It’s a basic human desire to want something for nothing. Free samples at the mall, BOGO deals from your favorite online store, toothpicks of expensive cheese at the delicatessen.
Free stuff is awesome, and getting something for nothing from a platform like Facebook is basically living the dream. Let us introduce to you Facebook’s new(ish) features — live and stories.
If you rely on organic engagement for your business, it’s essential that you’re making the most of these storytelling channels to extend your reach. One of the best opportunities you can have as a business is the chance to get in front of customers in a digital space where they’re highly engaged. Facebook is one of the perfect places to do this.
The algorithm prefers live and stories
The Facebook algorithm has almost taken on a persona of its own over the years. When your ads aren’t performing, who do you blame? The algorithm. When your best cat gifs are getting buried in your newsfeed with not so much as a thumbs up? That’ll be the algorithm.
It’s tricky to pinpoint exactly what it takes to make a wildly successful creative as the algorithm mechanics are complicated and always changing.
The algorithm rewards meaningful interactions between people using the app by giving them high engagement levels. It also favors people that are interacting with fresh Facebook offerings.
Facebook live and stories fit under this umbrella, being two of the newcomers to Facebook’s stable of interactive features. Each of these storytelling channels has different elements and best practice methods, but they all unite to help social media do what it does best – connect people with people.
Both are free and relatively easy to set up and use. With Facebook’s newsfeed penetration for businesses now being woefully low, brands that rely on organic reach should be making their best efforts to create and publish regularly on Live and Stories.
Facebook encourages people to use their new offerings by giving ‘free’ organic reach, which means you can potentially get tons of engagement. If you’re tired of your videos getting buried in the newsfeed, live and stories offer fresh ways to get in front of the people that matter most.
Creating ads and videos that fit organically into the stories feed, and live broadcasts with a raw, human edge can help businesses connect with customers in a way that newsfeed videos never could. Posting current, relevant footage lets followers connect with a brand and get a feeling for the people, faces, and values that drive it from day to day.
For businesses that want a valuable addition to their advertising strategy, or businesses that can’t afford to pay for promotion, Live and Stories are two of the best platforms to help brands get in front of their customers.
Don't resist the algorithm
Similar to Google’s secret algorithm, no one knows with 100% certainty how the Facebook newsfeed works, but a few things are clear:
- Not all content is treated equally
- Video and conversations are preferred
- Facebook is always trying to beat Google, YouTube, and other networks
As a result, Facebook live and stories are your best bet for organic reach, right now. In the near future, it’s likely to be Facebook watch.
What is Facebook Live?
Described as ‘a fun, powerful way to connect with your followers’, Facebook live is similar to what you’d expect to see on a live TV broadcast.
The premise is that Live is a way to deliver authentic content where you get to see behind the scenes footage. It allows people to share experiences as they happen. For businesses, this might include introducing the human faces behind a brand, day-to-day happenings, event coverage, product releases, and interaction with customers.
Live does what social media does best — connect people with other people in a real-time, natural way, rather than something that’s stiff and scripted. It’s a step up from standard Facebook video in that it encourages people to talk between one another instead of just liking and sharing.
Facebook’s aim is to spur community building content that drives active conversations on the platform, not just likes and shares. The algorithm rewards users of live due to its interactive nature (check out chapter one for a refresher), as the native video stream keeps viewers engaged and using the app for longer periods of time.
Broadcasters are able to interact with viewers, field questions, and check engagement levels to gauge the success of the live stream as it runs. Not only that, but viewers can interact with each other in the comments section to drive further engagement.
If you’re putting paid advertising behind your live broadcast, you’ll also be pleased to know that it crushes normal Facebook video in terms of reach and CPM.
Experiment: Live versus posts
With its preferential treatment, live has an unfair advantage over other organic posts in the newsfeed.
To find out how big that advantage is, we compared the performance of our live posts and our regular newsfeed posts over five weeks.
During the same five-week period, we posted one of the following each week:
- An organic live broadcast (30 minutes)
- An organic video post (30 to 60 seconds)
We then collated the reach, views, and engagement of each post type into a total.
Here’s what we found.
Live won on reach
The reach of our five live posts was dramatically higher than any other kind of post. Altogether, our lives were seen by 12,929 people. Our five videos had about half as much reach (6,729).
Live won on views
In terms of 3-second views, our live broadcasts racked up 5,395. Our organic videos scored less than half at 1,714.
Live won on engagement
Likewise, our live broadcasts seriously outperformed our videos on engagement: a whopping 469 for live and a mere 28 for video.
What this means
Even though our live broadcasts were much, much longer than our short videos, they performed far better.
If you don’t have the resources to run video ads, try running your own live broadcasts instead. Start simple and build your way up to big things.
