19 FAQs About Live Streaming Your Business on Social Media

A phone live streaming a concert

Live streaming isn’t exactly new, but it is definitely a big deal right now. Still, what does any of this mean for your business’ social media and marketing?

Live Streaming For Social Media and Marketing

For businesses to succeed, they need to be using every social media and marketing tool available to them, and this includes live streaming. Yet, to be a true social media octopus — and to get a proper ROI out of your live streaming — you need to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

1. What is Live Streaming?

A live stream is a video that you can record on your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop and broadcast at the same time. With the right tech, anyone can do it.

2. Is it Livestreaming, Live-streaming, Or Live Streaming?

It’s live streaming. It just is.

If you live stream live streams, you are live streaming and you will have live streamed. That’s the verb, the noun, the present participle, and the past participle that you should be using.

Why? Because Google Trends says so; that’s why.


Google Trends Activity for live streaming which is key for social media and marketing

A Google Trends analysis of the use of livestreaming, live-streaming, and live streaming since January 2012.

Words matter. This isn’t just because you don’t want snarky people to be correcting your grammar

— though it doesn’t exactly help a business’ appearance of competence if they’re misusing words
— but also because you need to be using the right words for SEO. If you’re live streaming your business and you repeatedly tell people that you’re “livestreaming” or “live-streaming” it, then it’s harder for searchers to find your live stream, a video of your live stream afterwards, or an article about it on your blog or elsewhere.

The difference this would make to SEO is small, but digital marketing and SEO is all about getting the edge over others. These small errors can make all the difference, so be consistent — and correct!

3. How Do I Live Stream?

This depends on the service. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all offer different live streaming services which are all incredibly easy to use.

4. How Do I Live Stream on YouTube?

There are two ways you can live stream. However, for both, you’ll need to download a verified YouTube live streaming encoder.

The first way is to use Stream now. This is perfect if you want to live stream there and then. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Go to the Creator Studio, click on Live Streaming, and click Stream now.
  • Create an SEO-friendly title and write a short SEO-friendly description in the Basic Info tab. Don’t stuff your keywords in and be sure to add a custom thumbnail.
  • Set the privacy listing to Public. Private videos can only be seen by certain people with access and Unlisted videos can only be seen by people with a link to your live stream.
  • Choose between Low Latency and Highest Quality. Both options have downsides and upsides. Low latency means the video is as close as possible to being live, but the tradeoff is a lower video quality. Highest quality is as it sounds: the highest video quality possible. The tradeoff is that the video can be delayed by several seconds. Depending on what you’re doing, one option may be a significantly better choice than the other.
  • Once the video is live, use the live chat to talk to your audience. You can also share links (whether that’s to social media, to your own website, or anywhere else) using the Share tools.
  • 12 hours after your live stream is over, you can turn the stream into a YouTube video. Use the YouTube Video Editor to edit it, but bear in mind that YouTube only lets you do this if your video is less than three hours long.

The second way is to create a YouTube Event. This is better for streaming something planned, as YouTube gives you more control and the ability to stream several live events at the same time. Follow these steps to get started:

  • Go to Creator Studio, click on Live Streaming and click Events.
  • Just as with the Stream now option, fill in the Basic Info tab with an SEO-friendly title, a description and tags. Beyond that, be sure to take full advantage of the extra options that Events gives you and Stream now does not. For example, be sure to add a Start and End time.
  • Follow the rest of the same steps for Stream now.
  • Remember that if you want to stream multiple events simultaneously, you’ll need the resources. Three times the live streaming means that you’ll need three times the bandwidth.

5. How Do I Live Stream on Facebook?

Though they may have joined the game later than YouTube, Facebook Live makes up for it by being much, much simpler:

  • Tap (or click if you’re on a desktop) “What’s on your mind?” at the top of your news feed.
  • Choose “Live Video”.
  • Add a description.
  • That’s literally it.

While you don’t get the same control or video quality as you do on YouTube, nor do you have the option to edit your live stream after you’ve finished, the whole experience is much more immediate.

6. How Do I Live Stream on Twitter?

Periscope is Twitter’s streaming service. Before you get started, you’ll need to download it from the App Store. After you’ve done that, the process is pretty simple:

  • Open up the Periscope app.
  • Choose your audience.
  • Write a brief description.
  • Tap the Shoot icon.
  • Hey presto!

Like Facebook, Twitter’s live streaming service prides itself on its simplicity and immediacy.

7. Are There Any Other Live Streaming Services?

There were! There used to be a plethora of live streaming services and apps out there, but the industry is so young. Things change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.

