The Event Planner’s Guide to Free Live-Streaming Tools on Social Media
Without doubt, live streaming events on social networks has fast become a very powerful engagement tool in our industry. In fact, research from Vimeo Livestream shows that ‘conferences and speakers’ make up around 43% of the most watched live content on the platform. Yet with so many free streaming options available today, how can event planners decide which one is right for them?
Is it about where you have the largest number of followers? Is it about how people engage on these platforms? Or perhaps organisations should consider using multiple platforms?
Whether you are already live streaming your events or have plans to in the future, we take a look at the pros and cons of some of the popular tools to help you decide.
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What Should Events Live Stream and Why?
The opportunities of making live streaming part of your event strategy should be considered for all stages of the event cycle – including pre, during and post event. This way you can maximise engagement with followers and develop a community feel for your events.
Live streaming can be used in a number of ways at events. Some organisers will live stream an entire conference programme. Some will use it for specific sessions and some will use it for marketing and promotional purposes to encourage people to come to the event.
Benefits and examples of live streaming around events include: broadening audience reach by live streaming sessions to remote attendees, interviewing event speakers before the event, interviewing speakers before the session, live streaming new developments at the event, broadcasting live competitions as they happen, live streaming award winners and so on. The applications really are endless.
Related reading: How Live-Streaming Can Help Boost Revenue and Attendee Engagement
Top Free Live Streaming Tools for Meetings and Events
Which platform or app should be used for your live streaming is a question asked by many event planners. There are of course paid-for tools that will have their own advantages. If you are live streaming an important sales conference, for example, and confidentiality is important then it’s likely you will want a paid-for solution. However, there are a number of social media live streaming tools that are free, available and easy to use. They also have the added advantage of transmitting directly with your followers on these networks.
Ultimately, you will probably go for the tool where you have the most followers – whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. But many events and organisations are active on a number of platforms and it may be difficult to focus on one community and not the other.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using some of the most popular free live streaming tools available on social networks today:
Facebook Live is probably the best known free streaming platform currently available. It was originally launched in 2016 in response to the rise in popularity of streaming apps like Twitter’s Periscope. According to Vimeo, 78% of online audiences were watching video on Facebook Live by 2018.
It can be an effective tool for individual live streaming from events. It also has low entry requirements and allows anyone to live stream while walking around exhibition stands or other locations. It’s worth remembering that the biggest demographic group on this platform is 18-49 years old.
- Built into Facebook so no new accounts to setup.
- Low entry requirements: pretty much “click and go” with no special equipment
- Live stream length: up to 8 hours from desktop, up to 4 hours from mobile device
- Followers get notifications when you go live
- Easy to share links to the video with other users
- Simple to engage with audience/community via reactions and comments
- Wide range of metrics available for your live stream, including reach and engagement
- Massive potential audience (Facebook has 1.59 billion daily active users)
- Appeals to both male and female audiences (Facebook users are 43% female and 57% male).
- Good for all types of event because of its wide audience appeal and low technical requirements
- Monetisation is possible if your Page meet the eligibility criteria
- Facebook is not a preferred platform for younger people (teens and millennials)
- Live videos are subject to review by Facebook. If a reviewer deems a live stream is contravening their Community Standards, a live stream can be taken down
- Monetisation is possible but the eligibility criteria is tough
Related reading: 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Using Facebook Live at Events
Periscope was once one of the most popular free live streaming tools. Owned by Twitter, it is actually a separate app. When you go live, your followers are instantly alerted. They can join, comment and appreciate you in real time. However, while the app still exists, it has lost a lot of its appeal with followers over the years.
- Easy to setup and use with your Twitter account
- No limit to length of live stream so good for live streaming long sessions
- Easy to share links to Periscope streams
- Twitter’s healthy hashtag ecosystem makes live streams more discoverable
- Questions or comments can be sent via the chat facility
- Most users are in the 25-34 age range so if this is your event’s audience, consider Periscope
- Good for impromptu broadcasting during events
- Declining user base
- Limited metrics available
- Falling user base (1.9 million daily active users)
- Uneven gender split (71% male vs 29% female) make it unusually male-oriented for a social media platform (but this could be good if your event’s audience matches this)
- Designed for mobile use only
- User interface favours single person broadcasts
- No direct monetisation options
YouTube is the most popular go-to brand in the world when it comes to online video. They added live streaming functionality in 2011 and since then it has developed some serious capabilities.
YouTube Live has one massive advantage that none of the other platforms offer. It has an enormous video-oriented user base and is often described as the second largest search engine on the planet, powered by their mothership: Google. Big help.
- Very easy to set up and use
- You can broadcast some serious professional quality video input with multiple cameras from a studio via third party encoder streaming
- From simple live streaming from your desktop PC via webcam, you can also stream from your phone via the app (if you have at least 1,000 subscribers)
- Maximum theoretical duration of a live stream is infinite
- Maximum practical duration of a live stream is 12 hours
- All streams under 12 hours are automatically archived.
