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July 23, 2018
Social Media  |  21 min read

A Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Live for Small Business Marketing

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Liz Alton, Karolina Bakanovas, Besma Bihnam, Christina Kehoe, James A. Martin, Amy Saunders

You may be wondering how you can use Facebook Live for your business. As you imagine your fans fully engaged with the Game of Thrones-level plot twists of your live sessions, or at least as obsessed with your how-tos as people remain with Bob Ross happy little tree videos, you’re confident using Facebook for business is the right next step in your marketing plan.

When Facebook launched Facebook Live, a live streaming feature which allows users to engage with their audiences in real-time, the opportunity to engage with leads and customers suddenly blossomed exponentially.

But maybe not.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “What am I supposed to do with that? How does this fit in my business? And how will you know if I'm doing it right?”

Luckily for you, we’re breaking it all down for you with best practices, ideas, examples, and common mistakes to avoid before going live.

Let’s get started by telling you about the many things you can do with Facebook Live.

How to Generate Leads from Facebook Live - Download Now

Facebook live best practices

Going live for the first time can be a bit daunting. But you’ve got this! Being an entrepreneur, you’re used to being a pioneer and challenging the status quo. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Before you go live

Pre-promote: Let your audience know you’ll be broadcasting ahead of time with a simple status update stating the date and time you plan to go live.

4G connection: Make sure you have a strong connection before going live. Wi-Fi works best but if you can’t connect, make sure you have a 4G connection. If your connection is weak, Facebook will gray out the “Go Live” button.

Location: Follow the typical best practices for shooting video. Pick a location with good lighting that’s free of any background noise and make sure the camera is positioned to capture a full shot.

Catchy description: Make sure you have a clear description of your video. Stating the who, what, where, when, and why of your video will increase the likelihood of your Facebook audience clicking to watch, react, comment, and share.

Going live is easy

You can go lie right from your Newsfeed. Just tap “What’s on your mind,” select “Live Video,” add a description, and choose your audience. You have three seconds, so make sure you’re ready to go!

While you’re live

Give context: Always make sure to introduce yourself. If you have a planned agenda, give your viewers a breakdown so they know what they’re tuning in for. Also, let your audience know if you’re planning to take questions during your stream. You don’t want any dead space in your live stream waiting for questions to populate. Since it takes a bit to type in the comment area, we recommend letting your audience know a few times throughout your broadcast that you’ll respond to questions.

Talk to your audience: Give a shout-out to those who engage with you. Mention their names and answer their questions. It’s one of the easiest ways to make your audience feel special and appreciated. Since a live stream can be viewed after it has ended, be sure to go back and respond to any comments left afterward. This helps cultivate a sense of community. No one likes to feel left out of all the fun.

Consider the experience: Facebook Live provides a very visceral experience for your audience and it only amplifies that effect when you can further interact and engage with them. It’s best to not just point a camera at an event and let it roll. There needs to be an interaction with the audience. The advantage of facebook Live is that not only do you have the ability to answer questions verbally via video,but you can also use a second device to response to questions in real time via the comments section and create a conversation with your audience.

Be yourself: The best part about being live is that you don’t have to be perfect. Have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself.

At the end

Get them to subscribe: Before you wrap up your live broadcast, remind viewers to click the “follow” button so they can be notified each time you go live. Create a call-to-action (CTA): Give your viewers somewhere to go once you live stream ends. Direct them to your site, a free ebook, Facebook page, Instagram—wherever. Don’t just let them walk away; keep them engaged after the live stream. Closing line: Let your audience know you’re wrapping things up with a “Thanks for watching” or the date of your next scheduled Facebook Live.

The most important thing to remember with social media is that there isn’t a “right way.” Everything is trial and error to discover what works best for you.

Now that you’re familiar with the best practices, we’ll share some ideas to help you find ways to use Facebook Live.

How to use Facebook Live for your business

Use it as content

Look at Facebook Live as another form of providing content. Instead of a blog post or an ebook, you can provide value through video. Teach someone how to do something, provide a demo, share tips, and tricks, or even showcase your talent. You can even take past pieces of content and share them via Facebook Live.

Go behind the scenes

Show the audience things you haven’t been able to share before. Give them a “day in the life” glimpse into your world, showcase how your products are made, introduce employees/business partners, or take them with you to an event you are attending. This is the perfect opportunity for your audience to get to know you and gain a better understanding of what your business is all about.