Live best practice
Facebook Live videos must have an organic, human feel in order to be successful. Don’t over prepare for your broadcast. You might be understandably nervous at going live without a backup plan, but a scripted broadcast comes across to viewers as just that. It feels rehearsed, stiff, and fake, which isn’t the ‘live’ feeling that viewers expect.
Engagement is key
Encourage interactions with people who join your live broadcast. Welcome people by name as you see them joining. Respond to any questions, ask for feedback on how you’re doing, and ask viewers to tag in anyone else who might be interested in the content you’re sharing.
It’s important to relax and be yourself on camera. Don’t try and adapt your tone or the vibe of your business to fit in with what you think a live video should look and sound like. Aim to engage viewers in a way that positions your broadcast to fit seamlessly alongside other videos that people would be watching in their friends’ feeds.
As a rule, longer is better when it comes to live broadcasts. They can often take a while to ramp up as people gradually join and begin to engage. It’s important in terms of increasing your reach that a bunch of people show up in the first few minutes. This will get you the best algorithmic treatment, and it’s why scheduling and making people aware in advance is a key factor in having a successful broadcast. The more reach you get early on, the more new and organic viewers can find you and tune in.
If you keep your live feed going for longer than 10 minutes, you should start to see an uptick in viewers joining. Just make sure you have enough good, relevant content to easily take you past the 10-minute mark. Your audience will be able to tell if you’re just stretching things out for the sake of getting more viewers. Typically, a live broadcast should run for around 30 to 60 minutes.
Make use of the creative tools offered in the live platform. Filters, themes, and effects can make your broadcast more visually engaging for viewers. Captions have been shown to increase video view times by 12%, plus many viewers prefer to watch videos with the sound muted. Effects and captions can help to drive your message and make things that little bit more interesting for people.
Live allows you to add a call to action to your video. If you’re promoting a special offer within your broadcast it’s best practice to have a targeted landing page at the ready to direct viewers to click across to. People are at their most engaged in this medium so it’s an effective way to capture those valuable leads.
When to use it and what to talk about
Facebook live is huge for promoting new products, covering events, and delivering educational content. It’s a great way to give in-depth insights and information to your customers. It’s a space that allows you to be creative with your filming, whether it’s dramatic, funny, or deadly serious.
What’s most important is that your live broadcast has a raw and inherently human element to it.
Live is best used by brands that have a stronger following. For businesses with smaller followings, it’s perfectly okay to broadcast with live, just don’t expect the algorithmic preference to kick in right away. If you have awesome content, you can absolutely start small and aim to grow big with Live. With good engagement levels along the way, you’ll eventually get found.
The content you should focus on with live depends largely on your business and industry. Your business has a core demographic that it’s trying to target. While demographics change between social media channels (eg. Snapchat and Instagram), you and your content need to adhere to the same style no matter where you post in order to maintain brand consistency. Don’t change your tone specifically to ‘fit’ Facebook. Keep your business in mind first and foremost.
Cover topics that are popular. Offer information at the start of your Live, and then open the broadcast up for a Q&A with viewers. Don’t be afraid to get personal with your fans, as this is one of the best ways to drive viewer interaction.
You can treat live like a webinar and use it to interact with and educate your subscribers, which is what we do at Biteable. Live is a great platform for people to come in with their questions and get them answered on the spot. If you’re fielding lots of the same enquiries from your customers, you could think about scheduling a live broadcast to address these topics.
If you’re planning to broadcast from an event, make sure it’s not going to be so loud and disruptive that it detracts from your goal. If you think the event is going to be too noisy or too dark to get good footage, you could work around this by broadcasting from a pre or post event location instead.
Once your live broadcast is complete, it is automatically published to your page so that your followers can watch and rewatch it on demand.
Your imagination is the limit when it comes to creating a live event. You could come up with your own show. You could prank your boss and it might just go viral. The most viewed live broadcast ever was a laughing woman in a Wookie mask, so there’s no telling just how popular your ideas might become.
How to promote it
One of the main drawbacks of Facebook Live is that you can’t directly promote an upcoming broadcast. This may be a feature that gets rolled out for the masses at some point, but right now only the Guccis and Kardashians of the world have access to the elusive ‘blue check’ on Facebook that lets them promote their broadcasts in advance.
For regular folk, there are a few workarounds you can use to ensure your followers know that you’re planning a broadcast so they can tune in at the right time.
Schedule an event
Scheduling an event is the best way to create awareness about your upcoming live event. If you know exactly when you’re planning to do your live broadcast, gathering viewers and creating interest in advance is an absolute must.
