Facebook Live: How it works and the tips you actually need to know
Facebook Live has been getting increasing amounts of attention since the 2015 introduction, fuelled further by the set piece event Facebook hosted this week. New features for the live video platform were unveiled – most notably the introduction of Snapchat-esque filters, the ability to provide reaction videos, and a dedicated ‘hub’ for discovering live video. Much of this begins the process of expanding live video into an interaction ‘layer’, in the way Facebook Messenger has for private messaging.
But most of the discussion has simply been listing features. And most of those doing the talking haven’t actually used the product. We have – both for brands, and ourselves. Here’s our guide to a) how Facebook Live works in practice, and b) the tips you need to know to really make it fly. Shorten your learning curve through our hard-won experiences…
How does Facebook Live work?
Fire up the mobile app – you can only use it via iOS/Android apps. That means it’s only your phone: a strength and weakness, in that it avoids having to invest heavily in production, but also means there are practical limitations to what one can achieve
Next, tap “write update”, then “Add more to this post”, then “Live video”
You can select audience at any point through this – from “just you” (great for testing, as in the iOS screenshots below), through to custom audiences you create, right up to Public.
Now give it the title you want people to be notified with, and hit “Go Live”…
At this point you’ll get a 3,2,1… countdown
As you go live it will use the rear-facing camera. You can tap the ‘swivel’ selfie button if you want it to face towards you (useful if one is live streaming a monologue and want to see comments whilst filming yourself)
On-screen you will see a live count of the number watching, and also the comments box where viewer Qs appear live
When you end the broadcast, you will be offered the opportunity to save the video to camera roll (important if you want to edit it for use on, say, YouTube) and also the quality of upload
As a brand/publisher/page you can review stats, rename the video, and caption it, by clicking into the video once it has uploaded.
Stats you’ll see include the distribution of views vs length of view, the proportion viewing with sound off, and cumulative views
Here’s some handy screen grabs:
Facebook Live: tips and practical advice
At the moment you can only shoot via the mobile app (this is changing soon for publishers). That means you need to:
Consider the audio challenges – phone mics are inevitably not directional or especially good, so you need a relatively quiet environment without background noise
Consider the lighting challenges – because phone cameras auto adjust light balance/brightness, when one moves from a dark to a light area the subject will show differently
We’ve had mixed experiences over the portrait or landscape orientation of the images. Despite shooting “square” aspect videos on Facebook Live, the app sometimes auto-corrects the image to be ‘right side up’ when one changes from Portrait to landscape orientation of the phone but sometimes doesn’t. Better to be safe than sorry – pick portrait and stick with it.
Audio is “off” by default for those who join the live video (as they are for videos in your newsfeed) BUT it is not very apparent to those watching how to toggle audio on… meaning you can get a frustrated audience. Try a sign in the background reminding people to turn audio on
People will dip in and out of the stream – do not think of it as a linear video where everyone sees the first ten seconds. In practice this requires regular recapping for those who join later.
Plan your shots in advance as “framing” is tough whilst live, especially if you’re not using a static camera set up
Invest in a mobile gorilla grip like this. It’ll make your life a lot easier.
Remember that whilst currently pages get “free” organic reach with the notifications to page fans that they’ve gone live, this is unlikely to last. Facebook are already placing caps on the number of “xxx is now live” notifications any individual sees, and it will almost certainly end up being ‘pay to play’ – like page posts are for organic reach
Finally, learn from Mr Zuckerberg, and make sure you’re actually ready when you start to stream…
Why does all this matter so much? What makes it different to any other livestreaming platform?
Well, primarily it’s about Facebook’s scale, and the seriousness with which they are approaching it. There have been many false dawns for live video streaming (Remember Justin?), but the combination of increased consumer behaviour normalisation (essentially we’re all happier being on camera than previously), and improvements in mobile video and data, mean this could well be the time. Whilst Facebook have had some product flops before (as when they tried to replace email), the fact they’re paying content partners to use it shows they’re bringing the big guns. The huge installed base of over a billion users means the product will be with vast numbers of people, rather than requiring them to adopt a new one (as with Periscope, e.g.).