Facebook Live, the social network’s live broadcasting feature, is certainly generating lots of buzz lately. And that’s perhaps in part because it is reportedly one of the platform’s highest priority initiatives—and even a pet project of Mark Zuckerberg himself.
A Brief History of Facebook Live
After launching last year, Facebook Live opened to all US users in February. Facebook later acknowledged a “small update” to its News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher when they are live—this was followed by the addition of interactive features like live viewer reactions and filters.
Furthermore, Facebook is reportedly paying some media companies to produce high-quality live content, which has led to speculation it will eventually monetize Facebook Live via TV-esque mid-broadcast ads.
A monetization model, however, remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Ad Age reports brands like Chevrolet, Southwest Airlines, and Kate Spade have experimented with Facebook Live so far. And more are sure to follow.
Per Facebook’s figures, on average, users watch a live video more than three times longer when it is live. Facebook also says users comment over 10-times more frequently on Facebook Live videos than other videos.
Facebook’s Best Practices
Conveniently, Facebook also offers its own best practices for Facebook Live, which include: going live with a strong WiFi or 4G connection, writing “catchy” descriptions, responding to commenters (and using their names), broadcasting for at least 10 minutes, and using a closing line to signal the broadcast’s end.
Facebook also recommends focusing on content like “hot topics”, Q&As, breaking news, interviews, performances, behind-the-scenes, and demonstrations.
But beyond this—and beyond widely held marketing platitudes about creating relevant, engaging on-brand content that fulfills consumer needs—what else do marketing professionals recommend for brands considering Facebook Live?
Here are 15 tips from the pros:
1. Don’t Use it Just Because It’s There
As a result of both celebrities and media brands experimenting with Facebook Live and generating attention, marketers may think they have to rush out to embrace it because everyone else is doing it, said Greg Jarboe, president of content marketing agency SEO-PR.
“But what happens when that experiment gets 13 people to attend the first live event? Is that going to cost justify the effort you put into it or not?” he asked. “The answer to that question is, ‘Yes it can, if that target audience fits one of two profiles.’”
Per Jarboe, those profiles are a brand’s best customers as part of a customer retention effort, as well as influencers. Nobody but Facebook reaches 1.6 billion people, he noted, and even brands with tens of thousands of likes will be lucky to get a small audience for their first Live experiments.
“So the key learning is that unfortunately a lot of people will spend a lot of time and effort and, if they aren’t focused on those two key areas—customer retention and influencer marketing—they’re not going to be able to cost justify it,” he said. “Don’t just assume this is something where [you can simply check off items on a list]…it doesn’t guarantee success out of the can.”
Jarboe noted there’s potential to enhance customer retention and influencer marketing programs, but Facebook Live isn’t going to replace a brand’s digital ad budget for the coming year.
“It is an interesting niche and it can have some applications, but is that the thing you rush out and grab hold of? No. Add it when it suits, but don’t fall for the hype,” he added.
2. Have a Clear Purpose
Or as Alex Membrillo, CEO of digital strategy agency Cardinal Web Solutions, put it, marketers need to make sure they clearly identify why they’re diving into Facebook Live before taking the plunge.
“Do you have a big event or product launch that you want to do something different for? Do you have a PR crisis you are trying to respond to? Do you want to connect to your customers on a deeper and more personal level?” he asked. “Whatever it is, pick your topic and stick to it. Try not to let the topics of conversation stray too far away from you.”
3. Think of Live as Part of the Marketing Whole
The best marketing programs are integrated, so Brian Shin, CEO of video performance analytics firm Visible Measures, suggested thinking of live video as another arrow in marketers’ quivers.
“You’re not thinking of it as a standalone,” Shin said. “Some audiences won’t have time to see the live experiment, but may encounter marketing programs in another channel that can tie back to it and reinforce it.”
He likened this to Super Bowl campaigns, which have huge simultaneous live audiences for the TV moment, but also include pre-seeded content with teasers and social.
“You have all those things working together and you apply creative thinking to utilize live to do things you can’t with other media, so I’d task marketers to think about it as: Don’t eliminate other channels, but think about live as a complement,” he added.
4. Approach Live Like You’re Throwing a Party
Shin said a Facebook Live broadcast is similar to a real-life event in terms of pre-event prep and promotion and it will be a long-standing brand asset, so it should be taken seriously. At the same time, it shouldn’t be completely scripted or it will come off as inauthentic.
“You want it to be spontaneous, but you want all your ducks in a row,” Shin said. “It’s like preparing for a big party – you want all of the things in order, but you still want spontaneity as well.”
5. Set the Stage
Background noise can make or break a live video, Jarboe said. And that means broadcasting live from a big event is perhaps not the best idea as viewers may not be able to hear what you’re saying, negating the entire premise.
In addition, Randy Mitchelson, vice president of sales and marketing at creative agency iPartnerMedia, noted to be sure to scan your background to make sure there’s nothing visible that might inadvertently compromise privacy or confidentiality.
“It’s the same as when you broadcast on the news,” Shin added. “People are always scanning the background and making sure they’re set before shooting. Occasionally you’ll still have an infrequent photo bomb, but [that’s unavoidable] – just remember this clip will last forever.”
