Sharon Stevens-Cash, from Derbyshire-based digital marketing specialists Gravity Digital, outlines the enormous potential of the social media giant’s latest innovation, and offers some pointers as to how businesses can make the most of it.

Make no mistake, Facebook Live is massive. With latest figures showing 1.79billion monthly active users, the social media platform has an eye-watering reach – and for businesses, that has exciting possibilities when it comes to getting your message out there. But, as with any huge audience, getting that message right is absolutely key – if a good reputation can now travel faster than ever before, so can a bad one.

So what is Facebook Live? 

Launched earlier this year, Facebook Live is a new video streaming service on the platform which enables users to livestream video broadcasts straight from their mobile phone or other device. While this idea in itself wasn’t new, Facebook’s huge audience means many more people can potentially tap into the videos, plus its developers have offered interesting features such as the ability to watch again. With research showing that video postings have a 135 per cent greater reach than photos, it seems that people really are very tempted to click on that tantalising ‘play’ button.

How should it be used? 

After all, broadcasting and videos are nothing new. The difference with Facebook Live, however, is that it offers your business the chance to engage directly with Facebook users and offer exciting, interesting live footage of whatever you want them to see, be that a sneak peak of your new shop, glamorous guests arriving at the uber-stylish party your PR company has organised, or a hand-held video showing members of the office embarking on a gruelling charity run. Yes, it was possible to post video clips online before, but the live element means that you can now draw people in as your news is happening. The possibilities really are huge. But careful thought is also needed so the remarkable opportunities this offers are not wasted. Here are a few pointers on how this valuable new resource works, plus tips on how to make the very best of it.

Immediacy

To use the service, go to your Facebook page when you are ready to start filming and tap on the live stream icon. As soon as this is done, followers will get a notification, which will immediately then request them to engage with the content. You can also write a description of what you’re filming so everyone knows what’s going on. An important point to remember is that all live videos are archived. This means that if a user misses the video, they can go back, view comments and watch it after you’ve stopped recording. This offers a further extension of the platform for users to share their experiences of your product, plus giving you more free marketing.

But, going back a step or two, immediacy is all well and good – and it really is – but the marketing possibilities of Facebook Live will work best if you herald your video in advance and tell your followers what you’re going to livestream. That way, when they’re notified, they’ll know what to expect and will be more on board when you start filming.

Tip no 1: be prepared

The first rule of successful video streaming is to prepare the stage for what you are going to film. If you look at videos posted by some of the Internet’s new young breed of stars, you’ll notice the background to what they are filming is generally immaculate, so make that your starting point. If you’re going to be speaking static to viewers, think of it like taking a photograph and make sure there are no strange items behind your head as you film. Speak clearly into the microphone and prepare what you are going to say so there are no tedious ums, ers, and general thread losing.

What to video?

So, here we come to the million-dollar question: what should you livestream? As with all social media marketing, the secret to pulling in viewers is to provide engaging content. And the way to do that is to give freely, rather than be heavy-handed and try to sell. Launching a new product? Offer a behind-the-scenes view of your business and show customers your staff packing it up or preparing for a launch party. By offering an insight on what you do daily, how your business prepares its products and services ready for consumers, live video gives a chance to break the rules and show a little personality behind your shopfront.

Some more ideas: is your business in the food industry? A new restaurant, maybe? Offer a free cooking demo of a new item you’re putting on the menu that evening. Or maybe you run a clothing shop. Livestream footage of the new autumn/winter range arriving, heralded in the preceding days so as to build excitement, is a great way of reaching out to customers. Perhaps your business is launching a new product. When it’s ready to market, offer a tutorial as to how to use it to give people a better understanding.

Not only are all these great ways of engaging with consumers on a new platform, the livestreaming gives a portrait of your services in an intimate way that offers a real sense of exclusivity, giving viewers the sense they are there in the room with you. Or, in the case of Ricky Gervais’s now famous Facebook Live video, in the bath. But moving on.

Interactive

By giving users the option to comment on videos and share them, Facebook Live also an opportunity for a question and answer session directly with you. Customers can ask direct questions about the products or services you may be showing through live video, and this allows you to resolve their queries. It may also provide valuable insights into what your customers actually want.

Tip no 2: targeting

As with many Facebook features, you can target specific groups or users, ensuring you are reaching out to the correct group. Whilst in live mode, businesses can see exactly who is watching the video. Facebook offers insights into every area of your live postings, plus the demographics of each person watching the video, which will help you target your next group of customers.

As you can see, the potential really is immense. So use it well!