The Ultimate Social Media Livestreaming Guide

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Tom Cassell is a 24-year-old gamer from Manchester who goes by the online handle “Syndicate.”

By livestreaming his gaming sessions on sites like Twitch and YouTube, Syndicate makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

If that’s not stunning enough, Syndicate is not even a unique case.

If teens and 20-somethings are pulling in that kind of revenue by playing Street Fighter online, just imagine what your small business could accomplish by harnessing the power of social media livestreaming.

Granted, you likely won’t be streaming yourself playing video games (although, hey, as long as you’re not cursing up a storm, there’s room to express your own personality in your social media marketing.) However, livestreaming is still a great way to boost your social media marketing reach, influence, and interaction.

Interested? Then let’s get started.

What can social media livestreaming do for your business?

Here’s one way to look at the benefits of social media livestreaming: imagine having a representative of your business stand in front of your office and tell passersby about your company and its mission. Now, imagine that instead of a few dozen people walking by on the sidewalk, thousands of people online could potentially hear your message.

How you use social media livestreaming for your business is only limited by your imagination. It could be as simple as having your founder sit at a table and talk about the company on your YouTube channel, having an expert in your organization answer questions from the public on Facebook Live, or having the goofball of your team do something silly on April Fool’s Day.

Other ideas to consider:

  • Broadcast live from a conference or industry event rather than writing a blog post.
  • Interview experts within your organization about breaking news rather than pitching them out externally as expert sources.
  • Post a live how-to video on something your company specializes in rather than spending weeks producing a similar video.

The important thing is that you’re interacting with thousands (millions for established companies) of potential or existing customers, and that is powerful.

The internet has leveled the playing field in many ways, allowing musicians, authors, and all types of artists to bypass the traditional publishing gatekeepers and connect directly with a worldwide audience.

What’s the difference between livestreaming and VOD?

The first YouTube video ever was NOT live.

Though obvious to some, it’s still important to differentiate between livestreaming and video on demand (VOD).

There’s an easy way to tell the difference.

Think of livestreaming as a live sporting event. You tune in to watch it, and when it’s over, it’s over. VOD, on the other hand, is more like a Netflix video. Someone recorded it well before you pulled it up and watched it, and when you’re done, it will still be there.

So why livestream instead of just posting an edited video? That’s a good question, and both have their advantages. But ask yourself this—would you rather watch the Super Bowl live while the rest of the world is watching, or as a recording a week later when everyone has moved onto Valentine’s Day?

Livestreaming turns your video into an exclusive event, while on demand videos can easily become lost in a sea of billions of videos that is rapidly expanding.

Of course, some livestreamers decide to record and archive their livestreams, turning them into VODs, but that’s a different story.

A brief history of social media livestreaming

The first recognizable livestream aired in the summer of 1993. The band Severe Tire Damage was performing at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center and computer scientists decided to test out new multicasting technology by broadcasting the performance over the internet. Since it wasn’t announced, it amounted to a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it. A year later, the Rolling Stones broadcast a tour stop live, with full fanfare, and Severe Tire Damage as their online opening act.

Mark Weiser, rock and roll legend

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Windows Media Player, Apple Quicktime, and Adobe Flash all had livestreaming capabilities, though they were more suited for playing VOD due to bandwidth limitations. Imagine trying to watching a streaming video over the same connection that took five minutes to download an Austin Powers screen saver.

Though there were fits and starts through the years, livestreaming didn’t really become a viable form of communication until about five years ago when networks became more robust and infrastructure was able to support the high volume of data transfer needed to broadcast quality video.

Flash forward to the spring of 2017 when NASA and Amazon teamed up to livestream in 4K from space for the first time.

How far we’ve come from a grainy thumbnail video of a garage rock band in California…

Social media livestreaming 101

While you can spend a lot of money on a high-end camera and sound equipment, you really don’t need much to get started. Because you’re livestreaming, you don’t have to worry about editing or post production. In fact, all the equipment you really need is probably already included in your smart phone or laptop (unless you’re a flip phone revivalist).

Another key point to remember early on is promotion. Remember: no one saw Severe Tire Damage perform but millions saw the Rolling Stones perform a year later. The big difference? Promotion. People aren’t just going to magically tune in to watch your livestream, so remember to promote the event on social media early and often. A week or two leading up to the broadcast should do.

For more advanced streamers, there are additional considerations—such as lighting, sound quality, and external cameras—but we’ll get to that.

For now, if you have a video camera and microphone on your web-connected device, and it doesn’t date back to the Bush administration, you should be good to go. All you need to do now is decide where you want to stream, and then start promoting it.

A few of the most popular free options are:

If you’ve already done a few livestreams and are ready to try out a higher quality, pay option, check out:

Which one you choose really depends on the size of your organization (freelancer, small business, quickly growing startup), your budget, and your target audience.

Advanced livestreaming tools and techniques

If you have already done some livestreaming with a smartphone or laptop and you’re ready to take it to the next level, you can increase your production value by optimizing your lighting and sound, and investing in a better camera and microphone.

Here are a few quick tips:

1. Lighting. You don’t have to be Francis Ford Coppola to produce a professional looking social media livestream. Just remember this simple rule: the more light the better. Natural lighting is great, but here’s a guide if you need to supplement with artificial lighting.

2. Camera. As we said earlier, you could get by using the camera and microphone on your phone or computer. But if you have the budget and want to up your production value, here’s a guide from Ustream.

3. Sound. Equipment aside, an easy way to improve your audio is to minimize background noise as much as possible. For example, if you have the option between shooting next to a busy highway or a quiet room, choose the latter. If you find that the built-in microphone on your new camera isn’t getting the job done, this guide covers all of your microphone needs, from indoor, stationary recording to outdoor, action shoots.

4. Encoders. The nice thing about a built-in camera is that it will automatically encode your video for web publication. If you use an external camera, you’ll need to encode it yourself. But don’t be discouraged, here is a guide on livestream encoders.

Your experiences with livestreaming?

Have you tried social media livestreaming at your small business? How did it go? What lessons did you learn that you can pass onto others? Please share them in the comments. I’m eager to hear about your experiences.

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

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About the Author


Andrew Conrad

Andrew is a content writer for Capterra, specializing in church management and project management software. When he’s not striving for the perfect balance of information and entertainment, Andrew enjoys the great outdoors and the wide world of sports. Follow him on Twitter @CapterraAC.


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