Since the launch of live streaming on social media more than two years ago with early players Meerkat and Periscope, creators have been given the opportunity not just to post video and pictures to engage their audiences but to connect with their fans in real time. With the widespread adoption of Facebook Live — and Twitter’s latest announcement that they’ve entered the 360 degree live streaming game with Periscope — going live has gone from an extra feature to almost a necessity when it comes to creating a strategy for fan engagement.
The most ubiquitous of the live streaming options is Facebook Live, owing to the fact that Facebook reaches a broader audience than other social media sites. Just about everyone’s mom is on Facebook, and unless you’re reaching for a demographic under 14-years-old, it’s probably the best place to start going live. So, how can you use Facebook Live to connect with your audience? And in a world where you wear the hat of both creator and marketer, how can you make sure you’re making the most of your time and resources when it comes to Facebook Live?
We caught up with Ben Ganz, a former producer at American Idol and now owner and operator of Vego Pictures — a company on the new frontier of live streaming — to learn some of the common mistakes and success strategies when it comes to fan engagement and live streaming.
It’s easy to think that your fans don’t really care about the level of professionalism when it comes to live streaming. After all, it’s supposed to feel “raw,” and “real,” isn’t it?
Ganz, whose company is helping Kevin Hart launch his new network and has done live streaming with Fox, says while you want to be authentic you never want to come across as amateur.
“The biggest mistake is trying to do everything on the cheap,” said Ganz before adding that when it comes to social media, people tend to think, “It’s Facebook, everything’s cheaper, it’s not real.”
This misnomer is one of the most common elements that holds artists back content-wise.
“Perception is reality in entertainment,” he said over the phone from Los Angeles. “It’s all about your image.”
When artists throw together a Facebook Live broadcast without thinking about the basics such as good lighting, sound, and video quality, the final product hurts their image. “All it ends up looking like is cable access and makes everyone look bad,” he said.
Instead, Ganz suggested working within your means to create the best possible production — one that reaches for professionalism even if you’re just starting out.
“Production value is important,” said Ganz. “It’s difficult to pull off. That’s not to say that all the extravagant T.V. money needs to be paid. There’s a lot of waste in T.V. But you cannot skip out on hard production costs like nice cameras and good audio gear. A high quality crew is good too.”
For those who might not be able to afford all the bells and whistles — like a crew to help with a live stream — Ganz recommends at the minimum good audio. “Audio is often more important than video,” said Ganz. “People will tolerate bad video but not bad audio.”
He also recommended investing in inexpensive lights that you can plug into your phone.
For a camera, he swears by the Mevo and suggested anyone doing a DIY live stream try to get their hands on one.
“It shoots in 4k,” he said, “and you can choose different angles. It shoots at a high resolution in basic output so you can take segments of that image and look like you’re switching cameras and give the illusion of multiple cameras. Or it can just do a tight shot and follow you around.”
The camera, priced at $399.99, has an accompanying app that allows you to edit the live video straight from your phone.
This video — by Billboard of Ruth B in their studios — was shot on the Mevo and shared live on Facebook. To get great audio, they simply used a mic that plugged into the phone it was shot on.
In another example, Kelly Clarkson’s management team broadcasted her singing a live cover of Rihanna’s “Love On the Brain,” with the Mevo. The audio, again, was recorded through a source that was connected to the phone.
By planning the look and feel of a live broadcast in advance, and by putting in a small investment to purchase the right equipment, creators can bring their content to the same level as that of other working professionals in entertainment.
Engagement isn’t something that happens by accident, or simply because you’re hosting a live video on social media. Instead, it’s planned for.
“I’ve watched all the famous star makers coach people on how to be stars,” said Ganz, speaking of his time as a producer on American Idol where he worked weekly to maximize the show’s social media presence to engage a global audience.
“It’s really about making the fans feel like you’re talking just to each and every one of them and making eye contact with each and every one of them.”
He says there’s a way to do this with Facebook Live that can make the difference between a standard broadcast and a really effective one.
