With little more than your phone or a webcam, you can create a live broadcast over the internet that can be viewed by anyone who can get online. And you can do it for free.
Live streaming has been with us for the better part of a decade now, and no other media can offer the average user its combination of broadcast TV presentation and social media interaction. It allows users to create a personalized message about them and their business and puts their values and personality on public display alongside their products or service.
If you’re looking to use the internet this way, though, keep in mind that you don’t have the internet to yourself, and there’s a lot of competition in the live streaming field. To stand out you have to be more than just a talking head–you have to offer people an event or an insight, something unique to you that will be worth clicking on.
If you can do that, though, the effort will be worth it, because it’s possible to live stream your event free and reach a whole new audience online.
The Advantage of Going Live
Streaming, live or pre-recorded, is the quickest way to get multimedia information on the internet. Rather than a traditional download where you must wait for the whole file to be sent before you can use it, streaming lets you use music or video while the information is still being transmitted. That means a live stream let you share content in real time.
Going live has a psychological aspect to it, too. Live streaming lends a sense of urgency to your broadcast, makes it a special one-off experience. More importantly, real-time broadcasts can be interactive and respond to the thoughts and demands of a live audience.
You can record your event and post it to YouTube later for those who missed out, but the what-will-happen-next nature of a live broadcast has more energy. It’s a big part of the reason why YouTube Live and YouNow streamers have earned the affection and attention of millions.
You can make and launch a live stream in the same way as stars like Lilly Singh, you just have to follow the instructions.
How to Start a Live Stream
The step-by-step process of launching a live stream differs from platform to platform (see below), but the front-of-camera creation is up to you.
A quality webcam is going to be your best asset in generating a stream. You can capture the action with a smartphone or the built-in camera on your laptop, but few of those devices can match the audio, visuals and smooth frame rate (fps) of a purpose-built external webcam. Devices like the Logitech C922 Pro Stream or the higher priced DSLR and camcorder range are designed to produce HD quality visuals (all the way up to 4k) at 60fps–that’s the combination you want to find in a cam: HD plus high fps.
Beyond the camera, you’ll want to find a crisp microphone to capture your audio, external lighting to drive away the shadows from your face, and an uncluttered stage–or you could try a background replacement app, such as RealSense, that will green screen a digital display behind you. Once everything is ready in front of the camera, you’ll need to choose a streaming platform.
Where to Stream
If you’ve got the details of a select group of people you want to target with your broadcast, you could always use a group video conference to maximize audience participation. BlueJeans recently teamed with Facebook Live to create town-hall sized video conferences that can host thousands of people in-room and online, though it does take some multi-venue coordination to achieve.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling brave you can create your own live stream direct from your private website using WebRTC, taking advantage of an audience already familiar with your business. Be warned though, if you do it yourself there won’t be anyone on hand to support you if technical gremlins attack.
If you’re new to live streaming, it’s best to stick to the established sites that can handle large data streams. Here are four that will make life easier on you and your live stream:
This is a great resource if you’re already a Facebook member, as your broadcast will automatically appear in your news feed and your followers will get an immediate notification that you’re live on air. You’ll have to download live streaming software from within Facebook, but once loaded, you can launch a live stream directly from a profile, group, or event page. You can also link the stream to an external website, to get out of the Facebook environment. As a nice bonus, Facebook will cut you in on any ad revenue if you have at least 2,000 followers and your stream attracts an audience of at least 300.
Once you’ve signed up for a YouTube account and downloaded the necessary codecs, there are several different ways to broadcast across the world’s most popular streaming video site–although YouTube is more hands-on with your content than others. Stream Now mode is the simplest and quickest way to stream; YouTube will automatically start and stop the broadcast for you. Events has the nice option of letting you preview your stream before going live, and includes backup streams in case of trouble. Finally, you can use Mobile to stream live from your smartphone. But if you’re going to use a smartphone, please place it on a stand in a fixed position; a wobbly, whirling video stream is no fun to sit through.
YouNow is actually one of the oldest live streaming sites around, and is one of the easiest to use. Since it’s all about live streams, once you’ve signed up all you have to do is point your camera in the right direction and hit the “Go Live” icon. The YouNow audience is also one of the most interactive, so expect comments, hearts of approval, and even donations to wash over your stream while it’s in progress. If you want a controlled, predictable, professional live stream, YouNow may be a little too unscripted for your liking.
Twitter’s Periscope is essentially your “view from the crowd” smartphone live streaming app. Like Facebook Live, Periscope will send automatic stream notifications to your followers, and the interface is as easy as tapping “Go Live” to start and “Stop Broadcast” to stop. It’s mobile only, and better suited to impromptu events, so this platform is probably a better choice if you’re looking for that viral marketing edge.
What to Live Stream
So what’s next? Take a look at what each service has to offer–they’re free, after all–and then start thinking about what you want to broadcast.
For example, you could:
- Stream a product launch, with guest speakers, video and audio displays, and live text questions from the audience.
- Stream a product demonstration in the most creative way possible. Live streaming is an anything-goes venue, so show us how tough, versatile, and unique your wares are.
- Link to a live concert sponsored by your business, featuring live interviews with bands.
- Sit your CEO or owner through a live Q&A session with fans and users of your brand.
- Stage a live, interactive tour of your company, from front of house to the warehouse.
- Stream a weekly chat show discussing issues and current events in your field, setting yourself up as a leader in the industry.
Coming up with a great idea for a live stream means reminding yourself that whatever you can present to a camera you can display via live stream. It’s a free platform, without limits on audience size and interaction, and it’s one of the best ways to use your unique personality to establish your brand online.