Facebook Live vs. posted videos: Which has better reach?

In recent years, Facebook’s gone through some major updates concerning their organic reach. These days, the Facebook algorithm gives more organic reach to Live videos than posted videos.

Videos posted to your page aren’t prioritized like they used to be, and it’s said that the best way to expand your audience is to go Live. It’s a shake-up for sure.

Facebook wants to keep people on their platform for longer with more engaging and more meaningful content, and that can only be good news for you. But just how effective are Live videos over regular posts?

Is Live the holy grail of free Facebook reach, and is it worth integrating into your Facebook marketing toolkit?

Why the focus on Live videos?

Why the shift to prioritizing Live videos? According to Facebook, Live videos lead to discussion amongst viewers and gain up to six times more interactions over regular posted videos. Facebook attributes a lot of this to the fact that Live video creators often “prompt discussion among their followers.”

Live videos also tend to be extremely timely, and the raw format creates a sense of intensity that isn’t as easily mimicked in pre-recorded videos. This in a nutshell encapsulates Facebook’s mentality around promoting Live videos. They want to prioritize content that is meaningful, informative, and engaging.

Facebook Live is designed to get reach and spark conversation. But how effective is it over posted videos? We ran a test to find out.

The Facebook Live experiment

Our video posts were performing well enough over on the Biteable Facebook page. But we wanted to know if Live videos would expand our reach, so we threw a few of those into the mix to see how well they fared.

Our hypothesis:

Facebook Live broadcasts will outperform the video posts by a reasonable margin.

The experiment:

We posted five videos to the Biteable page and hosted five Facebook Live broadcasts. We tracked three-second video views, reach, and total engagements (including likes, comments, and shares).

The results:

Overall, our hypothesis was correct. The Facebook Live videos did perform better. What we didn’t expect was just how much the Live videos would outperform the standard video posts.

  • People watched Facebook Live for longer. Our Live broadcasts crushed our standard video posts in 3-second views.

The Facebook Live videos each averaged 1,079 3-second views, for a total of 5,395 3-second views spread out between the five videos. Our 3-second views for video posts topped out at a total of 1,414 for all videos combined.

  • Facebook Live had a greater reach. Our Facebook Live broadcasts reached an average of 2,586 people for a total reach of 12,929. That’s nearly twice the reach of our Facebook video posts, which brought in an average reach of 1,346 and a total reach of 6,729.

  • Facebook Live was the best at audience engagement. Our Facebook Live broadcasts drove an average of 94 engagements and gathered 469 total engagements. Meanwhile, our Facebook video posts got an average of 6 engagements and reached 28 total engagements.

How to use Live in your marketing toolbox

That’s a lot of data, and the numbers speak for themselves — Live is the way forward when it comes to organic reach and increased engagement on Facebook.

This sentiment was echoed by a similar study over at Emplify that saw Facebook Live crushing organic interactions when stacked up against photo, video, status, and link.

But what’s the best way to utilize Live? And where does that leave posted videos?

Use Live to build your audience

Facebook Live is a highly effective tool for building your audience. Track your 3-second video views and create an audience of people who’ve watched at least 3 seconds of one of your videos.

You can also build an audience based on who has engaged with your previous posts, but since Facebook Live is so effective at getting 3-second views and driving engagement, regular Facebook Live broadcasts can be an efficient way to build qualified audiences.

Use Live for building social proof

Social proof on Facebook is represented by the likes, comments, and shares on your posts. They’re a bit like having testimonials on your content that prove engagement.

A great feature of Facebook Live is that your broadcasts can be saved and posted as videos on your regular stream, keeping all the likes and comments that popped up throughout the broadcast. That’s a whole lot of onscreen social proof encouraging new viewers to watch and engage.

Use Live for reaching more people

Reach is good, but engagement and clicks are better (read: necessary) for growing your Facebook presence. That said, there are some cases where reach is all you need — an event, a short-term sale, an AMA, a launch party.

In these situations, if folks don’t click and engage, that’s fine. As long as the Live video leads viewers to jump on your website to find out more, your Live video has done the job. It’s an effective vehicle for growing your reach and is a handy by-product of building an audience and social proof.

Facebook Live best practice

As proven by our experiment, Facebook Live is a powerful tool to increase your engagement — if you use it properly. Here are a few best practices for getting results with your Facebook Live broadcasts.

  • Broadcast regularly. It takes time to build up a decent audience for your Live broadcasts, so make them frequently enough and announce them ahead of time so people know when to watch.

  • Schedule your broadcasts. Just as viewers of their favorite shows devote time every week to tune in, it’s not a bad idea to schedule a broadcast at the same time every week to build audience loyalty.

  • Use long-form video. It takes time for viewers to show up and start engaging with any given broadcast. Broadcast for at least ten minutes to give people time to arrive. And don’t be afraid to keep the good times rolling as long as people stay engaged.

  • Don’t overuse them. Like the boy who cried wolf, make sure you’ve got a good (and interesting) reason to go Live. People will start to ignore your broadcasts if they pop up all the time for no particular reason.

When to use posted videos

All this talk about Live might leave you thinking it’s the only viable strategy when you’re trying to grow your business on Facebook. But don’t retire your posted videos just yet: used in tandem with Live videos, they’re a match made in heaven for getting people onto your page and keeping them there.

Remember that for all the things Live video does well, it has a few drawbacks that posted videos don’t.

Overall, you have way less control than premade videos. Live broadcasts are subject to choppy connectivity issues or maybe Facebook will simply refuse to connect (hey, it happens). Not to mention your Live broadcasts are only going to be as engaging as the person hosting them.

Posted videos do everything Facebook Live can’t. They’re the best way to curate your brand’s image and control the content you put out. They’re still your best foot forward when it comes to video content like explainers, product launches, formal presentations, and sales videos.

In short: when Live broadcasts are pitted against standard posted videos, there really is no competition — Live videos are the clear winner in terms of reach, engagement, and social proof. But although Live may seem like a magical engagement machine, posted videos have advantages as well.

Use Live video, but use it thoughtfully. Before you make a video, ask yourself: is this one better live or will a posted video do the trick?

Make your Facebook posted videos shine with Biteable

Whereas Live videos demand a charismatic personality and come with all the unpredictability of Live broadcasts, posted videos can be clear, succinct, and professional-looking (especially if you use a powerful and simple video-making tool like Biteable).

If you need some inspiration for your next engagement-winning video, check out our templates and make your next masterpiece in the time it takes for you to stream a Live broadcast.

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