Delivering a live broadcast to thousands of people used to require millions of dollars, plus a fancy television studio packed with expensive equipment. Now, though, everything you need to create a successful livestream can fit in your average backpack. Considering the ease of livestreaming, coupled with the many benefits it can have for your brand, it’s no wonder that more and more people want to get in on the action. If you’re one of them, here’s a comprehensive guide that can help you get started.
First things first — what is a livestream, exactly? Livestreaming is simply the act of broadcasting an event live, in real-time, without recording, storing, or editing it first. Though most people think of sites like YouTube and Twitch when they think of livestreaming, pretty much any live broadcast is a livestream, whether it’s a currently-happening football game or a breaking 5 p.m. newscast.
You might have seen the term “on-demand” streaming floating around the internet and been unsure of what it meant. Put simply, on-demand streaming is any video or piece of content that’s been pre-recorded and uploaded — whether on popular sites like Netflix and Hulu or on a company’s website.
Here’s where it gets a tiny bit confusing. Since a growing number of video streaming platforms allow users to record, save, and share their live broadcasts, livestreams can become on-demand content. This is actually great news for aspiring streamers such as yourself, as it means that no livestream you do will ever be wasted. Ideally, you’ll be able to craft a full library of evergreen video content.
Now that we’ve outlined the basics, it’s time to decide where you want to host your livestream! Here are some of the most popular options.
Livestreaming has become so popular in recent years that the biggest social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, allow users to stream content directly to their audiences. Once you go live, any of your active followers will receive a notification letting them know to tune in.
We’re giving YouTube a section all to itself, because the original video streaming giant has so many ways to livestream. You can create a YouTube stream via your desktop or laptop camera; stream from your mobile phone (as long as you have more than 1,000 subscribers); or utilize a third-party encoder, which converts audio and visual content into a YouTube-friendly digital format. To learn more about how to use an encoder, check out Google’s brief tutorial here.
Twitch was founded in 2011 for a pretty simple purpose: allowing people to watch other people play video games. Over the next three years, video game livestreaming exploded into a global phenomenon, landing Twitch 55 million unique monthly users by 2014 — enough to get it bought by Amazon. Today, Twitch is so popular that its services are built into gaming platforms like Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. If you choose to livestream on Twitch, your audience will primarily consist of gamers, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to a gaming topic; thousands of streams are devoted to popular subjects like shopping, traveling, product reviews, and more.
There are many reasons to host your livestream on an external platform, rather than one of the integrated social media platforms we discussed above. Unlike popular social media streaming tools, many livestreaming platforms allow you to:
Long story short, if you’re just planning on doing a couple of livestreams for fun’s sake, you probably don’t need to go beyond basic social media streaming tools. But if you’re a professional business that’s livestreaming with the ultimate goal of driving conversions, a livestreaming platform will give you the flexibility and power that you need.
Now that you know where to launch your livestream, it’s time to discuss the “how.” Keep reading to learn what equipment you’ll need to embark on your streaming journey.
Firstly, and most obviously, you will need a video camera. This can be as simple as the camera that came embedded in your laptop, although this isn’t really the best option for creating a professional-quality livestream. Discounting your built-in webcam, your next two options are your smartphone or an external webcam. Given the choice between the two, we definitely recommend going with a webcam; even relatively low-priced webcams come with tons of features that can significantly improve your streaming quality.
Like your built-in laptop camera, you can also simply use your computer’s built-in microphone to capture audio, but we really don’t recommend it. The more work your livestream viewers have to do to hear and understand you, the more quickly they’ll exit, costing you brand awareness and potential sales leads, among other things. An external, standalone microphone will give you much better sound quality than your laptop mic, and you don’t have to break the bank to get one. Fifty bucks should be enough to score a good-quality USB microphone, which we like due to the “plug-and-play” aspect.
A steady internet connection is a must for livestreaming. Few things are more irritating to audiences than a choppy feed that keeps cutting in and out, which is what will happen if you don’t have a strong, stable internet connection. It’s also essential to have a sufficient power supply to last you the duration of your stream. If you’ll be streaming from an outdoor location, like an event, it’s a good idea to bring one or more power banks along with you to keep all your devices charged.
We touched on this a bit above, but just as a reminder, it’s a good idea to have livestreaming software in preparation for your livestream. While social media streaming tools are convenient, they don’t allow you to have complete control over your content and are usually limited in the amount of features they offer. Livestreaming software will help position you to record your livestreams, share them across multiple platforms, gather analytics data, and much more.
Now that you’ve learned how to create your livestream, you’ll need to know how to promote it. Below are just a few of the best ways to spread the word about your video steam.
This may seem quite obvious, but a surprising number of people seem to forget (or underestimate) the power of social media promotion. Putting out a paid ad on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is a great way to build a lot of awareness about your livestream, very quickly. Or, you could simply post about the upcoming livestream on your own social media pages. “Pinning” a post about your event to the top of your pages will ensure that everyone who visits your profile will know about it.
According to research by EventBrite, 78% of event creators say that email is their most effective marketing strategy. To promote your livestream via email, just create a mailing list through a service like Mailchimp or Hootsuite, and press “send”! You can also add a short promotional message to the bottom of the emails you send out every day. A short, witty sentence or two placed in your signature can let colleagues, clients, and partners know about your next event.
Promoting your livestream on your website is a great idea, primarily because it’s the one space over which you have full control. Since it’s _ your_ site, you can make your promotional graphics as big as you want; as abundant as you want; and as long-lasting as you want, with no extra cost.
If you don’t want to promote your livestream on a page directly, another option is to use a “pop-up” feature to alert visitors to your event. We recommend using “exit” pop-ups, which only appear when visitors start to leave the site and are therefore much less irritating than traditional popups that appear 10 seconds or so after the visitor opens the page.
Another great place to promote your livestream is your website’s blog! You can either write a blog that explicitly promotes the livestream, or cover a topic that you’ll be addressing during the event, and plug said event in the article’s conclusion. Be aware, too, that there’s no need to limit yourself to your own website blog; you might be able to trade a guest post with a partner, or spread awareness on popular blogging platforms like Tumblr.
We hope that this post has given you all the tools and resources you need to launch your next livestream. If you’re still on the fence, we highly encourage you to give it a try! Livestreaming is a fast, fun, immediate way to connect with audiences all over the world in a way that’s very authentic and genuine. It’s a unique form of communication that can drive an incredible amount of engagement — which can be great news for your bottom line.