- Followers get notifications when you go live (if they have clicked the bell icon)
- Easy to share links to the video with other users as the live stream has its own URL
- Audience engagement available via a wide range of commenting features
- Very good range of metrics available in YouTube Creator Studio which includes how many users at any one time, where they are watching from and how long they watch a session.
- Huge potential audience (YouTube has 30 million daily active users)
- Over 50% of YouTube’s audience is female but the platform is massively popular across all genders
- Good for all types of event sbecause of its massive audience size and listing your event makes sense because YouTube is a powerful search engine
- Enabling a live stream for the first time may take up to 24 hours for approval to be given
- YouTube has an incredibly effective music detection algorithm. If you don’t have permission to use copyrighted music, you could find your live stream stopped dead in its tracks
- Monetisation is possible but the eligibility criteria is tough
- Live videos are subject to review. If copyrighted material is detected, your live stream can be stopped
Compared to Periscope, Facebook Live and YouTube, Instagram’s live streaming feature is very new. In fact, it is a feature that is part of Instagram Stories.
As Instagram is so people-focused, interviews around your events and content shared via influencers would be a particularly effective way to make use of Instagram Live. Instagram Live is also better suited to a younger adult audience. So if your event fits that demographic, consider choosing Instagram over Facebook from which the younger audiences have migrated away over recent years.
- Highly popular platform with a high level of engagement
- Favoured by Instagram’s algorithm, the platform also has a healthy influencer ecosystem which can be highly effective
- Part of Instagram Stories which are displayed at the top of the screen
- Broadcast recordings can be saved and reposted to IGTV where it can reach even more people
- Followers get notified when you broadcast
- Engage with followers in real time via comments
- Viewer metrics are available
- Large user base (500 million daily active users) means a large pool within which to find a potential audience
- Good for sharing behind-the-scenes content from events, or Q&A sessions, and interviews with staff at exhibition stands
- Good for events aimed at the 18-24 age range
- No direct monetisation options but plenty of indirect
- Mobile only
- Stories are only available for 24 hours – saved recording need be added to IGTV or other platforms
- You have just 24 hours to record your viewing stats before they disappear forever
If your event has anything at all to do with online gaming or e-Sports, Twitch should be your first choice. Twitch describes itself as “the world’s leading live streaming platform for gamers”. Owned by a subsidiary of Amazon, it would be fair to describe Twitch as the gamers’ equivalent of YouTube. A large number of gamers use Twitch for live streaming video games and connecting with their community of viewers.
- Unlimited streaming duration (known for marathon-style uninterrupted gaming livestreams of up to 160 hours)
- Viewers can become part of the live stream
- Regular users have created large, highly active communities
- Direct monetisation is possible via subscriptions, online purchases and ads
- Easy to share links to streams
- Can be streamed via mobile or desktop
- Live streams can be shared to other platforms via encoder streaming
- Chatbots can help to make engagement easier
- Automatically mutes copyrighted music in video rather than stopping the stream
- Detailed channel and video analytics available to streamers
- The most popular interactive online gaming platform with 15 million daily active users
- Audience is primarily male (81%) and young (18-34)
- Ideally suited to events based around game launches or charity watch parties
- Limited mainly to e-sports or events or game streaming, streamed from desktop PC
- Monetisation requires meeting and maintaining tough criteria
- Can be a popular place for trolls
It’s worth noting that LinkedIn has also announced the availability of a free live streaming tool this year. The tool, which is called LinkedIn Live, allows individuals and organisations to broadcast video content to their network in real time. LinkedIn is currently testing this feature, however, so only a select group of members and Pages have access. If LinkedIn is an important social platform for your events, and you’d like to check it out, then you can apply for access – details here.
Conclusion – Professionalism Matters
The professionalism of your brand is really important. Your decision as to what free live streaming tool you use and for what purpose has to align with your overall business and event objectives. If not, then you could be in big trouble. Your reputation and brand could easily suffer.
The tools mentioned all have their advantages and challenges. Whilst the information provided on each tool is up to date at the time of writing, technology changes at a pace so always check for updates from the relevant provider. Have a careful look at each before deciding which to go for. Make sure the tool works to engage your audience and is right for your demographic. Once you have decided which to use, have a ‘test run’ with just a few people using the tool. That way you can be aware of and deal with any issues before you go live to a much bigger audience.
Work out what you want to live stream. Is it a promotional piece a few months in advance of the event? Is it for a live interview at the event? Is it for a follow up review post event? Whatever you decide, make sure it’s part of your overall event strategy and treat the live streaming as a serious issue. Vimeo discovered in their research that 62% of consumers are more likely to have a negative perception of a brand that publishes poor quality video. It’s a sobering thought but the more professional your live stream is, the better the results will be for your organisation.
Good luck with your live streaming journey.
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