Live streaming is the bright shiny new object that all brands are chasing after. First, it was social media, then it was mobile, now it’s getting in front of audiences with real-time video content. Traditional TV viewership has declined 44% since 2012 as a result of the popularity of online video content, according to ZDNet. Instead of “rah-rah, look at us,” the best brands are leveraging live video to educate, entertain, and show something off that users find valuable.
There are essentially two areas that need to be thought-through before hitting “go live.” First, the strategy. Why are you choosing to do this? What value are you providing and what goal(s) do you hope to accomplish? What will you be saying? How often will you broadcast? Who will be the brand spokesperson? All of these of these questions (and more) should be identified and documented in a strategy/planning doc.
The second area is the technology/platform you’ll be using to manage the broadcast. There are pros and cons to each platform, and it will likely depend on your current audience (where your most/best fans are) and the type of equipment you have. Or, you could choose different platforms for different situations. Let’s consider your options.
Pros: Most popular, desktop or mobile broadcasting, commenting and sharing enhances virility, notification to followers, archive videos, great for longer broadcasts (4 hours max)
Cons: Technical issues happen, if you manage multiple pages then cross-publishing can confuse some content creators
Recommendations: Use when you have a large (or devoted) fanbase. Create a Facebook event in advance for the live stream, tease it and promote it ahead of time, go live. After the broadcast, have the video exist in your feed/library and boost it to get more out of your efforts.
Pros: Easy for users to view and play, can be found through hashtags and search, can be found within Periscope’s app in its location map for extra reach
Cons: Mobile-only posting, it gets lost in the shuffle like everything else on Twitter
Recommendation: Use when you have a devoted Twitter following, and you’re at an event where you want to give an “inside look.” Keep it short and sweet. Okay if the videos are rough and raw. Can publish here often. Reserve more exclusive content for Facebook or Instagram.
Pros: Still a hot, new feature, appears within the “Stories” area and can get more views than a normal video post, unlike Stories, you can broadcast up to an hour
Cons: Limited to mobile-only, limited to access only by app users (typically just your followers seeing the content), only accessible for 24 hours
Recommendation: Because of the timeliness of live videos and Stories on Instagram, it’s best to tease when you are going live through posts and Stories ahead of time. Remember, these are your best followers paying attention. Reserve for highly anticipated content: exclusive interviews, new product reveals, major company announcements, etc.
Pros: Easy to set-up, archive video in your library, real-time comments, do not need to be a YouTube user to watch
Cons: Most businesses don’t have a ton of subscribers on YouTube, so you need a way to drive viewers
Recommendation: Use for longer video broadcasts if you aren’t active on Facebook, create a Live Event ahead of time so you can tease the broadcast link in ads, email campaigns, social media, etc. After running, leverage the archive version on your website and email campaigns.
Pros: Access to customer service, can embed video onto website, push to Facebook and YouTube simultaneously, ad-free
Cons: Costs money
Recommendation: Use if/when you are devoting a great deal of time, talent and money towards your live streaming program. If you are planning on broadcasting weekly and have thousands invested in equipment for a more professional quality look, go this route. It will allow you still to push your content to some of the above networks, but with added video production capabilities and support.
Case Study: Live Streaming Lectures for CoreLife Eatery and Making the Change from YouTube to Facebook
The issue and set-up.
For years, CoreLife Eatery has hosted lectures inside of its restaurants. The team brings in credible authority figures from various fields (health, nutrition, fitness, medicine, etc) to speak to guests on educational topics. The events that take place inside of its Vestal, NY location have live guests and are also live streamed for online fans. Vestal was designed with live streaming in mind – it has a lecture hall, adjacent to the restaurant, and has professional video production equipment installed.
When we first started to live stream in 2016, Facebook hadn’t yet enabled the ability for brands to stream live via desktop. At the time, one could only broadcast from a mobile device. This just wasn’t feasible and would also produce a quality that wasn’t up to our standards. After research, we settled on YouTube.
Distribution became nightmarish.
The stream needed to go through YouTube but our audience resided on other social platforms – mainly Facebook (99% of it, in fact). Therefore the links had to be shared on our Facebook location pages.
- By the time the posts went out and started to gain traction, the hour-long live stream was over.
- When we tried to boost the posts, by the time they were approved and received that extended reach, the live stream was over.
- We also tried to send the live links out to our massive email distribution list. By the time emails were opened and clicked, the live stream was over.
Noticing a trend? The very nature of live video wasn’t allowing us enough time to promote.
View numbers were extremely low too – some videos were only watched live by about 20-40 people and watched later by another 70-100. The “CoreLife Lesson: Maximizing You Not” video, for example, has only 133 views to date. Attaining comments and responding to them on the YouTube chat board was also not very effective since we couldn’t pull comments into our third party social management tool.
Not long after we started doing YouTube live streaming did Facebook open up its capabilities to live stream from desktop (meaning, you could now use full video equipment to broadcast). After giving ample time to YouTube, and testing various tactics, we realized it would be in our best interest to change our strategy.
We made the jump to Facebook Live.
We began with research in how Facebook Live works – particularly for brands. We then held a training session with the client who would be using the equipment on-site in Vestal to broadcast. They had a video encoding software called Wirecast that allowed the videos to be uploaded directly to Facebook. This software also allowed them to toggle between multiple camera angles and add lower thirds and other basic video production techniques.
We walked them through the process, granted them access to the Facebook brand page, established a sync with Wirecast, showed them how to create a title and description for the post, and tested.
Our sharing plan came into focus.
Since we had 25 Facebook location pages (and knowing that number continues to grow), we didn’t want to publish the video directly to all 25 locations. Though this is technically possible – it would require increased software costs (maybe even forcing them to purchase and learn a completely different video tool) and it required that we provide access to all Facebook pages to the client (which increased the risk of accidentally publishing and posting – which we always try to prevent).
Therefore, we decided to broadcast live only to the main brand page, and then we would be on standby to immediately share to all other 24+ location pages. Through that unique link, the live video would remain live on all pages where it was shared. In doing so, it allowed us to gather more views and more comments across all of our pages.
Commenting would exist as normal Facebook comments, meaning it would be aggregated inside of SproutSocial and our engagement team could more easily manage responses. Additionally, we have all of our Facebook pages connected and authorized to cross-post. This allows us to save the original video into the libraries of each of the location pages (something that is important to the client), so the videos can always be found later no matter what community a fan is from.
Here are some results.
In the first few live streams we broadcasted via Facebook, we saw more than a thousand views in real-time, and another several thousand after the live videos ended – since they continued to exist as videos in our Facebook feeds. The “CoreLife Eatery – Happiness Axis” video, for example, has gathered 6,718 views to date. That’s a 4950% increase from the example above that was broadcast via YouTube. We created an event for the live stream ahead of time, teased it on our Facebook pages, distributed an email to our fan base with the link, and managed comments from the video in real-time. If we boosted the live stream videos across our pages after the broadcast concluded, we would have seen even more impressive stats!
Overall, this adjusted strategy required some upfront work and training, but it has panned out much better from an upkeep standpoint and generated greater results. For us, it was a much more successful solution.