Live social broadcasting has been around for five years, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it from novelty to necessity almost overnight.
As physical and social distancing became the norm, live social was a reactive, imperfect solution to a lack of connection and interaction. Users are invited to be part of the experience, a temporary gathering of virtual communities that span music, beauty, business, personal development, health and wellness, and more.
Through trial and error, Globe Content Studio has developed seven best practices for going live on social.
Test pre- and post-promotion
Pre-promotion focuses on getting your audience excited about a coming event, making people feel like they will learn or experience something valuable. Create visual graphics with a clear brand identity to tease the topic of the live, alongside a picture of your host or special guests to reach their audiences, too. Leverage in-platform tools such as LinkedIn’s event pages or Instagram’s countdown in Stories to mimic registrations as well as boost shareability. Pre-promotion is best used to target your existing audience.
Post-promotion is about extending the longevity of your event, while reaching new potential audiences with the content. (This is only an option if you have saved or downloaded the footage of the live.) After the fact, you can embed the video in a blog post, or repost it across your social media platforms, garnering additional views. It’s a great way to get the most out of this content you’ve already produced.
Avoid scripting, but do a pre-interview
Virtual events suffer when hosts or guests take advantage of having a screen in front of them and over-script their talking points. The best lives are the ones that feel like a real conversation, with tangents, off-the-cuff comments and authentic reactions. That said, you don’t want to go into a live unprepared. Instead, schedule a pre-interview for the host and guest(s) to chat, get to know each other a little, and discuss the talking points of the topic at hand. By having a conversation prior to the event, you’ll do away with any awkwardness and get a sense for each other’s main points of discussion. Notes are totally welcome, as long as you use them to jumpstart your thinking, without reading off of them directly.
Think about lighting and location
Chances are you still find yourself going live from the makeshift office in your living room or bedroom. Make sure you choose a setting that you’re comfortable sharing online; bonus points if it happens to be near a natural source of light. Angle yourself so that you indirectly face a window, if you can – but don’t fret if that’s not an option. Ring lights are an affordable solution that really work to brighten up your face onscreen. Test your lighting options during a tech rehearsal a day or two before the live event to see works best. And take comfort in the fact that your audience is not expecting a high production value set up. The beauty of live social broadcasting is that it feels more authentic and relatable when it’s a little rough around the edges.
Prepare an intro as users join
Once you’ve launched the live, you’ll find yourself staring at the screen while audience members slowly float in, and you may feel compelled to wait in silence until a sizeable group is in the virtual room. Don’t wait! As soon as you go live, greet your attendees (no matter how few there are) and introduce the event. This is a great way of holding the attention of the first audience members, and those who join soon after won’t be miffed that they missed a few lines of banter. What’s more, these first few seconds are going to become the intro of the video that lives on after the live event, meaning viewers will be watching to make a split-second decision on whether this content captures their interest. Don’t waste those valuable decision-making moments. If need be, you can always re-address the new audience a minute in with that classic line, “For those of you just joining us…”
Let the content dictate the length
There’s no minimum or maximum length for a live social event, so let things flow naturally. If you find that the conversation is wrapping up comfortably after 20 minutes, don’t feel the need to stretch things out. Likewise, there’s no need to rush a longer chat so that it fits into a certain time frame if it’s an engaged discussion with more to be said. This is especially true if you’re using live social broadcasting to share behind-the-scenes work as an artist, product developer or brand, or perhaps running a guided workshop.
Engage with viewers regularly
One of the best ways to keep your audience engaged is to address them throughout the conversation and acknowledge when they engage using the platform’s tools. This is the value of going live rather than pre-recording a video – you can ask the audience to weigh in on hot topics in the comments, encourage them to hit the like button when something resonates, and submit questions for the hosts to answer in real time. It reminds your attendees that you want them to be active participants in the event, not just silent viewers.
Have a disaster plan if technology fails
No matter how many rehearsals and safeguards you put in place, all live social events could be subject to tech fails. The best thing you can do is plan ahead: Determine a backup plan with your guest or co-host before you launch. Decide whether you’ll reschedule the live on an alternative event date that works for all participants, or if you’ll opt to record your conversation and publish it after the fact. You should also designate a member of your team to help with crisis communications behind the scenes; it will be their job to let the audience know what’s happening while the host and guest move on to plan B. And remember: You’re not the first or last person this has happened to. Don’t sweat it!
These are not hard rules to guarantee success. Think of them as guardrails to guide you while you test out new platforms or events and figure out what works best for your brand.
Remember, your audience has never been more open to imperfection, so don’t let little hiccups detract from what is otherwise an incredible opportunity to connect.
Jessica Robinson is a content strategist at Globe Content Studio, the content-marketing division of The Globe and Mail, elevating brands and driving their business results through premium, journalistic-style storytelling. Contact GCS@globeandmail.com for more info.