In May 2017, I created Reach Out and Read Colorado’s Social Video Initiative, a marketing campaign centered on live streaming informal interviews via Facebook. There are positives and negatives to going live, and you can read all of that information (and more) in the tomes of articles published about social video online (and you should). Through trial and error, in a series of mistakes and successes, I have collected my own social video dirty laundry, all of which should be extremely helpful to you as you embark on your own adventure, live for the masses.
1. Get comfortable with your equipment. (Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.) When my Saramonic Smart Mixer was delivered, I removed it from the package and, well, I was confused. I am not a filmmaker. I had never used a sound mixer before. I had, however, carefully researched the product, but none of the reviews or online tutorials explained the ideal position for the mixer bars while filming, or where to aim. I shamelessly tested the new equipment with the help of my co-worker on my personal Facebook page, and the audio was horrible.
Embarrassed, I reached out to my colleague, AJ Oscarson, an expert filmmaker at One Thousand Design. He explained, “The numbers -18, +3 have a couple of names, but typically they are referred to as gain readout. When your speaker is not talking, you want the bars on the readout to be non-existent. The ideal high it should be hitting is about -5. Anything over that and you’ll get what’s called table-topping, or blown out audio.” AJ saved me. I tested my equipment and skills again, armed with the knowledge to succeed, and then felt confident to proceed with my first live interview on Reach Out and Read Colorado’s business page.
2. Live audio will fail if your Wi-Fi connection isn’t good/stable. My first Facebook live chat was amazing. I felt a rush as I transformed into an engaging on-air personality when the countdown began. The energy between myself and my guest, a renowned pediatrician, was electric, charming, and genuinely fun. After our interview, I left that hotel conference room floating, and all the way home I reflected upon my first Facebook live experience.
Once home, I watched the video. I could not have been more pleased until the sound disappeared about 14 minutes into my 30-minute take. My heart sank as I recalled seeing poor-connection notifications during filming, but it was my assumption that the feed would simply cut out if the connection was bad. Alas, the video kept streaming without sound. The solution is to line up someone (a colleague or friend) to watch the live chat on their personal page and then report back to me in the first few minutes of the live stream with a thumb up or thumb down. It is critical to have a strong Wi-Fi connection throughout the duration of streaming.
3. Crossovers increase viewership and audience engagement metrics. My first live video (the one with no sound) had small metrics across the board and I was intent to increase my reach for my next attempt. As I prepared for my second live session, I checked for a strong internet connection and set up a casual interview space in my office. Mostly, I just moved my furniture around and hid my trash and recycling bins. My second guest was Nate Porter, CEO at Wanna Pixel. Nate delivered riveting content while his wife, Marisa Porter, ran the action behind the scenes. She checked our sound, she posted the live stream link to the Wanna Pixel Facebook page to draw in dual audiences, and she engaged with audience members posting questions in the comments section.
This live session was beyond successful and crushed the metrics from my first video. As expected, sharing the stream on multiple Facebook business pages, personal pages, and other social platforms increased the numbers of live viewers and engagements; however, you have to line up the right interviewee/partner for a crossover to work effectively and efficiently. Nate and Marissa are tech savvy and social media comfortable. The multi-posting didn’t distract or deter from going live.
4. Images can get transposed while filming live. My third Facebook live session was also charming, fun and enigmatic. I interviewed a local children’s book author and she was a dream – sharp and witty. At the 21 minute mark, my guest was prompted to show her newest book to the camera and to read a portion aloud for our audience. As she read, the image of the book was transposed! The words and graphics were inside out and backward because of a preprogrammed function of my cell phone camera. I was caught completely unaware. I didn’t find this lovely gem of disappointment out until after we had wrapped.
There are plenty of fixes and workarounds to this particular feature challenge, but the key takeaway of this lesson learned is to be prepared for the unexpected, stay calm, and find a fix (if there is one). If a challenge arises during filming, find the best way forward without cutting your stream, because you can’t expect users to come back and join you on another link.
5. Charge everything and carry extra everything. For the fifth experience, I live streamed a five-participant panel. I was behind the camera, so I asked a colleague to check the sound as I worked the comments. Before Facebook live #5, all the sessions I had filmed had been 30 minutes in length from start to finish. As always, to avoid any unexpected energy challenges, I made sure to check the sound mixer battery before filming and had extra 9-volt batteries on hand as back-up.
The panel was scheduled for 60 minutes, a brave new frontier in live streaming length. There were five-panel participants and multiple voice levels, so I was busy working my mixer dials throughout the panel, just as AJ had advised. 50 minutes in, with panel participants just beginning to answer a wrap-up question, my phone went black. Dead. I didn’t have access to a phone charger or an outlet, so the stream wrapped before the panel completed. I haven’t had this issue yet with a 30 minute live stream, but for my next 60 minute stream I will definitely charge my phone until the very last minute before plugging in to go live.
Live streaming is the Wild West of social media marketing. There are few rules and many unknowns. It is hard to prepare fully for what to anticipate, but going live is more exciting and rewarding than I ever expected. The content is authentic and incredible, it can be repurposed, and the experience (thus far) has been positive and rewarding for all involved.
See you on Facebook.