Instant Q&A

Give your fans the chance to learn more about you and get the answers they need with a live Q&A session. Remember to call viewers out by name so they know their question is being answered. You can also have a little fun with it—reverse the roles and ask your viewers some questions. It’s a great way to get instant feedback and insights into your audiences' wants and needs.

Discuss trending topics

The internet is constantly buzzing with new trends and breaking news. From Pokemon Go to the latest celebrity feud, these real-time current events provide a way to engage with your audience and start a discussion. Share your thoughts or show off your expertise. For example, give tips on how small businesses can use Pokemon Go for marketing or answer a trending question like “Will the housing bubble burst?” It’s a quick and easy way to do some real-time marketing and capture viewers.

Host a talk show

Several businesses have been using Facebook live in a talk show format, bringing on guest speakers to share their expertise. Pick a new topic for each week and let your fans know ahead of time who will be featured. It’s also helpful to stay consistent and broadcast this type of stream on the same day/time each week so you can gain that loyal following.

Create a Poll

Figuring out how to create a Facebook Poll can be tricky since you’ll need to write code. Luckily, there are a number of outlets that will create the poll for you like Video React or upLIVE, both of which charge a fee, and, for free, LiveReactionsPoll.com or this open source option. Some examples of the questions that work best for a poll are:

  • Give respondents three options for a new menu item that viewers can “like” or “love” or dislike (i.e. “angry”)
  • One or the other? An indie apparel shop could stream a Live video with models wearing two different designs and allow viewers to vote on which one to stock in the shop.
  • Should we or shouldn’t we? Thinking of making a big change to your brand? Poll people to see whether they think it’s a good idea.

During your live feed, make sure someone on staff is on comments duty. This person should monitor the comments feed, nix any off-color comments, and respond to useful comments to cultivate the conversation. The vibe of Facebook Live is informal, so you’ll want to keep your tone casual and mention commenters by name when possible. Finally, Facebook has some rules about Live polling that you’ll have to follow so you don’t get banned from the site, so pay attention to those.

Plus, some favorite Facebook Live examples and ideas from the Facebook Live team …

Q&As with an authentic thought leader

All-star science expert and chimpanzee advocate Jane Goodall reported in from Gombe National Park in Tanzania to answer questions on chimpanzees and her work. From Goodall’s quiet authenticity to the intriguing glimpses of the area’s lush jungles behind her, the video provided a fascinating glimpse into the life of a wildlife biologist. More importantly, it gave fans a lifeline to ask her anything—from what her life was like to specific scientific queries about chimpanzees. Even if you’re not spending your life in exotic locales with fascinating primates, the Q&A format is a great way to start with Facebook Live. Use these tips to help make a Q&A session work for you:

  • Choose a location that’s a natural fit for your work and provides insight into how you spend your days
  • Invite audiences to ask questions, which lets you be responsive to their most urgent concerns
  • Prepare a few questions and answers you can present yourself (in the form of FAQs, perhaps), if the session slows down and you have empty airspace

Interview about a recent book or insight

Many people will tune into Facebook Live for exclusive insights, tips, and the chance to hear from people they’re interested in. However, an interview is a great alternative to a Q&A with a single thought leader. Wharton professor Adam Grant interviewed Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy about her new book “Presence,” and hundreds of thousands of people watched. When you’re conducting an interview for Facebook Live, you can take a few tips from their playbook:

Start with an actionable example that draws people in and gives immediate value. Cuddy talked about how to use Wonder Woman-like body language to prepare for difficult meetings. Structure a conversation which takes a deep dive into topics that really interest your audience. Prepare your questions ahead of time to ensure a good conversation–and consider letting your guest know what you’ll be asking so they’ll be concise and on-message.

Consider opening it up to viewer questions, which helps you take advantage of the real-time nature of the event and can help take pressure off the organizer.

Demonstrations: Make it fun

Martha Stewart took to Facebook to present a real-time pretzel demonstration just in time for Valentine’s Day. She had a celebrity guest, but her approach to realistic and engaging demonstrations can be used by any business to show how to complete a project or use a product. Some best practices to consider include:

Keep it targeted. Often, for Facebook Live, shorter is better. If things get rolling, the questions are pouring in and your guests are having fun, it’s fine to keep things going. But build your how-tos around a core skill that people can learn.

