Facebook Live offers exciting opportunities for small businesses that want to reach more customers online. Sarah Orchard explains how it works and what it can do for your business
Video was once the preserve of companies with mega marketing budgets, who could afford to pay directors and editors to create sleek and glossy videos.
Now Facebook has made video more easily available to smaller businesses working with limited budgets. In fact, Facebook Live is a powerful tool that goes beyond video - it's a live and interactive event. All at the touch of a button; and all within the Facebook environment.
How does Facebook Live work?
It's incredibly easy. You can broadcast from a mobile device or a desktop (on a desktop you will need to verify your Business Page). It's easiest on a mobile using a Facebook App. Simply click the Live/Go Live icon (depending on the device you are using) and give your broadcast a compelling title. You are good to go and you are broadcasting to your followers.
During the live stream you'll be able to see how many people are watching, read comments as they are posted and see reaction icons - it can get quite exciting!
Once you've finished, the video is saved to your timeline and available to view just like any other video. It then has ongoing value both within the Facebook environment and across other social media - those who missed the live stream can catch up later and you can tweet it or include it in your blog to maximise its exposure.
Why use Facebook Live?
Research has shown that video content wins hands down over the written word. People's attention spans are getting shorter, video is easy to watch, and a live video is even more engaging because it encourages people to join in a conversation or ask questions.
Live streaming is turning marketing on its head. It's an instant opportunity to improve your customers' experience of your brand. It allows you to connect and interact with your audience in real time and success (or otherwise) can be measured immediately by how the audience responds.
Even better, you don't have to spend money to set yourself up with expensive video kit and editing software - your mobile device and microphone will be adequate. Of course, the visual and sound quality will be improved if you invest in some basic video equipment such as a flexible tripod and a lapel mic or headset - so that's something to consider if you want to make the most of Facebook Live.
How can Facebook Live work for your business?
Naturally, what you can get out of Facebook Live depends on the nature of your business. Here are some ideas on how to get started:
Provide a sneaky peak: Give your audience a candid view of your business - introduce the team and show how you work together. Imagine a restaurant showing off its kitchen, with the chef demonstrating how a signature dish is created, or a wedding venue showing off new facilities. Videos like these also help with recruitment because they show the business culture and give a good idea of what it's like to work there.
Demonstrate your product: Show how your products are used and bring them to life for your audience - this is a great way to really highlight product features, capabilities and ease of use.
Hold a Q&A session: Invite your customers to ask the questions that might more traditionally be put in an email or asked over the phone. This is particularly good for businesses in professional services, consultancy and coaching, where the audience is being asked to buy into someone's expertise. It builds credibility and people will start to get to know and - hopefully - like you.
Product launches: This could be a mini campaign - do a live video promising something exciting coming up and the date on which you'll do the grand reveal. This will prime your audience to be online at the right time to see you launch your new product before it's publicly available. You could also set up a pre-order offer to stimulate sales.
Promote an event: Create a Facebook post inviting your followers to tune into a live video where you will share specific details about your next exciting event. This is a great strategy for music/live entertainment venues.
Live training/how to sessions: Use your expertise and knowledge to provide in-depth training and help people resolve common issues or queries.
Interviews: Film a conversation with members of your team or ask clients to discuss their experience of working with you. Brands are built on your people and brand reputation is built on positive customer feedback - so this is a perfect way to promote your brand.
Build on your blog: What topics have generated lots of comments? What questions have they prompted? Are there common themes in the comments? Schedule a live video and address all those questions and comments and keep the dialogue going. It's a time-efficient solution compared to answering individual queries in writing.
Facebook recommends you broadcast for a minimum of ten minutes. Live streams can last up to four hours - but that might test anyone's brand loyalty or passing interest in a product.
Before you start, think about what you want to achieve and get tips from Facebook on best practice. You don't have to script it, but be clear about the points you want to convey and the overall message - it's vital to stay focused.
Sarah Orchard has more than 15 years' top level marketing experience on leading UK and global service sector brands.