Practical Facebook Live tips for small business marketing

The introduction of Facebook Live has been a game changer for the businesses willing to embrace it – streaming video at the touch of a button to a potentially huge potential audience.

It quickly earned a reputation for giving Pages big reach without the need for high-end production qualities.

Cost-efficient, immediate and engaging – in the years since lots of people are going Live – and nigh-on two billion people who have watched a Facebook Live video so far.

That’s a massive audience.

But that’s not to say it’s easy. There are as many probably more bad examples out there as there are good one.

Phones the wrong way round, odd shots of the ground and wind howling across through your mic – we’ve all either seen one or had the misfortune of broadcasting one.

And that’s why many businesses are cautious about going Live – the fear of doing more harm than good.

Get it right though, and suddenly that double-digit reach can go into the thousands.

In the time I’ve spent working with clients, no Facebook Live has ever been the same – but here are my top practical tips for making them work.

Why use Facebook Live?

Facebook’s own stats show live video is far more engaging than normal video and reaches more people.

Live videos receive three times the engagement of videos that aren’t live on average.

It gives people an honest, insightful, transparent and up to the minute look at your brand, and is a supreme way of forming a meaning connection with your audience. Exactly what Facebook wants you to do.

Take the below – imagine NASA doing something so transparent and engaging 50 years ago.

There are other rival live streaming services out there – YouTube Live and Instagram Live being the most prominent.

But Facebook is set apart by the functionality for both the broadcaster and the viewer.

Combined with the fact that you probably already have a Facebook audience of some kind – it’s the obvious place to broadcast.

The technology works simply – like a video call to thousands of people – and it’s simple for people to watch and comment in real-time.

Once you go live, your audience will get a notification. If they share it, it’s likely to find its way to new newsfeeds and a bigger audience. The more the merrier.

You’ll notice your live videos getting a bigger reach than your average posts.

While Facebook is no longer boosting the reach of live posts to the dizzyingly high levels near to when it introduced it, it’s still appearing to favour lives over everything else.

That said, its algorithm has long been led by ‘meaningful interactions’ and live tends to guarantee more of those than any other type of post.

Here are a few tips for making them work for your small business.

#1 – Give value in your content

Live video should be an extension of your existing content and marketing strategy – and once you think in those terms it’s not so difficult to think of content for your Facebook Lives.

If I could give you one rule to live by it would be DON’T GO LIVE JUST FOR THE SAKE OF IT.

I guarantee your Live will flop unless a dog on a skateboard happens to wheel past you.

Crucially, try to give something via your video in order to make the most of your opportunity.

It might not be in your commercial nature to give things away for free.

But embrace it, because people will feel closer to your brand and your values in a way they weren’t before.

Offer a behind the scenes look – explain the inner workings of the business. Don’t think what you have to offer is too boring – people buy from you, thus it is not boring to them.

If you run a cafe, go live in the kitchen with the chef explaining how to make the most popular gift.

If you run a dog grooming business go live while you walk your own dog and share some of your best tips for canine caring.

If you run a factory do not underestimate’s people’s curiosity in what goes on inside and the expertise fellow businesses will be only too keen to find out.

In the live video below, John Lewis gave viewers a behind the scenes look at what was in store for Christmas shoppers:

Hold a Q&A a session with your following – promote it before being clear about the topic. For example, you might invite people to ask you about your company’s direction or what they’d like to see from you.

Make it open so people feel like they can ask you anything – and be sure to address people by name.

In television it’s a rule you shouldn’t break the fourth wall and speak directly into the camera at your audience. In social, it’s the opposite. Make your followers feel important, because they are.

That said, there’s also value in making the camera your ‘eyes’ so the viewers see exactly what you are seeing. Flip the screen during your broadcast to offer some variety.

It’s also a good idea to plan a little pitch to start with so that you avoid any dreaded ‘dead air’ moments while things are warming up.

