10 Facebook Live Best Practices to Boost Engagement and Reach
One thing is clear: Streaming video to Facebook Live is essential for engaging online audiences and drawing new viewers to your brand. But without following Facebook Live best practices, you won’t get the maximum effect.
In a recent study we conducted of over 700 video professionals, 82 percent stream to Facebook Live because it’s an important strategic initiative at their organization. What’s more, reaching new followers and staying connected with existing ones are the top two stated goals of Facebook Live streaming.
Are you’re ready to go live on Facebook? In this post, we’ll walk through the top 10 Facebook Live best practices for streaming—gathered from our friends at Facebook; top Facebook Live broadcasters and influencers; and our own decade-plus of experience as an industry leader in streaming media.
We recently published a comprehensive resource that covers what to do, what to avoid and how to get started with this exciting platform. To learn all the Facebook Live best practices, download The Wowza Ultimate Guide to Facebook Live Streaming. In this post, we’ll focus on the top 10 ways to boost Facebook Live video engagement, which are covered in depth in our guide:
- If There Isn’t a Good Reason to Go Live—Don’t Do It
- Keep Things Moving
- Embrace Imperfection
- Plan Your Failure Scenarios
- Regularly Schedule Your Programming
- Break the Fourth Wall
- Let Your Followers Drive the Action
- Show Them Something They Haven’t Seen
- Team Up With an Influencer or Partner
- Promote Your Productions
#1. If There Isn’t a Good Reason to Go Live—Don’t Do It
Before pushing the Go Live button, think about why you’re doing it. It may be tempting at first to use Facebook Live for everything—but if there isn’t a compelling reason to go live, then don’t do it.
It’s hard to successfully execute a live broadcast, so make sure the real-time element adds something of value. There are plenty of content types that are better suited for VOD.
According to our friends at Facebook, the best times to go live are when you have:
Direct audience participation. Interactive content requires a live audience. The best reason to go live is when you want to create an authentic dialogue between viewer and broadcaster, or among your viewers. For example:
- Q&A or “ask me anything” sessions.
- Games and contests.
- Live polls.
- Viewer-driven content, the audience chooses the outcome.
Talking heads are boring. If you’re going to host a talk show, interview or demonstration, make sure to take questions and reach out to viewers along the way—don’t save all the interactivity for the end.
An unknown outcome. If nobody knows how your live stream will end, viewers will be compelled to watch it live. This may include events such as:
- Sports games.
- Breaking news coverage.
- Awards shows.
- Election results.
Unless you’re a mega-player such as Apple or Google, avoid “one-way” broadcasts where viewers can’t participate, such as presentations or keynote speeches. Even if you’re streaming a highly anticipated event, such as the release of the latest iPhone, only show the actual announcement live. Post the rest as VOD, so viewers can skip to the most interesting parts.
A ‘pressure builder.’ This is “deferred-gratification” content where the ultimate outcome is known, but viewers don’t know when or how it will happen. It keeps viewers guessing—and the longer the outcome is delayed, the more anticipation and excitement will build, contributing to viral viewing.
Facebook Live Best Practices in Action
Watch us explode this watermelon one rubber band at a time!
Posted by BuzzFeed on Friday, April 8, 2016
The genius of Buzzfeed’s “Watermelon Explosion” live stream was in its simplicity: Two people simply put rubber bands around a watermelon one at a time until it exploded. While the outcome was known, viewers didn’t know when the explosion was coming; this “pressure builder” video quickly went viral, as follower excitement built with every additional rubber band. Today, the video has over 11 million views.
#2. Keep Things Moving
Every minute you stay live, you should be doing something that keeps viewers watching. If you can’t keep things moving, see point number one.
Live video tends to engage viewers longer than VOD, with the top Facebook Live streams running 15 to 20 minutes long. But viewers have a growing number of live videos to choose from in their News Feeds, and you need to keep them dialed in. If you want to increase Facebook Live viewers instead of losing them halfway through, make sure to:
Adapt to the current circumstances. Stay light and nimble. Change topics or directions based on what’s happening around you and how the audience is responding.
Provide context. Viewers will drop in and out during your live stream, and if they can’t quickly tell what’s going on, they won’t stick around. Doing regular “resets,” where hosts announce the program, guest and topic periodically for those just tuning in, is a Facebook Live best practice.
You can also use your set to provide context; for example, a kitchen strewn with ingredients indicates a cooking segment, while two chairs facing one another suggests an interview.