Keep it real. The problem with demonstration videos is that they’re often polished and skip over the challenges people may realistically face. When you perform demos in real-time, it’s easier for viewers to connect and see the issues that can arise—even for the professionals.

Offer insider tips. You can only share so much information in your product documentation, but a how-to live-stream is the perfect place to impart small tips that can help people get better results. Think about small touches, like how you hold your paintbrush in an art class. A how-to video is the perfect place to show those expert-level insights that benefit from a visual aid.

Go behind the scenes

Sometimes your team just needs to have a little fun–and customers actually love to see that. Clemson’s Football team offered fans a behind-the-scenes look at the team blowing off steam after a game. Music played in the background, and players–and even coaches–showed off their dance moves. The video was short and provided a fun look at team dynamics and a “day in the life” of the players. Today’s customers want to get to know the people behind a business. Whether it’s an intense brainstorming session or an after-hours gaming event for your design company, providing a behind the scenes look at your team and how they work can help viewers feel more connected to your company. When taking this approach:

  • Keep it short
  • Try to focus on a fun angle–what would delight, surprise or make people laugh?
  • Don’t be afraid to start simple, with a quick tour or by asking members of your team questions
  • Finally, use good judgment. Facebook Live is a flexible and informal medium, but make sure that what you’re broadcasting reflects positively on your brand. If in doubt, take a pass.

Give an inside view at an event

The Facebook Team highlighted a video where user AJ+ posted footage of a climate rally, providing a look at the events as they unfolded and offering interviews with interesting attendees. Are you planning to attend a conference, trade show, or lecture? Consider whether you might be able to live stream parts of the conference that would interest your audience. Always get permission if you’re streaming speakers and stay in compliance with event guidelines, but many will be excited to have you share the event with your audience. Some ways to bring viewers into the moment at an event are:

  • Share snippets of keynote speeches or panels
  • Conduct short interviews of just one or two questions with attendees
  • Consider a theme that connects with your audience
  • Provide quick summations of the best insights and tips you’ve learned during the conference, in a span of just a few minutes
  • Make it feel like your audience is there with you for the best parts of the events

Even more examples!

Want to see even more? Check out these four small businesses dominating on Facebook Live:

Unity Stamp Co.: Promoting products through tutorials

For the company based in the small town of New London, Minnesota, Facebook Live tutorials are more authentic than the highly produced and edited crafting tips seen on Pinterest and YouTube. With a live video, viewers get a realistic representation of what the craft entails, which sometimes includes learning from the mistakes made on air.

Since founding the company in 2007, Angela Magnuson has been the approachable face of Unity, chatting with customers on Facebook and commenting on their crafts. But in recent years, as Facebook’s algorithm changed to favor posts from friends over businesses, she struggled to produce the kind of engagement she used to see. She resorted to posting on Facebook hourly, trying to reach more people by sharing more content.

An alternative emerged last year when her daughter-in-law joined the company and Facebook Live debuted.“When Live came out, it totally transformed the business,” Whitney Magnuson said.

Lauren Romero: Facebook Live sale on the air

As an independent sales consultant for the women’s fashion company LuLaRoe, Lauren Romero isn’t allowed to list her products on a website, like a typical e-commerce retailer would. She also can’t predict which products she can even offer for sale: LuLaRoe manufactures less than 5,000 of the same item and sends consultants their inventory as a random assortment of styles and sizes.

Romero sells her LuLaRoe clothing almost entirely through Facebook Live. She hosts two to four Facebook Live sales weekly from her Seattle home. Since October 2016, when she began transitioning from using Facebook photos to Facebook Live, her sales have more than doubled—from $20,000 per month to $50,000 per month.

Such A Voice: Offering a limited-time promotion

In the company’s first Facebook Live tutorial, instructor Brian Thon took viewers behind the scenes of a voice-over recording—explaining his studio equipment and set-up, critiquing his own performances, and discussing how to get started with a voice-over career. Toward the end of the video, Thon directed viewers to a landing page for a limited-time promotion offering training with a special bonus: a studio equipment package.

The result: More than $75,000 in sales—all of which stemmed from the Facebook Live event. The company’s previous promotion had grossed $103,000, but it took place over a week, not over a 36-minute video.

