Video Marketing Lab by
Handbook Experiment

Facebook Live: Does it really have better organic reach?

Facebook is said to give more organic reach to live videos than posted videos. In this experiment, we find out if Facebook Live really is the holy grail of free Facebook reach and whether it’s worth integrating into your marketing mix.

Our hypothesis

In short, we suspected that Facebook Live would get more reach and engagement than a vanilla video post. That’s because Facebook Live is designed to get reach and spark conversation.

Facebook Live works based on the number of viewers and the level of engagement with a live broadcast.

If a Facebook Live broadcast has a lot of viewers and is getting plenty of engagement, the Facebook algorithm will organically suggest the video to other people who have similar interests and behavioral markers to those who are already watching.

That means you can organically expand your reach with Facebook Live.

Our video posts had been performing well enough, so our hypothesis was that our Facebook Live broadcasts would outperform our video posts by a reasonable margin.

Overall, our hypothesis was correct. However, we greatly underestimated the difference in performance between Facebook Live and plain video posts.

The Facebook Live experiment: What we discovered

To test the organic reach of Facebook Live and video posts, we created an experiment wherein we posted five videos on the Biteable page and hosted five Facebook Live broadcasts. We tracked 3-second video views, reach, and total engagements, which included likes, comments, and shares.

Here’s how the numbers looked and what we learned from them.

Facebook Live got people to watch for longer

Our live broadcasts crushed our standard video posts in 3-second views. Our Facebook Live videos averaged 1,079 3-second views, for a total of 5,395 3-second views.

Clearly, people are more likely to watch a Facebook Live broadcast for longer. We know 3-seconds isn’t long, but a 3-second view often indicates the start of a longer viewing session, which is why Facebook counts them as viable marketing results.

3-second view results don’t necessarily prove that Facebook Live gets more organic reach. You might assume people are just more likely to watch a Facebook Live broadcast for longer. However, the reach numbers disprove this theory.

Facebook Live is superior for reaching more customers

Our Facebook Live broadcasts reached an average of 2,586 people for a total reach of 12,929. That’s huge! And it’s nearly twice the reach of our Facebook video posts.

In contrast, our Facebook video posts garnered a paltry average reach of 1,346 for a total reach of 6,729 people. Not so great.

The numbers are clear. Facebook Live is definitely the superior vehicle for reaching the most customers.

Facebook Live was best at getting an engaged audience

While reaching people is great, it’s even better if they engage with your content. By and large, video gets the best engagement on Facebook. But not all video is created equal.

Our Facebook Live broadcasts drove an average of 94 engagements and gathered 469 total engagements. Those are excellent numbers, since getting engagement can be one of the most challenging parts of Facebook marketing.

At the other end of the spectrum, our Facebook video posts got an average of 6 engagements and reached 28 total engagements. This is far less than the Facebook Live posts and abysmal performance when compared to paid Facebook Ads.

Recommendations

So what does all this data mean? If Facebook Live gets better organic reach and performance, what should you use it for?

There are three areas where Facebook Live can be especially effective: audience building, gathering social proof, and promotions.

Use Facebook Live for building audiences

If you read our overview of the Facebook funnel, you already know you should use awareness ad campaigns to build an audience for your consideration campaigns.

One way to build this audience is by tracking 3-second video views and creating an audience of people who have viewed at least 3 seconds of one of your videos. Additionally, you can build an audience based on who has engaged with your posts.

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 for your consideration ad campaigns.

Use Facebook Live for building social proof

On Facebook, the likes, comments, and shares on a post serve as social proof for that post, a bit like having testimonials on your content.

Facebook Live broadcasts can be saved and posted as videos. When it’s posted, all the likes, comments, and shares the broadcasts got while it was live will show up on the posted video, which will encourage people to watch and engage.

If you boost posts on Facebook you’ll get the best results if you choose posts that already have engagement. Boosting is already good for getting engagement, but people are more likely to engage with a post that other people have already liked or commented on. That means Facebook Live broadcasts are a good tool for maximizing the value of your boosted posts.

Use Facebook Live for reaching the most people

For most Facebook marketing purposes, reach by itself isn’t a great result. Typically you want to get engagement and/or clicks as well.

However, if you’re promoting an event, a short term sale, or a limited-time discount, simply reaching more people can be enough. Even if they don’t click or engage, they’ve seen the promotion and will be more likely to head over to your website or store later to check out the deals or attend the event.

In these cases where reach is a decent result, Facebook Live is one of the most effective vehicles. Also, getting reach with Facebook Live is a byproduct of building audiences and social proof. You can easily get reach with Facebook Live without negatively impacting other goals.

Best practice

Facebook Live can be a powerful tool. And you should definitely integrate it into your Facebook marketing efforts. But you still have to do it right. Here are a couple of best practices for getting results with your Facebook Live broadcasts.

  • Broadcast regularly. It takes time to build up a decent audience for your Facebook Live broadcasts. To help people make it to your shows, broadcast regularly and schedule your broadcasts so people know when to watch.

  • Use long-form video. It takes time for people to show up and start commenting and liking your video. So, plan to go live for at least ten minutes and don’t be afraid to roll for thirty minutes or longer.

If you want to learn more about winning with Facebook Live, visit Chapter 11 in our Facebook Video Marketing handbook.

TAKEAWAYS

Use Live for more reach. Live offers dramatically more reach than organic video posts. While Live videos can be intimidating, they offer greater rewards.

Use live videos for longer views. Live videos are watched for significantly longer than video posts. This gives you the opportunity to engage on a deeper level with your audience.

Use Live for building audiences. Feed prospects into your Facebook funnel based on the audiences who watch your Live videos.