“Say you have a concert that night,” said Ganz, “I would recommend getting in a day before you have a show and doing a small broadcast then.”
In his opinion, the content of that broadcast could be more general, but aimed at getting fans to participate in the experience of doing a show.
For example, an artist might want to say something like “check out this venue, it’s so cool,” when they arrive on site. Ganz recommended creators, “show the venue, the lighting guy setting up, everything getting in place.” The key is to take fans on the experience with you.
A newcomer who is particularly skilled at this is Grace VanderWaal, the most recent winner of America’s Got Talent at 12-years-old. Her live videos take fans on a journey — whether it be heading to L.A. or finding a great breakfast place. They’re natural and engaging and double as a great resource for creators looking for some live video inspiration.
Lastly, it’s time to focus on the end of the video. A trick of the trade, according to Ganz, is to ask a question. “But not a cheesy question,” he cautioned. “It shouldn’t be something like, “what’s my favorite color?” It should be something that will have real implications.”
Ganz suggested asking fans to choose a song for the set list is always a good one. It’s also a bonus if you can end the live stream with a small preview of that particular song, or something else you’ll be playing or doing.
Back to the concert venue example — Ganz if you take fans on a tour of the venue and at the end of it wind up backstage where you pick up your guitar and play a small song that they’ve requested, you’ve gone a long way in creating a connection with them.
“Let the fans choose the adventure,” said Ganz, “because that’s the real advantage of Facebook Live. It’s interactivity.”
Ganz said, “I would close it out with a song and be like, ‘can’t wait for you to see it,’ or ‘can’t wait to see you all here tomorrow.’”
He added, “the advantage of that is that every single one of your fans who follows you on Facebook has a reason to participate.”
It can take a live show from being just an experience for a few hundred people to an experience that thousands of people can enjoy and actually be part of.
Every video you create as an artist costs you both time and money — incredibly valuable resources when you’re trying to divide your energy between artist pursuits and actually marketing the fruits of your labor.
Ganz suggested making sure every video counts for something beyond just the initial Facebook Live. He said this is where hiring a company to livestream any larger events you participate in may be valuable. The quality someone else can bring to your work adds a value of professionalism that is hard to replace. “It makes you seem legit,” said Ganz.
However, creators can still take the DIY route if they’re mindful of ways to squeeze extra money and use out of their videos.
Ganz recommended two elements when it comes to this. Firstly, he said that Facebook Live videos can have a second life on YouTube and on Facebook in the video section.
“If you’re having this big live stream concert that looks really good — you can then repurpose those videos to YouTube,” he said. Going back to his idea that perception is reality — high quality performance videos certainly don’t hurt a YouTube presence.
He was also careful to point out not to forget about posting the videos to Facebook after. “Facebook video in general is really exciting because it’s so easily shared,” he said. “It balloons and it’s really, really easy to get a lot of eyeballs on something. And if it’s high quality people are more likely to enjoy it and watch it.”
And when it comes to maximizing the revenue stream of live broadcasts — potentially even to the point where artists can hire an outside company to help run them — Ganz has another idea.
“My advice would be to get a sponsor.” Ganz suggests that it doesn’t have to be a national sponsor or even a flashy one.
“Work with people in your community to sponsor your live stream.” He said the businesses down the road from you are the ones who are likely to buy in to your vision — and their business has the potential to reach thousands of people through your live stream.
“Tell them you’ll put up a graphic with their company on the livestream,” said Ganz saying that it’s easy to do and it could be a win-win for both parties. In this way, artists can fund their live projects as they go.
Patreon creators have another advantage — artists can actually offer a livestream as a reward on Patreon, so your patrons will already be excited and waiting for you to go live.
The live video world is expanding at a rapid pace and is easy for artists to scale up and down — creating videos that look high quality and elaborate with just a little bit of thought and effort and without having to spend the big costs that were once required in T.V.
In the never-ending quest to find new ways to engage and audience, live social streaming is a tool that can pay dividends as you develop your career.