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Facebook is everywhere: on your PC, phone, tablet, and perhaps even your games console. But rather than resent this, the time has come to embrace it. After all, with so many people using Facebook, it has potential as a medium of mass communication.
Leaving a status isn’t enough, however, even if it’s the most compelling thought ever expressed. Fortunately, Facebook has another way for you to communicate with the world: via your webcam. (Keep your webcam covered while it’s not in use!)
Regardless of whether you’re accessing your Facebook account via mobile or desktop, as long as there is a camera attached, you’ll be able to chat directly to your audience.
Facebook Live: What’s It All About?
Facebook Live is a feature of the social network that lets you stream live video from your PC or mobile device. You might, for instance, want to use it to chat to members of your family. Alternatively, Facebook Live can be employed to address everyone you know.
And it can be taken a step further: if you have a Facebook page or group, Facebook Live can be used to chat to your followers or members. Perhaps you have some news to share. Or you might want to offer your thoughts on a specific topic.
In short, Facebook Live brings a new dimension to social networking. You’re able to broadcast to (potentially) millions, far more than you can expect to reach on TV in many cases. But unlike TV, the people you’re speaking to can talk back!
This makes Facebook Live a superb question and answer platform — like a Reddit AMA — but in person, direct to the viewer’s phone, PC, games console, or whatever!
Publicizing Your Video
Of course, if you want the best audience for your live video, you’ll need to tell people that you’re going live. There’s no point just doing it — it’s best to announce it in advance. This might mean sharing a status on your Facebook wall or announcing it on your Facebook page or group. Just make sure the people who are likely to be interested can see the announcement.
It’s worth informing people two or three days in advance. Any more than this and they may forget, any less and you risk people not seeing the announcement.
Once you are sure interest has been generated, leave it until around 12 hours before you’ve planned the stream and confirm the event. In some situations, you might prefer to inform friends and followers on other social networks (e.g. if you’re discussing something topical or playing a brand-new game).
Stream With Facebook Live on Your Smartphone
To get started with Facebook Live on your smartphone, you’ll need two things: the Facebook app (although given its impact on your device battery, you might prefer to delete it) and a tripod. Some other device for keeping your phone steady and level will suffice.
When you’re ready, sign into the Facebook app and click in the Post area to update your status. What you type here will be the title of your video.
Click Go Live (or Live Video on iOS) to proceed to set up the video, then add a title if the field is blank.
You then have the option to specify your audience. This is the Facebook Live version of the post privacy settings. You can specify Friends, Public, or specific individuals. You can even stream it just to yourself (although we’re not sure why you might do this)!
When you’re ready to start, tap the Go Live button. You’ll see notifications about who is watching, and messages from viewers will pop up so you can read them. Once you’re live, incidentally, you’ll find that there are filters and other graphical enhancements that you can play around with.
Facebook Live With Pages
Using the Facebook Pages app is a more or less identical process, but with the added feature of Geo Controls. This means that you can target your Facebook Live presentation to a specific location or even a specific sub-group of the audience. Note also that Facebook Pages gives you the option to hold an audio-only Facebook Live session.
If you choose this approach, you’ll have the opportunity to add a photo to display during the broadcast. While your device microphone will be used, if you have a superior external microphone, the results will be more impressive.
Streaming on Facebook Live via Your PC
If you don’t have a smartphone, don’t worry. As long as your PC has a webcam (either a USB device or a built-in one), you can broadcast on Facebook Live.
The process is similar on desktop to using a smartphone or tablet.
Click into the status update box, click Live Video, and give the video a name. Tag a Facebook friend in the video, or set a mood using the buttons in the bottom-left of the screen, if you’d like. You can select who should see the video in the bottom-right corner.
When you’re ready to start, hit Go Live.
Stream to Pages With Your Desktop Browser
As with mobile, there isn’t much of a difference for streaming Facebook Live to your page. Simply head to the page, and click Start a Live Video. Add the required video title, click Go Live, and you’re off!
Finishing and Posting Your Video
Once you’ve had enough, click the Finish button.
Regardless of whether you held your Facebook Live stream on mobile or desktop, you’ll have the option to post the video on your wall or page. You can also change the privacy level of the video. And if you didn’t enjoy the experience, or have an inkling that it didn’t go to plan, you can simply delete it.
You Can Even Stream a Video Game on Facebook!
Several options are available for you if you want to live stream a video game to Facebook Live.
To get started, you’ll need a game streaming solution. Several are available, from the cross-platform Open Broadcaster Software to the more lightweight FFSplit. We’ve recently looked at game broadcast apps for Windows, and several game streaming tools are also available on Linux.
Begin by heading to facebook.com/live/create and clicking Create Live Stream. Follow this by selecting where you want the stream to be posted. This might be on a page, group, a pre-configured event, your own timeline, or that of a friend. With the selection made, click Next to proceed.
From here, look for the Stream Key (you may also need the server URL). You’ll need to copy this into your video game streaming app. For instance, if you’re using OBS or XSplit, paste the key into the appropriate feed in the Settings menu. Follow this by giving the stream a name under Video Title, and under Video Game, tell the world what you’re playing.
Back in your streaming app, click Start Streaming. Once the preview of the stream appears in Facebook, you’re ready to broadcast. Click Go Live when you want people to start watching! Note that you’ll be able to monitor the feed and interact with the chat area as you play.
Here’s an example: our first look at Civilization VI during its release week in 2016 (we used OBS):
You have other options, too. For instance, if you have a good NVidia GeForce card, the GeForce Experience software will let you broadcast virtually any PC game to Facebook with just a few clicks. Meanwhile, Blizzard games such as Overwatch and Hearthstone have this function built in. This is a clear indication of the direction of video games as live spectator events!
Let People Know You’re Live
Once your stream is live, it will appear on your Facebook timeline. It’s a good idea to pin this item to your page so that people dropping in can easily see it. You can do this by clicking the arrow in the top-right corner and using the Pin to Top of Page option.
Similarly, you may prefer to adjust the video description as time goes on. This might be because the topic of the live stream changes.
Save the Clip for Later
You’ve finished your live Facebook video stream. Your thoughts or news have been broadcast to perhaps thousands of viewers. Thankfully, they’re not lost in time.
Facebook retains your video so that it can be viewed later by those that missed it. This means that hours after the event, you can share links to it on Facebook and beyond. You can even embed the video (see above for an example) in a blog or other web page.
To see your options, find the video in your Facebook page or wall, and click the menu button in the top-right of the post. Here you’ll find Embed (this provides you with the embed code), Save video, and Download video. You can then reuse the video how you see fit!
Creating a live video on Facebook is surprisingly straightforward, although adding in video game streaming can add complications that you might prefer to avoid. No matter what you use it for, though, it’s a great way to share the things you love with the world!
Have you used Facebook Live? Did you prefer it on your phone or on your laptop or PC? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
Image Credit: I’m friday via Shutterstock.com