Facebook and other social media platforms now allow real–time interactivity and authenticity you can't get with prerecorded video.
There's yet another new way to market health and fitness to the masses through social media and mobile apps: live video. With its popularity growing at a rapid pace, live video may become a more dominant part of the social and mobile landscape sooner than you expect.
It would be smart to get on top of this trend now, if you haven't already.
Anyone (you, your clients, your competitors) can broadcast live on various mobile apps, web services and Facebook. Whether you're already doing it, you're still waiting for the right time to go live or you weren't even aware of the possibility, this article can help you get the most out of interactive, real–time marketing with live video streaming.
Why Go Live?
You might wonder why you'd want to broadcast video on the fly—for instance, a live fitness tutorial—when you could prerecord a video and have a lot more control over its script, appearance and editing. Live video is compelling because it's the exact opposite of all that: Viewers get an impromptu, intimate glimpse into what's going on in real time.
"It's raw and real," says Dai Manuel, a CrossFit® athlete, founding partner of Fitness Town Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia, and author of Whole Life Fitness Manifesto (LifeTree Media 2016). "It gives me the opportunity to show who I am authentically, and, in some cases, it provides a snapshot into my world."
Social media expert Claudia Sheridan, MBA, of Santa Clarita, California, owns Small Business Breakthrough (smallbusinessbreakthrough.com) and has 20 years of experience in technology and marketing. "Recorded videos can come across as scripted, whereas live video is often raw and honest," she says. "You are trusting that the viewers will be accepting of who you are and what you are sharing with them. . . . It's a great way to get people to know you, like you and ultimately trust you."
By its nature, live video on social media creates an interactive connection between broadcaster and viewers. For example, Blab, a web and mobile platform for live streaming, allows multiple people on–screen to interact live with each other and the audience at the same time. Viewers of a live stream on Periscope or Facebook can engage with the broadcaster through comments and likes, etc. The broadcaster can see these interactions as they happen and can respond on the spot.
For example, if you're live streaming an exercise tutorial, you can answer people's questions about technique while you're showing the exercise. This is different from a prerecorded video on Facebook, where people can like and comment on the video post, but the video won't react back, so to speak. Live is personalized.
"I think that people love the ability to connect . . . in real time," says Petra Kolber, New York City—based creator of Moving to Happiness® and the Perfection Detox®. "If they have a question, they can post it right there and get an immediate response. It feels much more like a real–time conversation to me—which I love."
Another advantage to live streaming specifically on Facebook, the largest social network, is that Facebook seems to favor live video over other types of posts, which means you might have a better chance of being seen in the newsfeed with a live stream compared with a recorded video (at press time). "In a world where you are lucky if 6% of your community see any of your Facebook posts—and I use my Facebook page to stay connected to the people I meet and interact with—to know that I would have a wider reach with these posts makes it appealing," says Kolber. You can further increase your reach by encouraging people to subscribe to your live streams so they receive notifications when you go live. (At press time, you can find the "Turn on Live Notifications" option on the dropdown menu on the upper right–hand corner of any post that is live or was live.)
Incidentally, you can search all of Facebook for whatever public live videos happen to be streaming at the moment, or you can view a display of what's live around the globe (go to www.facebook.com/livemap). Tools like Facebook Live Map help you connect to people in your area, observe breaking news as it unfolds or tune in to the mundane, like a teenage girl applying mascara in science class (I watched it—boring!).
Strategize Your Live Streams
Because live video is fairly new on platforms like Facebook, it's still a novelty, which means you can get away with diving in sans much of a plan—but not for long. As more people take up live streaming and as live posts compete for air time in everyone's newsfeeds, you'll need a solid strategy for when, why and how you're using live video for fitness marketing. Otherwise, your live streams could be as dull as watching that teen put on mascara. Not every live stream needs to be fully planned out (some spontaneity is good), but you should have an overall strategy for what you're doing and why.
As the social media strategist for fitness pros Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, Sheridan works with the couple's Results Fitness and Results Fitness University. She says the Cosgroves' objective for using live video is to share the culture of the gym.