Pre-source questions. For Q&A or “ask me anything” segments, have a few questions pre-selected to prevent dead air or awkward pauses. Collect questions and the names of followers asking them through promotional posts in the days or weeks leading up the event.
#3. Embrace Imperfection
Authenticity and unpredictability are the name of the game on Facebook Live. Things will inevitably go wrong—and as long as it doesn’t shut down your broadcast, that’s OK. Embracing imperfection can actually make your video more compelling.
Avoid “quiet on the set.” This old studio principle doesn’t apply to Facebook Live best practices. Encourage both on- and off-screen talent to talk, laugh and joke with each other. If your talent is a celebrity or influencer traveling with an entourage, invite them to join in for a more authentic dialogue.
Host games and activities. On-screen activities are another fun way to add an element of surprise. Rather than jumping right into a Q&A session, play a game that online viewers can participate in, like truth or dare, Pictionary or “how well do you know your castmate.” Competition with giveaways are another surefire way to keep viewers engaged.
Just act natural. Don’t try to dictate the action. Keep things loose, fun and organic. If your message must be carefully controlled, you don’t want to risk publicizing a failure or you don’t want to open the door to critical audience feedback, then don’t broadcast in real time.
#4. Plan Your Failure Scenarios
Again, unexpected situations, off-the-cuff audience reactions and even things going wrong can all be part of the Facebook Live fun—unless the thing that breaks is your live stream. When we say to embrace imperfection, we don’t mean in terms of failed connections and poor quality; that’s where “unpredictable” turns “unprofessional.”
That’s why having a plan B is fourth on our list of Facebook Live best practices. If you try to start the stream and it doesn’t work, you need a backup plan so the show can go on. Here’s how to plan for failure scenarios:
Always have two of everything. What if your hardware, such as the camera, switcher or encoder, dies mid-broadcast? Have a backup piece of equipment or a fallback mechanism in place for every piece of your workflow—for example, a spare camera or a software encoder that’s pre-configured to the proper settings.
Have multiple plans in place. You may want to have different plans based on different failure points in the broadcast. For example, if it’s near the beginning, maybe you just delete the post and start over. If it’s halfway through, maybe you call out the issue and keep on trucking. At any point, have the proper permissions and passwords ready to go in case you need to reconnect.
Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. Your setup should have enough built-in redundancy that your broadcasting venue could cease to exist, and the live stream would keep going. Keep a Wi-Fi hotspot or bonded solution on hand in case the internet connection or the building power goes out.
However, when broadcasting from large event spaces or crowded, high-profile events, bandwidth can easily get overloaded, even for bonded connections. In these situations, a satellite truck is an excellent redundancy measure. This allows you to send your outgoing live-stream offsite, bypassing the local internet connection and allowing encoding to be performed where service is more reliable.
Test and troubleshoot onsite. Especially when you’re streaming from a new location, test every part of your setup ahead of time. Know your internet speed and how your equipment is connected to it. If you’re at a studio or live event space, have the audio-visual technician’s number on speed dial. If you have a 24/7 support vendor, pre-notify them with your encoder ID number and other relevant information.
Before you go live, re-create the on-site conditions and work out the kinks. Line up the shot and have someone stand in for your hosts to ensure they’re in focus, the set is properly lit and the audio levels are adjusted appropriately. Test all the connections in your workflow. Then don’t touch anything until it’s time to stream—or, better yet, use an encoder that integrates with the Facebook Live API to monitor outgoing video and audio levels in real time.
#5. Regularly Schedule Your Programming
Scheduling regular broadcasts can help you increase Facebook Live views and build a loyal following. Among our survey respondents, the largest proportion stream weekly (41 percent), while 25 percent each stream daily and monthly.
Form a habit. Whether it’s a Facebook Live video or a broadcast TV show, you want viewers to get in the habit of seeking out your content at the same time every day, week or month. Make sure to schedule during a time when viewers are likely to be free, such as at lunchtime or near the end of the work day.
Build buzz. If you stream from a Facebook Page (rather than a personal profile), you can schedule your live stream within the Facebook Live user interface. This returns a URL you can use to promote the upcoming broadcast. A few minutes before your live stream begins, viewers can follow this link to join a virtual, pre-show “lobby,” where they can talk to each other about the event.
Live X builds buzz by promoting scheduled streams ahead of time
Facebook Live Best Practices in Action
Mashable streams a daily Facebook Live show, “Mash on This,” highlighting the latest news in culture and entertainment.
