Facebook Live – How To Get Your Message Seen (And Maybe Heard)

Simple Tips To Make Your Facebook Live-Stream More Effective And More Fabulous

For those of us who have been working in live-streaming since the early days of Justin.TV and Ustream, the launch of Facebook live was a watershed moment. Not only did Facebook finally bring live-streaming to the mainstream, but the ginormous user base and the distribution power of the Facebook newsfeed enabled broadcasters to increase their reach by tens of thousands of viewers. Facebook’s unparalleled distribution in concert with its very engaged user base makes Facebook Live the most effective live-streaming platform for any person or brand who wants to harness the power and community of live-streamed events.

The Miami City Ballet Live-Streams on World Ballet Day

The Miami City Ballet Live-Streams on World Ballet Day

Facebook live is also experiencing the same trend I’ve seen on every live-platform since 2007, moving from predominantly one camera and/or cell phone created live-streams to more multi-camera professional broadcasts. While there will always be situations where a phone can be a great live storyteller — the visual nature of video and the visual sophistication of today’s online viewers, inevitably requires serious broadcasters to expand their production values if the want to retain their audience for longer than a few seconds. This means swapping out your phone for Facebook’s desktop based live-streaming interface and incorporating professional video equipment and/or encoding software.

Facebook Live Streaming Interface

Going Live From The Facebook App (left) is super simple. Going live from the desktop (right) requires a few more steps and external video/encoding equipment.

I’ve streamed on almost every platform out there, from marketing events for Fortune 100 companies to huge concerts to local dance performances. Every platform has its idiosyncrasies, and Facebook live is no different.

Here’s what you need to know in order to get the most out of your next Facebook live event…

The most important Facebook Live metric to understand can also be the most misleading: Facebook Video View Counts.
Facebook counts a “video view” as any viewing of 3 seconds or more. The vast majority of those video views are via the newsfeed. Nothing wrong with that, but think back to all the Facebook Live’s you’ve seen in your feed… they have no sound.

The newsfeed may be the great distributor BUT newsfeed views autoplay without audio.

Go ahead, check your “Video Views” analytics and scroll down to see how many viewers watched with the sound turned on. It’s safe to bet that number hovers somewhere around 20% or less. So that 10,000 viewer number? Only about 2000 of those viewers cared enough about your live-stream to turn on the sound. (I’m willing to bet that your Average Video Watch Time clocks in at seconds, rather than minutes. Why? Again, because most of your views will be viewers scrolling past your silent video in their newsfeed)

So that 10,000 viewer number? Only about 2000 of those viewers cared enough about your live-stream to turn on the sound.

The good news is that Facebook prioritizes live video, so you know that, even if only for a few seconds, your audience is going to see your stream. And what your video lacks in meaningful viewership numbers, it will probably make up for in audience engagement numbers. You may have fewer real viewers than you expected, but they will like and comment on your live-video at extremely high rates.

So now that we know that the vast majority of your viewers are watching your Facebook Live video for only a few seconds, and without audio, you can take steps to make sure those few seconds work for you.

A few things to optimize:

Title (May not appear where you expect it to)
Tags (Don’t appear at all)

When you view your live-video preview the Facebook Live platform gives you three fields to fill out, Title,Tags and Description. Those fields are important — but neither the title nor the tags fields show up in the Facebook newsfeed. The title only displays when the user clicks on the “click for more” link which brings your video full screen, and the tags are searchable, but are never included as text in your post.

If you want users who encounter your video in the newsfeed to know what they are watching, make sure you include a good description, and make sure the Description is different from the Title, as both display in full screen mode.

How To Stream To Facebook Live

The Title field of a Facebook live event does not appear in the Newsfeed (top), it does appear-in bold- when the user brings the live video fullscreen (bottom)


If there is a hashtag you want to highlight, you need to add that when you edit the description as well, because remember, the tags you input in the preview screen are never displayed.
You also may want to think about what information you want to display as an overlay in your live-stream. Whether it’s a call to action, a logo of a partnering brand or streamer or lower-thirds that identify various on air guests.

So…want to get the most out of your Facebook Live-Stream? Always assume most of your viewers are watching with the sound off for 20 seconds or less and plan accordingly. Make sure you are displaying the information you most want them to see in a very visual, easy to digest manner.

Testing — When you stream live from the Facebook mobile app you have the ability to make the stream private, or to limit your audience. Currently this option doesn’t exist for browser based Facebook live-streams, so in order to test your streams you’ll need to create a new Facebook page. All pages immediately offer the option to live-stream, so keep that page to yourself and test away.
I’ve found wildly differing results in the quality of my Facebook Live streams depending on the encoder I’ve used, and these results are markedly different from using the same encoders on different live-streaming platforms. If image quality is important to you or your client, test thoroughly and don’t depend on a method that has worked for you on YouTube Live or Twitch without testing it first on Facebook Live.

A few additional tips:

  1. After the live-stream is over, your video will behave just like any other newsfeed item, slowly making it’s way to the bottom the Facebook algorithm. Expect most of your viewership to occur within 24 hours of your live broadcast. But, like any other Facebook post you can download an embed code or circulate the permalink to increase viewership after your live broadcast (click on the date and time field of the video to find the permalink)
  2. While you are live monitor your feed in at least two browser windows. Facebook Live can still be erratic, often displaying a black screen when a user changes views from newsfeed to full screen, and sometimes displaying a “this live video has ended” message while your stream is in fact still live. Save yourself from a heart attack by having at least two frames of reference for stream monitoring.
  3. Facebook live does not display on Facebook mobile. To monitor how your stream looks online you must use the Facebook app.
  4. Always have a backup plan. It’s live and anything can go wrong. Have graphics, footage, additional encoders all prepared and ready to go… just in case.
  5. And like most live-streaming platforms, Facebook does not allow you to put third-party video ads in your live video, no bumpers, no pre-rolls etc. I wouldn’t risk testing the system during a live-stream. If Facebook is anything like other platforms I’ve streamed to, their Content ID system will pull your stream down before you can blink twice.

And of course, Facebook can change the rules at any time, adding pay-per-play perimeters, or changing advertising policies or no longer giving newsfeed priority to Facebook Live videos. Stay abreast, stream away, and always make sure you are planning for Option B.
(This article assumes you know how to get your stream up and running via RTMP. If you need information on the mechanics of sending a live-stream to Facebook check out this article by Gnural Net which covers Facebook Live via Tricaster — which is what I use — or this article from StreamingMedia which covers a number of different external switcher/encoders.)


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