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Facebook Live: An Overview

What is Facebook Live?

Facebook Live is the social network’s live-streaming video functionality. Users can broadcast live videos using only their smartphones. It’s available to all Pages and profiles on Facebook for IOS, Android, and the Facebook Mentions app. additionally; live broadcasts can be streamed in Facebook groups and events.

When the network first introduced live video in August 2015, the feature was limited to Facebook Mentions, an app available to public figures such as celebrities, athletes, musicians, politicians, and other influencers.

Then in December 2015, Facebook began to make the feature public, releasing it to a small subset of users in the U.S. and verified Pages, then to the rest of the country at the end of January 2016. It became available outside the U.S. at the end of February 2016.

Facebook has since introduced a number of live video features.

Why live video matters so much for marketers?

To truly understand why live video is a big deal, you have to look at the ever-increasing prominence of social video.

While video has always been popular online, the dominance of social media and the rise of mobile users have all but ensured social video’s position as the reigning monarch of content. Users continue to produce—and watch—more video at greater rates than ever before.

What you should know about the social video:

  • One-third of all online activity is spent watching video
  • Online video streaming will grow to more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2020, according to predictions from tech company Cisco
  • 92 percent of mobile video consumers share videos with others, according to strategic consulting and digital business firm Insivia

What you should know about the Facebook video:

  • Native Facebook videos get more organic reach—that is, they’re seen by more users, even without promotion—than any other type of content (a whopping 135 percent more than photos), according to Social Bakers
  • Users watch 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day
  • Facebook boasted 8 billion video views daily as of November 2015 (the last time the platform released video numbers)—double the amount it had in April of that same year Beyond the popularity of social video in general, Live video brings with it specific benefits.

What you should know about Facebook Live:

  • People comment 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.
  • The average time people spend watching Live videos is more than three times longer than a video that isn’t live.
  • One in five Facebook users watches Facebook Live.
  • People in more than 60 countries can share Facebook Live video.
  • More than 50 percent of people watching live videos are using Android devices.
  • Facebook has invested heavily in the Live video. The platform has signed as many as 140 contracts with media companies and celebrities to produce Live videos—including the likes of the New York Times, Buzz Feed, comedian Kevin Hart, and chef Gordon Ramsay—paying a total of $50 million.
  • It’s fast—for the final 2016 presidential debate, a study by media streaming service provider Wowza found that Facebook’s live-stream had the lowest latency, beating out satellite and cable for some viewers and delivering its stream at an average 13-second delay (as low as seven seconds for some viewers)
  • The previous record was held by Buzz Feed’s exploding watermelon video, which garnered more than 800,000 simultaneous viewers while it was streaming live and has since racked up a grand total of more than 10 million views—#watermelon even ended up trending on Twitter And of course, when it comes to that most critical of Facebook marketing elements—organic reach—live video can be a huge help.
  • Facebook considers Live video a distinct content type from other video shared on the platform. This distinction is important for brands because it means that the Facebook algorithm treats native video and Live video differently, with Live videos more likely to appear higher in News Feed while they’re living.
  • Facebook Live video also has its own notification system. The network explained that when someone goes Life: “People who frequently engage with or have recently interacted with a person or Page going Life may receive a notification.” This feature gives greater prominence to live videos and helps keep brands who broadcast top-of mind.
  • And let’s not forget expectations for live video. While viewers expect the social video to be polished, audiences often enjoy the opposite in Live video.
  • In other words, there are plenty of good reasons to give Facebook Live video a try.

A. Facebook Live: Features

Not only does Facebook Live give brands access to an immense audience—potentially the entirety of Facebook, which currently boasts 1.13 daily active users—it also offers a range of features.


It has its own notification system. By default, users’ live video notifications are set to ‘on’. People who frequently engage with or have recently interacted with a person or Page going Life may receive a notification.

Invite friends

When a user is watching a broadcast, they can choose to send an invitation to a friend to watch with them. This option is available from within the live video. Image via Facebook.


The map displays all live broadcasts currently happening around the world, each one represented by a blue dot, with larger dots indicating more popular broadcasts. Hovering over a dot pulls up a preview of the stream, including a counter showing how many people are currently watching it, and a timer showing how long the broadcast has been playing. Users can choose to zoom in to explore broadcasts in more specific areas.

Additionally, a panel to on the left side of the screen features a list of the most popular current live broadcasts. As with the dots, hovering over one shows both where the broadcast originated and where people are streaming it from. Image via Facebook Live Map.

Live Reactions

Facebook users can, of course, react to any post on the platform using the six emoji-like Reactions to highlight their response. But Facebook Live takes things one step further, by allowing a broadcast’s audience to react to the video stream in real-time, with Reactions appearing on the video itself as they’re clicked by the audience.

Broadcasters have the option to add a filter to their live stream. There are five options to choose from.

To add a filter to live video:

  • Begin recording a broadcast
  • Tap the magic wand icon
  • Scroll left to view all filter options
  • Tap a filter to select it

It’s important to note that you will be live while selecting a filter.


In addition to filters, broadcasters can now also experiment with Snapchat-like masks during their live-stream. Introduced on October 27, 2016, masks are available on iOS to broadcasters in the U.S., U.K., and New Zealand.

To use a mask in the live video

1. Tap the Live video icon to begin recording a broadcast
2. Once live, tap the magic wand icon
3. Select the masks icon in the creative tools tray at the bottom of the screen
4. Scroll through the options and tap on masks to have them automatically appear on your face
5. To remove the mask, scroll to the far left and tap the no mask option

It’s important to note that you will be live while selecting a mask.

Facebook Live API

The Facebook Live API allows broadcasters to “seamlessly incorporate Live into their existing broadcast setup.” This means that publishers who have more sophisticated equipment have the option to broadcast from a professional camera and audio setup rather than streaming Live video from a mobile device.

The Live API also enables features like camera switching, instant replay, on-screen graphics, and special effects. Using the API, publishers also have the ability to stream other sources, like games or screencasts.

Continuous Live streaming

Through the Facebook Live API, it’s possible to broadcast continuous live video. This is a tad more complex to set up than the average live video broadcast but offers a great option for users who may want to showcase a constant live feed, such as a museum or zoo.

Schedule Live broadcasts

Using the Facebook Live API, publishers can schedule Live broadcasts in order to build up an audience before they begin streaming. When a publisher schedules a live video, an announcement will be posted to News Feed letting their fans know the broadcast is coming.

Users who see the post can choose to receive a one-time notification that will remind them shortly before the broadcast begins. Fans can then join a pre-broadcast lobby where they can connect and interact with other viewers before the live video starts.

Publishers can schedule live broadcasts up to one week in advance and audiences can join a lobby three minutes prior to the start of the broadcast. Another bonus? Once publishers have scheduled a live video, they’re able to share a link to the broadcast or embed it in other places, such as websites or blogs.

Ability to share in a group or event

Facebook Live video can be broadcast from a Facebook profile and Pages. It can also be shared directly in a Facebook group or event, giving users plenty of live-streaming options.


For Pages, Facebook offers several different metrics to measure the success of their live video broadcasts. In addition to the metrics available for video through Facebook Insights—video views, 30-second views, top videos, the demographic breakdown of minutes viewed, viewer engagement, and more—Facebook provides two Live video-specific metrics – Peak Viewers and viewers during the live broadcast

Ad Breaks

In August 2016, Facebook began testing mid-roll video ads in Facebook Live. Facebook has started allowing publishers to insert short ad break in their Facebook Live videos.

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