Our own weekly Facebook Live talk show, “Going Live With Wowza,” touches on new products, trends and updates from Wowza and the streaming media industry as a whole.
#6. Break the Fourth Wall
Forget what you learned in film school. Effective social video is all about “breaking the fourth wall”—speaking directly to viewers, looking into the camera and addressing them by name.
Encourage constant engagement. The whole point of Facebook Live is audience interaction, so take every opportunity to remind viewers that your broadcast is a two-way experience. Ask them what ingredient you should use in your recipe, what feature they want to see demonstrated or which shoes you should wear. Remind them that you’re answering questions posted in the comments field, and tell them you want to hear their opinions.
According to the social media marketers we talked to, if you’re doing a live stream with film or TV actors, they may be used to being on camera—but not when there are actual people they can interact with on the other side. On-screen talent should speak directly to the viewers, not just to the moderator, the host or the other guests.
Make it personal. Address followers by name when responding to their questions or comments. Connecting with people on an individual level demonstrates “access appeal”: It shows that you’re interested and available, even to those who don’t speak up. And it encourages viral sharing when ecstatic fans post your shout-out on their own networks.
Just make sure you respond quickly to feedback. The personal connection works both ways: Ignore a viewer’s question, or leave them hanging too long, and they may feel personally snubbed.
#7. Let Your Followers Drive the Action
It takes a superior user experience to engage today’s media-saturated audiences. Facebook Live recognizes this by offering real-time comments and Live Reaction emojis. With the introduction of these engagement-oriented features, daily watch time for Facebook Live broadcasts has grown by more than four times.
Let viewers choose their own adventure. Facebook Live’s features allow you to shape your content based on follower interactions. Let them choose what happens next by conducting a Live Reactions poll. Let their votes determine the outcome of a dramatic production, or select the next guest or segment on your talk show.
Create content they’ll want to interact with. If you’re with a business, don’t just talk about your products and services: Provide industry-related tips and tricks and ask questions that elicit personal responses, such as examples of ways followers are using your offerings. If you’re a performer, a celebrity or an influencer, give viewers what they want by choosing the song you’ll play, the dish you’ll cook or the outfit you’ll try on next.
Facebook Live Best Practices in Action
Our #FacebookLive with Jen Atkin of Ouai Haircare and Christophe Robin Paris was a hit. Watch again to find holiday hairstyle inspiration.
Posted by SEPHORA on Wednesday, November 2, 2016
We’re live on Tipsy Tricks talking cheerful cheek looks with Benefit makeup master José Rivera!
Posted by Benefit Cosmetics on Thursday, September 29, 2016
Authentic, personal interaction can not only win you “likes” and followers, it can help drive loyalty in the form of sales, fans and conversions. This strategy seems to be working for our survey respondents: 41 percent say deeper customer engagement is the biggest benefit they experience when streaming to Facebook Live.
#8. Show Them Something They Haven’t Seen
Nothing entices people like exclusive content. Stream something followers normally wouldn’t get to see, or that’s only available for a limited time. This personalizes the connection between you and your viewers, and makes Facebook a uniquely compelling destination.
Go behind the scenes. Take followers live on the set, backstage, on the road or to rehearsal. Give viewers a tour of your company headquarters, or take them to a remote campus they may not have seen. Show them firsthand how your products are made or your productions come together.
Facebook Live Best Practices in Action
So here’s what happens behind the scenes of a news programme. We were live from the studio and gallery as the BBC News At Six went on air, answering your questions.
Posted by BBC News on Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Behind the scenes, Broncos TV live from Super Bowl 50
Posted by Denver Broncos on Monday, February 1, 2016
The Denver Broncos posted a behind-the-scenes look at Super Bowl 50, exclusively on Facebook Live.
Show a special event. Let followers join in on the action from their mobile device, even when they can’t attend in person. Watching a live event video boosts brand favorability by 63 percent, and live events are the most popular content type among our survey respondents, streamed by 76 percent.
This may include events normally reserved for partners and industry insiders, such as panel appearances at conferences and trade shows. You could stream an interactive unboxing event when a new product is released, or an explainer on your solution’s latest features.
Offer bonus content. Broadcasters, influencers, athletes and artists can use Facebook Live for special performances and exclusive interviews. Content that compliments the official show or game engages viewers across platforms, since even those who watch on TV or subscription streaming services will still need to get on Facebook Live to catch all the action. It’s also a way to go live when you don’t have the rights to stream the main event.
