How to live stream

If you’re looking for a way to boost engagement on your social media channels, it’s time to go live.

Since the launch of Facebook Live in April 2016, streaming video has become one of the best ways for marketers to interact with their audiences, and nearly all the top social media networks now offer built-in streaming, making it easy to get started.

Benefits of live streaming

While savvy marketers have been using YouTube’s live stream features for years, it wasn’t until Facebook made it possible to go live right in people’s newsfeeds that live streaming went mainstream.

If live streaming isn’t part of your marketing strategy, it’s time to add it. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube all allow you to interact in real time with your audience via live video and the benefits of doing so are numerous.

The biggest reason to go live is that it helps you connect in a new way with your audience. Nothing is more intimate than live, one-on-one interaction with fans of your brand or message.

Live streaming on YouTube, Facebook, or another network gives a face to your brand which builds trust and fosters transparency. Moreover, it invites your audience in as active participants rather than passive viewers, which helps strengthen your connection. When audiences feel connected to a brand, they tend to think more highly of it and feel more loyal.

Plus, live streaming is a cost-effective complement to your regular written and pre-recorded video output. There’s no post-production or editing involved, no need for expensive equipment, no video crew. After all, much of the appeal of live streaming is the off-the-cuff, unproduced, real-life nature of it, so it’s best to embrace it.

We’ve done some live streaming ourselves, so by way of an example of what we’re talking about, here’s the very first Facebook Live show we did (warts and all).

Ideas for live streams

We know that blinking red light on your camera can be daunting, but there’s no need to be afraid of live streaming. And there’s plenty of different ways you can engage a live audience. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Live audience Q&A: One of the best ways to connect with your audience is to let them ask you questions in a live setting. Live streams on Facebook allow you to see real-time reactions and comments on your screen, which you can answer. You can also use a Twitter hashtag or a comment thread to collect audience questions in advance of and during your live stream.
  • Live interviews: A quick, informative live stream interview is a great way to engage your audiences. Whether you sit down with a team member, customer, thought leader, or public figure, viewers will appreciate the authenticity of a live interview.
  • Prize Giveaway: Giveaways are a tried-and-true engagement tactic on social media and a livestream is the perfect venue for one. Encourage comments and interactions by picking a winner in real-time and rewarding them with a prize!
  • HQ/Office/Product tours: People love being invited behind the scenes for an exclusive look at where the magic happens. Take viewers on a walk through HQ and introduce the team. If you make a product, a livestream of the manufacturing process is a nice way to be transparent with your audience.
  • Live review: Reviews are one of the most popular types of content on the internet and live streaming is no exception. Live unboxings and product reviews are a great way to give viewers your real, unfiltered first impressions.
  • How-to/webinar-style: Along with reviews, how-tos top the list of what people are looking for online. Walk viewers through a process live, or sit down for a quick webinar-style educational session.
  • Unveiling/Product demonstrations: Build excitement for your next product with a live unveiling and/or product demonstration.
  • Breaking news: Have some exciting new to break? Let your live streaming audience be the first to know. Reactions to breaking news may also be ripe for a livestream, though be careful about being perceived as “newsjacking” sensitive news.
  • Live events: Capitalize on your audience’s FOMO by taking them with you to your live events! Show what it’s like to be on the scene for those who couldn’t make it, or invite your audience behind the scenes of your events with a live stream on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

Live streaming tips

By its nature, live streaming should be natural and unscripted, but that doesn’t mean you should go in without a plan. Here’s how to make your live streams as effective as possible.

Choose your platform

There’s no sense in doing a live stream on Instagram if that’s not where your audience is. Don’t try to be active on every network, just the ones that your audience uses.

Also note that when you live stream on Facebook or YouTube, those videos are saved to your profile, but once a live video on Instagram has ended, it’s no longer visible unless you share a replay of it to your Story (and stories themselves disappear after 24 hours.)

Original Live Stream (Right-click to unmute)

This makes Instagram a good option for fun, light content, but if you want to share a live stream that audiences can view later, save it for Facebook or YouTube.

Whichever platform you pick, be sure to let followers on your other networks know about it so they can join in, as HBO did above.

Check your metrics

When is your target audience online? All the major networks offer insight into what days and times your audience is active on your networks.

Take advantage of this information by ensuring you go live when your audience is most likely to be around to watch.

Make an announcement

Don’t count on your audience noticing you’re live and tuning in. Give them a heads-up so they can plan to watch. This is especially important if you’re going to break some major news or want to answer audience questions. Plan to announce your livestream several times, for example, a week, a day, an hour, and ten minutes before.

Original Live Stream (Right-click to unmute)

This is a great opportunity to gather questions for a Q&A, as the BBC did in the livestream above.

