Facebook Live video is still pretty new, and if you have already experience in producing live video events, you should definitely take a look at Facebook Live. In this post we take a look back at how the live streaming started before we dive into details on how to use Facebook Live Video.
A Brief History of Live Video Streaming Services
Livestreaming isn’t new. The last livestreaming hype happened around 2008. The big players were Ustream and Mogulus. Their innovation was that you could stream directly from your browser. There was no need to install any software or get new hardware, just attach your webcam or use the built in one from your laptop, sign up, and start streaming. They were Adobe Flash based. As people became more interested in livestreams, they longed for better tools to work with multiple camera setups and use other inputs. These semiprofessional needs were fulfilled by proprietary tools of different livestreaming providers and the Flash Media Encoder. It used RTMP, the same protocol also used by the flash tools inside the browser.
Smartphones just started to gain traction. Best smartphone of 2008? The BlackBerry Bold. Google just launched Android with the T-Mobile G1, and Apple brought its second generation of iPhones, the 3G. Even though the hardware and contracts were anything but suitable for mobile livestreaming, some people wanted to do it anyway. The most popular app was Qik. Qik even connected to Mogulus, so you could have multiple people with their smartphones stream to a Mogulus stream and create a kind of sophisticated livestreaming setup, although the video and audio quality were lacking. Another popular app was Bambuser (Bambuser founder was featured here on Fresh van Root in May 2014), which supported most mobile phones and was used by many political activists.
Ustream and Mogulus (renamed to Livestream) are still around but have closed down most of their consumer offerings. They focus on professional use and are priced that way. Qik was bought by Skype and subsequently shut down. Bambuser went the business way as well, but launched a new app called Birdplane for general audiences, but it didn’t get that much traction.
In 2015, the hype machine started again. Meerkat launched on Product Hunt and spread quickly during SXSW. The app for iOS and Android reduced livestreaming to its bare minimum. There wasn’t even a web interface to watch the stream—you had to download the app. You could call it app-to-app livestreaming. Just weeks after Meerkat’s launch, Twitter bought its competitor Periscope before it even launched. After some time, Periscope became the quasi standard for livestreaming on smartphones. In the beginning, Periscope featured the same app-to-app logic, but later made it possible to watch Periscope streams directly in Twitter apps and on the web. To interact with the streamer, you still needed to download the app.
Facebook Live started in 2010. But it wasn’t intended for its users back then. It was intended as a tool used by Facebook itself to stream their events and interviews. It was a cooperation with Livestream.com (Mogulus).
It wasn’t until January 2016 that Facebook launched its own livestreaming tools, but only to selected accounts. Verified, personal accounts (those with a blue checkmark) could livestream through the Mentions app, a special Facebook app, only available to those accounts. A month later, Facebook began to roll out the feature to everyone. Another three months later, at the Facebook developer conference F8, they announced the Facebook Live API, which enabled developers to create third-party tools that stream to Facebook.
Facebook Live Video Overview
What makes Facebook Live unique is its integration into the Facebook platform. In the beginning, people who liked a page received a notification when a livestream started. After many complaints, Facebook added an option to let people subscribe to livestreams of pages and accounts so they wouldn’t get flooded by notifications. Livestreams still get preferred treatment in the newsfeed and are more likely to be shown at the top of the newsfeed of people who follow the page or account. Because of that, it is easier to reach people with Facebook Live than it is with other platforms that you can only link to from your Facebook page.
Highlights of Facebook Live Video:
- Viewers don’t need a special app to view the stream but can watch it either in the browser or in the mobile apps of Facebook. While normal Facebook videos don’t use Flash anymore, livestreams still rely on it.
- Facebook Live videos are always in a square (1:1) format, like that used by Instagram. The bottom half of the screen is used to show comments and status updates, for example, who has joined the stream.
- There are two kinds of Facebook Livestreams: normal broadcasts and continuous broadcasts. Normal broadcasts can last up to 90 minutes and are saved to Facebook. Continuous broadcasts are unlimited but aren’t saved. Continuous broadcasts are only available for pages through their publishing tools.
- Facebook Live video offers filters and live scribbling on your livestream.
- Facebook Live videos on pages are always public. Facebook Live videos on personal pages can have the same privacy settings as any other post. Facebook Live videos in groups get the same privacy setting as the group itself.
- Besides the Facebook mobile apps, you can use several third-party tools as well, which work through the Facebook Live API.
- Pages can use their own tools. They get a RTMP address via the publishing tools. Facebooks accepts up to 720p with 30 frames per second. Bitrate should stay below 2500
Publishing the Live Stream
First, you need to decide where you will publish your livestream. Facebook pages can use specialized tools that can be used with a computer and a more professional setup, while livestreams on profiles and groups are limited to the official mobile apps.
