The companion to the Student Social Media Academy:

Go LIVE! Lessons From Livestreaming

Go Live Header
I’m not an early adopter of Facebook Live. It was added to the platform for all users in 2016, but I wasn’t exactly sure how it would fit into the content I was already creating. It was hard enough trying to get a podcast started while keeping up my blogging schedule.

When Facebook announced its latest algorithm change, I was inspired to actually give this livestreaming thing a go. I didn’t just want to go live though! I decided to treat my livestreams as an experiment. My goal was to go live every Tuesday for 6 weeks, and I mostly achieved that goal. Unfortunately, inclement weather while speaking at a conference meant that I couldn’t stream my last planned video, which was all about the lessons I learned from livestreaming.
Dr. Josie Live Header
An experiment is no good if you can’t learn something from it. That’s why I decided to expand the outline for my lessons livestream into this blog post. I’ve compiled my reasons why you should go live, the hiccups and challenges I faced, and even give you a few suggestions to take your livestreams to the next level.

Why Go LIVE?

  1. It was fun. I won’t pretend that there weren’t a few stressful moments, but I found myself loving the livestream process. Creating content that was an actual conversation? Sign me up! When people chimed in on my videos, it felt like I was helping create a community and connecting people who may have never run into each other otherwise.
  2. My numbers are up. On Facebook, I was getting frustrated by the relatively low reach of my posts. Not just for the likes, but for an impact. As soon as I started my Facebook Live experiment, my reach shot up by more than 50%! People actually started following my page and engaging with my posts, even after Facebook changed their algorithm. The graph below tracks my followers, and I definitely attribute that steep increase starting around January 20th to my livestreaming promotion. Josie Facebook Follower GraphThen there’s my video views. I used to mainly post promotional videos on Facebook and I definitely didn’t release very many of them. As you can see in the graph below, my livestreams (aka the peaks in the graph below) saw WAY more viewers than just about any non-live video I’ve ever posted organically.Josie Facebook Video View Graph
  3. I’m more comfortable with video. Not going to lie, I was a little bit anxious to put myself out there on live video. It may be a little weird, but I feel way more comfortable speaking to a big crowd of people than sharing my thoughts with my webcam. Thanks to this livestream experiment, I’m more confident on video and I’m much less intimidated by one-on-one conversations between me and my webcam.

Set Up: Picking a Platform & Time that Fits Your Audience

The platform you decide to stream on is one of the most important decisions you can make when planning your livestream. There are so many platforms to choose from (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Periscope, YouNow, and Twitch just to name a few), which is why it’s so important to know where your audience is. You’ve put in a lot of hard work and you want to be sure the people who could benefit most from your message are around to hear it.

The next step of setting up your livestream is to schedule when you’re going to go live. Now when I say schedule, I don’t just mean making a plan on your content calendar. Though most of the places to stream I listed above let you just stream natively, additional providers make it so much easier to make your stream a higher quality. I had trouble with OBS, the provider most people use on Twitch, so I switched to Belive instead.

The time of day you’re going live has a huge impact on how many people you’re going to get watching your stream. I set mine up for 3:00 PM EST and it wasn’t an ideal time slot. My first video got a lot of engagement and viewers, but people just couldn’t commit to a mid-afternoon broadcast every Tuesday. In the future, I’d definitely try to schedule my streams during lunch hours or after people get home from work.

Finally, you need to set up the background you’re going to stream in front of. The key to a great livestream background is to make sure that it doesn’t distract from you and what you’re saying. Now that doesn’t mean that you have to completely clear out space you’re streaming in.  Some people like to stream in front of a backdrop, but I personally just streamed in a part of my house that was visually interesting but not distracting. Here’s a picture of my set up:
Dr, Josie Live Screenshot

Promotions

One of the hardest parts of the livestream process was promoting my streams without being annoying. When I first launched my streaming experiment, I made a heavy promotional push. I featured the streams in my newsletter, wrote blog posts about it, and promoted it across all my social media platforms. It really did help attract viewers to my first stream, but I noticed that when I dialed down the promos, my viewers stopped tuning in.

Another thing that helped me keep my viewership up was how I scheduled my streams. Facebook has a nifty feature where you can actually schedule your streams way in advance. There’s even a button that lets your potential viewers set up reminders to ping them when you actually go live! A personal reminder works way better for getting people to actually watch than a generic social media post they may or may not see.

My number one piece of advice for promoting while your livestream is actually live is to ask other people to share the stream. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no! I also recommend tagging people in comments who could help answer questions or really benefit from the stream.

