Since 2007, AIDS.gov has been producing video blog interviews with federal and community thought leaders at conferences and meetings in the U.S. and abroad. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about managing production and handling the challenges of coordinating filming, editing, and posting videos across distances and time zones.
But we always enjoy a new challenge, so we were excited when Facebook announced the public release of Facebook Live last Spring, which records videos and posts them to the site in real time. (The videos are also recorded and posted to your Facebook Timeline for the benefit of viewers who may have missed your “live” stream.)
We incorporated Facebook Live into our planning for the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) in Durban, South Africa. We produced 13 videos from AIDS 2016 and just returned from the 2016 Ryan White Conference on HIV Care and Treatment where we produced another seven videos.
“Broadcasting live on-location works well from both practical and informational perspectives,” said Anne Rancourt, a member of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases communications team, who helped interview experts at both conferences. “Logistically, it’s easier to schedule a live interview, and since there’s no editing, when the conversation ends, you’re all done. Also, broadcasting in real time from a colorful location like the Global Village in Durban helps viewers feel connected to an event more than when a video is shot on a typical sterile interview set.”
Needless to say, we’ve learned a lot from our first 20 Facebook Live videos. Here are the 6 P’s of what we’ve learned so far (you can also sign up for Virtual Office Hours with us to learn more!)
Plan it out
While it’s possible to be spontaneous with FB Live (See something? Share it live!), we emphasize the value of planning. Well ahead of AIDS 2016, we coordinated our speakers, schedules, and broad interview topics. This helped us plan the promotion, make sure we had the right software, hardware (cameras, mics, lighting), and internet connections.
Despite our best efforts, we still ran into some issues connecting to the internet. Fortunately, we had planned for this and created Facebook “Almost Live” videos, which we recorded as if they were live, but published later. Those too did really well in terms of views and engagement.
Prepare your presenters
While we have lots of experience with recording videos, we’re still learning how to manage live broadcasts. With recorded videos you can stumble, re-record, and then edit post-production. We didn’t have those options with FB Live, so we spent time preparing ourselves and our presenters to ensure we were on top of our game. We created a tip sheet for our presenters, reviewed questions beforehand, and studied other successful FB Live videos for examples and ideas on how to make the videos engaging.
Promote before, during, and especially after
If you know when you’re going to go live on Facebook, let people know. We posted to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter about our AIDS 2016 coverage multiple times (days, hours, and minutes) before our live broadcasts. Most important, we promoted the recorded versions after we posted them, so that people who missed them the first time could tune in later.
Once your FB Live video is published, you can (and should) edit your post to let people know the video is available. In other words, while our video was live, our post read, “Happening Now from Durban.” When the live stream ended and our video was automatically published to Facebook, we changed the caption to read something like, “In case you missed it, we were live from Durban.” That let our viewers know they could still catch the video after the fact, and we saw many more views after the live broadcast. The moral of the story: If you want maximum reach, remind people that your videos are there.
Production: You have options
Depending on your budget, you have options for your production. You can use your smartphone camera to record with the Facebook app. (If you go that route, we suggest getting a lavalier microphone you can use with your smartphone–there are plenty of inexpensive options.)
But you can also use a more traditional approach to video production if you prefer. We chose to work with a local crew in Durban to produce our videos, and we used third-party software, Wirecast, to broadcast them. The advantage of this type of software is that you can produce your FB Live as if it were an actual news broadcast, with cutaways to b-roll, lower thirds, and multiple cameras.
Prompt engagement online and on air
A great feature of FB Live is that your viewers can post comments while watching the video in real time. It’s helpful to have someone soliciting and monitoring the comments during (and after) the broadcast. At the top of each video we asked people where they were from and then shared that information with the presenters so they could do a shout-out to viewers from around the globe!
Performance: Measure and assess
Facebook provides specific metrics for FB Live videos, including how many people watched live and how many minutes they watched. We could also compare the differences in reach (the total number of people your post was served to) and engagement (reactions, likes, and comments on the post) between the live and “Almost Live” videos. We learned that while FB Live videos had a larger reach, the actual views were similar. More to come on this.
Last but not least, have fun. We’re learning, exploring, and reaching new audiences together. Stay tuned for more FB Live coverage from the U.S. Conference on AIDS in September.
**This post was was originally published on August 30th, 2016 by AIDS.gov.