In 2015, Katch.me, Blab and Meerkat were considered the hottest live streaming apps around. And now? They’re all dead. Evidently, 2016 wasn’t just a year for celebrity deaths. Katch.me died in April, Blab died in August and Meerkat died in October.

Twitch.tv is still hanging on in there and remains the go-to place for live streaming computer games. The company is backed by Amazon, so it has a fair bit of clout behind it. However, with many gamers choosing to live stream on YouTube (PewDiePie in particular), it will be interesting to see whether or not Twitch.tv survives 2017.

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8. Which Software, Service, or App is Best for Live Streaming My Business?

It depends entirely on what you want and expect from the experience.

  • YouTube is primarily a video platform and it’s the oldest live streaming service there is. What you get from YouTube are control and reliability. If you want to live stream a big professional event that you’ve spent months planning, YouTube Events is probably the best place for it.
  • Facebook continues to battle with YouTube for the prestigious title of biggest website in the world. However, Facebook definitely trounces YouTube when it comes to the immediacy and simplicity of its live streaming. If your business already has a lot of followers on Facebook (and if your Facebook page is already getting a lot of engagement), Facebook live streaming is perfect. Rather than directing all of your Facebook followers to a live stream event on YouTube, you can do it on Facebook. You won’t have as many options, but the upside is that it’s much easier for your followers to watch your live stream.
  • Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming service, has something completely different to offer. Periscope users can browse live streams, recommend live streams to each other and build a live streaming community — much like how Reddit allows users to build a forum community and YouTube allows users to build video community. For businesses, if time is properly invested in this social media and marketing platform, it could be huge.
  • Twitch.tv is a streaming service primarily for computer gaming. For most businesses, there is no benefit to live streaming here. However, if gaming is at all relevant to your business, it’s probably the place to go. If your business is selling computer games, it’s definitely the place to go.

9. Which Hardware is Best for Live Streaming?

Most smartphone cameras are good enough for a quick and simple live stream. The iPhone 7, Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S7 are particularly great for filming. However, if you want to live stream a proper, organised event, it might be worth investing in something a bit more heavy duty.

10. Why Is My Live Stream So Slow, So Laggy, So Choppy, So… Crap?

You need strong bandwidth to live stream. More than that though, the technology is still new. Remember what YouTube videos looked like in 2007? Well, that’s pretty much where live streaming is now.



The old YouTue site before live streaming was a part of social media and marketing

Remember this?


11. What Can Live Streaming Do For Small Businesses?

YouTuber Craig Benzine once claimed that what made YouTube such a great platform is that it reduced the “barrier for entry” for creators. The same is true of live streaming. In the past, live streaming was something that could only happen on TV or radio. A live TV show would have a big budget, a fancy-schmancy studio and lots of expensive cameras.

With live streaming, anyone with a phone can go live, whenever they want. For small businesses, this is huge news. Before, a business could spend millions trying to get a live video message out to their customers. Now, they can do it for free.

However, it is worth being just a little bit sceptical. After all, your audience is only as big as the amount of people who follow your business on social media, so to compare live streaming to live TV advertising is a bit disingenuous.

12. So What Exactly Can (or Should) You Live Stream?

There is no single answer to this question. Opinion is divided on whether or not live streaming just works for promoting events or whether it can be used to promote a product. Tech journalist Johna Revesencio argues that it’s “a bit of both”.

Then there is the question of what exactly is an appropriate thing to live stream. Many churches in Scotland live streamed their Christmas services due to extreme weather conditions. This may sound like something that might attract the ire of critics, but it was instead picked up by the BBC.

As live streaming becomes more common, it’s unlikely that your business’ live stream will get you coverage on the BBC. At present, the idea is still quite novel and businesses are experimenting. The difficulty, while the technology is still relatively new, is towing that line between looking like a fool and doing something completely groundbreaking.

All that said, here is a list of the things that we think businesses can (and should) live stream:

  • A “behind the scenes” tour of the workplace. Show customers how your product is made, where it’s made, and the people who make it as it’s made live.
  • Sudden business announcements at a moment’s notice. A well-polished video or blog post breaking down some big announcement from your business has its place. However, so too does an impromptu live stream. Tell your customers the exciting news there and then, before following it up later with something more polished.
  • A big company event. Combine the best parts of a sudden announcement and a polished video with a live stream of an event which your company has spent months planning. Your customers get to see all the excitement of the event itself from the comfort of their own phones.
  • A “How to” or a Q&A session. Our “Ask Ninja” live streaming sessions on Facebook are a great way for us to interact directly with many of our customers (and potential customers) at once. The sessions have a structure, but they aren’t completely scripted. A live “How to” or Q&A can help to give otherwise faceless organisations a friendly face to talk to in real time.
  • An interview with an industry expert or an outside expert. Show your audience that your industry is a community and that you are tapped into that community with an interview from someone outside of your business. You can interview someone from within the company, of course, but the point is that (while the interview should have structure) you allow a conversation to happen which your live stream viewers can follow. Answer comments and be sure to involve and engage your live audience as much as possible.