"This enables viewers to experience the company's core values," says Sheridan. "With so much competition, it's important to let others experience what it's like to be a part of something."
Know what you want to achieve, and consider which platform(s) might be best for those business goals. For example, you might find it easier to gain attention with live posts on Facebook compared with Periscope, a live–streaming app owned by Twitter. Go where your audience goes, or be prepared to attract new and/or overlapping audiences on multiple platforms.
"I had tried Periscope for a short while," says Kolber, "but most of the people I am connecting with were on Facebook and not Twitter. My first Periscope [live video] had 40 views. My first Facebook Live . . . had 2.5K."
Finally, determine if your strategy will involve impromptu broadcasts, or if you'll set a time every week when followers can expect to catch you live (or both).
Overcoming Common Challenges With Live Video
In addition to ensuring that people want to watch what you're live streaming, the biggest challenge you might face is with the technology itself.
"I've dealt with bad internet connections, accidentally logging off or stopping an on–air stream mid–broadcast, dropped calls [and lost] Wi–Fi connections," says Manuel.
Sheridan adds: "If the connection isn't solid, the video will cut out. There's nothing worse than having a video cut out at the wrong time." People online and on mobile are impatient, and they might move on when video freezes or cuts out.
"To overcome this, make sure that you're connected to Wi–Fi prior to going live," says Sheridan. (You might find that live streaming from your phone quickly eats up your wireless data minutes.)
Sheridan also suggests investing in a microphone to help with background noise. Viewers can usually look past a slightly blurry video or dim lighting, but they're less forgiving about bad audio. If you're broadcasting from a noisy gym versus a quiet room, a small lavalier mic that connects to your phone can help you communicate your message clearly.
As for shooting live via mobile, it's like any recorded video: You can do it in selfie mode while holding the phone or using a selfie stick; place the phone in a film–making case with handles like the ones from iOgrapher; or rig up your phone or tablet to a tripod.
Putting some effort into the quality of your live streams and the strategy behind them will pay off, especially considering that Facebook records and saves live videos for you. Unless you delete it, a previously live video, filmed through the Facebook app, will remain on your Facebook timeline and might continue to travel through the newsfeed even when you're no longer live.
At this point, you can edit post captions, add subtitles and boost the post, just as you would with a prerecorded video posted to a Facebook business page. Consider this playback another piece of content you can use for fitness marketing and education.
"After your broadcast, repurpose your videos by including them in collateral such as presentations, lectures or blog posts," Sheridan advises.
Lights, Camera, Live!
Video posts are already saturating social media. Since live streaming is still in its early stages, learning to use it now will put you ahead of the curve. "The bottom line," says Manuel, "is that live video elevates my brand and gives me a leg up on others in the space who aren't doing it." Sketch out a strategy for how to make it fit within your long–term marketing efforts, but embrace the spontaneity of it as well.
"I say jump in," encourages Kolber. "Don't worry about it being perfect. Your audience loves the realness of live. I found that [when] things went differently from what I had planned, I got a superpositive response."
To test the waters, try going live from your personal Facebook account first (versus a business page). This way, you can select who sees the video, so it's private or semiprivate.
Kolber has this advice: "I would suggest doing one that is private so you can get comfortable with the process—only you will see it. Then, on your next one, choose a select group of five to 10 friends to share your first Facebook Live with. You can get comfortable with the interactive piece, and only your closest friends will see it. Then, if both of those feel good to you, click the public button and go live all over the world."
Note that if you broadcast live from a Facebook business page, it will always be public. However, it is possible to limit the audience to certain demographics. And, of course, you have the choice to delete the playback video if you don't like it. Another option for getting familiar with live broadcasting might be to try Facebook's two–person livestreaming, where you can go live with another person who's located somewhere else. If you don't have this feature yet, expect it to roll out soon.
Now is a good time to experiment and have fun with live streaming. "During your broadcast, be yourself, be honest and give the viewers access to something they wouldn't usually have access to. They will respond positively," Sheridan says. "You'd be surprised at how quickly you'll be accepted by your audience."