Top 10 Facebook Live good practices for journalists

I’ve been told I shouldn’t use the term “best practices” because there are none.

Facebook is an ever changing beast. That being said, as of January 2017, here are my top 10 best “good practices.”

  1. Don’t forget about the text – A lot of people will start a Facebook Live and either not put text or put something generic like “I’m live.” Remember, users receive a text notification when you start Facebook Live. That text is the first thing they see. It needs to have a call to action and specific reasons why they should watch. It also needs to be written using continuing coverage writing. You need to let people know that something is continuing to update or you are actively giving them some sort of behind the scenes access.
  2. Don’t end your broadcast too soon – I typically recommend staying on for over ten minutes to get the best results on Facebook Live. You may get a slight boost if you have some piece of short video that is really good (Like a building demolition or some sort of breaking news item), but it takes time for people to look at your phone, swipe a notification and tune in or to scroll down their timeline and find a Facebook Live video. You can schedule Facebook Live videos, which may eliminate some of the waiting, but sometimes that can be difficult for journalists in the field. I think staying on at least 15-20 minutes works the best for getting the most peak viewers
  3. Don’t overuse Facebook Live – Remember Facebook Live should be used as a marketing tool to drive people back to your core product. You need to use it for items you couldn’t do on broadcast television. That includes engaging with viewers, behind the scenes looks at what you’re doing and events that are changing and very fluid from one minute to the next.
  4. Mention viewer names directly and create fans for life – As I said before, Facebook Live should be engaging, so don’t forget to engage. When you receive comments from viewers, don’t forget to talk to them directly. This is something you typically can’t do (Or can’t do well) on air or during a website live stream. If someone joins a post, say “Hi Betty, thanks for joining us.” If someone likes your Facebook Live, give them a shout-0ut. Also, don’t be afraid to ask a question and get people to like or love something if they agree. This is a great way to drive up engagement and make sure your video shows up in more people’s timelines.
  5. Every five minutes drive back to your core product – Don’t forget that Facebook Live should be used as a market tool. Before you begin your broadcast think about what you are trying to drive people to. Is it a web article? Is it the 6:00 p.m. newscast? Remember that most people don’t stay on your broadcast for the entire time you’re broadcasting and therefore you need to repeat yourself and repeat your call to action. Make sure you use this at the end of your broadcast to let people know what they should do next.
  6. Think about your first frame – I think this is important. The first frame becomes the preview for the video. You can change this, but if you’re out in the field or about to go on the air, you may not have time to change the video preview image. Find something eye catch to start the broadcast on.
  7. Consider using a tripod or external microphone – There is nothing worse that video that makes viewers sea sick or viewers commenting that they can’t hear you. I don’t think that is a reason not to move around, but also think about your movements and making them fluid. There are a couple of inexpensive tripods for phones you can get at Best Buy or online on Amazon. Look for the adaptors that will hook a phone onto a real tripod or the mini tripods that will sit on a desk.
  8. Think about your connection, battery life – I’ve had a couple newbies to Facebook Live that will be at an event that has a lot of people on their cell phone or in an area with poor cell phone service and no wifi and they don’t understand why their broadcast is failing. They may start the broadcast over a couple of times. I think this is annoying to the end user. They may decide to turn off notifications for your account if you are over-using Facebook Live for content that isn’t engaging. Think about the type of events that you are planning on streaming and check how many bars you have first.
  9. Be natural, don’t be afraid of going off topic and off set – Remember before when I said Facebook Live should be engaging? Just sitting on a news set in the same spot you sit for the 6:00 p.m. news is not engaging and it is not different from your broadcast. Find different angles, move around and don’t be afraid to walk viewers through what you are seeing. I had one reporter covering the Battle at Bristol. She literally showed viewers around the stadium as crews painted the checkerboards on the field and talked to viewers while she was walking.
  10. Ask viewers to follow you and receive notifications for Facebook Live – Call out your fans to tap on the follow button on live videos and opt-in to get notifications the next time you go live.

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