13. Are Social Media and Marketing Compatible in This Case? Or Is It Just a Gimmick?

Live streaming is what you make of it. If you treat live streaming like a gimmick, it will look gimmicky. However, if you use it for a purpose, then it won’t. Social media and marketing compatibility depends entirely on the business doing the marketing. This is true for live streaming, tweeting, or any other kind of social media outreach.

To use an example, memes are a social media and marketing phenomenon that businesses have used with mixed results. At best, a company can really tap into its customers’ sense of humour. The meme gets shared thousands of times by people who think it’s hilarious and the company gets lots of free press. After footballer, Luis Suarez, bit yet another player during the 2014 World Cup, company after company created meme after meme to capitalise on the event.

At worst, your business winds up looking completely out of touch — and the same is true of live streaming. Brands Saying Bae is a Twitter handle entirely dedicated to outing businesses who have tried to jump on the social media fad in order to look cool, hip, or (God forbid) “lit fam”.

A sign from Jiffy Lube that says "YOLO YOUR OIL LIGHT'S ON IT'S LIT FAM"

It hurts to look directly at it.


14. How Long Has Live Streaming Been Around?

Live streaming feels new because Facebook and Twitter only properly caught onto the idea in late 2015. 2016 was the year that the two services finally kicked off. It was late 2016 when Twitter first introduced 360-degree live streaming.

With all of these recent developments, it might surprise some people to discover that live streaming first debuted on YouTube way back in 2011. As of 2017, businesses and YouTubers alike continue to use YouTube Live to stream pretty much anything. In other words, live streaming is not new — or, at least, it’s not as new as you might think.

What is new, however, is its surge in popularity. This has been helped both by Facebook and Twitter’s belated rollout of their own live streaming services and the seemingly unstoppable rise of mobile internet usage, which now accounts for over half of all internet usage.

With mobile internet now the primary form of internet use and with Facebook Live catching on, live streaming has finally taken off as a mainstream thing that anyone can do. Whereas in 2011 it was just for vloggers and a handful of businesses, live streaming is finally open to everyone. The good news is that this means businesses can (and should) capitalise on live streaming’s popularity, but the bad news is that there is no real precedent for exactly how to do so.

15. What Is 360-Degree Live Streaming?

It’s live streaming… but in 360 degrees.

It sounds pretty damn exciting. You can show someone a live scene which they can explore themselves in 360 degrees. Imagine the possibilities; imagine everything you can do with that technology.

But can you really imagine any possibilities? Is there really anything you can do with that technology? YouTuber Derek Muller isn’t so sure. In a 360-degree video which he uploaded to YouTube, he argued that “360 is just going to be a fad” by pointing out that the whole point of video making is that you show people exactly what you want them to see. With 360-degree video, you no longer have that control.

While this may sound great, it goes against the way marketing — and art in general — has been consumed for literally thousands of years. A book contains the sentences it wants its readers to see, a TV advert contains the information it wants potential customers to see, but 360-degree video contains a multitude of different things to watch. Humans can’t process 360 degrees all at once. Instead, they are forced to focus on one thing at a time. This is how our eyes work.

This may all sound very philosophical, but it’s vital to understand the potential shortcomings of 360-degree live streaming. Not every customer is going to be looking at the same thing at the same time — which, you could argue, defeats the point of your video being live.

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16. What Makes a Popular Live Stream? Who Are The Live Streaming Pioneers?

The most-viewed Facebook live stream of 2016 was not from a business, a politician, or any kind of celebrity. The most-viewed Facebook live stream of 2016 was a woman trying on a Chewbacca mask.

What on Earth are businesses meant to make of this? The only real takeaway is that, as live streaming remains a fledgling medium, the most watched streams are not going to show much of a pattern.

The early days of YouTube make for a good comparison. In 2010, the most-viewed YouTube video of all time was a small child (called Charlie) biting another child on the finger. However, as of 2017, the vast majority of the most-viewed YouTube videos of all time are music videos. In other words, as the YouTube platform evolved, so did its content. It has now essentially taken MTV’s place of where to watch music videos.