- Interview a professional athlete on the sidelines of the big game.
- Talk to an actress backstage after she wins the Oscar.
- Play a song that’s not on the setlist from your dressing room before the show.
Go long. Facebook Live can also allow you to show events in their entirety that may be edited down for TV. The platform allows you to broadcast for up to four hours, and the longer you’re live, the more opportunity for viewers to join in. Many broadcasters find that viewership increases as time goes on and engagement with the live stream begins to build.
#9. Team Up With an Influencer or Partner
One easy way to grow your reach is to stream a joint Facebook Live broadcast with a partner, influencer or brand your followers will know and love. Not only does this double your audience, but many of these viewers are also likely to follow you, provided they like what they see.
Leverage B2B co-marketing. If you’re with a B2B (business-to-business) organization, join forces with one of your partner companies showing how your products or services work together. Interactive joint webinars allow you to cross-promote weeks or months in advance, since these events must be scheduled ahead of time. Sharing the recorded webinar and embedding it on your websites offers even greater reach.
Connect with B2C influencers. Work for a B2C (business-to-consumer) company? Team up with a top influencer within your industry or field. If you sell kitchen products, get a celebrity chef to use them in a live cooking segment. Host a session with a touring author if you’re a bookstore owner. If you run a gym, live stream a workout with a local fitness guru.
Embrace your inner fan. If you’re a broadcaster or performer, reach out to those you follow. In the news, sports or broadcast segments, partner with a well-known personality from another network or team. If you’re a musician, perform a duet with a relevant artist, or go outside the box and play with someone from a totally different genre. If you’re an actor, buddy up with your current or former castmates.
Facebook Live Best Practices in Action
Going LIVE now to share holiday stories and show you what my favorite gifts for the holiday season are! Come watch along, send me questions, and tell me what you like getting for the holidays. In collaboration with JCPenney . #JoyWorthGiving #ad
Posted by Aja Dang on Friday, December 16, 2016
Stay on topic. Most importantly, make sure the content is relevant for both of your audiences. Talk about a popular topic or common problem that will not only interest followers, but make them want to share with their own networks.
Keep it camera-friendly. Finally, try to find a partner who is comfortable and engaging on camera. Unless it’s part of your particular brand of comedy, a stiff or awkward performance probably won’t win you any new fans, and may even alienate existing ones.
#10. Promote Your Productions
Of course, you can have the most relevant, interesting content in the world—but if none of your followers see it, it might as well not exist. To make sure they tune in, here are some Facebook Live best practices you can follow before, during and after you start streaming:
Build buzz before you broadcast. Publish a series of Facebook posts days and weeks in advance to get your followers fired up. If you have a Facebook Business Page, you can even boost your posts to reach new viewers.
Cast a wider net and promote outside of Facebook, to capture infrequent users and those who opt out of notifications. Send out an email campaign, or put a banner on your website. Create ads to publish on social and in search engines. And make sure to cross-promote your posts on other social networks.
Leverage Facebook features while you’re live. When you go live, anyone who has ever liked your page or followed your profile gets a notification—and the Facebook Live API makes live videos more likely to appear at the top of the News Feed than VOD. Even if followers miss the live stream, they’ll be notified that you were recently live when they log in.
Your followers’ friends will see that they’re watching your video, too (unless their privacy settings prevent it). This can have a chain reaction that sets off viral viewing.
Your stream also appears on the Facebook Live Map, which allows desktop users to browse current live streams from around the world. This helps viewers outside your network get hooked on your content. You can also share the broadcast link on other social channels to capture all of your fans.
Amplify your reach with VOD. Facebook Live automatically records live videos, so you can post them as VOD for followers who missed out. The URL is the same for before, during and after the live broadcast, making it easy for viewers to watch—or watch it again—at any point.
To amplify your reach outside the Facebook platform, use the same link to share the VOD asset on other social media channels, embed it on your website or host it a landing page. This allows you to drive traffic even from those who aren’t on Facebook (or don’t want to use it).
You can also use recorded assets to promote future live events. Whether it’s before, during or after the broadcast, make sure to entice viewers to watch by teasing the content, guests or contests they can expect.
By following the Facebook Live best practices in this post, you can boost video engagement and increase Facebook Live viewers to draw more traffic to your page. To learn more, download The Wowza Ultimate Guide to Facebook Live Streaming!
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