Tech Hiccups to be Aware of

Any time you’re dealing with tech there are plenty of hiccups that can happen, and my livestreams were no exception to that.

The biggest tech hiccup to be prepared for is wi-fi. It may seem basic, but a bad connection can and will ruin your livestream. Make sure that you have a strong signal and connection before, during, and after your stream. The same advice goes for sound quality. Don’t just rely on your webcam’s mic. The major issue I find when universities go live in an interview is that it’s hard to hear the actual interview. When livestreaming, try to use an external mic or lapel mics that can be connected to the computer. Even a mic that’s part of your headphones isolates sound better than your internal computer microphone! I used a set of Bose headphones with a built-in mic connected to my laptop, and it served me very well.

Of course, there’s also just plain user error involved sometimes. Yes, there were times where I just forgot to turn off the stream when I was finished. I can’t say that there were any really good bloopers to come out of that, but I was totally embarrassed as soon as I realized that everyone could see me fiddling with my equipment “post” stream!

One thing that I didn’t expect was how difficult it was to watch the comments. The most challenging stream for that was my Instagram Strategy stream. I was streaming on TWO different platforms, which meant two separate comment sections to address. I tried to take the time to acknowledge each comment verbally as I saw them, then went in later to give more detailed written responses when the stream was done.

More Ideas to Consider

If you’re thinking about livestreaming, here are a few ideas to take it to the next level. I did a few of these things, but I’d love to try out the ones I haven’t if I decide to pick up livestreaming again!

  • FB & Insta at the same time: I did this for my Instagram strategy livestream and I’ll admit, keeping track of two separate comment streams was tough. One thing I noticed was that I got a different audience on Instagram than I usually did on Facebook. If you find that your audience is on multiple platforms, try streaming on as many of them as possible. Just be careful that you don’t overload your bandwidth, and I do mean internet bandwidth.
  • Belive.TV – go live with multiple people: One of the coolest livestream experiences I’ve been a part of was actually with Campus Sonar’s Live Week. They went live pretty much all day every day for an entire week and I got to go live with them. Their whole team was all in on the livestreaming, and I got to feel like a part of the team while I was interviewed. Renola Swoboda has an excellent write-up about the lessons Campus Sonar learned, which I highly recommend you check out. Facebook allows you to add a guest to stream live with you without requiring them to be in the same room with you, so take advantage of that!
  • Turn content into other things (blogs, podcasts): Repurposing your content is one of the best ways to make the most of your hard work. I’ve actually remixed my livestreams into blogs in the past, and they’ve seen great traction when shared on social media. Converting your livestream into written content has the added bonus of making your content more accessible for more people.
  • Individual leaders or on-the-go videos with events/staff/experiences: People love to feel like they’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on around them, which is why on-the-go videos resonate so well with audiences. Videos are also a great way to show off visuals that don’t translate well in other formats, and live videos help create a sense of urgency for the viewers. For my livestreams, I went with a “talking head” format. If you or your organization does that, I highly recommend featuring individual leaders and allowing them to let their personalities shine.

The Streams

Now that I’ve given you a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to stream, I want to give you examples of the streams themselves! Here are all of my streams collected in one convenient place:
January 31st: LinkedIn is for more than job searching

February 6th 3pm EST: Aspiring to be a Speaker

February 13th 3pm EST: Possibilities in Podcasting

February 20th 3pm EST: Instagram Insights

February 26th 3pm EST: Conferencing Like a Pro

What’s Next?

That brings me to the biggest question: will I continue livestreaming? This time of year is always very busy for me since it’s conference and speaking engagement season, which is why I’m taking a break from livestreaming. As of right now, I’m honestly not sure exactly what my next steps are for Dr. Josie Live.

I had a lot of fun doing this series, but making sure my streams are the highest quality possible takes a lot of hard work. Juggling this, the podcast, and my blog posts take up a hefty chunk of time I don’t necessarily have. If I livestream again, it’ll probably be another six-week “season” rather than a constant, weekly series.

Do you want to see more Dr. Josie Live? Did you find this helpful? Let me know in the comments! For the latest on digital engagement and leadership, including announcements about potential future livestreams, subscribe to my Digital Leadership Download here or complete the form below!

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If you’re ready to connect with your campus, you’ll love this BRAND NEW resource that I’ve created called Get Connected: The Social Media Guide for Campus Leaders.

This guide shares the latest usage of young adults of social media and how campus leaders can genuinely connect with their campus community.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

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