The easiest way to use Facebook Live Video is to use one of Facebooks mobile apps, such as the Pages app for livestreams on pages, Facebook Mentions for verified profiles, the normal Facebook app for personal profiles and groups. This isn’t a rule, just a suggestion. The normal app can be used for pages as well, for example.
- Create a new post. Depending on the app, this is done by clicking on the form at the top of the news feed or with a button at the top or bottom.
- A new menu should appear at the bottom where you can choose “Live Video”. The first time you use it, you get some information about how it works. On profiles, you can set the privacy of the stream.
- Before you go live with the button at the bottom, you can enter a description for the livestream. Facebook will show you a three-second countdown before you actually go live. At the end of the livestreaming session, simply tap on the “finish” button at the bottom of the screen.
Screenshots from Facebook’s Live Settings on Android
This is only available for pages. You will need a computer to set it up. However, it gives you the ability for professional setups, like multiple sources, local mixing, and more.
Take some time to find the right tools for you and test them extensively. There are many tools you could use. At the end of your workflow, there has to be a RTMP stream that you send to Facebook.
Software Supporting Facebook Live Video
- A free and open-source solution is Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). It’s available for Windows, OSX, and Linux and offers many options. You can set up different scenes, which contain different video and audio sources and switch between them live. It takes some time to understand it, and it isn’t always intuitive.
- A more expensive and shiny tool is Wirecast by Telestream. The studio version is available for $495 and the pro version for $995.
- Xsplit is somewhere in between. It has a free limited version for personal use, and the unlimited premium license costs $449. It has several cheaper options, starting at 24.95 for a three-month premium. It is focused on videogame streaming but can be used for other streams as well.
- Custom solutions can use FFmpeg.
The OBS is a great way to start. If you find it lacking, you can still switch to a more expensive solution. Featurewise, the other solutions don’t offer much more but can be easier to use.
Make sure to set the optimal settings for the stream in your tool: 720p (1280 x 720 pixel), 30 frames per second, max bitrate of 2500 Kbps.
- Go to your Facebook Page and click on ‘Publishing Tools’.
- Choose Videos on the left side and click on ‘+ Live’.
- Open the livestreaming software of your choice and copy and paste the stream URL and key, either as one string or as two, depending on what the program needs.
- Click on ‘Preview’.
- Start sending the stream in your livestreaming software. It will only be shown to you in the preview window.
- Once you are happy with how everything looks and are ready to start, click on ‘Go Live’.
- Click ‘Finish Live Video’ when you are done.
It’s not only a classic hardware software solution, even drones can stream to Facebook Live.
Analytics on Live Video
While the livestream is live, you can see how many people are watching at the moment. After the livestream is over, you get the number of how many people tuned in altogether. When it ends, replays get added to the total view count, like other videos on Facebook.
Everyone watching the livestream will see the reactions and comments of other viewers. Different from other Facebook posts, livestreams only show a few comments at a time and automatically replace them with new ones. This generates a more dynamic environment but also limits the usefulness of comments for discussion between viewers.
Facebook experiments with ways to mark interesting parts of the stream to help people jump to them while they watch the replay. If there was more interaction at a specific time, this will be shown in the replay.
How to Set Up Your Facebook Live Activity
- Tell fans upfront when you are going to stream. One day ahead is ideal.
- Don’t write in the description that it is a livestream. Use the space to tell followers what the stream is about.
- Interact with the live audience.
- If you go live regularly, tell viewers to turn on Live notifications.
- Broadcast for at least 15 minutes.
- Integrate in other digital marketing channels: After the video is over, it can be embedded like any other Facebook video.
Ideas on What to Present Via Facebook Live
- Feature a specialist/expert or C-Level of your company or find camera-savvy people inside your company,
- Show live reporting from events,
- Showcase new products or services,
- Invite established YouTuber’s to host a show for you,
- Host a weekly or monthly show with your social media team, discussing news from your industry,
- Use Facebook Live for crisis communication.
If you need help in setting up your Facebook Live Video, you can try getting help from Facebook; they have set up a site for this.
Facebook Live video is still pretty new, and if you have already experience in producing live video events, you should definitely take a look at Facebook Live. If not, remember that hosting a live video event is something completely different than producing a video for upload. It needs careful planning and an event or happening that is important enough for people to tune in live. Inviting your followers to join a live event on Facebook and then showing something boring may create dissatisfaction, and your followers might not come back for any live events. As a digital marketer you should definitely invest some time in Live Video to ramp up your skills. With all the efforts from different companies in Live video products, this trend will stick.