“Going live” used to be reserved for TV networks and radio stations. Now, anyone with a decent internet connection and a computer or mobile device can broadcast live online—anytime, anywhere—using applications like Periscope, Facebook Live, Twitch and YouTube Live.
We've looked at the kinds of live broadcasts you can do. After you start, the real challenge is attracting—and building—an audience. In the vast landscape that is the World Wide Web, how do you get discovered in the first place?
And even if someone finds your live stream, how do you keep them watching when there’s so much competition for eyeballs online?
It’s not easy. Just ask the creator of Blab, a now-shuttered live streaming service. Shaan Puri pulled the plug on Blab on August 12th, despite having a reported 3.9 million users.
What he found was that only 10 per cent of those users came back on a regular basis. Why? Because—to paraphrase Puri—most live streams suck. They exist because the broadcasters want to be seen, not because the content is something viewers want to watch.
So here are four strategies to help up your ante in the live streaming game:
1. Consistently Create Great Content
The first step in attracting an audience is to create something worth watching in the first place.
What’s unique about live streaming as opposed to other forms of video content is that it’s happening in real-time. TV stations capitalize on this real-time aspect every time they go live with breaking news. People tune in because the action is unfolding now. There’s a certain level of excitement and anticipation in not knowing what’s going to happen next.
You may not be covering breaking news, but your content has to be interesting enough to make people stop what they’re doing to watch.
Events have a natural “now” factor, whether that event is a conference, graduation ceremony or party. Failing that, you should be providing information or entertainment of value to a given audience.
2. Build Buzz About Your Broadcasts
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to live stream, you need to promote the heck out of it.
First stop: social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Let people know when and where they can watch your live stream—and more importantly, why they should watch. What’s in it for them?
Don’t give away every detail of what’s going to happen. Tease the viewer to pique their interest.
Here's a few more tips for promoting your live stream:
- create an eye-catching image or graphic with details of your event
- include a hashtag (one for Twitter, 3 – 5 for Instagram) to make it easily searchable
- create a short video preview to attract attention
- tag influencers and others who might be interested
Promote your live stream well in advance, and often. Platforms like Hootsuite can help you schedule all your posts in at once. You can also get the word out through a newsletter, blog post or even email.
3. Interact With Viewers
Once your live stream is up and running, you need to interact with the audience. It’s not about you lecturing—it’s about listening and engaging back.
Here’s how to make viewers feel like they’re a part of the live event, not just spectators:
- ask for their questions and respond to them in real time
- greet your viewers by name (people love this!)
- instruct viewers to send likes and hearts to great questions or comments from other people
- encourage your audience to spread the word on social media during the live stream
It’s a lot to juggle while you’re live streaming, so you might want to ask a friend or co-worker to handle the commenting online so you can focus on delivering the content.
Another way to keep your audience engaged is to tease something to come during the broadcast. Having a surprise announcement, guest or prize giveaway at the end increases the chances viewers will stay tuned in.
Don’t forget to ask viewers to follow you so they’ll be notified the next time you go live!
4. Repurpose Your Videos
Once your live stream is over, make your content available for replay. How you do this depends on which platform you’re using for live streaming.
Facebook Live will save the video to your Page or profile. YouTube Live will upload it to your channel’s Video Manager. Periscope lets you save a live stream to your mobile device’s camera roll. From there, you can upload the video to YouTube or Facebook.
If you’re tech savvy, you can download your saved live stream and edit it. For example, you might want to isolate just one short segment, or add a call to action to the end.
Then it’s time for more promotion. You can:
- share your video on social media
- embed it on your website
- write a related blog post
Repurposing your live stream is a great way to generate more content and grow your audience.
The quality of your video does matter, but your gear doesn't have to cost a fortune. A little bit of extra lighting will improve the quality of just about any image, even from older webcams. A good-quality webcam or camcorder (even an older) is a big boost, too.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun. What matters most of all is that you start! Live streaming is in its infancy; tactics and best practices are still emerging. Test different broadcast times, lengths and concepts to see what works for you and your audience.