Couples Academy: Hosting a weekly Facebook Live show

Not long ago, appearing on a TV or radio show would have been a rare opportunity for a small business. Now, thanks to platforms like Facebook Live, small businesses don’t need the invitation—they can host the shows, themselves.

That’s what Hasani Pettiford is doing with Couples Academy, the Atlanta-based marriage-counseling business he runs with his wife, Danielle. Every Monday night at 9 p.m., Pettiford takes to Facebook Live for Infidelity Recovery, a 30-minute show dedicated to relationship advice for couples struggling in their marriages.

Before you get started, you’ll want to read these 10 common mistakes

Ready to go live on Facebook? Cool. Just do your best to avoid these 10 common Facebook Live mistakes.

1. You don’t have a master plan

Many viewers, particularly millennials, appreciate unscripted, authentic, spontaneous content. But that doesn’t mean you should go live without a plan. Ask yourself: What’s the video’s goal? What's the story you want to tell? To whom do you want to tell the story? Why would they care? How do you want to tell the story? What does success look like? The answers should help shape the direction of your live video.

2. You don’t have fun

Humor can enliven any video and attract fans—if it’s not forced, offensive, or just plain painful. Just think of Benefit Cosmetics’s regular ”Tipsy Tricks” Facebook live videos, which draw large audiences to see cosmetic tips from a host drinking wine. Be clear, though: What’s likely to resonate with—or turn off—target audiences? Is your humor consistent with your brand’s image?

3. You don’t pick the optimal time to go live

As with any social media post, there are optimal—and suboptimal—times to go live with Facebook video. Timing depends on the video’s content and target audience. If your small business sells drones, for instance, don’t go live with your drone video on a Tuesday morning, when your target audience is likely working. A better time would be during the weekend when they’re thinking about cool stuff like drones.

4. You don’t give followers a heads-up

Let followers know in advance when you plan to go live. Promote your upcoming video not only on Facebook but on other social channels, too, like Twitter. Update the cover photos on your social channels to promote your video.

But how much notice should you give? Too much, and followers may forget. Too little, and they may not be able to stop what they’re doing and watch. (Facebook recommends one day’s notice.) Also, tell followers they can tap the Follow button on live, as well as previously live, videos, to get notified about your next live extravaganza.

5. You don’t give followers a reason to watch

If you want people to watch your live video, give them a good reason. Share a compelling description of your upcoming video in advance. Offer just enough detail to help followers understand what to expect. Arouse their curiosity. Convince them watching your video will be time well spent.

For example, BuzzFeed scored with its live video in which rubber bands were placed on a watermelon to make it explode. The video’s title: “Watch us explode this watermelon one rubber band at a time!”

6. You don’t practice

Practicing your live video in advance can help you work out potential kinks. You might realize the planned shoot location is too loud, or too dark, or doesn’t have a strong-enough broadband connection. Or that mounting your phone on a tripod at the shoot location will be better than holding the phone. Tip: When practicing a Facebook Live video, share with "Only me" so that no one else can see it. Or just shoot your practice as you would any video and play it back.

7. You don’t respond to questions or comments during the video

Use Facebook Live to answer customer questions. Think up some in advance to answer on camera.

One of the best reasons to go live on Facebook is the opportunity to engage with followers. During your live video, solicit and answer questions your audience asks. Also, acknowledge viewers by name. Most viewers will appreciate it if you take occasional breaks to address the audience.

8. Your live video is too short

If your live video only lasts for, say, five minutes, you’re not giving followers time to find it. Some Facebook Live producers recommend going for about 20 minutes—or more, if the content warrants it. Just make sure you've got enough content to sustain the video's length.

9. You end the video abruptly

When your video has run its course, let viewers know. Sign off. Thank them for watching. Let them know when your next live video will appear.

10. You don’t repurpose the video

Once your video is no longer live, it will remain on your small business Facebook Page (unless you delete it). To reach the widest possible audience, you can—and should—also upload it to YouTube, your website or blog, or other relevant sites. Use one or more relevant keywords in your video’s title and description to help it attract Google search engine users, too.

Final thoughts … The key to success: Don't be afraid

While you don't want your Facebook Live video to be a flop, don't worry too much about making mistakes, either. Mistakes are going to happen, sooner or later. They're part of the learning process. And other businesses are still figuring out Facebook Live, too. So go live, have fun, be fearless. Above all, figure out what works for you and what doesn't.


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