Give a buzz to your product launches by going live to demonstrate them and explain to your audience the benefits of how they work – responding to people’s queries on camera as they come in – and maybe offering your viewers a promotion or offer.

Watch the Carphone Warehouse introduce a new Samsung Galaxy model live to huge success below:

Interact. Hold a game or a competition that requires interaction – play Countdown and give the best word a prize for example.

Contests breed excitement and viewers enjoy the unpredictability of how it will play out.

The best Facebook Live’s I’ve been involved end with a reward or a prize – even as simple as hiding somewhere in your locality holding that prize and giving it to the first person to find you.

Check out this Black Friday live by for inspiration on how to master a competition or promotion

Plus a similarly clever example from Oh Polly:

Participation is a wonderful tool to leverage in live video – think about whether you can allow the audience to influence the outcome of the video, or choose where you go next.

Be useful. One of the greatest tools to any content marketing strategy – relevance to your audience’s needs.

If you can help solve them a problem or show them the way, doing it live shows just how skilled you really are in your area of expertise.

For example, if you sell beauty products, a live demonstration of how to apply them.

If you fix bikes, show the quickest way to change an inner tube. If you bake cupcakes, demonstrate a recipe.

By giving away value it won’t stop people buying your products – instead you’ll build a following of loyal fans that will buy from you for years to come.

Watch Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach) one of the best at giving away free content for the sake of the brand in one of his early Facebook Live’s below.

Note the production quality isn’t brilliant but it’s still one of his most successful videos – because of the authenticity.

If you truly don’t have any decent content, then don’t do it. If there’s no decent reason to go live then you simply shouldn’t. You’ll let down your audience without a compelling reason to entertain them.

When you have a plan for what the content of your Facebook Live go back to this Kipling-style checklist:

  • Who is watching?
  • When would they like to watch it?
  • How will they watch it?
  • Where will you go live?
  • Why are you doing it?
  • What exactly will the content be?

#2 Invest in some equipment

You don’t have to spend fortunes to make your broadcasts look more professional and a little can go a long way.

As a small or medium-sized business, you’ll probably find you fall into one of two camps – the kind willing to give it a go with a bit of investment in some basic equipment, or you may believe your business is best represented by a higher quality of streaming.

If you fall into the first camp, good news, you don’t need to spend much to significantly better your Facebook Live efforts.

The most important factors to overcome are poor sound quality and a shaky visual.

This kit list will largely overcome that:

A smartphone or tablet, which you’ve already got, I should imagine. If you can make it one of the more recent iPhone incarnations they tend to be better visually.

A tripod with a smartphone adapter. Look at fotopro’s range for budget options that are still decent quality. It sounds obvious, but you’ll be using this for when you’re sticking in the same place to shoot.

A stabiliser that will stop you being so shaky when you’re filming on the move. Find one with mounts built-in that you can attach lighting and a microphone to.

A shotgun mic. This will capture the sound in front you (ie the person or thing you’re filming) rather from all around like the phone’s standard mic. It won’t cut out background noise, but it’ll reduce.

Look for one that comes with a cable that can plug straight into your phone, that doesn’t require an adaptor to allow sounds to go ‘in’ the phone rather than out when you plug it in the headphone jack.

Boya is a good budget option. You’ll be plugging a shotgun mic in when you’re filming on the move, or filming a group. Mount it on your stabiliser.

A lapel mic. Again, one that doesn’t require an adapter. This’ll be primarily for when you filming the subject of your video entertainment on your tripod. The lapel mic is the number one best investment that you make for improving sound.

Get one that comes with a wind muffler for when you’re outdoors and the recording will be clear as day with minimal background noise. And you can pick one up for just £20 too.

Lighting will give you that extra pizzaz when you’re in a slightly dimly lit room. You can get a decent brightly lit LED light that you can mount on your stabiliser for around £50.