Don’t worry about production values

As we mentioned, when it comes to live streams, the ‘realer’ the better, so don’t worry about having an expensive camera or audio equipment. Further down the line you can always look at upgrading your hardware for multi-camera, HD/4K live streaming.

For now, just aim to have good light so people can see you and try to avoid a lot of background noise to ensure viewers can hear you.

Finally, make sure you’ve got a strong signal — WiFi is best, but 4G will work.

Keep it entertaining

People will drop off quickly if your livestream is boring, so make sure it’s engaging and serves a purpose. Keep it authentic and spontaneous — don’t just read off a script — but do have a general plan in place.

Consider what your broadcast’s about, what you plan to say (or do), and why a live stream is the best format for it.

According to Facebook, people will watch a live video more than three times longer when it’s live than when it’s not. Plus, if it’s entertaining, viewers will be more likely to share it or invite their friends to watch.

Interact with your audience

The more people are watching and commenting on your livestream, the more likely it will appear in their friends’ feeds and “go viral.”

Original Live Stream (Right-click to unmute)

Encourage questions and comments, greet viewers, and call people by name. Finally, don’t forget to thank them for their time!

Include a CTA

Don’t forget to tell people what you want them to do next! Be sure to mention where they can get more info about what you’re discussing, provide a landing page URL, or let them know how to contact you.

How to broadcast live on Facebook

Going live on Facebook is simple on a mobile device or on a desktop computer.

If you’re on mobile, you’ll need to have the app installed. To start a live stream on Facebook, look for the Live Video option on your page or profile, next to where you write a status update.

Once you click it, you’ll need to grant Facebook access to your camera and microphone, if you haven’t already.

Check the camera preview and your microphone functionality, and confirm what page or profile you want to stream to.

Write a compelling description in the status area and double check your privacy settings — your video is public by default if live streaming on a Facebook page, or you can stream only to friends or certain people if streaming to a profile.

If you want to use streaming software on Facebook, you can learn how to do that here.

Once you’re ready, hit the blue Go Live button!

Facebook live tips

Write a compelling description that will grab your fans’ attention, tell them what your broadcast is about, and entice them to watch.

Encourage your audience to follow and opt-in to get notifications by clicking the Follow button on your live video. This way they’ll be notified next time you go live.

Don’t go super short or too long. Facebook recommends you go live for a minimum of 10 minutes, and you can stay live for up to four hours.

Check your signal to ensure your stream plays uninterrupted. If your signal is too weak, the Go Live button will be greyed out, preventing you from streaming.

How to live stream on Instagram

Live streaming on Instagram is even easier. You’ll need to have the app on your mobile device in order to go live (or post anything for that matter.)

To start a live stream on Instagram, head to your feed and click on the camera icon at the top of the screen, or tap on your profile photo under Stories.

Slide to the left and tap Live.

Tap Start Live Video and record your video. A pink Live icon will appear in the corner for as long as you’re live.

When you’re done, tap End. You’ll have the option to save your video to your stories so your viewers can watch it for 24 hours.

You can click Save to save it to your device, or hit the blue slider to discard the video.

How to livestream on YouTube

To start a live stream on YouTube, head to your channel dashboard and click on Live Streaming on the left-hand side.

Click Get Started. You’ll need to go through a few steps to verify your account, if you haven’t already, before you can start live streaming on YouTube.

Once completed, you’ll need to complete a few additional steps before you can start streaming live.

This includes setting up some encoding software and adding some information about your stream.

You have more customization options on YouTube live streams than on other networks. Give your live stream a name, add a description, select a category, and add an eye-catching thumbnail.

You can also turn on optional features like Low Latency for faster chat, or monetization for revenue.

Once your channel is set up properly, you’ll have a few ways to start your YouTube live stream.

You can access Stream Now from your channel dashboard under Live Streaming, or set up an event. Stream Now starts and stops the stream automatically when your encoding software stops sending content. Events give your more control over scheduling, stopping and starting the stream when you want.

Finally, you can stream via the YouTube mobile app, though only if your channel has more than 25 subscribers.

After your YouTube lives tream ends, a public video will be automatically created and uploaded to your channel for your fans to view later.

Final thoughts

While you should put thought into which network your audience is most active on, you don’t have to choose just one live streaming platform.

If your audience is active on multiple networks, try out live streaming on YouTube, Facebook, and/or Instagram. You may learn that your Instagram audience loves quick, funny behind the scenes videos, but your Facebook audience devours more substantive how-tos and interviews.

Experiment with different platforms and different types of content, formats, topics, and stream length to learn what works for you and your audience.

And one last thing: don’t forget to have fun.