorded versions after-the-fact.
As with any new channel, it’s always tempting to jump right in and start creating content. And, as always, it’s a better idea to do some evaluating and strategizing first.
Here’s the low-down on Facebook Live: What it is, what it’s for, and how brands are using it.
What Is Facebook Live?
A native live-streaming service embedded in Facebook. When you go Live, the stream will show in your follower’s feeds and on your profile page. Viewers can leave likes and comments in real time. After the event is over, viewers can watch a recorded version with the option of seeing the comment stream as if it were live.
Who’s Doing It?
How Do I Do It?
Right now, the easiest way to go Live is from a mobile device. On the Facebook app for iOS or Android, you’ll see a “Live” button right at the top of the feed. Click that for a quick set up and your feed will begin! There is a version of Live for desktops which is slowly being rolled out—if you don’t have it yet, the mobile version is the only game in town.
What Are the Best Practices?
Facebook’s best practices for Live are a good place to start:
- Tell followers ahead of time before you broadcast
- Write a compelling description
- Make sure you have a strong internet connection
- Respond to commenters on the air
- Aim for longer sessions (10-90 minutes)
- Develop a schedule so viewers know when to tune in
What Pitfalls Should I Look Out For?
Since it’s so easy to go Live, a lot of Live streams right now look the same. They’re talking heads, people holding up a phone and chatting informally with the viewer. If you’re a celebrity with a quick wit, go for it—otherwise, don’t go in without a plan.
It’s an unpredictable platform—you may have to contend with technical issues and an unmoderated comment stream at the same time. It’s a good idea to have at least one person off-camera who can handle the comment stream and work out any glitches.
Finally, don’t expect your entire audience to tune in all at once. Generally viewers drop in and out of live streams—some will arrive late and some will leave early. So a complex narrative that builds on prior knowledge is not the best choice.
Q: What Kind of Content Works Best?
There’s a vast array of content that works for Facebook Live. The most successful take advantage of the special connection the platform affords with an audience, addressing and interacting with them in real time. Here are a few good examples:
- Behind the Scenes: Dunkin’ Donuts took their followers on a tour of “Dunkin’ Brands University,” a facility where Dunkin’ creates new products. At the end of the tour, audiences got a tutorial on how to make a Dunkin’ Donuts wedding cake. The tour scored just over 30,000 views.The informal, intimate nature of the platform is ideal for these sneak peeks behind the scenes. If your brand doesn’t have a factory to tour, consider a tour of the office space itself—promote transparency and your corporate culture by showing off work spaces and interviewing co-workers.
- Tips and How-tos: Benefit Cosmetics hosts a weekly show called Tipsy Tricks. A host and guests drink wine, gossip, and offer makeup tips. They respond to viewer comments, and generally offer a mix of practical advice and entertaining banter.Facebook Live works well for how-tos and demos, provided there’s an angle to keep it interesting for the audience. As you prep a how-to, keep an eye out for dead spots in the process that your host will need to fill.
- Performances: If your brand can swing it, musical or dance performances are a great way to pull in top-of-funnel audiences. Postmodern Jukebox is my favorite for performance video—they livestream parts of every concert they put on, often capturing behind-the-scenes content as well as the concert. But you don’t have to play at that level to stream a performance. Buzzfeed’s interactive dance-off was compelling to viewers because it was an amateur, interactive event.
- Stunts: If one video captures the pared-down essence of storytelling on Facebook Live, it’s Buzzfeed’s watermelon explosion. At the time it aired, it was the platform’s biggest hit, with well over a million views.The concept couldn’t be simpler: Two Buzzfeed employees, decked out in safety gear, take turns putting rubber bands around a watermelon. The tension builds for 45 minutes until the watermelon finally explodes.On the surface, it seems kind of…dumb, right? But this video was successful because it hit all the right points:
- Audiences could drop in any time
- It was immediately obvious what was going on and what was at stake
- It encouraged audience interaction
- It built suspense
- It worked toward a definite endpoint
Granted, the one thing it lacked was an element of utility. But it was undeniably compelling. Add some value for your viewer while checking off the same boxes this video did, and you’ll be unstoppable.
Livestreaming video is still in its infancy. Marketers are still experimenting with the form, with mixed results. One thing’s for sure: As with any channel, it’s all about relevancy, authenticity, and providing something of value to your audience. Put their needs first, and you can develop a strategy for success.
Does your brand plan to jump into livestreaming? Are you already enjoying success with the platform? Let me know in the comments.