6. Go With the Flow and Experiment
Per Diana Gordon, senior partner and group director of search and social at media agency Mindshare NA, even with advanced prep work, brands have to be comfortable with not knowing everything that might happen during a live broadcast.
“Live feeds are still in their infancy, so brands should be prepared to do a lot of test and learn,” she said. “Marketers need to set realistic goals, benchmark and work to grow, testing and learning along the way. Not every piece of content can and will be a winner, but that’s part of the learning process.”
7. Brace for the Worst, Hope for the Best
Further, Gordon said it’s important to think through various worst-case scenarios ahead of time to prepare for “what if this happens”-moments.
Membrillo agreed anything can happen during a live broadcast, so brands must anticipate the worst – as well as how they will potentially respond.
“When you are fielding questions on Facebook Live, you only have a few seconds to come up with an answer. This process is far easier if you create a list of possible topics before you begin the stream,” he said. “This way, you can answer difficult situations with pre-prepared answers that still adhere to your brand’s voice. The last thing you want is to say something you didn’t mean on a live stream that lands you, or your company, in hot water.”
8. Don’t be a Me Monster
Beyond just interacting with viewers, brands must be sure their live content isn’t entirely self-centered.
“Don’t just talk about yourself and your business – make sure the topic you address is of interest to the audience generally. It’s okay as the speaker to mention your point of view, but it can’t be just you, you, you,” Jarboe said. “If it’s propaganda, no one wants to watch.”
9. Accentuate the Positive
Further, Membrillo said brands should maintain an optimistic tone.
“The Internet is a place that naturally breeds negativity, some of which will make its way to your Facebook Live stream. Stay positive,” he said. “Know that your stream is being watched and engaged with because people like your brand or your company. The vocal minority can seem a loud bunch, but they are still a minority. Keep your eye on the prize and focus on your stream.”
10. Harness the News Feed
Per Shin, Facebook’s News Feed has emerged as a way for brands to generate big viewership in small windows.
“Think about how TV plays out. You have the ability around a live broadcast like sports to have a large audience watching at the same time. On the Internet, it’s not as easy,” Shin said. “For example, look at YouTube. You have a massive audience exposed to a video, but it’s typically over an extended period of time. Like the #1 video on YouTube is still Gangnam Style. With Facebook…you can essentially tune the algorithm to emphasize certain pieces of content and…generate a ton of viewership effectively in a day or two.”
However, Shin noted, when the video starts to lag, it can then fall out of the News Feed and brands can then see a big drop after a few days.
“Facebook has a burn-bright-but-fade-out characteristic, so the advantage to marketers is generally all that heat very quickly,” Shin added.
11. Choose Your Audience Wisely
Beyond just letting fans know there will be a live broadcast, Jarboe recommended taking time to consider who precisely your broadcast will target.
“What is it you’re looking for – if you’re trying to do a briefing to a high-level group of customers, you may not want to go public, or they’ll feel they didn’t get something special,” Jarboe said. “On the other hand, if you’re going to make a major announcement, you may want to use the public option.”
12. Timing is Everything
According to Luke Watson, platforms expert at live-streaming network Roker Media, brands need to also carefully consider where their target audience lives to ensure they select the right time zone to reach the largest possible segment.
“The best time of day will vary greatly, depending on your brand and your audience, but, in a general sense, If you have to go live during work hours, 1 to 3 PM seems to catch people while they’re eating lunch, or before they get back into full-on work mode,” he said. “Otherwise, 6 to 9 PM is a time when people are winding down and looking for effortless entertainment. Be mindful of major holidays, events or anything scheduled – for instance on television – that would siphon a large number of your potential viewers.”
13. Consistency Matters
Further, Watson said consumers respond to structure – even if they may think otherwise.
“If you go live at a consistent time, on consistent days, you create expectation and anticipation. This allows you to build your audience over time,” he said. “With each stream, you’ll attract past viewers, add new ones and create the circumstances for those new viewers to become repeats. Notifications have been the Achilles heel of many live-streaming platforms, but you don’t have to worry about that if your fans know already when to expect you.”
14. Repeat Your Mantras in Moderation and Ask for What You Want
In addition, because viewers are constantly joining streams in progress, Watson said it’s good practice to periodically remind viewers who you are and what you’re doing.
“If you feel like you’re shilling too much, keep an eye on the conversation and look for that new viewer to come in and ask who you are, what you’re doing or where you are for opportunities to organically weave your message into the conversation,” he added.
Watson also recommended coming out and asking viewers for likes and shares.
“This opens you up to a larger audience, but also gives you a fresh influx of viewers throughout, which keeps the conversation going,” he added.
15. Experiment While it’s Free
And Watson noted this is the best time to go live with your audience because you’ll reach them for free.
“Right now, a regular, non-sponsored post to your Facebook page will reach a single digit percentage of your followers, but Facebook Live videos will reach the bulk of them at no cost,” he said. “Everyone should expect Facebook to some day change their algorithms and require spending for Live videos to reach comparable audiences, but, in the meantime, brands have a golden opportunity to reach the largest possible, targeted, Facebook audiences at no cost and should absolutely exploit it. The window is wide open and nobody knows how long until it slams shut.”
Do you think Facebook Live is worthy of all the hype? Why or why not? And, if so, where does it offer marketers the most opportunity?