It’s also worth investing in an external battery for around £20-£30 for when you let a live run for longer so that you’re not caught out. If you’re using an iPhone with a headphone jack then you’re mic and battery will both plug in fine – if not you’ll need a splitter, which can also be picked up for fairly cheap.

Using the above you’ll be ready to do.

But if you fall into the camp where you want to invest a little more into the experience, you’ll want to stream via a camera of decent quality or a webcam that’s hooked up to a laptop instead.

It’s going to need to be a decent machine with a quad-core processor and around 16GB of RAM to handle the stream. In terms of lighting, soft boxes will add quality. Once you’ve got your setup sorted you’ll need a program such as Wirecast or OBS Studio to turn your video into a Facebook Live stream.

Wirecast links directly with Facebook so you can schedule and design your post in the software and it’ll allow you to stream multiple shots, split the screen and incorporate images, graphics and ready-made video.

#3 Schedule and promote

Two birds one stone – if you schedule your live video post in your Facebook page, a post will appear on your page notifying your audience that you’ll be going live.

To do this, click on ‘publishing tools’ and then ‘videos’ in the left hand menu. Click ‘+ Live’ and a window will pop up,

Scheduling a Facebook Live

Fill out all the fields here, including the ‘tags’ section which will make your show searchable.

Bear in mind people will be able to see the title of the show in advance so instead of ‘Join Lydia as she give us her magical new formula for making toddlers behave’ it might be something like ‘Join us on Thursday when Lydia will be revealing…’.

When you’re done click the ‘down’ arrow because ‘go live’ to reveal a drop down menu and choose ‘schedule’.

The next screen will allow you to enter in a date and time for when you’ll go live (don’t forget, mind).

Scheduling a Facebook Live

It’ll also give you an option for adding an image (create this as a graphic using Canva for extra polish) which will sit on the post on your Facebook page.

How to upload an image for Facebook Live thumbnail

Link to this post from your other platforms to let your audience know what’s happening. If it’s a big moment for the business, link paid ads to the post.

The alternative to scheduling a live is use the Premiere function.

This allows Pages to schedule recorded videos and play them as if you were Live.

You get the benefits of going Live (notification to your followers, reach, live comments) but with the convenience of recording your video, editing it etc.

It’s easy to use, and I like that your followers get an announcement once you’ve scheduled the video.

Start by clicking on ‘write a post’ as per usual, select ‘photo/video’ and then ‘upload video’. Then you’ll get the usual video window with a new option – Premiere. You’ll be able to select this so long as the video is over 30 seconds long.

Facebook Premiere

Then you can choose when it will go ‘live’, along with a cover image for the video. Click ‘Schedule’ and you’re away. You can pin the ‘scheduled’ post to the top of your page, and people can start leaving comments – this post is effectively shared into feeds in the usual way. Hence, you can create a buzz.

Schedule Facebook Premiere

Personally for the authenticity I still prefer live but this is definitely an option I’ll be using more of (from my point of view, very handy for clients whose faces drop when I suggest we do a live).

When you should use it: When you’ve got an announcement to make (new product, competition etc) and you’d rather it look a bit more pro rather than live.

I’ve not used it enough yet but it makes sense to me to use it infrequently – maybe monthly to begin – any more than that and the buzz around your Premieres might start to fizzle out

#4 Prepare before you go live

Make sure you prepare the background. Like any broadcast, the eyes of your viewers will skirt around you and scan the background.

Make sure it’s fitting for the subject of the live video. If it look unprofessional or out-of-place then it’ll reflect poorly on your brand.

Think about what you want to get into the picture.  Where are you in this Facebook Live? If you’re stuck down in the corner of the picture that’s just weird.

Make sure the post title is optimised. Make it succinct but descriptive.

Decide who’s doing what. Generally you’ll need one person on the camera and one manning the Facebook page replying to comments – and potentially reading them out to the person/people being filmed.

Test your connection – is it decent? If you’ve got one bar of 3G then it’s probably best to opt out for the moment.