Create a Facebook event that links to your upcoming live stream. This will show up on your timeline and people who have recently interacted with you will get notified. Your followers can opt-in to get notified when this event is about to happen so they know when to show up.
Whilst running your Live, you can ask viewers to opt in for future notifications from you. If they’re enjoying your content they might like to set themselves up to get reminders about your next broadcast, saving you some promotional groundwork. The people that consciously opt in are the people who are most interested in your brand and will be likely to respond to future notifications from you.
Create a video campaign
It can be helpful to create paid video campaigns to promote your live event. As you’re going to be using video as a medium in live, you can target people who are most likely to engage with videos on the platform. When you combine the objective of your campaign with your live promotion, you’re effectively using Facebook’s algorithm to notify people who are more likely to tune into the live broadcast when it airs. When you’re about to go live, your followers will get a notification in their feed or on their phone. It’s a solid hack.
Email your fans
If you have an email list, sending an email to your subscribers is a fast and free way to let them know about the awesome Live broadcast that you’re planning.
Make sure you include a link to your scheduled Facebook event as part of your campaign. Clicking the timestamp on your event post will give you the unique URL for the event that you can paste into your email.
It’s important to use a link shortener here (such as bit.ly) rather than pasting in the full URL. This will be a lifesaver on broadcast day if things don’t go quite as planned. If you need to cancel your event for any reason and run a new one, you can direct your shortened link to send email traffic to the right place. Live hiccups are more common than you’d think, and sending viewers to a failed link is kind of embarrassing. Being able to redirect followers to a new link on the fly gives you solid risk protection.
If you’re looking for other ways to promote yourself on live, collaborating with relevant businesses can be an effective way to do so. By partnering with other brands, you can share the load of promoting and marketing your broadcast. This will also ensure you have more content so your broadcast can run longer, and you can cross-promote each other’s businesses to your respective followers for maximum reach.
Facebook stories is also a great channel to use for promotion in the lead-up to your scheduled live event.
After the show
While you can’t boost a live broadcast before it airs, you can certainly boost it after the broadcast finishes. If you’ve had a great response in terms of viewers, comments, and engagements then it’s definitely worth your while to put some paid advertising behind your video after it’s published on your page. You’ll get preferential treatment from the algorithm by doing this, and the more overall engagement you had when you were live, the more favor you’ll get with your boosted video.
If you only had a handful of viewers and comments when you were broadcasting, you might not find as much value in boosting the finished broadcast. You’ll need to weigh up if it’s worth using your advertising dollars on this.
How to run a Live broadcast
There are some great tools out there you can use to run your Live broadcasts. It all comes down to the nature of your business and how technical your setup needs to be. Will it just be you handling the filming and presentation? Or will there be a team behind your broadcast to make it look professional and keep things running smoothly?
Popular free software options that help you capture Live streams include BeLive, HopLive, and Wirecast. If you’re looking for simplicity, Zoom is also a great choice. All you need to do is tick the handy checkbox in your Zoom settings and you can stream directly to Facebook. There is zero technical ability needed, and it’s a fast, easy way to get started with Facebook Live.
At Biteable, we use OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). It’s incredibly user-friendly, even if you have limited technical know-how. OBS can easily be set up and run by a single person, letting you freely broadcast whenever you feel like it. It has most of the functionalities of paid Facebook software, including title screens, screengrabs, and sharing of video conferencing to so you can broadcast multiple people to your live stream.
You can also go live directly from your smartphone within Facebook. This is as easy as selecting the camera icon, and selecting ‘go live’. Mobile broadcasts are effective for small businesses and people who want more of an on-the-move or outdoor feel to their broadcasts, rather than being seated at a desktop in a static situation.
If you have a product or service you want people to see in action, mobile broadcasts can be the perfect means to show this to your customers in a way that’s relevant and keeping with your brand.
What are Facebook stories?
This is Facebook’s version of the popular Instagram and Snapchat features. Boasting over 250 million monthly users, it’s a place people go to immerse themselves in photos and videos shared by friends and brands that they follow.
Facebook stories are typically viewed from the Messenger app, where it can be found inhabiting prime real estate at the top of the feed. On a desktop, it’s located on the right-hand side of the Facebook browser.
Although not as powerful as live broadcasts for attracting attention from the algorithm, it’s a valuable channel for businesses to tap into. If you’re relying on organic reach and getting tired of your posts disappearing into the abyss of the main feed, using this feature is a must to help your followers to find you.
Stories are optimized for a vertical format with a 4:5 aspect ratio. As most people view these in messenger on their mobile, it’s important that your Story videos and images meet this aspect ratio to look their best. Users can post either static images or video clips up to 15 seconds in length.
You can film your story clips in two ways. Either film selfie-style with the front camera or film someone else with the reverse camera. You could also use an online video maker (like Biteable!) to help you out.