So will live streaming go the same way? And what will this mean for businesses?

The best answer to the former is “possibly”. The best answer to the latter is perhaps to make a music video. It sounds ambitious, but it’s exactly that sort of viral content that got over 7.5 million people watching and engaging with Channel 4’s advert for the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Then again, maybe not. Making a music video, or some sort of comedy sketch, might be an appropriate way for some brands to go viral, but it’s certainly not appropriate for all brands. Added to that, a music video does not guarantee you views. Sure, the most popular YouTube videos are music videos, but correlation is not causation and plenty of music videos have hardly any views at all.

A music video live stream for your business is as wild an idea as it sounds, and kudos if you pull it off, but it’s a risky strategy that depends on hope, talent, and sheer luck to go viral. Then, of course, even if it does go viral, will it be for the right reasons or will it be because Brands Saying Bae thought your idea was so ludicrous that it deserved a mention?

17. When Should I Live Stream?

Whenever you said you would. The key to a great live streaming session is like the key to great YouTube content: regularity. If you want to live stream more than once, do it at the same time every day, week, fortnight, month, or whenever. The important thing is that people know when to tune in.

If it’s a one-off event that you’re live streaming, promote it. In fact, promote it alongside promotion for the event itself.

18. How Should I Promote My Live Stream?

You should promote your live stream the way you would promote any event. Beyond that, though, different live streaming technologies have different promoting features built in. YouTube, for example, has a whole range of features that allow its users to promote their live streams. Other live streaming technologies will have their own features, but YouTube, being the most established video sharing website, will likely have the most.

For Facebook and Twitter, the best way to promote your live stream is simply through posts and Tweets about when your live stream will be. Promotional photos and videos wouldn’t hurt, either.

19. What is the Future of Live Streaming?

If the failure of Meerkat, Blab and Katch.me (and the success of live streaming a Chewbacca mask) tells us anything, it’s that predicting the future is hard. For now, businesses should focus on what live streaming can do for them in the short term. The long term is far too hard to see. The horizon is obscured by failed startups and inexplicably popular live streams of thousands of people playing Pokemon at once or (even more bizarre) of a puddle in Newcastle.


A puddle in Newcastle was live streamed for social media and marketing

The next big live stream?

The real aim should be to focus on the present. Live “How to” guides, live “Q&A” sessions, live interviews and impromptu announcements; this stuff is working for businesses right now.

Still, let’s go out on a limb here and make two big predictions about live streaming: it will become more popular and it will become more legitimate.

The increase in popularity is based on the potential the technology has, as well as the media coverage it’s getting. The increase in legitimacy is based on the rise of politicians using live streaming.

In fact, Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, is currently trying to ban politicians from live streaming inside the House. Should Ryan be successful, you could argue that live streaming will no longer be seen as a legitimate way for politicians to speak to their constituents.

However, a more likely scenario is that politicians will fight back. Indeed, they already are, claiming the ban would be “unconstitutional”. Moreover, the fact that there are enough politicians live streaming for Ryan to feel the need to enforce this ban goes to show how popular the technology is becoming. Yes, Ryan’s attempt to ban the technology may simply be his way of responding to the Democrats’ gun protest sit-in in the summer of 2016. However, away from politics, there’s a bigger trend happening here.

With politicians live streaming to their followers, the technology seems all the more serious and all the more important. In 2011, a landmark Commons vote in the UK allowed MPs to Tweet inside the Commons Chamber. In 2017, the idea of politicians Tweeting is as natural to us as the idea of politicians lying.

Live streaming looks set to go the same way. It’s already entered into the world of politics and it’s already allowed politicians to be more transparent (or, at least, to appear that way). So it is with politicians, so it will be with businesses. It’s no coincidence that the era of businesses and politicians using social media is also the era of a businessman becoming the most powerful politician in the free world through consistent (albeit erratic) Tweeting.

It was Stephen Fry who said that social media and marketing technology is like a mirror. If an idiot stares into it, then you can’t expect an Apostle to stare out. Even though he was speaking nearly seven years ago, his thoughts on social media technology (which at the time would have been limited to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube and a handful of smartphones) still apply today.

As a social media and marketing phenomenon, live streaming is what businesses make of it. There are no set trends, there are no outright winners, and there are no hard and fast rules. There are a handful of ideas about what works, but it only takes a handful of geniuses to completely change the way we look at it.

So if there’s one thing that businesses should know about live streaming, above all else, it’s that we don’t yet know everything about it. We know a lot, and we should educate ourselves as much as possible, but we need to allow live streaming to evolve and to evolve with it.

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