Make sure nothing is syncing or draining your wi-fi. Mute all your apps and stick your phone on ‘Do not Disturb’.

If you’re using a setup outside of the app and your phone, you’ll need to know the exact technical specifications, Facebook itself recommends:

  • Max: 720p (1280 x 720) resolution, at 30 frames per second.
  • Max bit rate is 4000 Kbps (4 mbps).
  • An I-frame (keyframe) must be sent at least every 2 seconds throughout the stream.
  • Titles must have fewer than 255 characters or the stream will fail
  • H264 encoded video and AAC encoded audio only.

It’s not a bad idea to rehearse using your personal account and selecting the ‘only me’ option so nobody can view it.

You’ll be able to see if the Wi Fi is strong enough – but be sure to check this on another device. If you’re using a mic, you can normally count on the sound whatever the circumstances but it’s the picture that will struggle.

If you have a light then great, but try to film with your subject facing a window whatever your setup. You want to avoid back lighting.

#5 Tips for when you go live

When you tap ‘start your live video’ make sure you’re talking from the off. Explain to the audience slowly and surely who you are, where you are and what you’re doing on their mobile phone.

The person who starts the video should have a symbol that says you’ve gone live (pointing is generally acceptable as the international symbol). Avoid the horrible dead air moment at the start of the video at all costs!

Keep talking and keep doing. Remember you have a live audience to keep engaged – don’t be afraid when people leave, that’s just natural. But if there’s too much dead time people will stop dropping out faster.

Aim to go longer than 10 minutes. Facebook Live videos tend to range in the 15-20-minute mark – if you plan on going longer than that be certain that the content is engaging enough.

Your audience will guide you though – if you notice your audience keeps growing then that’s a sure sign that you need to keep going until it starts to decline.

Remember to remind people what’s going on. As much as you’d like to think that everyone will join you the second you go live and stick with you until the end, in reality most will join shortly after they get the notification you’re live and keeping joining all the way through.

So every now and again just give a shout out to those that have just joined and reintroduce what’s going on.

#6 Make sure you engage

Talk to the people in the comments. People will appreciate the shoutout and it’s good practice. Have the person manning the Facebook page read them out to give you authenticity. If the comments don’t particularly add to your content or are irreverent then reply to them using text.

Don’t be afraid of it not being perfect. It’s live – people get that. Live TV certainly isn’t perfect so there’s not much of a chance your social media effort will be. So don’t panic. That said you do need a plan, and a draft script of some kind – no matter how rough.

Smile as you’re talking. You’ll be amazed at the simple difference it’ll make. Speak slowly and clearly and be yourself – the point is to show off the vibrant personality behind your brand.

Include a call to action. Don’t be afraid to sell at some point – at the very least tell people to check out your website to find out more at the end. Ideally though you should have a call to action that relates to the content of the video that you subtly feed to the audience during the broadcast. This is clearly more obvious if you’re launching a product.

#7 Analyse what worked when you’ve finished

When you stop the video, you’ll get an option of saving down the video – if you’ve just done a live tutorial then it makes sense to save the video and with some simple editing add it to your YouTube channel.

You’ll also be offered the option of sharing the video to your timeline – its unlikely you wouldn’t do this unless there was an one-time ‘exclusivity’ in the video. Share it to your timeline and it’ll continue to rack up views and engagement.

You’ll be able to go into the post on desktop and upload another more fitting image for the post, and edit the title, description and tags again. It would make sense to pin it to the top of your page in the short-term.

If you’ve just launched a product or made an announcement it’s not a bad idea to launch straight into a reaction poll post on your Facebook page to gauge audience reaction. Remember, this is all about feedback so going all out for engagement will go a long way.

Check your stats. Look at the comments, views, reach and reactions and try to form a picture of what worked and what didn’t.

Check when people left and joined and ask why the content did or didn’t work. Over time, you’ll form a good idea of the types of content that works and the types that people are less interested in.

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