Stories appear in the app weighted towards the people you most interact with on Facebook. As a business, you might still feel a bit buried as people are more likely to interact with their friends than your company. If you’re at the front of the line in people’s Stories every day, then congratulations on doing a killer job!
The future of stories
Facebook stories look set to follow the path of their close relative, Instagram stories.
Instagram stories have exploded over the last couple of years and become a fun way for a brand to share its personality.
What we’ll see next (on both platforms) is brands using story highlights more strategically to organize their content, and more importantly, to optimize the customer experience. This will help brands build an even deeper relationship with their customers.
Stories best practice
The key factor in creating a successful story feed is to maintain an organic style. Everything you post, including ads, should blend into surrounding stories from other people. Your posts should have the same feel as the ones you see your friends posting.
Stories are designed to capture current topics and happenings, which is why they only have a 24-hour lifespan. All content is delivered fresh to you daily.
To convey a friendly, engaging feel in your stories, you might consider having a spokesperson for your brand. If you’re not comfortable being on camera, find someone that’s a natural at the job and enjoys updating viewers with the latest happenings in your business.
Similar to live, you can use effects to add interest and color to your Stories. Animations can be used too, but they should be thought out well before posting so they don’t come across as spammy or out of place. You could think about splicing short animations in with selfie-style shots and live clips so they fit organically with the rest of your content.
Drawing up a program schedule can be beneficial, both to help you plan content and to let people know what to expect from you on a given day. If you’re an ecommerce brand for example, you could program a day of the week to showcase new and upcoming store products so viewers know when to look for that particular story.
It’s good idea to put thought into your audio as well. It should support your story, or at least be a background track that’s pleasing to the ear. As Stories don’t start out muted, the last thing you want to do is freak out unsuspecting viewers and leave them with a bad impression of your brand.
If you’re creating an ad to post in stories, it should respect the format of this channel and not have an ad like feel. Using a selfie-style approach with front-facing camera footage can help make your sponsored story fit in naturally with the other stories in the feed. Make it feel like you’re part of your audience’s friends list.
It’s important when you’re creating ads for stories that you select ‘auto placement’ or ‘edit placement’ and make sure Facebook stories is selected. Auto-placement is where you run a single ad and want it to appear in multiple locations (e.g. Instagram stories, Instagram feed, Instream).
If you’re using auto placement, you also need to select ‘asset customization’ so your video fits the vertical format ratio. This won’t crop your video, it will just make it smaller so it fits into the Story placement.
It’s best practice to use asset customization for your ads anyway to make sure your creatives align with the different placement formats, but especially for stories, as they differ from the other types of format. By customizing your creatives to fit each placement, you’ll get better bang for your Facebook buck.
Another thing to keep in mind is the block list function in ads manager. This can help prevent negative placements for your ads on irrelevant or inappropriate sites.
If you’re advertising in stories it’s important that you set up a dedicated landing page to give viewers a seamless experience with your brand.
You should highlight to your viewers that they need to ‘swipe up’ in your story so they can be redirected to learn more about your offer. Make sure that you either have an animation directing people to swipe up, or that the spokesperson in your video clip directs people to swipe up — mimicking the motion with hand gestures in case viewers have the video muted.
Make sure your landing page design looks great on mobile, as most of your leads will be coming in from viewers using stories on their smartphones
How often to share a story
As a rule of thumb, you should post in the stories feed as often as possible. Stories only have a 24-hour lifespan, so you need to post at least once a day to ensure your story icon remains visible in the feed.
It can be daunting to keep your story filled with enough content to keep it active, so how do you create enough bits and pieces to keep your followers hooked?
Firstly, your content needs to feel authentic. This is an intimate storytelling space, and you should think of Stories as a way to talk to viewers as if you were speaking to them face to face. You should focus on creating content that is educational, entertaining, and relevant to your business. Posts can be as simple as “Hey fam, it’s Toast Tuesday! What’s on your toast this morning?” or “Feeling the weekend vibez already, have a great weekend everyone!”
If you’re in the hospitality trade, you could post about happy hours, meal deals, or freebies. Fashion businesses could post trending styles, outfits of the day, customer selfies, and so on.
When you’re stuck for content ideas, imagine a customer suddenly appearing in front of you. What would you want to share with them today? What would they be interested to hear about your business?
Aim to connect. The algorithm rewards posts that bring people together. Aim to get people watching and talking. Live and stories do this.
Live best-practice. Be personal, make it long, and use captions. Promote your broadcast before (via our hack), and afterward as an ad if you can afford it.
Stories best-practice. Be consistent, respect the format, and post regularly. If posting a story ad, highlight your call-to-action with animation.