Facebook Live for radio
Facebook live on a mobile device in a studio
Jonathan Cresswell wrote this post for the blog at aiir.com and it is reproduced within Earshot with permission because we believe it has value for a wider audience.
It’s been a few months since Facebook Live launched for all users, meaning it’s now past the ‘new toy phase’. We’ve run out of watermelons and rubber bands, so it starting to settle down and time to think about what’s next. How it should fit in to your station’s online output… if it should at all?
Well, “settle down” is relative. Facebook as a platform is ever changing — and particularly with a reduction in posts from publishers being shown on the news feed, it’s becoming more important to find what content really resonates with users that they’ll share themselves. Facebook seem keen to make this a success, paying partners an estimated $50 million to use it.
There’s a clear opportunity with such strong backing, but what have we learnt so far about doing it well?
Getting the best content
There’s no point going live if you’ve not got something worth showing. As someone scrolls through their feed, you’ve only got a short description and a couple of seconds of video to make people care. Facebook’s tips page is a good place to start if you’re looking for advice on how to do this well.
Hallam FM live with Olly Murs
One popular video format is the Q and A. For news outlets, it’s often with experts to go more in depth on a story, or for a music station you can add a bit of showbiz glamour with a celebrity guest.
With an interesting guest, a bit of a advance promotion, it can work well. Using the comments and questions coming in live from the audience gives them a reason to tune in and helps build a connection with them, so strong presenting skills are key. Thankfully, we’re in the right industry to find those…
Then there’s the more special and the spontaneous. It can be coverage of an event, a big feature running across the station or something just plain ridiculous.
Danny and Rosie
When Pulse 1 locked breakfast presenters Danny and Rosie in a shop window for three days as part of a charity fundraiser, Facebook Live was used to great effect with occasional live streams. It’s got the ‘happening now’ factor so you don’t want to miss out, and the idea is unusual and intriguing enough to make sure you click.
They also used these to extend their on-air content, rather than just rebroadcasting. For example, you could do part of an artist interview on the radio then continue it online afterwards, meaning the more dedicated fans can get involved without it dominating output. It can also work the other way, is there anything from your live coverage of outside events that could be repackaged —clips edited both for the radio and highlights for other social media platforms?
More than just live
Not all of your audience will be watching the video as it happens. In fact according to Facebook, early figures showed two-thirds of the time spent watching live videos was after the streams were finished.
This leads to an interesting balancing act — broadcasting in a style that engages that live audience, but isn’t boring or difficult to watch for those afterwards. You want to keep that energy and tone, but not drag it out unnecessarily.
How you start your videos is a great example of this. As soon as you go live, you’re starting from 0 viewers and have to wait for them to join you… but then for watching a replay, you don’t want to see nothing for the first minute. If it’s a presenter-led broadcast, it can be a good chance to provide a little preview of what’s coming up and set the tone.
The technical side
But however good the content is, if the sound or video on your stream is dodgy, you risk making it difficult to watch and losing your audience.
The cameras and microphones on moderns phones are great, but that doesn’t mean it may not be worth investing in a few extra tools. You can improve the sound quality by using an external microphone, and reduce the shake by using a tripod with phone adaptor or there’s even steadicam-like devices for phones if you’re going to have a bit of movement. It’s useful equipment to have at your disposal for mobile-based production, not just for Facebook Live.
It’s not about making it look like just TV (and don’t aim for a style if you can’t match it), but as broadcasters, you have the expertise to add that little bit of polish that’ll make all the difference.
The quality of internet connection matters hugely too. 4G can be useful when you’re out and about, but if you’re at a busy event and want to capture the atmosphere, the networks can become cluttered and your quality may suffer. Can you find a Wi-Fi network, and make sure you stick to that same connection throughout your whole stream?
Privacy controls for testing
Much of this can be tested in advance. You can choose who a live stream is shared with, so it’s possible to limit it to ‘Only Me’ or a select group of colleagues to see if everything looks and sounds as good as it should.
Just like with the stream’s content: plan ahead, make sure it meets your standards, and if everybody involved is properly briefed about what’s going to happen, things should go smoothly.
Using it well
How Facebook Live works for your station is all about judgement. If you’re constantly putting out live streams that aren’t necessarily engaging, you’ll just see diminishing results as you put people off from watching your future work.
Cut the clutter and don’t make streams drag on longer than they remain interesting. If you waste the time of your audience, it’s too easy for them to just scroll to the next item in their feed.
Liz Spayd, the public editor of the New York Times, wrote about whether they produced ‘too much, too soon’ on Facebook Live.
It’s a great look over what’s worked…
When Times live videos are good — and many are — they capture an immediate experience, feel spontaneous and put the viewer in a front-row seat with a hand on the controls.
…and what hasn’t.
It’s as if we passed over beta and went straight to bulk. What I hope is that The Times pauses to regroup, returning with a rigour that more sharply defines the exceptional and rejects the second-rate. After all, the world has a glut of bad video and not enough of the kind The Times is capable of producing.
Review and adjust as you go to avoid falling into that trap. Was your video well promoted, entertaining, in a watchable quality and did it find an audience?
You’ll have to dig deeper than the view count, as there’s a bit of dispute over what counts as a ‘view’ for online video — and on Facebook that can be as low as a few seconds. Look at the full stats that they provide, and compare. It may take doing a few streams until you figure out what success really is for your station, and how relevant they are to your own goals.
Much of this advice isn’t really specific to Facebook Live, but it’s easily forgotten. The principles should be applied to your digital output across online, social and mobile platforms.
Anything you’re doing should look good, professional, planned and beneficial to your requirements, and feel like it fits in with that platform and the other content that’ll surround it. Live videos on other services such as Periscope may work best in different ways, because the expectations of the audience there are different. It’s just like how what feels natural on Twitter isn’t the same as on Facebook.
Keep looking at new opportunities with tools like Facebook Live, experiment with different ideas, but once you’ve started, don’t forget to take a step back and properly consider what’s right for you.
Jonathan Cresswell is the lead designer at Aiir. His radio career started at Siren FM, the student radio station at the University of Lincoln.
This article first appeared on Aiir’s own company blog.